Sunday, June 1, 2008

May's Daring Bakers Challenge - Opera Cake

I am sooooooo sorry for posting this late. I made the cake about two weeks ago!

This month challenge was OPERA CAKE. It is a multi layer almond cake that is usually flavored with the flavors chocolate and coffee in the form of buttercream, mousse and syrup. Our hosts Lis, Ivonne, Fran & Shea changed the flavors to something more light in honor of the spring season. We were allowed to use any flavors we wanted as long as they stayed within that light flavor, light color category. That means NO dark chocolate or coffee. I chose to make two cakes. One flavor combination was Honey Apricot and the other flavor combination was Blueberry Lemon. I will give you the recipe for the Honey Apricot Opera Cake. I will note where to change flavors to make the Blueberry Lemon Opera Cake. I will not include the recipe of the mousse I made. I will explain in the verdict section.
Honey Apricot Opera Cake
Yields about 20 servings
For the Joconde
(Note: The joconde can be made up to 1 day in advance and kept wrapped at room temperate)
6 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 tbsp. (30 grams) granulated sugar
2 cups (225 grams) ground blanched almonds (Note: If you do not want to use almond meal, you can use another nut meal like hazelnut. You can buy almond meal in bulk food stores or health food stores, or you can make it at home by grinding almonds in the food processor with a tablespoon or two of the flour that you would use in the cake. The reason you need the flour is to prevent the almonds from turning oily or pasty in the processor. You will need about 2 cups of blanched almonds to create enough almond meal for this cake.)
2 cups icing sugar, sifted
6 large eggs
½ cup (70 grams) all-purpose flour
3 tbsp. (1½ ounces; 45 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1.Divide the oven into thirds by positioning a rack in the upper third of the oven and the lower third of the oven.
2. Preheat the oven to 425◦F. (220◦C).
3. Line two 12½ x 15½- inch (31 x 39-cm) jelly-roll pans with parchment paper and brush with melted butter.
4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or using a handheld mixer), beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Add the granulated sugar and beat until the peaks are stiff and glossy. If you do not have another mixer bowl, gently scrape the meringue into another bowl and set aside.
5. If you only have one bowl, wash it after removing the egg whites or if you have a second bowl, use that one. Attach the paddle attachment to the stand mixer (or using a handheld mixer again) and beat the almonds, icing sugar and eggs on medium speed until light and voluminous, about 3 minutes.
6. Add the flour and beat on low speed until the flour is just combined (be very careful not to over mix here!!!).
7. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the meringue into the almond mixture and then fold in the melted butter. Divide the batter between the pans and spread it evenly to cover the entire surface of each pan.
8. Bake the cake layers until they are lightly browned and just springy to the touch. This could take anywhere from 5 to 9 minutes depending on your oven. Place one jelly-roll pan in the middle of the oven and the second jelly-roll pan in the bottom third of the oven.
9. Put the pans on a heatproof counter and run a sharp knife along the edges of the cake to loosen it from the pan. Cover each with a sheet of parchment or wax paper, turn the pans over, and unmold.
10. Carefully peel away the parchment, then turn the parchment over and use it to cover the cakes. Let the cakes cool to room temperature.
For the syrup
(Note: The syrup can be made up to 1 week in advance and kept covered in the refrigerator.)
½ cup (125 grams) water
⅓ cup (65 grams) granulated sugar
1 to 2 tbsp. apricot jam (1 to 2 tbsp. blueberry juice)
1. Stir all the syrup ingredients together in the saucepan and bring to a boil.
2. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.
For the Honey buttercream
(Note: The buttercream can be made up to 1 month in advance and packed in an airtight container. If made way in advance, you can freeze the buttercream. Alternatively you can refrigerate it for up to 4 days after making it. To use the buttercream simply bring it to room temperature and then beat it briefly to restore its consistency.)
1 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
¼ cup (60 grams) water
seeds of one vanilla bean or 1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1¾ sticks (7 ounces; 200 grams)
unsalted butter, at room temperature
1-2 tbsp honey (1 to 2 tbsp of lemon juice)
1. Combine the sugar, water and vanilla bean seeds or extract in a small saucepan and warm over medium heat just until the sugar dissolves.
2. Continue to cook, without stirring, until the syrup reaches 225◦F (107◦C) [*Note: Original recipe indicates a temperature of 255◦F (124◦C), however, when testing the recipe I found that this was too high so we heated to 225◦F and it worked fine] on a candy or instant-read thermometer. Once it reaches that temperature, remove the syrup from the heat.
3. While the syrup is heating, begin whisking the egg and egg yolk at high speed in the bowl of your mixer using the whisk attachment. Whisk them until they are pale and foamy.
4.When the sugar syrup reaches the correct temperature and you remove it from the heat, reduce the mixer speed to low speed and begin slowly (very slowly) pouring the syrup down the side of the bowl being very careful not to splatter the syrup into the path of the whisk attachment. Some of the syrup will spin onto the sides of the bowl but don’t worry about this and don’t try to stir it into the mixture as it will harden!
5. Raise the speed to medium-high and continue beating until the eggs are thick and satiny and the mixture is cool to the touch (about 5 minutes or so).
6. While the egg mixture is beating, place the softened butter in a bowl and mash it with a spatula until you have a soft creamy mass.
7. With the mixer on medium speed, begin adding in two-tablespoon chunks. When all the butter has been incorporated, raise the mixer speed to high and beat until the buttercream is thick and shiny.
8. At this point add in your honey and beat for an additional minute or so.
9. Refrigerate the buttercream, stirring it often, until it’s set enough (firm enough) to spread when topped with a layer of cake (about 20 minutes).

Assembling the Opéra Cake
(Note: The finished cake should be served slightly chilled. It can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 1 day)
Line your serving platter with parchment or wax paper.
Working with one sheet of cake at a time, cut and trim each sheet so that you have two pieces (from each cake so you’ll have four pieces in total): one 10-inch (25-cm) square and one 10 x 5-inch (25 x 12½-cm) rectangle.
Place one square of cake on the baking sheet and moisten it gently with the flavoured syrup.
Spread 1/3 of the buttercream over this layer.
Top with another piece of cake. Moisten these pieces with the flavoured syrup.
Spread 1/3 of the buttercream over this layer.
Place the last piece of cake top and moisten it with syrup.
Spread the remaining buttercream on top of the final layer of joconde and then refrigerate until very firm (at least half an hour).
Serve the cake slightly chilled.
END VERDICT - 3 stars
This cake gets only 3 stars as an assembled cake. Separately this components yield a 4 1/2 stars. I did not like the flavors together. I had to make the almond meal because I could not find it. I was able to grind the blanched almonds into a pretty fine meal but the cake still had a nice bite to it. The cake was awesome but it definitely needed the strong flavors of the coffee and chocolate it is usually made with.
The mousse recipe I used consist of putting gelatin in a fruit base then mixing it with light billowy whipped cream. After putting it into the refrigerator it turned into whipped cream with fruity rocks floating in it. BUT I didn't notice it until I spread the blueberry mousse on my cake, completely ruining it. I will test out a few mousse recipes then post the best one.
Until next time
Happy Smacking!


Rebecca said...

Honey apricot AND blueberry lemon? Delicious!

Harmony said...

excellent flavor choices. Beautiful photo.

Angela said...

They both look fantastic. I'm sorry that you weren't overly happy with the results, though.

Shari said...

Great flavors for this cake! After all the work, it's too bad you didn't like it.
Shari@Whisk: a food blog

Jenny said...

I really like the idea of apricot and honey, yum. Nice job trying two combos too.

Dolores said...

I'm also intrigued by the apricot and honey combination... so very seasonal. Great job!

Debyi said...

Your flavor combinations sound amazing! I love blueberries and combined with the lemon, it just sounds so refreshing. I'm sorry your mousse didn't turn out. Your cake looks great though. I agree, this challenge was a lot of fun.