mercredi 28 mai 2008

Opera sublime

I was really happy when I saw what the Daring Bakers proposed to us this month. I have been seeing this cake since I was little, displayed behind glass in pastry shops. Surprisingly, I have never tasted it, being repelled by the coffee flavored cake and thick unattractive milk chocolate covering most of these had. However, when Ivonne and Lisa announced that the Daring Bakers challenge for May was "The Opera", I put aside my prejudices and decided to tackle it. It might be good after all! Imagine my relief when I saw we could flavor the joconde (ooh that is the name!) the way we wanted. I quickly imagined, a soft, rich bite, with rich cream, chocolate ganache and the first thing that popped into my mind was Bailey's! Now, I don't really like the taste of Bailey's but.. the smell! The smell is heavenly. With that in mind I read over the recipe and concluded I could very easily flavor the joconde, syrup, ganache with it, I also decided not to flavor it TOO much as it would push the taste over the edge, again I loved the smell of it not the taste. :)

There was also another reason I particularly wanted to bake a cake this month! My darling's birthday! (And mine too!) It took me about a day to bake and assemble. I had read on the kitchen forums over on the DB site that people who didn't wait long enough for the ganache to harden a little in the fridge got it all runny when adding the glaze on top. I was determined not to let it happen to me and left it overnight to harden. The glaze worked like a charm! Also, I used the original buttercream recipe as I felt the one they suggested was a bit too buttery for my taste.

Overall, I think the cake came out lovely. I loved the joconde, It tasted slightly nutty and delightfully light. The flavoring was subtle and smelled lovely, I am glad I didn't over-flavour it. The only thing I can say against it was that the glaze was a bit too much, after two or three bites, I was tempted to feel it off since it was soooo sweet. But I didn't ;) I would gladly make this cake again, but only for special occasions since it`s so time consuming.

I used Baker's white chocolate, it was the best (and only) I could find. I thought about using chocolate chips but read on the DB forums that other challengers had bad experiences using it.

Here is the glaze when it was ready, I got it done at the end when the ganache had sufficiently hardened

Here is the caked assembled just before I poured the glaze.
Joconde, Buttercream, Joconde, Buttercream, Joconde, Ganache.

Here it is all assembled! I trimmed the sides for a little neatness. One of the joconde btw came out slightly overcooked, hence the darker orangy line in the middle. The buttercream was splendid also! Quite tasty!

A Taste of Light: Opéra Cake

This recipe is based on Opéra Cake recipes in Dorie Greenspan’s Paris Sweets and Tish Boyle and Timothy Moriarty’s Chocolate Passion.

For the joconde

(Note: The joconde can be made up to 1 day in advance and kept wrapped at room temperate)

What you’ll need:

•2 12½ x 15½-inch (31 x 39-cm) jelly-roll pans (Note: If you do not have jelly-roll pans this size, do not fear! You can use different-sized jelly-roll pans like 10 x 15-inches.)
•a few tablespoons of melted butter (in addition to what’s called for in the ingredients’ list) and a brush (to grease the pans)
•parchment paper
•a whisk and a paddle attachment for a stand mixer or for a handheld mixer
•two mixing bowls (you can make do with one but it’s preferable to have two)


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 overmix 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.)

What you’ll need:

•a small saucepan


½ cup (125 grams) water
⅓ cup (65 grams) granulated sugar
1 to 2 tbsp. of Bailey's

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 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.)

What you’ll need:

•a small saucepan
•a candy or instant-read thermometer
•a stand mixer or handheld mixer
•a bowl and a whisk attachment
•rubber spatula


1 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
¼ cup (60 grams) water
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1¾ sticks (7 ounces; 200 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
Bailey's for flavoring

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 flavouring 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).

For the white chocolate ganache/mousse

(Note: The mousse can be made ahead and refrigerated until you’re ready to use it.)

What you’ll need:

•a small saucepan
•a mixer or handheld mixer


7 ounces white chocolate
1 cup plus 3 tbsp. heavy cream (35% cream)
1 tbsp. of Bailey's

1.Melt the white chocolate and the 3 tbsp. of heavy cream in a small saucepan.
2.Stir to ensure that it’s smooth and that the chocolate is melted. Add the tablespoon of liqueur to the chocolate and stir. Set aside to cool completely.
3.In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the remaining 1 cup of heavy cream until soft peaks form.
4.Gently fold the whipped cream into the cooled chocolate to form a mousse.
5.If it’s too thin, refrigerate it for a bit until it’s spreadable.
6.If you’re not going to use it right away, refrigerate until you’re ready to use.

For the glaze
(Note: It’s best to make the glaze right when you’re ready to finish the cake.)

What you’ll need:

•a small saucepan or double boiler


14 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped
½ cup heavy cream (35% cream)

1.Melt the white chocolate with the heavy cream. Whisk the mixture gently until smooth.
2.Let cool for 10 minutes and then pour over the chilled cake. Using a long metal cake spatula, smooth out into an even layer.
3.Place the cake into the refrigerator for 30 minutes to set.

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 a baking sheet 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 about three-quarters of the buttercream over this layer.

Top with the two rectangular pieces of cake, placing them side by side to form a square. Moisten these pieces with the flavoured syrup.

Spread the remaining buttercream on the cake and then top with the third square of joconde. Use the remaining syrup to wet the joconde and then refrigerate until very firm (at least half an hour).

Prepare the ganache/mousse (if you haven’t already) and then spread it on the top of the last layer of the joconde. Refrigerate for at least two to three hours to give the ganache/mousse the opportunity to firm up.

Make the glaze and after it has cooled, pour/spread it over the top of the chilled cake. Refrigerate the cake again to set the glaze.

Serve the cake slightly chilled. This recipe will yield approximately 20 servings.

13 commentaires:

Dana McCauley a dit...

Sparklers! How festive.

Nice work. Now that you've tasted Opera Cake, the world looks different, doesn't it?

Christine a dit...

Bailey's yeah good choice! Cake looks beautiful!

Lisa Thibault a dit...

Beautiful cake - love your sparklers. The flavours sounds divine.

PAT A BAKE a dit...

HI.. good job. Your cake looks lovely and the pics with the gr8 idea. Do visit my blog to see my creation too.

Sheltie Girl a dit...

You did a lovely job on your cake.

Natalie @ Gluten a Go Go

Barbara a dit...

I thought of using Bailey's but changed my mind. I bet yours tasted fantastic.

AranciOnissimA a dit...

I like your opera! And also the white chocolate taste is one of my favorite.

Claire a dit...

Happy Birthday! Your cake is so festive. Glad you did it. My glaze wasnt too sweet...but then I accidentally quartered the chocolate and HALVED the cream, so there was a bit of a dilution effect going on.

Debyi a dit...

Your cake looks great, the sparklers make it so festive. Baileys is a good idea for flavoring, I bet it tasted really good.

Rebecca a dit...

Baileys! Sparklers! All the ingredients for an awesome birthday together. ;)

The Irreverent Cook a dit...

Sparklers! What a great show stopper for any event, especially coupled with that impressive opera cake! Very nicely done =)

Anonyme a dit...

Hi Lai,

My name is Shannon and I'm the editorial assistant at I am very impressed with the quality of your posts and to that end, I’d like to invite you to be a part of our newly launched Foodbuzz Featured Publisher program. I would love to send you more details about the program, so if you are interested, please email me at
I love the idea of putting sparklers on the cake! I will definitely do that next time I bake.


Shannon Eliot
Editorial Assistant,

Sophie a dit...

This was a tough recipe, but you did a great job. I like the colors you chose...and those candles are so festive :)!

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KI Chief Blogger