Wednesday 28 May 2008

Daring Bakers May Challenge – A Cake to Sing About: Light & White Opera Cake

When I saw this months challenge I was thrilled as it’s a cake I have heard lots about but never attempted to make myself. As I read through the recipe and its many stages and components – sponge, syrup, buttercream, ganache, glaze – I began thinking “Ekk this looks complicated.” However, it’s not as complicated as it sounds. If you can make a whisked sponge and a buttercream then you can make this cake. You do need a free afternoon to create it, but it’s a very pleasant way to spend a few hours, especially when it’s blowing a gale outside and you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful cake that will get ‘ohhs’ and ‘ahhs’ from your friends and family.

Traditionally an Opera Cake is dark and flavoured with rich chocolate and coffee but in honour of the approach of summer and with a nod to the LiveSTRONG day in America (fighting Cancer) our Opera Cakes were to be light in colour and flavour. I was initially a little disappointed at not making a traditional Opera cake, but the more I thought about it, the more excited I became – there are SO MANY flavour variations you can make when not tied down to coffee or chocolate. In the end I decided to make an almond joconde sponge, a zingy lemon syrup and a floral lavender buttercream.

I halved the recipe and made a rectangle cake rather than a square, but I still had the three layers. I also bypassed the optional ganache stage and replaced this with a layer of marzipan to tie in with the almond joconde. I also tinted the buttercream a pale lilac colour to resemble the lavender. I kept the white chocolate glaze and wrote ‘Opera’ on top with a little glaze that I tinted purple. That thistle looking thing at the end was meant to be a stalk of lavender, just squint a bit.
I was delighted with how the cake turned out. The sponge was so soft and floatingly light, very reminiscing of an angle cake, look at all those little air bubbles! It had a wonderful almond flavour, that really worked well with the zesty lemon syrup. I have just realised that I forgot to add the melted butter to the batter, but it doesn’t miss it. The lavender buttercream was really good and added a wonderful subtle floral bloom in the mouth. I have never used lavender in baking before, but I’ll definitely be using it again.

Thanks girls (Lis, Ivonne, Shea & Fran) for choosing such a wonderful cake – I would never have attempted it without the push. Be sure to check out the other Daring Bakers creations.

Lemon Lavender & Almond Opera Cake
For the joconde
6 egg whites
30g caster sugar
225g ground almonds
150g icing sugar
6 whole eggs
70g plain flour
45g butter
1½tsp almond extract (my addition)

Preheat the oven to 220C and position the oven racks in the top third and bottom third of the oven. Line two 12½ x 15½ inch Swiss roll tins and grease with the butter.
In a clean bowl whisk the egg whites until they are doubles in size and foamy. Add the caster sugar, a tablespoon at a time, while whisking until the egg whites have become thick and glossy. Set to one side.
In another bowl, beat the eggs, icing sugar and ground almonds until thick and creamy, about 3 minutes. (I also added almond extract at this point)
Sift over the flour and mix in gently. Do not overwork.
Take a third of the egg white mix and fold into the almond mix to slacken it. Then carefully fold in the remaining egg whites, being careful not to knock out too much of the air.
Melt the butter and fold into the batter.
Divide the mix evenly between the two tins and spread out into an even layer.
Bake for 5-9 minutes until lightly golden brown and springy to the touch.
After removing from the oven, run a knife around the edge of the pans, cover the tops with a sheet of greaseproof paper and turn out onto a wire wrack.
Peel away the base of greaseproof paper, but then leave it covering the cake and allow to cool.

For the syrup
125g water
65g caster sugar
2 tbsp of your choice (I used zest of 1 lemon and juice of ½ lemon)

Add all the ingredients together in a pan, stir and bring to the boil.
Allow to bubble for 1 minute until the sugar is all dissolved and then remove form the heat and set aside to cool

For the buttercream
100g caster sugar
60g water
1 whole egg
1 egg yolk
200g butter, softened
1 vanilla bean or flavouring of your choice (I used 3 dried lavender stalks)

Combine the sugar, water and flavouring of choice in a small saucepan and heat until the sugar has dissolved.
Allow to cook, without stirring, until the syrup has thickened and reached around 105-110C.
Meanwhile, whisk the egg and egg yolk in a clean bowl until they become thick, pale and doubled in volume.
Slowly drizzle the hot syrup down the side of the bowl, containing the eggs, beating continuously. Do not pour the syrup over the beaters, or you’ll end up with spun sugar.
Continue to beat the mix until it become glossy, thick and cool to the touch, around 5 minutes.
Gradually beat in the softened butter in small chunks until all combined.
Add any other flavouring e.g. vanilla extract, and beat again. (I tinted mine a lavender purple colour)
Place the buttercream in the fridge for 20 minutes to firm up to a spread-able consistency, stirring every 5 minutes so as to set evenly.

For the white chocolate ganache top (Optional)
(I replaced this layer with a layer of marzipan)
200g white chocolate
240ml double cream
1 tbsp flavouring of your choice

Melt the chocolate and 3tbsp of the cream in a small saucepan until smooth. Stir in your flavouring of choice.
Beat the rest of the cream until softly whipped. Fold into the melted chocolate and allow to sit and firm up before using.

For the glaze – only make this when you are ready to use it immediately
110g white chocolate
120ml double cream

Melt the chocolate cream together until smooth.
Whisk gently and allow to cool for 10 minutes until started to thicken and use immediately while still warm and shiny.

To assemble the cake
Trim the sides away from the joconde sponges. Cut each sponge into one square and one rectangle (one 10inch square and one 10x5 inch rectangle). You will end up with two large squares and two rectangles that when joined together will make a third 10inch square.
Place one of the cake square on a serving plate and drizzle over a third of the syrup.
Spread on a third of the buttercream and top with the two rectangles, to form another square.
Add another third of the syrup and butter cream and top with the final cake square.
Spoon on the rest of the syrup and spread over the rest of the buttercream.
Chill in the fridge until firm.
Then spread the top layer with the ganache (I used a thin layer of marzipan instead)
Make your glaze and pour over the top of the cake, smoothing it to the edges of the cake and leaving to set in a shiny layer.
Do not touch the glaze once it starts to set or else it will loose its shine.
Store in the fridge until required.
Serves 20


zorra said...

Wow, looks just perfect. Mine belongs more to the rustic style. ;-)

Dharm said...

nicely done! I didnt have to squint to make out the lavender stalk :)
Well Done!

Anonymous said...

Yours came out perfect. Lavender is a wonderful flavor

Julie said...

This is so picture perfect! Your glaze job alone belongs in a frame on the wall. ;) And lemon and lavendar sound like a divine combination!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

A great opera cake! Wonderful flavors!



Anne said...

Beautiful, it looks perfect indeed!

Finla said...

Wow just superb work.

Anonymous said...

I've never tried lavender as a flavour but I'd love to try a slice of your cake! It looks picture-perfect, Katie.

Jeanine - The Baking Beauties said...

Absolutely beautiful! I don't think I've seen a glaze as shiny as yours. Wonderful work!

Renee said...

Lemon and lavender - that sounds like a great combination! Your cake was so pretty!

Mary said...

Your cake is beautiful! I love how you got the top so shiny! And lemon, lavender, and marzipan sounds fabulous!

glamah16 said...

Your sponge turned out great. Nice... Almond and lavendar.

genkitummy said...

nice job! a lavender cake sounds delicious!

Pixie said...

Fabulous work Katie, it looks beautiful.

Christine said...

Elegant and perfect! Nice job! Lavender is such a wonderful flavor

Deborah said...

Your cake looks so beautiful and perfect!!!

myriam said...

nice one - looks perfect!

Tricia said...

beautiful. i originally wanted to use lavender but i had no idea how. that's what daring bakers is all about. i've been reading how people use lavender and now i think i can handle it on my own. thanks! great job!

Anonymous said...

This looks so elegant! Great work!

Anita said...

Lovely! I have to say I agree with the choice of flavors:)

Dolores said...

Lemon, lavender and *marzipan*. I love it!

Gabi said...

I love your lavender and marzipan version- it's just lovely! :)

jasmine said...

I adore the delicate lavender colour of the butter cream.

So nicely done.


Lesley said...

Beautiful result! I love lavender, it's such a nice flavor and so unexpected. So pretty!!

Eva said...

Your cake looks very elegant! (unlike mine..;-)

Anonymous said...

Wow, your cake is one of the most beautiful of this challenge ! But, as a french citizen, I feel I have to tell you that you forgot the accent on the "e" in "opéra".Lol !!

Clumbsy Cookie said...

Beautiful layers, great flavours and lovely writing on top! You've got yourself a winner!

Sheltie Girl said...

You did a beautiful job on your cake. The glaze turned out so lovely and glossy. Great job!

Natalie @ Gluten a Go Go

maybelles mom said...

lavender sounds wonderful. Yours looks beautiful.

Meeta K. Wolff said...

wow! looks so perfect! simply gorgeous!

Barbara said...

I was intimidated at first too but am so glad I made the cake. Your's turned out beautifully!

Amy J. said...

Gorgeous cake! I bet the lavender and lemon paired well together, too. Good job!

Amy J. said...

Gorgeous cake! I bet the lavender and lemon paired well together, too. Good job!

Johanna GGG said...

beautiful cake - am intrigued by the lavendar - is it from your garden (or is that a silly question)?

Shari@Whisk: a food blog said...

Lemon and lavender sound delicious together! Your cake looks perfect!
Shari@Whisk: a food blog

Anonymous said...

I love the lavender colour - great idea to use marzipan :)

Bakerette said...

i love the lavender!

Abitofafoodie said...

Beautiful - what a perfect-looking version of this cake. And lovely flavour combination too.

Unknown said...

I love the purple! It looks like your glaze was about like mine, too. :-) Beautiful cake.

Hetal said...

Visiting your blog for the first many yummy recipes,nice blog.

Anonymous said...

Your layers are so perfect! Are you sure that's a real cake. ;)

Beth (jamandcream) said...

Wow, this looks amazing. I have just joined Daring Bakers - bit nervous!!

Gigi said...

You did an amazing job on the challenge!