Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Albino L 'Opera and Terrorists....

Its Daring Bakers time again and this month, our hosts are none other than the founders - Lis and Ivonne!   Yaaay to them both!

I must admit that when I first saw this challenge, I was overcome with a variety of emotions. First the name of the challenge excited me greatly. L 'Opera or Opera Cake. I've always wanted to make an Opera Cake and the closest I've come before was in making a pseudo Opera Cake. Pseudo because I made it using a Sponge base - and a ready mix at that - rather than a Joconde.

Then came a little disappointment. Actually a LOT of disappointment. The Opera Cake that we were challenged to make was to be Opéra Cakes that are light in both colour and flavour. - meaning NO dark colours or flavours.

Awwwww. I sooo love chocolate and sooo wanted to make a traditional Opera cake, with all its dark flavorus and lots of chocolate. So do I break the rules, rant and rave and swear at the hosts? Or do I do as I pledged to do when I joined this illustrious group of bakers and just follow the challenge? (Can you hear the violins playing that mournful tune??!!!)

Bring it On I said! If light flavours is what is required of this cake, then light flavours it will be. I'll just call it an Albino Opera Cake!

There'll be another occasion to make a Dark flavoured Opera Cake especially since I managed to get this done with a minimum of fuss!!

Okay, so we know where the Albino Opera comes in, but what about the terrorists?? well, read on to find out...

But first, a little about my experience with this cake. First off, the cake was a little expensive to make as almonds are a little on the pricey side. To be fair though, everything seems to be a little pricey these days.

I used a little white chocolate but not as much as the recipe instructed. I also stayed away from the White Chocolate glaze simply because none of us are great fans of white chocolate. I made one mistake with the mousse though. I paired it with about 100g of cream cheese but reduced the white chocolate. That meant that the mousse didn't set as well as it should have. It was still alright, it just started to melt after a while out of the fridge and seeing that we have been having particularly hot days of late, that didnt help any. Taking pictures didn't help either...

As usual, I got up early on a Saturday morning to make this cake and I took my time, leisurely making the Joconde which turned out really nicely, before making the buttercream and mousse. I chucked everything into the fridge and nearly got a fright when I tried to soften the hardened buttercream. It started to separate on me and I thought I had F***ed the whole thing up! Fortunately, as it warmed up, it started to get silky and smooth again. That was probably the only real problem I had other than the aforementioned error in mousse consistency.

No step by step pictures or commentary this time as I reckon there were really no surprises or special issues to look out for. The recipe looked daunting but as I have read and looked at many, many Opera Cake recipes, I knew what to expect. Once I had the Joconde sorted out, the cocky rooster was strutting around the kitchen and everything was good.

I did my layers as follows:

Lemon infused buttercream
thin layer or buttercream + choc& cheese mousse
white choc &cheese mouse

I didnt put any glaze on top simply because (at the risk of repeating myself) we are not really white choc fans - but I must say the cake was super Delicious!!!!

My official taste testers LOVED this cake. The Lovely Wife liked it and was even quite surprised at how delicious it was without 'real' chocolate. Initially we both found the lemon infused buttercream just a tad too sweet although the cheese/chocolate mousse lent a nice flavour to it. It tasted a lot better once it was really cold though - The Choc & Chesse mousse firmed up a little more and it wasn't as sweet either! The layers had formed very, very nicely and I was pleased as punch!

The next night, after it had chilled really nicely, we took it over to my brother's house where he was having a small BBQ party. He loved it too - and like The Lovely Wife, couldn't believe that something could taste this good without 'real' chocolate! All the guests that were there loved the Opera cake too!!

To say that my son liked this cake would be an understatement. He was pleased as punch with this dessert. My daughter loved it too and they really enjoyed eating the trimmed sides of the cake.

My son enquired if this cake was going to win an apron as a prize and I explained to him that he was thinking of the Royal Foodie Joust hosted by Jenn, the Leftover Queen(also a Daring Baker!). I went on to explain that this was one of the Daring Bakers challenges at which point his eyes lit up and he remarked:

"Oh! You mean the one where all the little men terrorise the town!"


I was for a brief moment until I realised he was talking about the DB logo - sure looks like a town is being terrorised doesnt it?!!

I mentioned in the Perfect Party Cake Post that my daughter thinks we are the Caring Bakers... now I learn my son thinks we are a bunch of Terrorists!

Oh well, at least the Opera Cake turned out well and everyone loved it - Terrorists or not....

To see how the rest of the 'Terrorists' fared, please check out the Daring Bakers Blogroll.

Thanks Lis and Ivonne for this great challenge. Thanks also for founding the Daring Bakers and for spurring so many of us on to new heights!

This is the recipe:

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 the flavouring of your choice (i.e., vanilla extract, almond extract, cognac, limoncello, coconut cream, honey etc.)

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.)

(Update Note: The recipe for the buttercream that is listed below was originally based on the original but we had some typos. It's all very confusing (we're good at confusing ourselves) but here is the short of it: When testing the buttercream, we tested a modified version (we're crazy like that!!!) that had 2 cups sugar, ½ cup water and 1¾ cups butter. Yes. That's right. 1¾ cups of butter. The eggs remained the same. We ended up with a very creamy buttercream. VERY. CREAMY. But we don’t want anyone to be afraid of our modified version so you have the option of using the original version listed below or the quantities we’ve listed here in this note. If you are still confused and want to cry, then please e-mail us and we will comfort you!!! We promise!!!)

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
seeds of one vanilla bean (split a vanilla bean down the middle and scrape out the seeds) or 1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract (Note: If you are flavouring your buttercream and do not want to use the vanilla, you do not have to. Vanilla will often enhance other flavours but if you want an intense, one-flavoured buttercream, then by all means leave it out!)
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1¾ sticks (7 ounces; 200 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
flavouring of your choice (a tablespoon of an extract, a few tablespoons of melted white chocolate, citrus zest, etc.)

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 (this step is optional – please see Elements of an Opéra Cake below)

(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. liquer of your choice (Bailey’s, Amaretto, etc.)

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.

Step A (if using buttercream only and not making the ganache/mousse):

Place one square of cake on the baking sheet and moisten it gently with the flavoured syrup.

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

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.

Step B (if making the ganache/mousse):

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.


marye said...

Great Job! You scared me, I forgot that I had 12 more hours..I haven't even STARTED mine yet. BLAH!

Ruth Elkin said...

Fantastic job Dharm!!! Love that the kids loved it - they look so cute. I couldn't help but laugh so loud at the terrorists thing! How sweet!

DaviMack said...

Love the 'albino' cake, and the narrative along with it! Great job!

glamah16 said...

Great job and posts. I always like to hear the little ones opinions and comments. I would like to try the lighter version without white choco. It just sent it to the over sweet edge.

breadchick said...


I always love to see how your testers like our challenges.

As usual, your cake looks perfect.

toontz said...

Out of the mouth of babes! Don’t you just love what they come up with? Great job on the cake, Dharm. This was my first DB challenge and I was intimidated to say the least. I would like to try the original version, because I thought it was too sweet. (Family gobbled it up anyway)

Dolores said...

Caring terrorist bakers... I love it! I'm glad you gave the light Opera a chance... looks like you did your usual great job!

Judy @ No Fear Entertaining said...

Great job on the challenge Dharm. Your cake turned out great!!! That is so funny about the little men!

~Amber~ said...

Your cake looks awesome, great job!!

Claire said...

Great job. Your cake looks a bit lighter in color than mine. Maybe it depends on the almond meal you use. Haven't posted yet, but will tomorrow (still Tuesday here!)

The Baker & The Curry Maker said...

Wow Dharm! What a stunning looking cake! Well done! I was disappointed about the "light" theme too, just means we have to make it again!

steph- whisk/spoon said...

it looks great, i agree though that the "real" opera is pretty hard to beat!

Katie said...

Love your Albino Opera Cake! The white choc cream cheese mousse is inspired. Bet it tasted wonderful.

Aparna said...

Great cake, Dharm, and perfect layers.
We're in love with this cake. While mine didn't turn out so well, I'm definitely making it again and in darker colours.

sher said...

I'm swooning from the cream cheese. I love it! Your pictures are fabulous--the cake looks so yummy. And the kids are so sweet in that picture! Great name for the cake, by the way! :):)

Rachel said...

cheese and choc...i'm trying it the next time I make this cake.

Peabody said...

LOL...they do kind of look like Ninja's son is very perceptive!
A beautiful job on your cake.

Baking Soda said...

Nice even layers Dharm, beautiful! Isn't it fun to notice how the DB became a part of the family speak? Same in this house!

Passionate baker...& beyond said...

Well done caring terrorist...I LOVE the look of L 'Opera. Wonderful & wonderful again certainly are achieving new heights!! I too have reached a point where I know there are yummy tastes beyond choclate! Well done!

KJ said...

Albino cake, I love it. Great job as always Dharm!!!

Clumbsy Cookie said...

Albino Opera, lol! Funny!

Bellini Valli said...

The kids and the Lovely Wife loved this so that is the important thing.You did an excellent job Dharm and should be proud that you rose to the challenge and made a blonde version of the cake...even if your passion would be for dark chocolate and coffee!!!!

maybelles parents said...

adorable story, kids and cake. good job.

abby said...

fabulous job dharm!

Y said...

AHahahaha! Great way to describe the DB logo. Love it!

Lou @ The Higher Nest said...

Yours just looks so light and airy: little bites of heaven! I think mine came out more dense. In hindsight, I, too, wish I'd skipped the glaze!

Jenny said...

Hehe I don't mind being his kind of terrorist, the Caring kind though. :-)
Very nice cake and beautiful layers.

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

I love your kids - they are just so cool! This is a beautiful cake Dharm! Perfect for a very sophisticated BBQ! If this was your entry in the RFJ - I am sure you would have won that apron again! LOL! There is still time to make a raspberry lime version!

giz said...

Your cake looks fantastic. You're right about the expense and although I thought the almonds were just a smaller portion, the white chocolate nearly killed me. I could have made it without but I learned something and certainly not sorry.

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Dharm I'm overwhelmed what with albino, terrorists and caring cocky roosters what's the world coming too.
Why it's coming to Light Opera Cake!
Fantastic joy once again.

moowiesqrd said...

My friends were pretty disappointed at chocolate being verboten. :) Yours look great and your son is too cute!

Medhaa said...

your kids are really sweet and they can be so innocent and thats what so nice about being small. Love the cake. This was my first challenge and was terriefied but it turned out ok.

Mary said...

Your cake looks beautiful! It was brilliant to leave the white chocolate glaze off!

Deborah said...

I am laughing about the Caring Bakers and the terrorists! Great job on this challenge - it looks wonderful!

Anita said...

Very nice! Maybe now you'll do that chocolate version you wanted?? P.S. Thanks for the FB add!

jasmine said...

Tee hee! All the little baker terrorists.

I like to think of ourselves as scullery freedom-fighters: ridding ourselves of the tyrrany of big corporate food makers and yucchy processed, shop bought foods.

Viva la revolucion!


Christine said...

Love the "albino" cake! Great post!

Chris said...

Great post and even better cake! looks wonderful. :)

Elle said...

Terrorists...well, maybe terrified occasionally when the recipe seems to not be working...or the buttercream gets wonky :) Your cake is lovely, even without the white chocolate glaze. Wonderful job. Your kids are wonderful, too.

Molly Loves Paris said...

Congratulations. You hung in there . a n d . produced a very tasty cake. I hope you try the real l'Opera next, it's really tasty. My grandson thought it was awesome.

Foodie Froggy said...

Albino cake, that's funny. I was also disappointed that it was not the real opéra (with dark chocolate, and most importantly, COFFEE), but I found it good.

PAT A BAKE said...

ha ha 'albino' cake... luved it. Your blog rocks.

Kelly-Jane said...

Great cake, your buttercream looks like the perfect texture, yum!

Caring baker is nice :) I mis read Daring for a while too I thought it was Darling, oh well!

Great job :)

Meeta said...

Dharm - a great job you did with this one. Your testers are incredibly cute!

Sheltie Girl said...

Wow! I loved your son's description of the DB logo. Great job on the Albino Opera's very beautiful.

Natalie @ Gluten a Go Go

Natashya said...

What a great idea to make a cheesy mousse. Your kids are adorable. They look like they enjoy having a baker for a dad, even if he does associate with terrorists.

Lis said...

OMG your kids are TOO CUTE, Dharm! I love the stories about them! So.. hmm.. maybe there's a group out there that needs the name of The Caring Terrorists? hahahahaaa!

Your cake looks and sounds divine - as I knew it would be.


Shari said...

I love the look of your cake. Glad your tasters like it too!
Shari@Whisk: a food blog

Nikki Miller-Ka said...

You did a great job, Dharm. Your layers are even and perfect. I am officially jealous of your skill. And once again, your kids are adorable. This post made me LOL.

Barbara said...

Love the post! Kids can be so funny sometimes. Your cake looks great!

wmpe said...

Your cake looks wonderful! Your layers are pure perfection. I love how children perceive the adult world and the "Caring Bakers" is perfect for this group. Lovely cake. Wendy


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