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L ‘Opéra Cake – May Daring Baker’s Challenge

May 28, 2008

Caramel Vanilla Hazelnut Opera Cake

This month’s challenge was the Opéra Cake and was selected by Lis from La Mia Cucina, Ivonne from Cream Puffs in Venice, Fran from Apples Peaches Pumpkin Pie and Shea from Whiskful and this challenge was also dedicated to Barbara from winosandfoodies.com. You know you wanted to know all that 😉

The Opera cake was amazing!  And so easy to make!  The only problem I had was, as always, with the mousse.  I seem to be incapable of getting a smooth mousse.  They are always lumpy, no matter what the recipe.  But it was delicious anyway!  The caramel, vanilla and hazelnut were a beautiful combination.

One note, I made my Opera Cake half the size because I did not have two pans that were large enough, and at half size the mousse and buttercream were just enough.  So either half the recipe for the cake or double the recipes for the mousse and buttercream!

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)

Ingredients:
6 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 tbsp granulated sugar
2 cups ground blanched hazelnuts (Note: you can make it at home by grinding hazelnuts 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 nuts from turning oily or pasty in the processor. You will need about 2 cups to create enough almond meal for this cake.)
2 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
6 large eggs
½ cup all-purpose flour
3 tbsp 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 425F. (220C).
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.I f 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.)

Ingredients:
½ cup water
⅓ cup granulated sugar
1 to 2 tbsp. of Frangelico

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.)

Ingredients:
1 cup granulated sugar
¼ cup water
seeds of one vanilla bean or 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1¾ sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature

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 225F 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 flavoring 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 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.)
Caramel sauce and mousse
3 tablespoons plus 3/4 cup water
1 envelope unflavored gelatin

2 3/4 cups sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 3/4 cups whipping cream, room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups chilled whipping cream


Make caramel sauce and mousse:

1. Pour 3 tablespoons water into ramekin or custard cup. Sprinkle with gelatin; let soften while preparing caramel sauce.

2. Combine sugar, corn syrup and 3/4 cup water in heavy large saucepan. Stir over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves, frequently brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush. Increase heat; boil without stirring until syrup turns deep golden brown, occasionally brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush and swirling pan, about 10 minutes.

3. Remove from heat. Add 1 3/4 cups cream and butter (caramel will bubble up vigorously). Return to low heat; stir until any bits of caramel dissolve.

4. Pour 1 1/2 cups caramel sauce into glass measuring cup; set aside pan of caramel sauce. Place ramekin with gelatin mixture in small skillet of simmering water. Stir until gelatin dissolves and mixture is clear, about 1 minute.

5. Mix gelatin into measured 1 1/2 cups hot caramel; cool just to room temperature, stirring occasionally.

6. Beat chilled whipping cream in large bowl to medium-firm peaks (do not overbeat). Gradually pour cooled caramel-gelatin mixture over cream, folding constantly but gently.

7. Chill mousse 15 minutes.

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

Vanilla Bean Glaze

½ cup vanilla bean infused confectioner’s sugar

2 tsp Silk French Vanilla Soy Creamer

¼ teaspoon vanilla paste

1. Combine in a small bowl, adding more creamer to reach desired consistency
2. Pour over the chilled cake. Using a long metal cake spatula smooth the glaze 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).
1. Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper.

2. 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.

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

4. Spread about three-quarters of the buttercream over this layer.

5. Top with the two rectangular pieces of cake, placing them side by side to form a square.

6. Moisten these pieces with the flavored syrup.

7. Spread the remaining buttercream on the cake and then top with the third square of joconde.

8. Use the remaining syrup to wet the joconde and then refrigerate until very firm (at least half an hour).

9. 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.

10. Make the glaze and after it has cooled, pour/spread it over the top of the chilled cake.

11. Refrigerate the cake again to set the glaze.
Serve the cake slightly chilled. This recipe will yield approximately 20 servings.

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4 comments

  1. Uh oh…you had me with the caramel! Can’t wait to see!


  2. Caramel? Looking forward to hearing the whole story here!


  3. Can’t wait to see your finished cake.


  4. Oooh, the carmel, vanilla, hazelnut mousse sounds to die for! And vanilla bean glaze, yum! Great job on your cake.



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