Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Daring Baker 4 - Opera Cake

As soon as I saw the length of this recipe I felt like I could cry - it was no where near as long as the French Bread Recipe but it included a lot of various stages and took a few days to plan, then execute.

The challenge for this month was Opera Cake (would you believe there's no Wikipedia entry for it?) and was picked by Lis, Ivonne, Fran and Shea - great challenge by the way ladies! And it is also dedicated to Barbara from Winos and Foodies who was an active Daring Baker once and is also runs the Live Strong Taste of Yellow food event.

So now to explain a bit about what opera Cake is exactly.... because believe me I needed this myself! So here's some details copied from the Daring Bakers Forum's an extremely elegant and polished French dessert that is believed to have been created around the beginning of the 1900s. Many people credit a gentleman by the name of Louis Clichy with inventing the cake and that's why it's sometimes referred to as Clichy Cake.

So what exactly is an Opéra Cake?

Well it's a cake that is made up (usually) of five components: a joconde (a cake layer), a syrup (to wet the joconde), a buttercream (to fill some of the layers), a ganache or mousse (to top the final cake layer) and a glaze (to cover the final layer of cake or of ganache/mousse).

Any clearer? It took me a few reads of the recipe to get all the information into my head. Then I worked out what order I was going to do things in, also to work out how I was going to make it with the equipment I had to hand and what flavourings I was going to use.

So here is the recipe including my edits in red italics.

Daring Baker 4 - Opera Cake




(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.)I used orange essence

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.

Even little Stewie was curious to see this cake... look at that face!!!!!

(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.)

There were 2 buttercream recipes available, I opted for the original recipe instead of the edited version which turned out fine for me after adding a little extra butter

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


2 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (120 grams) water
seeds of one vanilla pod (split a vanilla pod down the middle and scrape out the seeds) or 1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract I used one of my recently purchased Vanilla Pods
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1¾ cups unsalted butter, at room temperature Plus about another quarter cup to make it thicken up
flavouring of your choice (a tablespoon of an extract, a few tablespoons of melted white chocolate, citrus zest, etc.) I added some lemon zest - had hoped to add some lime zest too but didn't have a lime to hand

1.Combine the sugar, water and vanilla pod 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)
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).


(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 (200g) white chocolate
1 cup plus 3 tbsp. double cream (35% cream)
1 tbsp. liquer of your choice (Bailey’s, Amaretto, etc.) I left this out because I didn't want to spend money on a bottle of liquer only to use 1 tbsp of it!

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.
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.

(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.) I only had one 12" x 8.5" swiss roll pan, so I divided the mixture into 4 and baked each layer one at a time
•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
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) one 12" x 8.5" 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.
8.Divide the batter between the pans and spread it evenly to cover the entire surface of each pan.
9.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.
10.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.
11.Carefully peel away the parchment, then turn the parchment over and use it to cover the cakes. Let the cakes cool to room temperature. Repeat steps 3, 8, 9, 10 and 11 until all the mixture has been used up

1. Place one layer of joconde on a lined baking sheet and moisten it gently with the flavoured syrup.
2. Spread about three-quarters one third of the buttercream over this layer.
3. Top with another layer of joconde. Moisten with the flavoured syrup.
4. Spread the remaining buttercream half of what is left of the butter cream on the cake
5. Top with the third layer of joconde. Moisten with the syrup, then spread the rest of the buttercream on top.
6. Top with the final layer of joconde
and then refrigerate until very firm (at least half an hour or overnight like I did).


7. Spread the ganache/mousse 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.

(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 (400g) 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.

8. Using a long metal cake spatula, smooth out into an even layer. Place the cake into the refrigerator for 30 minutes to set.
9. Add optional decorations For mine I spread some Italian mixed peel over the top

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

Check out some of the other Daring Bakers Opera cakes via the Daring Bakers Blogroll


  1. Your flavor sounds so refreshing. I love how you decorated the slices on the plate.

  2. Beautiful looking cake, and I like the citrus flavour that you chose.

  3. I really like the citrus flavors that you chose.

  4. Good job Ruth. It was a tough challenge.

  5. Absolutely perfect Ruth...& I love little Stewie guarding the cake. I had to miss this one but posted L'Zebra today instead with a link to 'bookmarked'. Will mail you shortly..hugs

  6. Thanks megan! I had fun making these look special on the plate

    Thank you Cakelaw. The citrus was really tasty

    Hey Maybelles parents. I really liked them too - really tasty

    Hi Giz, it sure was but well worth it

    Hey PB! Stewie ended up having some of the trimmed edges and he loved it! Sorry you had to miss it but your zebra cake looks awesome!

  7. Lovely cake Ruth, it looks fabulous great job! :-)

  8. This recipe really does look too overwhelming for words, but the end photo and presentation are scrumptious! Who did you serve the rest of the cake to?

  9. Your cake turned out great! I think the lemon zest really added lots of flavor.

  10. Your cake looks amazing! The flavors your chose sound fabulous!

  11. Your cake looks great. I think the instructions were just deceptively lengthy and sounded more complex than it actually was.

  12. Whew! We got through it! It is probably one of the lengthiest recipes I have ever done. Great job!

  13. Nice work. You definitely acheived the elegant mandate!

  14. I know what you mean today morning when i clicked to a blog and saw the DB cake I felt like crying too seeing the whole process.
    Hats off to you all Ladies for brinign out a spectacular cake like this.

  15. It looks beautiful Ruth and I love the orange color! So citrusy and refreshing!

  16. Hmmm yummy, another orange opera cake, wasn't that a very nice choice? I know because that's what I chose. hehehe. Nice job :)

  17. Wow Ruth, very impressive- well done!

  18. Thank you Dell!!! You should sign up sometime!

    Hey Neen, I served most of it to my youth group (about 95%) and the rest came home for me and Stewie to enjoy... Rob wasn't keen on it.

    Thanks Andrea, the lemon was a great flavour for this

    Hi Dianne, thank you! And thanks, everyone who had a piece enjoyed the flavours

    You're right Y, when I sat down and separated it out and worked out which parts to do first it really wasn't too complicated

    Yay for success Toontz!!!!

    Thank you Dana, that's very sweet of you

    Hey HC, you should sign up sometime! Give it a go... or else give this one a go and see how it turns out.

    Thank you Jenn, I thought it needed a bit of colour. And the citrus really was very tasty and refreshing

    Ben, great minds think alike ;o)

    Thank you Pixie!!!

  19. Your cake is beautiful. Well done.

  20. Ruth, what a gorgeous cake! I love how you presented it on the plate, too! And how cute is your dog? :)

  21. The cake looks fantastic! And I am so part of the "all food looks better with a dog in the picture" club.

  22. Hi Mary! Thank You!!!

    Thank you Elle. I was trying to be a little more creative with the presentation... Stewie is just too cute for his own good!

    I'm glad to hear that That Girl!!! I'll have to include him in more photos for ya.

  23. This is a stunning cake Ruth and just adore the citrus flavour :)

    Rosie x

  24. Lovely lovely job Ruth! Citrus flavors are the best!

  25. I really like the citrus flavors that you chose! Great cake!

  26. Hi Rosie, citrus flavours are great!

    Thank you Meeta - makes it nice and fresh and tasty

    Thank you Christine, we all loved the citrus flavours too.

  27. Great flavors! I love how you decorated the plate~

  28. Thank you Half Baked... I'm really working on my presentation.

  29. What a gorgeous cake! And citrus sounds just wonderful.

  30. Great job! The flavors do sound delicious together! Hope you enjoyed the flavor after all that work!

  31. Hi Deborah. Thank you! i'm on a real citrus kick at the minute

  32. Gretchen I loved the flavour of this. I'm sad it's all gone now... my waistline is glad there's none left though!

  33. great job! love the last photo

  34. Orange would be a nice flavor for this cake. I love the picture of the plated dessert with the musical note on it. Very creative.
    Shari@Whisk: a food blog

  35. Great job Ruth and your cake looks stunning!


  36. These flavors sound delicious. Wish I'd used citrus. Yum!


  37. Thanks Jaime

    Thanks Shari, i thought it needed a bit of colour.

    Thank you Maria

    Citrus flavours are great Rebecca


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