The stress-induced baking dry spell I had been in has been lifted. And fortunately or unfortunately I am beginning to once again vividly remember how much I love spending hours or days in the kitchen, slaving away over what ends up being a 7-inch cake that is devoured in what feels like seconds. Quality baking is definitely addicting, and now that I have created the masterpiece that is the Opera Cake, I am jonesing for another baking fix.
Maybe its because I put together the cake while there was still natural sunlight pouring through my window, maybe its because I got a new (and much nicer) camera for Christmas, and maybe its because the color contrast was perfect, but I just adore the visual and all the pictures of this cake. I feel a bit like I am deceiving readers/viewers because the roses have nothing to do with the cake flavor, and were just tossed on spur of the moment for extra color and texture (though I have to say I am now inspired to make an ‘opera’ cake infused with rose flavor). The two star flavors of this–and every–opera cake are chocolate and coffee. Layers of chocolate almond joconde separate coffee buttercream and chocolate ganache. Yum.
Though can I admit something?
I made a tiny, little, itty mistake….
….and added 1 cup of cocoa powder instead of 1 tablespoon…. Yeah, quite embarrassing. And I added the cocoa powder to my stand mixer set on medium before I realized the mistake so there was no going back. In my defense, I was scanning the recipe and say 1 cup ground almonds, 1 cup icing sugar….1 something cocoa powder, which I mistakenly assumed was 1 cup.
Fortunately I hadn’t added the flour yet, which I then omitted, crossing my fingers that everything would turn out alright. A little on the dense (and dark) side, everything worked out just fine. (And thank god, because I was already in the middle of re-making an Italian Meringue Buttercream for another cake at this point, but more of that in another post).
The simultaneously exciting and annoying part of making a dessert such as an opera cake is that there are so many components–some of which can be made well in advance, while others need to be made shortly before serving. I ended up making the almond joconde a few days in advance, and left it wrapped in my refrigerator until the day before I wanted to serve the cake.
The day before serving the cake, I made the rest of the components including the buttercream, ganache, syrup, and at the very last minute, the glaze.
As you can see, I used a 2 half sheet pans for the joconde, which I then cut in two pieces each, resulting in four sections of cake. It is important to cut each of the cakes exactly in half (or very close to it) because they will be stacked on top of each other.
Once the other components are put together, the cake is stacked. The layers are as follows: cake, syrup, buttercream, cake, syrup, ganache, cake, syrup, buttercream, cake and finally glaze. I know, it sounds like a lot of layers, but it is actually manageable.
The next step is very important–the cake needs to chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour, before taking it out and cutting off the rough edges so the cake looks more appealing.
At this point, you could either cut the cake into individual portions or leave it whole. I opted to cut two slices off one end and left the rest–mostly for the sake of taking pictures and because it ended up looking quite stunning covered in roses, and I didn’t want to move them in order to cut the cake before my party. One thing that I did with the pieces I pre-cut was to set them in white cupcake liners. This made the cake look more like something you might get at a pastry shop or–what I was really going for–to give off a vibe of being something you might find at an English tea.
After taking way too many pictures I left the cake covered in my refrigerator overnight until it was needed the next day, and made sure to remove it from the refrigerator over an hour before serving it so that everything could come back to room temperature. I sampled the cake the day I made it as well as the day I served it, and I assure you, letting the cake sit overnight did not change how amazing this cake tastes!
Recipe from A Swoonful of Sugar
4 egg whites
2 T sugar
1 1/3 cup ground almonds/almond flour
1 1/3 cup icing sugar
1 1/3 T cocoa powder
1/3 cup flour
2 T butter, melted and cooled
1) Line two half sheet pans with parchment paper and set aside. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
2) Beat the egg whites in a bowl until they form soft peaks, then add sugar and beat until they are stiff and glossy.
3) Beat the almonds, icing sugar, cocoa and eggs in another bowl until light and voluminous. Add the flour and beat until just combined.
4) Fold meringue into flour mixture, then fold in the butter.
5) Pour the batter into the two prepared pans and bake for about 9 minutes. Cool completely then wrap with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator until you are ready to assemble the cake.
1/3 cup water
1 T sugar
1 teaspoon coffee granules
1) Warm the water then stir in the sugar and coffee. Set aside until ready to use.
1/2 cup sugar
2 egg whites
1 cup butter, room temperature
1-2 T warm water
1 T coffee granules
1) Dissolve coffee in water and set aside.
2) Whisk sugar into egg whites over a simmering pan of water until hot to the touch, about 3-5 minutes.
3) Beat until cool, about 5 minutes, then beat in the butter in 1-2 tablespoon chunks.
4) Beat in the coffee and continue to beat until smooth and fluffy, about 5-10 minutes.
120g dark chocolate
1 T heavy cream
1/4 cup heavy cream
1) Melt chocolate and 1 tablespoon cream in the top of a double boiler. Set aside and cool completely.
2) Whip the 1/4 cup of cream until it is in stiff peaks, then fold it into the cooled chocolate ganache.
3) Refrigerate until ready to use.
Dark Chocolate Glaze
80g dark chocolate
2 T heavy cream
1 T honey
1) Melt all ingredients in the top of a double boiler.
2) Let cool slightly and use immediately.
To Assemble the Cake:
1) Cut each cake into two pieces of even size and set aside.
2) Place one sheet cake onto your work surface or cake plate and moisten with the coffee syrup.
3) Spread 1/2 of the buttercream over the cake, making sure to keep it an even layer.
4) Place another cake on top of the buttercream and moisten with more syrup.
5) Spread the ganache over the cake.
6) Place a third cake on top and again moisten with syrup.
7) Spread remaining buttercream over the top of this cake.
8) Place the final layer of cake on top, and pour the glaze over the top of the cake, spreading slightly so it flows over the sides just a little.
9) Refrigerate for one hour before trimming the sides to get a smooth finish.
**Feel free to add dried roses to the top as decoration, and to either cut the cake into individual servings or leave as one large cake when serving. If you refrigerate the cake before serving, keep it covered and make sure to leave at room temperature for at least one hour before eating. Enjoy!
Thank you for reading and come back soon for more adventures in and out of the kitchen!
And a special thank you and shout out to all of my wonderful friends for eating the cake and being a part of last weekend’s tea party! ^_^