Wednesday, May 28, 2008

I tackled and completed an Opéra

This is a very exciting (and warning: long) post for me. Many of you will probably not understand the excitement. But excitement, I have! This is my first official Daring Bakers post! I mentioned the Daring Bakers briefly before, so please reread that post for an explanation.

My very first Daring Bakers post - Meyer Lemon Opéra Cake:
I just love looking at the side view of this cake

My first challenge was perhaps one of the more challenging assigned to the group. At least that's what it sounds like from reading through all the forums. But I welcomed and completely looked forward to doing this challenge. Its intricate, detailed, lengthy but thorough instructions are just the type of things I love to tackle.

Daring Bakers founders, Lis and Ivonne along with fellow DB members Shea and Fran chose this "elegant and polished French dessert that is believed to have been created around the beginning of the 1900s." Opéra Cake is traditionally flavored with darker flavors like coffee and chocolate, but the hosts this month ~ in honor of spring ~ asked us to keep the flavors and colors light. Beyond that we were free to do whatever we liked!

Oh yes - this moonlighted as Mother's Day dessert too

An Opéra Cake is made up of the following components - my "creative" flavor adaptations in the parenthesis:
-jaconde, aka French sponge cake, made with ground almonds (as called for by the recipe)
-syrup to wet the jaconde (Meyer lemon syrup)
-buttercream to fill the layers (Meyer lemon buttercream)
-mousse/ganache to top the layers (Meyer lemon mousse)
-glaze to cover the mousse (as called for by the recipe)

We were given recipes for all components (recipes based on Opéra Cake recipes in Dorie Greenspan’s Paris Sweets and Tish Boyle and Timothy Moriarty’s Chocolate Passion) but were also given the option of using different recipes as long as it didn't break any of "the rules" about keeping the colors light. Once I'd decided I was going to make this for Mother's Day - lemon was the quite obvious flavor for me (for Mom). And even easier - my cousin Stacey lives perhaps a mile away from me with the most bountiful Meyer lemon tree one has ever seen. So my first ingredient only cost me a few macarons which I left with her and her family!

The "Mom" was piped in white chocolate - so it moved around ;)

This was perhaps the most complicated single food item I've ever made. I spread the work out over 3 days and started Friday night in order to have it done for Mother's Day dinner on the 11th. Read on if you actually have the time and patience. :)

Friday night:
1) See the picture below? Mmhmm, I did algebra to start this challenge. Since I halved the (serves 20) original recipe I needed to figure out how to make 3 equal sized layers of jaconde out of 1-11.75"x16.5" jellly roll pan. This could perhaps be the first time I've used algebra since Junior High!
2) Mixed up and baked the jaconde. Cut and wrapped it up for storage overnight.
3) Made Dorie Greenspan's buttercream from the Perfect Party Cake in Baking: From My Home to Yours flavored with lemon juice
4) Made a batch of lemon curd that I'll use for my lemon mousse tomorrow

Algebra in baking?---------Cooling jaconde

Wrapping up the cake for the night--- Lemon curd and lemon buttercream

Saturday afternoon:
1) Finished the lemon mousse by folding equal amounts of homemade lemon curd into stiffly whipped cream
2) Made lemon syrup with sugar, water and lemon juice
3) Assembled the layers: jaconde, syrup, buttercream, jaconde, syrup, buttercream, jaconde, syrup, mousse
4) Allowed it all to set in the fridge overnight

Working on the 2nd buttercream layer-------Topping with th lemon mousse

All done just needs to set---------Setting in the fridge

Sunday morning:
1) Candied some lemon slices
2) Made the white chocolate glaze
3) Finished the cake and decorated it

Candying lemon slices----------Topping with the white chocolate glaze

All that's left is trimming the sides!

~~Voilà! Opéra Cake!!~~

I love how you can see the flecks of lemon zest in the mousse!

Overall... sadly?... I didn't really like eating this. But I blame it ALL on the white chocolate. Before this challenge I was pretty sure I didn't like white chocolate. After this challenge I'm now certain that I really hate white chocolate. I should have done some type of a lemon gelatin glaze instead. Would have made it WORLDS better! But I'm still celebrating. Yay - my first Daring Bakers challenge down. Can't WAIT for the next!!

There are some truly beautiful Opéra Cakes out there in Daring Baker Blog-Land. They'll be popping up all over the place today on most of the blogs listed here. Here are some of my favorites I've already spied:

Helen at Tartelette never ceases to amaze me. Here she did an orange, vanilla and lavender cake.
Anita at Dessert First is another Bay Area girl with a beautiful blog to boot. Lemon and lavender cake.
Baking Obsession is another truly beautiful blog (can you see a pattern here?) Grapefruit cake.
Gabi at The Feast Within made a fabulously decorated cake covered with edible cherry blossoms.


  1. This is a truly awsome cake to honor your mother! I'll bet the lemon made it quite refreshing! Beautiful cake.

  2. Lovely mother's day the lemon slices on top..perfect layers as well

  3. What a great job! I love all your pictures, perfect! Welcome to the Daring Bakers! :)

  4. Beautiful, I really like the lemon flavor! And it's so pretty!

  5. Congratulations on your first challenge! Your cake is beautiful!! Great job!

  6. Yours totally looks like Spring! I wish I had used lemon, too, but my husband is not a fan. Great job!

  7. aww.. it's too bad you don't like white chocolate. Could it be the kind you used, or is the flavor unappealing?

  8. lise! you are amazing! it's a beautiful creation. if you need more lemons, please let me know. we have a big, big, big lemon tree!

  9. Welcome and congratulations on your first challenge and such a beautiful job on it! Your cake is absolutely gorgeous!
    Thank you for the very nice "shout out" on my post too!

  10. What a shame that you didn't get along with the white chocolate. But I bet your mom loved her pretty cake!

    Angela @ A Spoonful of Sugar

  11. Wow - thank you to everyone leaving comments today! I had no idea my little blog would get so much traffic! I so appreciate all the support and kind words. I can tell I'm gonna love this Daring Bakers community!

  12. Too bad you didn't like it - it looks absolutely delicious!

  13. Great looking cake. I have heard so much about meyer lemons, I have never seen any here in my smallish town Canadian supermakets. I can't wait to try them.

  14. Your cake looks beautiful, especially with the Meyer lemons. Tastewise, the white chocolate glaze was my least favorite part, although the mousse was fine.

  15. Loved your movable Mom! Aren't you lucky to have access to the Meyer Lemons? Beautiful job!

  16. I love the lemons, welcome to Daring Bakers!

  17. Beautiful work!

  18. I was about to say I am amazed by your nerdiness, but really, it's to be expected. Your "French Awful Cake" looks awesome! Well done, you daring baker, you!

  19. Awesome cake! I may have to make it again because the lemon version looks so good.

  20. Welcome to our community. Your cake looks beautiful, with perfect layers.

  21. Lovely mother's day cake! Love the lemon!

  22. That is gorgeous! I'm not a huge fan of white chocolate, but my friends devoured the cake I made.

  23. Awww, thats so sweet for your mom! Lovely cake.

  24. That's beautiful - makes me wish I was your Mom :)

  25. ahahaha. u hate white chocolate? but the cake looks beautiful!!

  26. Congratulations on your first challenge!


  27. Congrats on your first challenge, you did a beautiful job on your cake! Can't wait to see how you do with the, just announced, June challenge.

  28. Pretty, pretty! I love the candied lemons on top. Sounds like a terrific cake. Perfect for Mother's Day!

  29. OMG I love the idea of making your opera cake meyer lemon themed. It sounds like it would taste amazing! congrats on becoming a DBer!