Wednesday, May 28, 2008

My very first Daring Bakers Challenge

I have admired all the wonderful cooking blogs we have in the blogsphere for couple of years now. But there is one forum which stood out among all and was an inspiration to create a blog. Its the Daring Bakers Blogroll. This a group of amazing bakers who tackle one baking challenge a month. This is my first challenge and the five page long recipe had me shaking in the my boots. This month's challenge was Opera Cake hosted by Lis, Ivvone, Fran and Shea.

The first time I made the cake, everything turned out just perfect except for the buttercream. I still assembled the cake. The cake tasted heavenly but it looked pathetic. So, I made the cake again. This time though I started with the buttercream. I was going to make the cake only if the buttercream turned out right. The buttercream turned out perfect. So, I made the rest of the cake and assembled. While the cake looked good, I have to say my first experiment tasted the best.

We were allowed to change the flavors of the cake as long as the colors are light. Dark colors are absolute no-no. So, I made the cake with cashew and mango flavouring. I was planning to make it as a pista and mango combination. But unfourtunately, I was not able to find enough pista to make the cake.

A Taste of Light: Opéra Cake
For the joconde
6 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 tbsp granulated sugar
2 cups ground blanched almonds
2 cups icing 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 425◦F.
  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
½ cup water
⅓ cup granulated sugar
1 to 2 tbsp. of the flavouring of your choice


  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
1 cup granulated sugar
¼ cup water
seeds of one vanilla bean or 1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1¾ sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tbsp flavoring of your choice


  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
7 ounces white chocolate
1 cup plus 3 tbsp. heavy cream
1 tbsp. liquer of your choice


  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.If it’s too thin, refrigerate it for a bit until it’s spreadable.
For the glaze
14 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped
½ cup heavy 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

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.

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.

I made the joconade with cashew nuts.The buttercream, syrup and mouusee were mango flavoured.

Here is my result,


Aparna said...

Welcome to the Daring Bakers community. And congrats on a lovely cake.

Medhaa said...

Nice cake, It was my first time too and was terrified initially, but it came out ok.

Mother Bliss said...

Congrats on your first challenge! Your cake looks great. The recipes always scare me too, but if you take it one step at a time it's not too bad! Welcome to the club!

Molly Loves Paris said...

Welcome to the Daring Bakers. Your cake looks great. My first butter cream for this cake was such a failure that I was going to give up, but my husband convinced me to try again. The second try was perfect, and oh so tasty. I hadn't got the egg a sugar cold enough the first time.

Shari said...

Mango sounds lovely! Great job!
Shari@Whisk: a food blog

Rebecca said...

Congratulations on your first DB challenge! Mango and cashews–YUM.

silverrock said...

Mmm... I love mango anything, and to use it in such a challenging recipe, I congradulate you. The cake looks lovely, yay for becoming a DBer :)

Jj said...

Your Opera cake looks fantastic! Mango was a great idea.

Debyi said...

Cashews and mangoes, you are speaking my language. Your cake looks great, I like your plate too. Great job on your first challenge.