Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Daring Bakers: Opera Cake

This month’s Daring Baker’s challenge was a lightened version of Opera Cake. No dark ingredients were allowed, so the typical chocolate and coffee flavors were out. The flavors and colors were up to us, as long as they were light (think pastel).

I was amazed at the number of flavor combinations the other Daring Bakers came up with. I wanted to sample them all! You can check out their yummy creations at the DB blogroll. Bring a hankie because I guarantee you will be drooling.

My cake was cherry-almond-white chocolate flavored with a little raspberry liqueur thrown in. Because white chocolate was part of the base recipe I decided to go with a classic combo of cherry-almond. Aaaaand, since I didn’t have any Kirsch (have you ever priced that stuff? whew! cha-ching) I used Chambord as my liqueur instead.

The verdict? WOW! What a masterpiece! Forget layer cakes, I only want to eat fancy shmancy cakes like this from now on.

When I tasted the cake layers by themselves I thought... ewwww, too eggy tasting and I didn’t like the dry, coarse texture due to the almond meal. But, once doused with raspberry sugar syrup and sandwiched between all of that sweet, creamy buttercream and mousse, I thought it was perfect. The cake needed to be robust enough to balance the other components.

My buttercream came off without a hitch. I had my doubts halfway through, but I think that’s the nature of meringue buttercreams. Just when you think you’re going to have to 86 the whole batch, it comes together beautifully and faith is restored. I loved this buttercream! Here it is before I added a few drops of red food coloring to "pink it up" a little.

Here are the three layers coming together:

Thanks so much to Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice, Lis of La Mia Cucina, Fran of Apples Peaches Pumpkin Pie, and Shea of Whiskful for hosting this month. This challenge rocked!

Because this recipe reads like a novel, I am only including the ingredient lists *I* used. For the original recipe in its entirety, and directions, you can visit Ivonne at Cream Puffs in Venice.

6 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 tbsp. granulated sugar
2 cups almond meal
2 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
6 large eggs
½ cup all-purpose flour
3 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 tsp. almond extract

½ cup water
⅓ cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. almond extract
1 tsp. Chambord liqueur
¼ vanilla bean, split, seeds removed, steeped in syrup until cool

1 cup granulated sugar
¼ cup water
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1¾ sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 ½ T. cherry puree (made with canned tart cherries)
3 drops Lorann cherry flavor
2 drops red food coloring
1 ½ tsp. vanilla extract
seeds scraped from ¼ vanilla bean
* I think I added some Chambord but I can't find my notes on the quantity. Maybe 1-2 tsp.

7 ounces white chocolate
1 cup plus 3 tbsp. heavy cream (35% cream)
1 T. Chambord

14 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped
½ cup heavy cream (35% cream)

approx. 3 T. Knotts Berry Farm cherry preserves (spread on second cake layer, after syrup)

I would do a few things differently if I were to make this again:
1. For the buttercream, I would add the vanilla seeds to the eggs before whipping (rather than to the sugar syrup before boiling). It seemed like half my little baby seedlings stuck to the the pan. *sniff*
2. I might grind my almond meal a little finer (mine was purchased rather than home made). Looking at the other daring bakers cakes, I think mine looked coarse in comparison.
3. I would bake the two cakes separately. The cake on the lower oven rack browned significantly more on the bottom than the upper cake.

Thanks for following along and see ya’ next month!

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