I was sooo excited when I found out this month’s Daring Bakers challenge was an Opéra cake. I’ve enjoyed my share of similarly quadrilateral shaped layer cakes in Paris, always wondering how they were done (and mostly questioning how those sides were cut with such laser-like precision).
This month’s Opéra cake challenge was a marriage of recipes from Dorie Greenspan’s Paris Sweets and Tish Boyle and Timothy Moriarty’s Chocolate Passion. While the Opéra cake is typically made with joconde, dark chocolate ganache, and buttercream, the twist for this month’s challenge was to keep the colors and flavors light, i.e. no dark chocolate, coffee, etc. I decided the light theme would be well suited for Mother’s Day, so I ultimately decided upon a combination of almond joconde flavored with apricot-kirsch syrup, pistachio buttercream, apricot mousse, apricot glaze. This flavor combination was inspired by a class on petits gateaux that I took with Chef Chad Pagano at the ICE. I filled it with fresh apricot chunks, and the top is decorated with white chocolate swirls, chopped pistachios and specks of edible gold leaf.
For the buttercream recipe, I used an old standby which can be found on a previous post (with modified quantities). I mixed pistachio paste into the basic buttercream at the end and it was delicious. Sugar Chef made an amazing creation and was kind enough to post her recipe and photo on the Daring Baker’s non-public site and I basically used her mango mousse recipe to create my apricot mousse. For the glaze, I used agar agar dissolved in apricot juice. I also used syrup flavored with kirsch and apricot juice to moisten the cake. The white chocolate swirls were a bit tricky. Instead of just drizzling the chocolate over the top of the glaze, I drizzled it over silpat which I topped with chopped pistachios while the chocolate was still liquid. I then carefully transferred the fragile, hardened white chocolate web onto the top of the cake. I did this perhaps unnecessarily complicated maneuver so the pistachio bits would adhere only to the chocolate, not the glaze. Finally, I added a few small bits of edible gold leaf.
I’m thrilled these seemingly daunting cakes were finally demystified! Though there are some changes I would make to this cake next time, the process was actually much simpler than I would have guessed. And the getting the sides cut neatly wasn’t rocket science and didn’t require a laser. A freezer and a long knife dipped in hot water and cleaned, however, was extremely helpful.
Thanks to Lis, Ivonne, Fran, and Shea for hosting and choosing such an awesome challenge! If you’d like the basic recipe, I’m hoping and fairly certain you will find it on their sites. For an inspiring roundup of other Daring Bakers’ concoctions, click here.