Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Daring Baker's Challenge May: L'Opéra, Ispahan Style!!!






Ahhh, l'opéra....The cake I've yearned to make in my own kitchen yet feared with every fibre of my apron. Until the Good Ol' Daring Bakers got a hold of me and forced me to do it! Yes, this month's challenge was the elusive Opera cake, but with a twist: No chocolate, no coffee buttercream. Yowza...what to do what to do...

Lis and Ivonne --otherwise known as the grand pubas of the Daring Bakers group -- offered up this challenge. They requested that we dedicate our challenge to a former DBer, Barbara of winosandfoodies.com. I am more than happy to oblige, and would like to go a step further and also dedicate my challenge to my own sister who is facing a very brave battle with breast cancer, which is why I chose to color my cake with pinks. It is also why I have not been the best blogger in the world these days, I've been so very preoccupied. But the cake and the love I put into it was worth the efforts and time I set aside for it.

Ok, on to the challenge. First, let me say that I LOVE Opéra cake, especially chocolate and coffee. Especially in Paris. Especially at Ladurée. But I've never done my own, and I've never seen one that wasn't made of chocolate and coffee. So when we were sworn off those flavors, but told we had to do something "light in color", I thought "how about pink?" When I realized I would make the cake in "breast cancer pink" (however, let's just say there is really nothing pretty or pink about breast cancer), I started thinking of flavors. This led me back to Paris (everything leads me back to Paris), and to the infamous Ispahan. So that was it: I would flavor my cake with rose and raspberry, in honor of the ever-so-yummy Ispahan by Pierre Hermé.

So then, off to the challenge. Ok folks, this cake took forever to make! It was not hard, just time consuming. The joconde (fancy word for "almond cake") was pretty easy, however I had to purchase a second jelly roll pan which was a bummer. The joconde was easy to make and bake, and turned out just fine, no issues at all.

The buttercream was another story. I have made many an Italian buttercream before, but for some reason this one simplywould NOT set. What a runny mess it was! So I took the advice of Tartelette (aka Helene) and put some of the runny buttercream in the freezer, re-incorporated it into the rest, and voila, it was picture perfect. I added rose essence to the buttercream, along with pink food coloring. I think I put in too much rose flavoring, the cake was too "rose" in the end. Next time I'll put in 1/2 the amount.

I made the cakes, cut them to size, brushed them with syrup (infused with Chambord), applied the buttercream, and wrapped it tightly for storage in the freezer, since I didn't need it for another week. (I planned to serve it at my friend Sharon's birthday party the following week. Thus the "S" on top!) The day before I served it, I defrosted the cake in the refrigerator and made the white chocolate mousse. This, I flavored with raspberry, by simply adding seedless raspberry jam to the melted white chocolate. Once the mousse was applied to the top of the layers, I froze it again, made my white chocolate glaze, and glazed over the top of the frozen cake.

The verdict? My friends LOVED it, although I do think it tasted too much of rose. They had never tasted anything quite like it. Compliments flew all over the place. But, the next time I do this cake, I will do it the old fashioned way, with coffee buttercream and a dark chocolate ganache.

I thank Ivonne and Lis for making me try it, now I feel it is something I can make for multiple occasions!

Here's the recipe!

For the joconde
(Note: The joconde can be made up to 1 day in advance and kept wrapped at room temperate)

What you’ll need:•2 12½ x 15½-inch (31 x 39-cm) jelly-roll pans (Note: If you do not have jelly-roll pans this size, do not fear! You can use different-sized jelly-roll pans like 10 x 15-inches.)
•a few tablespoons of melted butter (in addition to what’s called for in the ingredients’ list) and a brush (to grease the pans)
•parchment paper
•a whisk and a paddle attachment for a stand mixer or for a handheld mixer
•two mixing bowls (you can make do with one but it’s preferable to have two)

Ingredients:
6 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 tbsp. (30 grams) granulated sugar2 cups (225 grams) ground blanched almonds (Note: If you do not want to use almond meal, you can use another nut meal like hazelnut. You can buy almond meal in bulk food stores or health food stores, or you can make it at home by grinding almonds in the food processor with a tablespoon or two of the flour that you would use in the cake. The reason you need the flour is to prevent the almonds from turning oily or pasty in the processor. You will need about 2 cups of blanched almonds to create enough almond meal for this cake.)
2 cups icing sugar, sifted
6 large eggs
½ cup (70 grams) all-purpose flour
3 tbsp. (1½ ounces; 45 grams) 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. (220◦C).
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
(Note: The syrup can be made up to 1 week in advance and kept covered in the refrigerator.)What you’ll need:
•a small saucepan

Ingredients:
½ cup (125 grams) water
⅓ cup (65 grams) granulated sugar
1 to 2 tbsp. of the flavouring of your choice (i.e., vanilla extract, almond extract, cognac, limoncello, coconut cream, honey etc.)

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
(Note: The buttercream can be made up to 1 month in advance and packed in an airtight container. If made way in advance, you can freeze the buttercream. Alternatively you can refrigerate it for up to 4 days after making it. To use the buttercream simply bring it to room temperature and then beat it briefly to restore its consistency.)

What you’ll need:
•a small saucepan
•a candy or instant-read thermometer
•a stand mixer or handheld mixer
•a bowl and a whisk attachment
•rubber spatula

Ingredients:
1 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
¼ cup (60 grams) water seeds of one vanilla bean (split a vanilla bean down the middle and scrape out the seeds) or 1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract (Note: If you are flavouring your buttercream and do not want to use the vanilla, you do not have to. Vanilla will often enhance other flavours but if you want an intense, one-flavoured buttercream, then by all means leave it out!)
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1¾ sticks (7 ounces; 200 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
flavouring of your choice (a tablespoon of an extract, a few tablespoons of melted white chocolate, citrus zest, etc.)

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 (this step is optional – please see Elements of an Opéra Cake below) (Note: The mousse can be made ahead and refrigerated until you’re ready to use it.)


What you’ll need:
•a small saucepan
•a mixer or handheld mixer

Ingredients:
7 ounces white chocolate
1 cup plus 3 tbsp. heavy cream (35% cream)
1 tbsp. liquer of your choice (Bailey’s, Amaretto, etc.)

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.6.If you’re not going to use it right away, refrigerate until you’re ready to use.

For the glaze (Note: It’s best to make the glaze right when you’re ready to finish the cake.)
What you’ll need:
•a small saucepan or double boiler

Ingredients:
14 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped
½ cup heavy cream (35% 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
(Note: The finished cake should be served slightly chilled. It can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 1 day).
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.

Step A (if using buttercream only and not making the ganache/mousse):
Place one square of cake on the baking sheet and moisten it gently with the flavoured syrup.Spread about one-third 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 another third of the buttercream on the cake and then top with the third square of joconde. Use the remaining syrup to wet the joconde. Spread the remaining buttercream on top of the final layer of joconde and then refrigerate until very firm (at least half an hour).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.




Step B (if making the ganache/mousse):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.

33 comments:

Dolores said...

What a beautiful tribute to your sister in her difficult journey. Sending positive vibes and good thoughts your direction and hers during this challenging time.

FoodieFroggy said...

Ispahan !! Comment n'y ai-je pas pensé !! Bravo, il est superbe et il devait vraiment être "à tomber" !
Anne

Aparna said...

Your pink/ rose cake looks lovely. I've also decided that I want to try this out in its darker variation. I'm sure coffee and chocolate would be heavenly.

Erica said...

Wow, rose! I never would have thought of that, but I bet it was delicious. I loved rose jelly as a child.

Your cake looks wonderful!

maybelles parents said...

Ispahan is a wonderful choice for this cake.

Renee said...

You cake is spectacular! Well, done! It looks so yummy!

glamah16 said...

Great choice in theme. My positive thoughts are with you and your sister.

Jade Is Green! said...

You're right! We did use the same colours! Although I must admit yours looks far prettier. What a brilliant tribute to your sister as well. My well wishes are with you both.

I love your flavour combo too. Rose is one of my favourite things. Rosewater Turkish delight....Divine!

Faery said...

What a beautiful tribute to your sister I know it is terrible when a dear person is sick, I am sending you and your sister my positive thoughts and pryers.
The cake is beautiful and looks delicious

Gretchen Noelle said...

Lovely job! Wonderful that you were able to participate this month and honor your sister.

Sleeping Bear said...

Thank you for your comments on my challenge but I must say I baked but 2 cakes, no way a hero that makes me. You, my dear fellow Daring Baker are the Hero!!! Your dedication to and time spent with your sister is ever so much more laudable. May all be well for you and her, we will keep you in our thoughts!
SleepingBear in the Kitchen

Jacque said...

Ooooh, rose and raspberry sounds so interesting. Your cake looks fantastic, the rose is such a pretty touch.

My heart goes out to you, your sister, and your family. Cancer is such a terrible disease. My prayers are with her.

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

What a fabulous cake! Very well done! Wonderful!

Cheers,

Rosa

Rachel said...

Great choice of flavour...

Christine said...

Wonderful tribute to your sister. Your cake looks beautiful!

Rosie said...

Stunning cake I just adore your theme!! I am also sending best wishes at this very challenging time.

Rosie x

Familia Bencomo said...

Tres belle! Funny, I used Chambord too, but I like how you added raspberries to the buttercream better. Nice job. I hope your sister is better - it great that she has you as part of her support system.

xoxox Amy

Liz said...

I love the idea of an Ispahan cake! Gorgeous execution, too.

Gabi said...

the raspberry and rose flavours are lovely and your cake turned out beautifully!

My best wishes for your sister's health!
xoxox

Ally said...

What a gorgeous cake! And the flavors sound terrific. I'd also like to send Prayers and good vibes to you and your sister.

Candace said...

Beautiful cake... I'm sure your sister appreciates you!

HoneyB said...

Your cake is beautiful!

Lunch Buckets said...

I'm wanting rose flavoured cake now. I blame you!

Tartelette said...

What a gorgeous creation! Sending good vibes toward you and your sister and family
*hugs*

Francijn Brouwer said...

Congratulations! A brave person is not someone who dares everything, but someone who doesn't dare - and still does.

Carla said...

Beautiful! Great flavor ideas. Thank you for showing me how it was supposed to turn out!

Miss Ifi said...

mmm your cake looks great!!! And I am extremely glad that you got to try something you always wanted to make, I hope you and your apron are not afraid of anything anymore!!! Congratulations!

Barbara said...

A beautiful cake and very thoughtful baker. Best wishes to your sister.

Harmony said...

Lovely cake. Raspberries and chambord sound great together.

Deborah said...

Your cake is absolutely gorgeous!

Shari said...

Rose and raspberry sound so delicious, and your cake looks so elegant!
Shari@Whisk: a food blog

Lynn said...

I love the rose and raspberry combination ... what a great breast cancer awareness cake :-)

creampuff said...

Yes, I think I like being called the Grand Puba!

Lovely cake!