Daring bakers-Opera Cake

I was singing soprano when I saw the one-half cup of flour still sitting on the counter after I had spread the batter into the jelly roll pans. Jeez, and the joconde looked like the easiest part of this opera cake! Lucky my brother-in-law’s chickens are laying like mad so I had plenty of eggs to start over again. Not so for the almond meal! That means another trip to the grocery store! I race out of the house, hop in the car and in minutes had the almond meal. As I was leaving the store, I stole a glance at myself in the mirror. Was that cake batter in my hair? No wonder the clerk looked at me strange.Back in the kitchen now, so far, so good. The cakes are in the oven and look good. One catastrophe averted. Hopefully, the rest of the cake will go smoothly. I chose to flavor my soaking syrup with limoncello liqueur. As I was making the flavored syrup for the buttercream, I mistakenly added the lemon zest to the syrup at the beginning of the cooking process. I was amazed at the intense flavor of the lemon. The buttercream turned out very good, too.For the white chocolate mousse, I used some white chocolate that had little chunks of coconut added. I could have eaten the entire ganache myself, it was so good!My opera cake went together as well as could be expected considering I hardly ever make fancy cakes, but with practice, I could see myself becoming half way competent. The cake tasted fabulous! Another notch in my belt for the Daring Bakers challenge. I, too would like to dedicate my opera cake to Barbara of winoandfoodies who is an amazing lady. Lemon Opera Cake with Coconut White Chocolate MousseCake ingredients6 large egg whites, at room temperature2 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, sifted6 large eggs½ cup (70 grams) all-purpose flour3 tbsp. (1½ ounces; 45 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled1.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 over mix 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. Limoncello 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 saucepanIngredients:½ cup (125 grams) water⅓ cup (65 grams) granulated sugar1 to 2 tbsp. limoncello1.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.Lemon 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 spatulaIngredients:1 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar ¼ cup (60 grams) water 1 large egg1 large egg yolk1¾ sticks (7 ounces; 200 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature zest of one lemon1.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 the lemon zest 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).Coconut White Chocolate Mousse(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 mixerIngredients:7 ounces white chocolate with coconut1 cup plus 3 tbsp. heavy cream (35% cream)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. A3.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.White Chocolate 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 boilerIngredients: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.


  1. Gretchen Noelle
    May 28, 2008 / 11:55 am

    Lemon flavored sounds great! Cake batter in your hair – sounds like quite the challenge!

  2. Engineer Baker
    May 28, 2008 / 12:22 pm

    Coconut and lemon sound wonderfully springy! Beautiful!

  3. ostwestwind
    May 28, 2008 / 12:30 pm

    I bet also on limoncello. Your cake looks great!Ulrike from Küchenlatein

  4. Bumblebutton
    May 28, 2008 / 12:40 pm

    Lovely lemon opera cake–even if some of it wound up in your hair! Beautiful job!

  5. Heather
    May 28, 2008 / 2:48 pm

    yum! Your cake looks delicious and fabulous! Great job!

  6. Anonymous
    May 28, 2008 / 3:21 pm

    Ha, the old cake batter in the hair, huh? I actually tend to leave things like that right in place, they make me feel a little proud. You know, like, “yeah, I’m a baker, I’ve got batter in my hair, I’m cool.” Your cake looks very nice. 🙂

  7. JennDZ - The Leftover Queen
    May 28, 2008 / 4:45 pm

    Yum! I love coconut and lemon together! What a nice combination!

  8. Shari
    May 28, 2008 / 6:37 pm

    Limoncello and coconut sound delicious. Your cake looks great!Shari@Whisk: a food blog

  9. Christine
    May 28, 2008 / 6:41 pm

    Beautiful job on the opera cake! Love the lemon and coconut flavor!

  10. marye
    May 28, 2008 / 7:00 pm

    great combo! well done.

  11. Andrea
    May 28, 2008 / 9:18 pm

    Your cake is simple and elegant. Lovely job, and the limoncello was a great idea!

  12. Dolores
    May 28, 2008 / 10:52 pm

    Lemon & coconut… how delightfully spring meets summer. And what’s a little bit of cake batter in the hair among daring bakers? 🙂 Great job!

  13. Molly Loves Paris
    May 29, 2008 / 4:24 am

    Well done. You are surely on you way to being a good cake maker.

  14. Mevrouw Cupcake
    May 29, 2008 / 10:16 am

    Yummers! Lemon and coconut are always a winning combo!

  15. Lynnylu
    May 29, 2008 / 7:44 pm

    gretchen noelle-it was a challenge!engineer baker-thanks, I think it’s the best cake I’ve ever tasted, even though it wasn’t that pretty.ostwestwind-thanks, I love limoncellobumblebutton-thanks.heather-glad you liked the looks of the cake.rainbowbrown-It’s not the first time and I doubt it will be the last.jenndz-theleftoverqueen-the taste was fabulous!shari-thankschristine-thanks, alsomarye-it tasted great!andrea, thanksdelores-thanks,you are right!molly loves paris-thanks, i hope so.mevrouw cupcake-thanks, I was pleasantly surprised.

  16. Jaime
    May 30, 2008 / 1:20 am

    great job! LOL at the batter in your hair 😉

  17. Barbara
    May 30, 2008 / 7:04 am

    It sounds wonderful and looks wonderful. Thank you. Limoncello I love.

  18. Barbara
    May 30, 2008 / 12:57 pm

    Coconut and lemon, yum. Great job on your cake!(oh, I think there’s still a little cake batter in your hair)

  19. Chris
    May 30, 2008 / 2:21 pm

    limoncello? Want some! Lovely!

  20. Anonymous
    May 30, 2008 / 7:51 pm

    psst, I’ve tagged you. And again, I love your cake. 🙂

  21. Deborah
    May 30, 2008 / 9:27 pm

    It almost sounds like we used the same white chocolate! Your cake is gorgeous – wonderful job!

  22. Claire
    May 31, 2008 / 2:23 am

    Did you wait to see how it turned out without the flour? It would have been interesting to see! Great job despite the bumps in the road! Looks great!

  23. rebekka
    June 2, 2008 / 8:57 pm

    I TRULY love yours…makes me wanna be a daring baker…coconut, mmmmm!!!!

  24. Lynnylu
    June 3, 2008 / 11:30 am

    jaime-thanks-maybe the batter is a badge of courage, the cake was daring for me!barbara-my pleasure.barbara-thanks, it won’t be the last time I get batter in my hair.chris-limoncello has become my favorite of all liqueurs.rainbow brown-thanks, will check it out.deborah-how funny, we did use the same white chocolate with coconut. I loved it!claire- I saved the cake, why I don’t know, but it didn’t hold together very well with out the flour.rebekka-thanks, jump in, it’s fun!

  25. Andrea
    June 5, 2008 / 3:19 am

    Lemon and coconut yum!Thanks for sharing the tip about steeping the peel for more intense flavor in the syrup.Well done!

  26. Lynnylu
    June 7, 2008 / 12:19 pm

    andrea-it was a good mistake. Usually my mistakes are disasters.

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