I cannot believe how fast time flies… it’s already time for another Daring Bakers challenge! This month’s challenge is hosted by the Daring Bakers founders, administrators and Zen Masters themselves Lisa from La Mia Cucina and Ivonne from Cream Puffs in Venice and co-hosted by Fran of Apples Peaches Pumpkin Pie and Shea of Whiskful.
This month’s challenge is opera cake, not the traditional coffee and dark chocolate cake, but a light-colored opera. Any flavors or ingredients are allowed as long as the resulting cake is light. Spring is in the air! This month’s challenge is also trying to draw attention to LiveSTRONG Day which was earlier this month.
I have been making a lot of opera cakes lately. I blogged about one of them a couple of months ago which was flavored with matcha, lemon and dark chocolate. My interpretation for this challenge includes the fruits that are in season, apricot and passion fruit. I made some changes to the recipe because I thought the egg yolk buttercream was a bit too rich for the overall cake. Instead I made a italian meringue buttercream and added some apricot puree to it. Then I added a small amount of passion fruit puree to the white chocolate mousse. I thought the sweetness of the white chocolate paired really nicely with the sweet but slightly tart apricots and the sour passion fruit. Overall it was a lovely cake and I thought it was very appropriate for the season, clean, refreshing and not overly sweet. We had a large cookout over Memorial Day weekend and I served it then along with other pies I made (more on that soon).
6 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 tbsp. (30 grams) granulated sugar
2 cups (225 grams) ground blanched almonds
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
Preheat the oven to 425◦F. Line three quarter sheetpans with parchment paper and brush with melted butter.
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.
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. Add the flour and beat on low speed until the flour is just combined (be very careful not to overmix here!!!).
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.
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. 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. Carefully peel away the parchment, then turn the parchment over and use it to cover the cakes. Let the cakes cool to room temperature.
½ cup (125 grams) water
⅓ cup (65 grams) granulated sugar
1 to 2 tbsp. Kirsch
Stir water and sugar together in the saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove the syrup from heat and add the kirsch when it has cooled slightly.
100 grams egg whites
200 grams sugar
300 grams unsalted butter at room temperature
50 grams apricot puree (or to taste)
Combine the sugar, water in a small saucepan and warm over medium heat just until the sugar dissolves. Continue to cook, without stirring, until the syrup reaches 240◦F on a candy or instant-read thermometer. Once it reaches that temperature, remove the syrup from the heat.
While the syrup is heating, begin whisking the egg whites at high speed in the bowl of your mixer using the whisk attachment. Whisk until soft peaks form.
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!
Raise the speed to medium-high and continue beating until the egg whites are thick and the mixture is cool to the touch (about 5 minutes or so).
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. 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. At this point add apricot puree and beat for an additional minute or so.
White Chocolate and Passion Fruit Mousse
7 ounces white chocolate
1 cup plus 3 tbsp. heavy cream
1 tbsp. passion fruit puree
Melt the white chocolate and the 3 tbsp. of heavy cream in a small saucepan. Stir to ensure that it’s smooth and that the chocolate is melted. Add the tablespoon of passion fruit to the chocolate and stir. Set aside to cool completely.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the remaining 1 cup of heavy cream until soft peaks form. Gently fold the whipped cream into the cooled chocolate to form a mousse.
Assembling the Opéra Cake
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. Refrigerate until it hardens. Then spread a third of the white chocolate mousse on top.
Top with joconde. Moisten with the flavoured syrup. Spread another third of the buttercream on the cake, refrigerate, spread another layer of white chocolate mousse on top 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 and finish with the last layer of mousse. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
In a bowl, mix a little bit of gold dust powder with a few drops of vodka. With a brush, paint some of the gold on top of the opera. Let it dry for a couple of minutes and cover the entire cake with clear glaze.