Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Let's Go to the Opera
When my daughter's maid of honor said she'd like to have a tea party bridal shower for Sarah, I volunteered to bake up a few things. I'd pictured making some fancy little cakes to serve to the 5 or 6 people that would come. When I called her the week before to double check on the guest count, I went pale when she told me 24. I'm not a math genius, but even I can figure out that 24 is 4 times more than 6, the number of holes in my fancy mini cake pan.
I opened up cookbook after cookbook, fretting. Most cakes serve 10, 12 or maybe 16 for an ultrarich cake. 24 would almost certainly have to be a sheet cake. Piffle. And while I was searching for the elusive perfect recipe, I was also fretting over the Daring Baker challenge I'd just received. Ridiculous amounts of work for a huge cake....that serves 20. I could feel the "aha" moment in my brain. Yes! I'd make the Opera Cake for the shower.
This is an intimidating recipe with 5 different components: a joconde (a cake layer), a syrup (to wet the joconde), a buttercream (to fill some of the layers), a ganache or mousse (to top the final cake layer) and a glaze (to cover the final layer of cake or of ganache/mousse). I was starting to freak out about it the enormity of the task when Tanna, the experienced baker of My Kitchen In Half cups gave me the calming advice, "It's just a cake. Just take it step by step."
When viewed that way, it was still daunting, but not impossible. I assembled the ingredients, figured out a timeline, then set to work. All was coming together smoothly until the buttercream. I beat and beat and beat that stuff, but it wouldn't come together. It had the consistency of maple syrup. Almost in tears with the thought of having to toss it out and redo, I went to the Daring Baker's website and read under the heading of Runny Buttercream. Many of the comments dealt with temperature, so I figured there was nothing to lose by sticking it in the refrigerator for a few hours. That worked perfectly! It was nice and stiff and after a little beating came together beautifully.
I didn't have two half-sheet cake pans, so I used two jelly roll pans. That worked well. Using the larger pans would result in thinner layers, but mine looked fine, I thought. For flavoring I stayed with almond, but added some lemon zest to the white chocolate ganache. The flavors worked really well together, the zest adding just a sparkle of citrus to the creamy white chocolate and almond.
The cake cut well when chilled and with a sprinkling of edible gold glitter made a fabulous presentation at the party. Rave reviews all around. A big thank you to this month's hosts, Ivonne at CreamPuffsInVenice and Lis at LaMiaCucina and Daring Bakers Fran at Apples Peaches Pumpkin Pie and Shea at Whiskful, for this fun and timely challenge! (The recipe is loooong, so I'm not posting it here. If you'd like to take on the Opera Cake for yourself, check it out at any of our hosts' websites.)