mercoledì 28 maggio 2008

DB may (an unhealthy challenge)


As usual I report first the recipes and then my comment below.
I'm not sure that what I'm going to write will like you.

But it's life...
Ok, here is the recipe as was published in the daring baker private forum
The Elements of an Opéra Cake:
Joconde: The base of an Opéra Cake is a thin sponge cake that is made using nut meal, traditionally almond meal (finely ground blanched almonds).
Syrup: The joconde is flavoured with a sugar syrup that can be flavoured to suit your tastes.
Buttercream: The first two layers of the joconde are covered in a rich buttercream. This particular buttercream is made with a syrup, eggs and butter.
Ganache/Mousse (optional): In some recipes, the final layer of the joconde is covered in a ganache or mousse.
The final step to an Opéra Cake is the glaze that gives the cake a very finished and elegant appearance.

For those of you that don't know about this cake, it's an extremely elegant and polished French dessert that is believed to have been created around the beginning of the 1900s.

Many people credit a gentleman by the name of Louis Clichy with inventing the cake and that's why it's sometimes referred to as Clichy Cake.

So what exactly is an Opéra Cake?

Well it's a cake that is made up (usually) of five 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).

Traditionally, a joconde is flavoured with darker flavours such as chocolate or coffee. But in honour of the season (spring in our neck of the woods) and as part of our decision to tie our posts in with the LiveSTRONG theme, we are making Opéra Cakes that are light in both colour and flavour.


But it does mean vanilla, coconut, lemon, almond or whatever other light flavours you can think of.

A Taste of Light: Opéra Cake

This recipe is based on Opéra Cake recipes in Dorie Greenspan’s Paris Sweets and Tish Boyle and Timothy Moriarty’s Chocolate Passion.

For the joconde

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


6 large egg whites, at room temperature

2 tbsp. (30 grams) granulated sugar

2 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 eggs½ 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.

5. 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.)


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.)

(Update Note: The recipe for the buttercream that is listed below was originally based on the original but we had some typos.

It's all very confusing (we're good at confusing ourselves) but here is the short of it: When testing the buttercream, we tested a modified version (we're crazy like that!!!) that had 2 cups sugar, ½ cup water and 1¾ cups butter. Yes. That's right. 1¾ cups of butter. The eggs remained the same. We ended up with a very creamy buttercream. VERY. CREAMY. But we don’t want anyone to be afraid of our modified version so you have the option of using the original version listed below or the quantities we’ve listed here in this note. If you are still confused and want to cry, then please e-mail us and we will comfort you!!! We promise!!!)


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

(Note: The mousse can be made ahead and refrigerated until you’re ready to use it.)


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.)


In this case the originale recipe was for a white choc glaze but I decided for a strawberry glaze made as follows.

Left some strawberries chopped at room temperature for a couple of hour dressed with some icing sugar and some lemon juice.

Here in Italy a jelly in sheet.. it must be rehydrated in cold water and then melt in a hot (not boiling) liquid so I did, warming the strawberry juice and then, as the jelly fluid was cool enough with an oily consistence,

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.

I've reported the original recipe as written by host and co-host.
I've red the first version of recipe appreciating the double measure and so I've used the first version of the buttercream, the one very buttery, too buttery and too firm.
I halved the joconde but not the buttercream in order to obtain thicker layers.
I hadn't any problem making the joconde appreciating the subtle smell of the almond meal.
The problems started making the buttercream and white choc mousse.
I was obliged to make buttercream twice but it was up to me, I choose a light butter with a certain amount of water (about 60% of fat vs 83% of the normal one) and my butter cream curdled irreparably.
On second time I used a normal butter and despite it curdled again I remembered what noticed on perfect party cake of march challenge and go ahead whipping and it worked.
I divided the buttercream in two parts and add into one lemon zest and in the second some strawberries shaked so it turned in a light pink.
For round in shape cake I proceeded as follows.
Making all layers but the white choc mousse and put some fresh strawberries in the pink buttercream layer.
Rest in the fridge to consolidate then, with a metallic ring, I cut the circle.
I left the ring a tarte and then completed with mousse and glaze.
Unfortunately I didn't take picture of this passage
Another wrong passage was making the mousse.
I followed all passages melting white choc and heavy cream at the reccomanded dose but something went wrong.
The choc has been cristallized in a solid mass.
Then I tryed making a ganache, the same result.
As I was quite desperate I decided to mix a small amount of this mass to the whipped cream avoiding any concerns about the dose.
And...A MIRACLE...white choc mass pefectly melted into the cream in a spectacular and well areated mousse!
So I put the mousse as last layer into the ring-cake system and put all in the fridge to consolidate, then I cut some strawberries and dredge with sugar and lemon juice in order to obtain a clear strawberries juice.
Filtered the red juice I added some jelly.
I don't know the exact term...I mean, we use, here in Italy a jelly in sheet.. it must be rehydrated in cold water and then melt in a hot (not boiling) liquid so I did, warming the strawberry juice and then, as the jelly fluid was cool enough with an oily consistence, I complete the last layer glazing into the ring over the mousse.
Rest in the fridge till all was hardened enough and then I removed the ring pushing the cake over the ring from downside.
As a doctor I'm not glad of this huge amount of fats and complex sugars.
Yes I know, this is a cake, a sweet but I'm convinced that this kind of recipes must be revisited in order to reduce this huge amount of unhealthy components.
Maybe my family and I don't love buttercream so we didn't like this sweet despite the strawberry and lemon zest and despite the beautiful appearance.
I thought about it and if I'll reproduce again this cake I will use some ricotta or cottage cheese mixed with fresh fruit, a small amount of sugar and a meringue (using the same method of boiling syrup while whipping).
So I'm in doubt, I love the challenge, I love talking with all of us and share technical skills and go over difficulties but, as I told, I'm a doctor and I must consider this kind of sweet as unhealthy.
This is true for me expecially in this century where the obesity problem is a crucial one and having three children I pay a particular attention on feeding them not exceeding with fat and sugar.
I hope in the next challenge.
This is my third one and all were too sweet or too fatty or both, so I hope in something more fresh and healthy otherwise I'll be obliged to reconsider my subscription.
The only element of this cake that was appreciated was the joconde and it's a pity not consider this kind of sponge for a lighter version of opera cake.
Obviosly a special thanks is for host and co-host blogger Ivonne, Lisa, Fran and Shea.
I'm inviting you to scroll the DB blogroll and take a look for other beautiful versions.
You'll find all my may DB challenge shots on my flickr personal page.

47 commenti:

Serena ha detto...

Hi sweety!
This cake is something special... like you, Obviously!
Missing your morning mails!
Hugs & kisses

Pessimo inglese Sere... fortuna che ci sono gli USA in previsione x un buon ripasso! ^_^

enza ha detto...

ehehheheh my english is quite worst.
I was think about mails but unfortunately I haven't enough time, I'm working so hard...
I saw your last post very cute and friendly.
H & K

MilenaSt ha detto...

Per la traduzione si rimanda alle immagini magnifiche?
Complimenti: è un incanto di bellezza e bontà!!!!

enza ha detto...

per la traduzione bisogna aver pazienza, è come i meme.

se vuoi però prima ti faccio la traduzione dei commenti che sono davvero negativi nonostante la fotogenicità del dolce.
poi pubblicherò la mia crema alternativa che ho testato giusto stasera e che mi piace molto.
poi...di questo passo non so proprio dove arrivare...

Cannelle Et Vanille ha detto...

wow enza, that's really beautiful... great job!

Anonimo ha detto...

Looks delicious and beautiful! Well done!

Anonimo ha detto...

Enza, your cake looks beautiful! Let me tell you, I completely agree with you when you say this cake is unhealthy. I think I used a spent a amount of sugar and chocolate (and a lot of money too, especially for white chocolate:)), and I think the result was ok, but not what it could be. I am not a doctor, and not every too health conscious, but I think this cake is way too sugary and buttery.

steph- whisk/spoon ha detto...

your cakes are lovely! i do agree that all these sweets are unhealthy. i bake all the time at home, because i am a trained chef, but i scale recipes way down to only make a few servings, and i usually make sure that my portion sizes are small. the obesity problem is crucial...especially since it leads to other terrible things like heart diease and diabetes.

BC ha detto...

Una torta sana non sembra possibile, ma una porzione sana si. Nonostante e' ben fatta.

enza ha detto...

morning all!
thanks and glad to be involved in such interesting discussion.
just yesterday I made a lighter cream instead buttercream that could be lovely in a light in colour opera cake.
I'm really conscius that every shots look like gourgeous and cute but I must say what I'm thinking just to clarify.
ok time to be at work...have a nice day!

Rosa's Yummy Yums ha detto...

Wonderful! You did a very good job here, despite your negative thoughts on that cake!

Thanks for the link!



natalia ha detto...

cara enza buongiorno ! Ho pensato che tra gli alternative db blog si potrebbe farne uno health conscious che ne pensi ? HO guardato tra quelli che ci sono e mi pare che manchi. Sono riuscita con flickr ! grazie a te che sei la mia ispirazione !!! baci natalia

enza ha detto...

hai visto??? mandami il link alla tua personal page di flickr così ti metto tra i preferiti.

Rachel ha detto...

It is not always that I make something unhealthy as I was ok with it

Must say your cake is a beauty!

enza ha detto...

@rachel: me too, of course.
daily, as I told, I pay attention on fat and sugar level expecially for my children.
but I saw many comment on private forum praying for next challenge sugar and fat "free" and so I do.
this is the third consecutively unhealthy challenge and as members we must promote either healthy and unhealthy, do you agree with me?

Fra ha detto...

Le immagini del dolce sono meravigliose ma concordo con te sul tentativo di trovare soluzioni alternative per limitare grassi e zuccheri pur conservando la piacevolezza del dessert. A me non piacciono i dolci troppo dolci o burrosi e quindi apprezzo molto le tua varianti. Brava!
Un bacio

emilia ha detto...

Visto mentre spulciavo il bloggatore, meraviglia !! Enza e' un dolcino davvero goloso e ben ma anche in Italiano eh !!!! Baci :))

Sara B ha detto...

ma te lo posso dire in italiano "ma quanto sei bbrava?" :D

Unknown ha detto...

e allora dillo che ce l'hai con me per 2 ordini di motivi:
1) il cake è stu-pen-do :P
2)non ho capito una cippa
una cosa la so sei mega!!!

enza ha detto...

buone buone la traduzione arriva insieme alla crema alternativa (che ho usato per una crostata da sturbo) :-)

Bakerette ha detto...

Looks great! I love the assembly!

Ciboulette ha detto...

Enza sono sbalordita!!!!!
Troppo belle qeste foto, e da una lettura veloce mi sembra anche molto buono il dolce, i commenti negativi di cui parli si riferiscono solo al lato "non salutare"???
Fantastiche, davvero un'opera d'arte......

Garrett ha detto...

Enza, you know anything that comes from the USA has to have a lot of sugar, butter, chocolate, et cetera :-)

Your cake looks fabulous, I love the perfectly shaped circle stack.

Christine ha detto...

Your cake looks delicious and beautiful! Perfectly shaped.

Aparna Balasubramanian ha detto...

Your cake looks so beautiful. I just love the colours and that it is a single serving size.
This cake would be perfect if it had less of butter, sugar and eggs. But maybe it wouldn't be a dramaticopera cake then? :)

Julie ha detto...

Your cake looks lovely! I understand your feelings about all the sugar. I used much less buttercream in my cake than most of the other bakers because I don't like a lot of sweet frosting on cake. I also served the mousse on the side instead of on the cake. It was still an opera cake--just not a heavily frosted one. ;)

June ha detto...

Beautiful looking cakes! Great job. I agree, not the healthiest of desserts!

enza ha detto...

What I'm trying to say is...ok what is the aim of this group?
I saw in perfect party cake someone using different buttercream (fanny of foodbeam whit lovely and lighter results) but I understood the the real aim of the Db was measuring each other with the same recipe.
this is the reason why I changed flavour and personalized my challenge following step by step all the recipe.
but maybe this is not the real not confident with english I understood in a wrong way.
sooo aparna is wouldn't be a dramatic opera cake :D

Liliana ha detto...

Enza, your cake came out magnificent! I agee with you about the high amount of fat and sugar. My family does like buttercream - my mother was born in Italy and she never made any cakes with buttercream.

Thank you for your comments and suggestions. I really enjoyed reading the comments in Italian.


enza ha detto...

thanks all
and to liliana and beans and caviar glad to enjoy you, stay tuned with my next lighter frosting.

Anonimo ha detto...

Wow! Very nice, love the glazing on top.

test it comm ha detto...

Nice looking opera cake! I like the strawberries in the middle layer. I was feeling more than a little bit guilty eating mine...

Susan @ SGCC ha detto...

Enza- Capisco la vostra preoccupazione circa il soddisfare dello zucchero ed ad alta percentuale di grassi in molti dei dessert. Quando faccio miei, dò solitamente mólto via alla mia famiglia ed agli amici. Tuttavia, realmente godo di di provare questi operati e gli ossequi complicati, perché sono cose che non tenterei mai sui miei proprie. La vostra torta sembra bella, a proposito!

Sheltie Girl ha detto...

You did a beautiful job on your cake. I love your pictures.

Natalie @ Gluten a Go Go

Anonimo ha detto...

Your cake is beautiful :) Brava!

Anonimo ha detto...

You did a beautiful job and I'm glad your negative thoughts didn't deter you from making the cake. I agree that this sort of dessert is not what I want to eat or or would encourage my patients to eat every day, but as a once-a-month treat it's fun and delicious. This cake can be sliced very thinly!

Marika ha detto...

Mi è bastato uno sguardo alla foto ... tra cinque minuti passo per una generosa fetta!
Buon fine settimana

AranciOnissimA ha detto...

Enza I couldn't imagine anything better than your opera!
It's fantastic!

Mcwhisky ha detto...

Gorgeous and a neat artwork indeed! The layers are leveled and it impresses me. Great details!

Shari@Whisk: a food blog ha detto...

At least the strawberries are healthy! ;)
Shari@Whisk: a food blog

natalia ha detto...

hi Enza here is the link to the my cake

Lunch Buckets ha detto...

unhealthy? fruit, eggs, nuts - sounds okay to me!

Anonimo ha detto...

Sure it's unhealthy (if you eat it all the time) but I definitely like your picture of the finished cake! Beautiful!

GingerbreadGirl03 ha detto...

Grazie a te per avermi accettata ;)
Comunque te e le fragole andate d'amore e d'accordo... o no?!
Mi complimento con te per le splendide foto che ci hai regalato, bellissimo l'effetto giornale della prima foto, lo avevo già visto da Anna ^^

Un bacione,
Ginger ~♥

enza ha detto...

si è proprio quello segnalato da anna.
sulla mia side-bar trovi il link a questo flickr toy molto carino.
così come ho scoperto appena adesso picknick sempre su flickr, divertente anche se alla lunga le immagini incorniciate o con le scritte possono anche stancare un pò.
è da pochissimo che sto su flickr e mi piace molto.

Barbara ha detto...

Your cake is fabulous!

Anonimo ha detto...

Anche io ho partecipato a lla sfida e lasciati dire che la tua Opèra Cake è semplicemente meracvigliosa! Elga