Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Light Opera Cake

It's that time again, reveal day for The Daring Bakers. For the second month in a row we have a recipe that was easy to convert to Gluten Free as it uses little flour. However the recipe goes on forever so at first reading is very daunting. In fact because each element can be made in advance it is really very do-able for a special occasion and I'd recommend anyone trying it however skilled they consider themselves.

Opera Cake is normally almond cake with chocolate and coffee favours but in honour of spring we were challenged to make a light flavoured version. The Daring Bakers were well up for this challenge and you can see many wonderful flavour combinations if you check out the blogroll. The other reason for the light colours is that the challenge this month is dedicated to Barbara of She hosts A Taste of Yellow, which is an event that unites food bloggers everywhere in the fight against cancer, while I didn't participate in it this year I do support the idea. My dad and both grans died of cancer so it is something that has strongly effected my family.

Opera cake is a cake of many parts but each part on it's own is actually quite easy. It is very much a presentation cake and I thought getting the layers nice and flat and professional looking would be hard but apart from the baby waking as I was trying to glaze the cake it turned out to be easier than I expected. One tip I picked up is have the cake cold and heat the knife, this really does help to have a smooth cut rather than the moose squishing downwards. Also it is a cake to take your time over putting together the various chilling stages do make a difference from what other bakers have said.. this is one of the great things about Daring Bakers with so many people making the same thing pretty much everything happens to someone !

We now have a shiny new forum, part of which is open to none members but do considering coming and joining us. It is only one recipe a month and I have certainly learnt a lot about techniques etc I'd never have thought to try. You do have to do the recipe as given unless the hosts give other options but us Alternative Bakers can always adjust for our specific diets and we even have our own section of the forum to discuss how to adapt recipes..

On to the Cake. (the recipe as given to us can be found here)

It comes in several parts
Joconde - Almond based cake using whisked egg whites to give volume (I did a hazel nut one instead)
Syrup - to wet the cake with (flavoured with Frangelico a hazelnut liqueur)
Buttercream - I used a different buttercream than the suggested one which was allowed, mine was by Tish Boyle and Timothy Moriarty and found here. This is a honey buttercream.
Mousse - White chocolate which I flavoured with crushed raspberries
Glaze - White chocolate

I made the various parts over a couple of days to fit in with the baby. I am so glad I now have my mixer it made things much easier and I think I would view the cake very differently if I was still whipping egg whites by hand and so forth.

The joconde came out well however I will adjust the cooking temp next time as it coloured too fast before the base was fully cooked in the middle so one of them ended up going back in upside down for a min or two as the middle still had an uncooked egg feel to them. Because my swiss roll tins were smaller than specified I also did a few spoonfuls in bun cases which didn't rise much but were nice little bites particularly when topped with spare mousse.

The syrup was just a matter of boiling everything up together.

The buttercream went together quite easily. Not sure I liked it enough to use it in quantity but as a thin layer in the cake it worked well and I liked the fact there was only honey and no sugar in it.

Similarly the mousse was easy, melt white choc with some cream then once cool mix with raspberries and whipped cream. This was so good I have it on my list of possible puddings just as is or with some shortbread biscuits. In this combination the white chocolate worked very well. The picture is one of the cupcakes topped with mousse.

The chocolate didn't work so well as a glaze for me. I felt it was the weakest part of the cake , too solid and cloy to go with everything else. I think with the more robust flavours of the traditional version it would work but with these sort of flavours I'd go with a fruit glaze next time.

The assembly went well, as I mentioned before chilling between stages is important to firm thing up.

Next time and I am sure there will be a next time I am tempted to stay with the hazelnut cake but team it with chocolate to make a Nutella Opera Cake!

Light Opera Cake

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) swiss-roll (jelly-roll) pans (Note: Mine were smaller so I just put some of the mix in bun cases)
•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)


6 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 tbsp. (30 grams) granulated sugar
2 cups (225 grams) ground hazelnuts(Note: Ground in food processor with a little gluten fre flour to stop it getting to oily)
2 cups icing sugar, sifted
6 large eggs
½ cup (70 grams) all-purpose GF flour mix
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). (I will lower this next time but I have a very efficient fan oven)

3.Line swiss-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 hazelnut, 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 hazelnut 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 swiss-roll pan in the middle of the oven and the second swiss-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


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

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3 large egg yolks, at room temperature
1/4 cup honey

  1. Place the butter into a medium bowl and cream, using a handheld electric mixer, until completely softened and smooth, set aside.
  2. In a 4 1/2-quart bowl of a heavy-duty electric mixer fitted with wire whisk attachment, beat the yolks on medium speed until pale yellow in color.
  3. Spray a heatproof glass measure or ramekin with nonstick cooking spray. Place the honey in a small saucepan. Stirring constantly, bring the honey to a rolling boil over medium-high heat. Immediately pour the honey into the empty glass measure or ramekin to stop the cooking. Pour half of the honey onto the yolks, turn the mixer to high, beat for 1 minute. Turn off the mixer, add the remaining honey and beat until the bowl feels cool, for about 5 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl well with a rubber spatula. Add the softened butter and beat until completely smooth. Scrape into a small bowl, cover, and reserve.
For the white chocolate and raspberry 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 mixer


7 ounces white chocolate
1 cup plus 3 tbsp. heavy cream (35% cream)
small punnet of raspberries

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. 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. Crush raspberries well.
5.Gently fold the whipped cream and raspberries into the cooled chocolate to form a mousse.
6.If it’s too thin, refrigerate it for a bit until it’s spreadable.
7.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


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.

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 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 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. Excuse me while I lick my screen. How lovely! And I agree, it would be awesome with nutella and frangelico

  2. I love the picture of the sliced cake.

  3. You did a wonderful job on your cake. It's beautiful.

    Natalie @ Gluten a Go Go

  4. Lovely cake and absolutely delicious looking mousse.

  5. Mmmm, hazelnuts. I'd love to try the cake again with those. Your mousse is really pretty, great job overall!

  6. It is great to know that the buttercream will work with just honey. I'll have to try that next time! Your cake is beautiful.

  7. Hey, our cakes look somewhat similar, thanks to the raspberries on top! I would venture to say that yours has smoother edges though. Nice work!

  8. this cake looks so decadent...that mousse looks so good! how can you go wrong with white chocolate and raspberries?

    great job! and what a pretty picture!

  9. Your cake is gorgeous, well done!!

  10. Beautiful job with the opera challenge.

  11. great job! raspberries seem to be pretty popular for this challenge :)

  12. Looks beautiful! Hazelnuts sound delicious!

  13. Lovely! That pink just pops.