Sunday, July 31, 2011

Le Opera Cake

Copyright 2011 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
The Opera Cake is the favorite cake of my French friend, Cedric. I made this for him on his birthday last year and after my first try, I swore I won't be making this cake again. It is just too much work for such a cake, despite it being really delicious. The first time I baked it, I made a lot of modification to the recipe but this time around, I stuck to the recipe and followed each step religiously as I could. As the author of the recipe states, why mess with something that is already a classic. 

I don't know much about the history of the cake but in this case, it is hardly necessary. Given a cake this delicious, who cares how it came about. What is more important is how to get a copy of the recipe. I'm glad I was able to find one that is actually very good. I managed to ask Cedric for a recipe of the cake but it was a bit too mangled for me to follow so I went ahead and used Dorie Greenspan's recipe. Her post offers a bit more information on the cake as well which might be of interest to you. Who knows, given the right motivation, I just might bake the other cake that I swore I will never make again, Wolfgang Puck's 16-layer chocolate cake that I made for a friend for his birthday as well.

*Opera Cake - Adapted

6 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 tbsp granulated sugar
2 cups ground blanched almonds
2 1/4 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
6 large eggs
1/2 cup all purpose flour
3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled briefly

Coffee Syrup
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 tbsp instant espresso or coffee

Coffee Buttercream
2 tbsp instant espresso or coffee
2 tbsp boiling water
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 large whole egg
1 large egg yolk
1 3/4 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature

Chocolate Ganache
8 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup half and half
1/4 cup heavy cream
4 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature

Chocolate Glaze
5 oz bittersweet chocolate
1 stick unsalted butter

To make the cake: 

1. Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 
    425°F. Line two 12 1/2-x15 1/2-inch (31-x-39-cm) jelly-roll pans with 
    parchment paper and brush with melted butter.

2. 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 whites into another bowl.

3. In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the almonds, 
    confectioners sugar and whole eggs on medium speed until light and 
    voluminous, about 3 minutes. Add the flour and beat on low speed only 
    until it disappears.

4. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the meringue into the almond mixture, 
    then fold in the melted butter. Divide the batter between the pans and 
    spread it evenly to cover the entire surface of each pan.

5. Bake the cakes for 7 to 10 minutes, or until they are lightly browned and 
    just springy to the touch. Put the pans on a cooling rack and cover each 
    with a sheet of parchment or wax paper. Turn the cakes over and 
    unmold. Carefully peel away the parchment, turn the parchment over 
    and use it to cover the exposed sides of the cakes. Let the cakes come 
    to room temperature between the parchment or wax paper sheets. 

To make the syrup:

Stir everything together in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Cool. (The syrup can be covered and refrigerated for up to 1 week.)

To make the buttercream:

1. Make a coffee extract by dissolving the instant espresso in the boiling 

   water. Set aside.

2. Bring the sugar and water to a boil in a small saucepan. Stir just until the 

    sugar dissolves. Continue to cook without stirring until the syrup reaches 
    230°F (pre-soft ball stage) as measured on a candy or instant-read 

3. While the sugar is heating, put the egg and the yolk in the bowl of a 

    mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat until the eggs are pale 
    and foamy. When the sugar is at temperature, reduce the mixer speed to 
    low and slowly pour in the syrup. Raise the speed to medium-high and 
    continue to beat until the eggs are thick, satiny and room temperature, 
    about 5 minutes.

4. With the mixer on medium speed, steadily add the butter in 2-tablespoon 
    chunks. When all the butter has been added, raise the speed to high and 
    beat until the buttercream is thickened and satiny. Beat in the coffee 
    extract. Chill the buttercream covered until firm. 

To make the ganache:

1. Put the chocolate in a medium bowl. Bring the half and half and cream to 

    a full boil and pour it over the chocolate, wait 1 minute, then stir gently 
    until the ganache is smooth and glossy.

2. Add the butter into the ganache in 2 to 3 additions. Refrigerate the 

    ganache, stirring every 5 minutes, until it thickens and is spreadable, 
    about 20 minutes. 

To assemble the cake: 

Copyright 2011 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper. Working with one sheet of cake at a time, trim the cake so that you have two pieces: one 10-x-10-inches (25-x-25-cm) square and one 10-x-5-inches (25-x-12.5-cm) rectangle. Place one square of cake on the parchment and moisten the layer with coffee syrup. Spread about three-quarters of the coffee buttercream evenly over the cake. Top with the two rectangular pieces of cake, placing them side by side to form a square. Moisten with syrup. Spread the ganache over the surface, top with the last cake layer, moisten, then chill the cake in the freezer for about 10 minutes. Cover the top of the cake with a thin layer of coffee buttercream. Refrigerate the cake for at least 1 hour or for up to 6 hours. It should be cold when you pour over the glaze.

To glaze the cake:

Bring the butter to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove the pan from the heat and clarify the butter by spooning off the top foam and pouring the clear yellow butter into a small bowl. Discard the milky residue. Melt the chocolate in a bowl over simmering water, then stir in the clarified butter. Lift the chilled cake off the parchment-lined pan and place it on a rack. Put the rack over a parchment-lined pan and pour over the glaze, using a long offset spatula to help smooth it evenly across the top. Slide the cake into the refrigerator to set the glaze and chill the cake, which should be served slightly chilled. At serving time, use a long thin knife, dipped in hot water and wiped dry, to carefully trim the sides of the cake so that the drips of glaze are removed and the layers revealed.

*Greenspan, D., Paris Sweets: Great Desserts from the City's Best Pastry Shops, Broadway Books: 2002

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