May 28, 2008

Opera Cake

It's Daring Baker time again! This month's recipe is the Opera Cake co-hosted by: Apples Peaches Pumpkin Pie, Whiskful, Cream Puffs in Venice, or La Mia Cucina. Head over to one of their sites to find the original recipe and see what their version looks like.

Traditionally an opera cake is almond jaconde cake soaked in coffee syrup with layers of espresso butter cream, chocolate ganache and topped with chocolate glaze. In honor of Barbara of Winos and Foodies, we were told to mix things up and choose all light colored flavorings for our opera cakes. Barbara hosts the Taste of Yellow event in honor of the LiveStrong foundation.

I made my opera cakes for a Mother's Day lunch I had with my mom, grandmother, and godmother. Since I didn't want a ton of cake leftover, I decided to try and halve the recipe and then cut out circles of cake for individual mini opera cakes. The halved recipe gave me (8) 2 1/4 inch mini cakes plus scraps that I used in mini trifles. The day before the lunch I attempted to make the jaconde (the almond cake) with coconut flake since my grandmother loves coconut. When I tried to beat the coconut flakes, powdered sugar and whole eggs together they never got fluffy. I think the coconut flakes were too sharp and broke all of the forming air bubbles. The baked coconut jaconde was too heavy and flat, though it tasted great. I gave in and made another jaconde with almond and it came out tasty and light.

Per suggestions on the Daring Baker site, I used Dorie's Perfect Party Cake frosting as an alternative to the whole egg butercream in the opera cake recipe. Since I'm baking dairy-free, I made my "butter" cream with Earth Balance margarine. Half of the batch I flavored with raspberry juice and half with lime zest and juice. I wasn't thrilled with the taste of either. You could really taste the margarine, more so than in the frostings I make with just powdered sugar. It also seemed too sweet for me.

I cut out circles of jaconde and layered them with the two butter creams. I used grated ginger to flavor my syrup and the taste was wonderful! I rushed a little and when making this again I would freeze the cakes for a few minutes after applying each layer of butter cream filling. Some of my mini cakes leaned a bit and I had to trim them again with the cookie cutter. I tried using soy milk and margarine combined to replace the cream in the glaze with dairy-free white chocolate chips from Chocolate Emporium. My glaze was far too runny and never set up even after storing the extra in the fridge overnight. I think I would experiment with much smaller amounts of soy milk for the glaze next time.

I love the jaconde and I want to try using it again. I'm thinking of trying to whip the whole eggs and powdered sugar til fluffy before adding the coconut. I loved the ginger syrup and want to use that again. So even though I wouldn't make this exact version of an opera cake again I will definitely save the syrup and cake components for future recipes. It was a fun and interesting experiment.