It’s been ages since I’ve blogged. My sincere apologies to all! I have really been busy but the real reason why I haven’t written in a while was because I’ve been really demotivated the last couple of weeks. Before going to Melbourne, I was all fired up and was really excited about the prospect of coming back from my trip and sharing with all of you my many discoveries. However, upon returning, I was thrown straight back into work and have found myself to be tired, moody and moodless all the time. Every time I sat in front of the computer wanting to write something, I find myself closing the window and laying back in bed. On top of it all, I’ve been busy with Ah Koh’s wedding. It’s this Saturday but I feel like I’m so unprepared for it. Planning and managing the entire thing is not an easy task, and in addition to that, I’m making the wedding cake as well. Hence my stress level right now is really high.
Anyway, enough of my whinging. It’s once again the time of the month to disclose May’s DB challenge….round of applause for……L’Opéra!! This month’s challenge was co-hosted by the founders of DB – Ivonne and Lis – so it’s no wonder that such an exquisite dessert was picked.
I was really excited when I found out what May’s challenge was to be. A couple of months ago, Ryan brought back this low-sugar dessert recipe book his mum had given him. In it, there was an Opéra cake that looked simply scrumptious. Since then, I’ve been doing a little bit of research on it but didn’t bring myself to try it as it looked really complicated. When May’s challenge was announced, I knew this was my chance! And just in time as well ‘cos Ryan’s birthday was in May! :)
Just a bit of history on the cake…L’Opéra is a classic French dessert created by Louis Clichy, who called it the Clichy. However, it was popularized by the Parisian pâtisserie Dalloyau as the Opera cake and is now mostly known by that name. It is a combination of delicate almond biscuit or joconde, chocolate ganache, coffee buttercream, and chocolate glaze. This month however, in line with the LiveSTRONG theme, the DB-ers were told to go untraditional and make an Opéra Cake that is both light in flavour and colour.
Hhmm…so what am I going to do? Initially, I wanted to make a pandan or a mango based Opéra. But after some thought, I decided I’ll go traditional and use chocolate..only this time I’ll use white chocolate. I really liked the recipe by Tish Boyle and Timothy Moriarty but decided I’ll try to put my own stamp on it. In the end, I decided I’ll make a White Chocolate Raspberry and Macadamia Opéra.
You’ll notice that my joconde is a bit browner in colour than most people and this is because I used raw natural almond meal for it. It’s a little bit different from the almond meal you get from the supermarket which are ivory/pale yellow in colour. Now came the part of baking it. As my oven is one of those turbo ovens which are really small, I couldn’t exactly follow the recipe given. Since I didn’t have a jelly-roll pan, and also because I had been busy working and didn’t have time to make the cake in advance, I decided to just put all the batter in an 8″ square tin and risk it. Fingers crossed, hopefully, I’ll still be able to split the cake into 3 layers. The recipe said it should take about 5-9 minutes to bake, but mine took nearly 45 minutes! Oh no…this had better not flop on me as the Ryan’s birthday day was the next day and I didn’t have time to make another cake! And let’s be honest, I wasn’t going to waste another dozen of eggs! God was indeed on my side (and a good thing too)! I decide on a rose essence and when making it, my house was just enveloped in this overwhelming smell of roses. I did encounter a slight problem with the white chocolate ganache. As most people already know, white chocolate ganache due to the fat content of white chocolate is not easy to make (or should I say I’ve never succeeded in making a good white chocolate ganache). As I was beating it with my electric mixer, it started to curdle and went all lumpy. Uh oh…where did I go wrong? Immediately, to the computer I went and straight to the DB forum. Hhmm..anyone else with the same problem? Ah..yes..a fellow DB-er shared that if I continue to beat it, it’ll go back together. I was a bit sceptical. But what choice did I have? It was either that or waste nearly 200gms of white chocolate! Well, the end result was not too bad. It did actually all come together and phew was I relieved! I decided on a simple deco as Ryan is into simplicity and voila..my finish product!
Recipe adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Paris Sweets and Tish Boyle and Timothy Moriarty’s Chocolate Passion.
- 6 large egg whites, at room temperature
- 2 tbsp. (30 grams) granulated sugar
- 2 cups (225 grams) almond meal
- 2 cups icing sugar, sifted
- 6 large eggs
- ½ cup (70 grams) all-purpose flour
- 3 tbsp. (1½ ounces; 45 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- Preheat the oven to 425◦F. (220◦C).
- Line an 8″ square tin with parchment paper and brush with melted butter.
- 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.
- 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 almonds, icing sugar and eggs on medium speed until light and voluminous, about 3 minutes.
- Add the flour and beat on low speed until the flour is just combined (be very careful not to overmix here!!!).
- Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the meringue into the almond mixture and then fold in the melted butter. Pour batter into the tin and spread it evenly to cover the entire surface.
- Bake the cake lightly browned and just springy to the touch.
- Put the tin on a heatproof counter and run a sharp knife along the edges of the cake to loosen it from the tin. Cover with a sheet of parchment or wax paper, turn the tin over, and unmold.
- Carefully peel away the parchment, then turn the parchment over and use it to cover the cake. Let the cake cool to room temperature.
- ½ cup (125 grams) water
- ⅓ cup (65 grams) granulated sugar
- 1 to 2 tbsp. of rose essence
- Stir all the syrup ingredients together in the saucepan and bring to a boil.
- Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.
- 1 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
- ¼ cup (60 grams) water
- Seeds of one vanilla bean
- 1 large egg
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1¾ sticks (7 ounces; 200 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup raspberry pulp
- Combine the sugar, water and vanilla bean seeds or extract in a small saucepan and warm over medium heat just until the sugar dissolves.
- Continue to cook, without stirring, until the syrup reaches 225◦F (107◦C)
- 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.
- 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!
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- Beat in raspberry pulp for an additional minute or so.
- 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).
White Chocolate Ganache/Mousse
- 7 ounces white chocolate
- 1 cup plus 3 tbsp. heavy cream (35% cream)
- 1 tbsp. Amarula liquer
- Melt the white chocolate and the 3 tbsp. of heavy cream in a small saucepan.
- 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.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the remaining 1 cup of heavy cream until soft peaks form.
- Gently fold the whipped cream into the cooled chocolate to form a mousse.
- If it’s too thin, refrigerate it for a bit until it’s spreadable.
- If you’re not going to use it right away, refrigerate until you’re ready to use.
- 14 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped
- ½ cup heavy cream (35% cream)
- Melt the white chocolate with the heavy cream. Whisk the mixture gently until smooth.
- Let cool for 10 minutes and then pour over the chilled cake. Using a long metal cake spatula, smooth out into an even layer.
- Place the cake into the refrigerator for 30 minutes to set.
- Divide cake into 3 layers.
- Place one layer 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 second layer of cake. Moisten with the flavoured syrup.
- Spread the remaining buttercream on the cake and then top with the third layer 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.