« vegetables, beautiful vegetables 2008 | Main | penne with artichokes, peppers and basil oil »

daring bakers: opera cake


another month, another daring bakers challenge! this month we were all making opera cakes, as chosen by the founders of the daring bakers, lis from la mia cucina and ivonne from cream puffs in venice.

opera cakes are layered cakes - three layers of joconde (a thin sponge cake made using ground nuts), sprinkled with a flavoured sugar syrup, layered with a buttercream (made using a hot sugar syrup, eggs and butter), a ganache and a chocolate glaze. all very complex and glamorous.

so, you'll have noticed the lack of a photo... i had a complete disaster with this challenge... well, many disasters actually...

  • my joconde, delicately flavoured with orange flower water, was beautiful to look at but the fine crumb and thinness of the cake meant that when it came to cutting it and creating the layers, it crumbled in several places.
  • i made a beautiful lavender syrup which i forgot to use it to wet the layers of joconde.
  • the buttercream came together easily enough but didn't thicken sufficiently to hold the layer structure in place - imagine layers of cake trying to escape sideways from their buttercream surroundings!
  • the roasted peach puree, which i used to flavour the buttercream, had a lovely delicate flavour but the colour contrast between it and the sponge was minimal, meaning that the layers of colour for which the opera cake is famous, weren't obvious.

and at that point i stopped. and i gave up.

i decided that the white chocolate and double cream which were waiting to be used in the ganache and glaze would be better put to use as a hot sauce for frozen berries (an idiot-proof recipe which seemed to be what i needed!). any ideas for using up the lavender syrup would be most welcome!

i know that many of my fellow daring bakers had success with this challenge (and some had similar problems) so i suggest you use visit some of their blogs (listed here) to see what can be done if you are a better baker than i!

the final verdict:

would i have tried this recipe if it hadn't been part of the daring bakers challenge? yes, i think i might have done. the layers of cake interwoven with a contrasting icing and ganache/glaze topping look incredibly beautiful. i also love the idea of eating such a beautiful cake that i’d made myself.

would i try this recipe again in the future? this specific one? no, too many disasters! however, i would happily seek out another layer or opera cake and try that. i’d look for a different buttercream recipe as well – i’m not a fan of the flavour produced by the meringue method used here.

Reader Comments (29)

oh Abby...so much work & yummy flavours came nought to le opera! Each of your points tells a delicious tale & each flavour is outstanding in itself.Good for you; I might have given up much earlier!! *SMILE*
May 28, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDeeba
Congrats on giving it a shot - the flavours that you chose sound wonderful, and I'd love to see them in the next opera cake recipe that you try.
May 28, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCakelaw
It's always such a bummer when things don't work out. It wasn't my favorite either.
May 28, 2008 | Unregistered Commentermary
Your flavors combos sounded good, but I do agree this one was a challenge. Good job for trying.
May 28, 2008 | Unregistered Commentermaybelles mom
I'm glad I wasn't alone in this! Thanks for sending me a comment. I'm sorry you had a hard time with this challenge as well. Like you said, better luck next time:)
May 28, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMyndie
Mine was a disaster too. Here's to next month!!!!
May 28, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterTiffany
sorry to read this abby. I am filled with fear as I have joined ready for the next challenge!
May 28, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterHippolyra
Disaster is disaster but I also find - even though it upsets me - I learn more from my failures than my successes.
Better luck next time to us all.
May 28, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMyKitchenInHalfCups
Oh dear...would have loved to have seen how the cake turned out, if it turned out. Your ideas read beautifully.

May 29, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterjasmine
abby, you are still a daring baker because you did the challenge...but experienced why it is called a challenge. sorry about the disasters, but hope you do try a different opera cake recipe sometime. A while back (maybe a year ago) i made an apple bundt cake and then moistened it with lavender syrup...it was good.
May 29, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterElle
thanks for all the encouragement everyone! i am really glad i tried it, jus a bit sad it didn't work out.

jasmine - i didn't think much of the flavour of the cake or buttercream (too rich for me!) so i'm afraid it went into the bin which is why there is no photo!

hippolyra - i'm keepng my fingers crossed for something savoury next month, maybe that'll also be a good starter challenge for you!

elle - apple and lavender is an inspired idea - thank you!
May 29, 2008 | Registered Commenterabby
All of your flavorings sounded delicious. Sorry that you had such a horrible experience.
May 29, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterChristine
Bravo for trying! Your flavors are absolutely incredible! Our buttercream was really loose and gooey too - I sympathize! :-)
May 29, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAstra Libris
Aaaah, Abby! I'm so sorry to hear about your cake. The best part is that you did learn a thing or two during the process.... bummer. For your yummy lavender syrup, what about using it with French toast or pancakes?

xoxox Amy
May 29, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAmy B
So sorry to hear about your disaster :(. You have no idea how intimidated and scared I was about this cake! I had to ask my husband for help when it came to figuring out how to cut the cake! The instructions were so lengthy, I literally had to create an outline for myself so I wouldn't get lost (I felt like I was back in school, studying for a test :P). I'm hoping they'll give us an easier challenge next month...but then I wonder...would it still be a challenge ;).

Btw, I just read your 'about me' and think it's great that you grew up eating non-processed foods! It's my goal to eventually eat like that 100% of the time :). I think it's so neat that you studied Nutrition; now there's a degree that can definitely be put to good use :).

Anyhow, it was nice meeting ya! I'll come back to read about more yummy and healthy food later :). Take care!

May 29, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSophie
I hear you about that runny buttercream. Although I have to say the flavors you chose sound incredible!
May 29, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMeeta
Hi Abby, thanks for visiting my blog and leaving a comment. It led me to yours:) I completely agree with you - I won't try this recipe again:)) I've done Dorie's Perfect Party cake ( not for DB) and this one - and I have to confess, she is not my fav cake maker - she uses way too much sugar and butter in her cakes.
May 29, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterfarida
Not sure I have any advice to offer on the lavender syrup (Elle's suggestion sounds great) and I'm sorry this challenge didn't work out better for you. I am glad you chose to give it a try and to tell us about it.
May 29, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDolores
Your cake sounded so exotic!! I would have loved to see it complete, but I agree that it is sometimes hard and you feel like giving up. I also had lots of difficulties with mine.
Still.. congratulations on the trying!! your combination of flavours simply sounded delightful
May 30, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMiss Ifi
Oh no! and such a waste of so many indredients too. Hope next months is a wow for you :)
May 30, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKelly-Jane

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
All HTML will be escaped. Hyperlinks will be created for URLs automatically.