Daring Bakers Challenge for May: Opéra Cake!

May 28, 2008

Let them eat cake!  My Marie Antoinette-inspired opéra cake.

This was my very first Daring Bakers Challenge and what a month to join!  We were to create an opéra cake, a French pastry traditionally done in chocolate and coffee flavors.  It usually consists of five components:  a joconde (a cake layer), a syrup (to wet the joconde), a buttercream (to fill some of the layers), a ganache or mousse (to top the final cake layer) and a glaze (to cover the final layer of cake or of ganache/mousse).  However, in honor of the season, we were not allowed to use any dark colors or flavors. 

I am not a trained chef – I’ve never even taken a cake decorating class.  I mused on how to make my cake different from the hundreds of other Daring Bakers, some of whom are professional bakers and chefs.  Hmmm …. opera … Phantom of the Opera … French pastry … aha!  I have it!

Marie-Antoinette and Louis XVI, Halloween 2005

I had created Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI costumes for my children several years ago, pre-dating Sophia Coppola’s visually delicious Marie Antoinette (2006).  How could I not use a palette inspired by the doomed queen infamous for her alleged love of cake?

 My little homage to Kirsten Dunst as Marie-Antoinette.


I settled on raspberry buttercream, partly for the taste and partly for the color.  The almond in the joconde led me naturally to flavor the syrup and ganache with Amaretto.  I chose to tint the glaze with a single drop of blue candy dye to tie in the color palette I was striving for.  The glaze was a bit sweet and the next time I make this, I will definitely make the layer of glaze very thin (1/8″ thick).  The joconde was delightfully substantial on the teeth (translation:  it had a slight crunch), the raspberry buttercream sweetly creamy with the hint of tartness, the white chocolate ganache ethereally light and the white chocolate glaze richly gooey and sweet.  All the elements melded in my mouth to create a symphonic movement, dare I say, of operatic proportions. Così fan tutte?  I am not sure, but I think Marie-Antoinette would have approved.


Raspberry Amaretto Opéra Cake

Part I: The Joconde

6 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 Tbsp.  granulated sugar
2 C. ground blanched almonds
2 C. powdered sugar, sifted
6 large eggs
½ C.  all-purpose flour
3 Tbsp.  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. 

3.  Line two 12½ x 15½- inch jelly-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 almonds, 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 almond 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 jelly-roll pan in the middle of the oven and the second jelly-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.


Part II:  The syrup 

½ C. water
⅓ C. granulated sugar
2 Tbsp. of amaretto

Stir all the syrup ingredients together in the saucepan and bring to a boil.    Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.  The syrup can be made up to 1 week in advance and kept covered in the refrigerator.


Part III:  The buttercream

1 C. sugar
4 large egg whites
3 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
3 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
3 Tbs. of strained fresh raspberry puree
Put the sugar and the egg whites in a mixer bowl or other large heatproof bowl, fit the bowl over a pan of simmering water and whisk constantly, keeping the mixture over the heat, until it feels hot to the touch, about 3 minutes.  The sugar will be dissolved, and the mixture will look like shiny marshmallow cream.  Remove the bowl from the heat.

Working with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer, beat the meringue on medium speed until it is cool, about 5 minutes.  Switch to the paddle attachment, if you have one, and add the butter a stick at a time, beating until smooth.  Once all the butter is in, beat the buttercream on medium-high speed until it is thick and smooth, 6 -10 minutes.  During the time, the buttercream may curdle or separate – just keep beating and it will come together again.  On medium speed, gradually beat in the lemon juice and raspberry juice/puree, waiting until each addition is absorbed before adding more and then the vanilla.  Press a piece of plastic against the surface of the buttercream if you want to set it aside.


Part IV:  The white chocolate ganache (mousse)

7 ounces white chocolate
1 C. plus 3 Tbsp. heavy cream
1 Tbsp. Amaretto

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 Amaretto 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.  The mousse can be made ahead and refrigerated until you’re ready to use it.


Part V:  The glaze

14 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped
½ C. heavy cream

Melt the white chocolate with the heavy cream in a small saucepan. 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.


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):  two 9.5″  squares and two 9.5 x 4.75″ rectangles.

Place one square of cake on the baking sheet and moisten it gently with the flavored syrup.

Spread about half 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 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 it over the top of the chilled cake (be careful not to let it cool too much or else it won’t pour nicely).  Refrigerate the cake again to set the glaze.  Using a hot knife, cut the edges in sawing motions to make clean edges.  Serve the cake slightly chilled and cut into long, thin rectangular slices. This recipe will yield approximately 20 servings.


Eating the edges is my son’s favorite part. 

 I wrote “Opéra” in melted white chocolate on parchment paper and placed the hardened writing on to the slices of cake. 


 The final product


Au revoir!

55 Responses to “Daring Bakers Challenge for May: Opéra Cake!”

  1. Barbara Says:

    Very pretty cake. Your children are adorable! Tell you son I agree with him, the cut edges were my favorite part too.

  2. Anne Says:

    Oh, that’s SO pretty! Great job!!

  3. Maggie Says:

    Wow! Those costumes are amazing and your kids are adorable in them. My son wasn’t interested at all in the cake but he loved licking the buttercream bowl. I love all of your demonstration shots.

  4. Candace Says:

    LOVE it! Very nice job on your first challenge. Your kids are adorable too.. 🙂

  5. Lori Says:

    I have to say that so many people did such a fabulous job but yours is one of my favorites. I just love the color blue with the raspberry and then the roses. Such a beautiful job!

    And your kids are absolutely adorable!

  6. Eileen Says:

    Lovely post. It was my first Daring Bakers Challenge also. I agree…. what a month to start!!

  7. Mary Says:

    I love your cake and the pretty colors! Your children are so cute dressed up for Halloween too! Very nicely done!

  8. Lara Says:

    This is truly an incredible feat! I can’t believe all of the planning that went into yours – and the practice with the script! Beautiful!

  9. I agree that we chose one heck of a month to join. Your blue is just so dreamy (and your kids so so cute)!

  10. Um Ibrahim Says:

    Simply Marvelous!!! Amazingly done!!! Insprational!!!

  11. sarahmarie Says:

    ok, way too cute! I love that you used colors from the movie. And your children are adorable.

  12. Francijn Says:

    I like your picture very much, it fits perfectly in your theme!

  13. Angela Says:

    Absolutely stunning! I love the blue tint on the glaze… makes it look very fresh and spring-like.

  14. toontz Says:

    My first challenge, too. Your cake is beautiful! The garnish is just perfect.

  15. marye Says:

    Your cake is absolutely stunning! I love the color palette!

    I like the idea of having a slightly tart flavor in there with the raspberries. I flavored mine with lavender and it was delicious, but maybe a tad on the sweet side for my taste.

  16. pixie o Says:

    precious! the cake your children, everything very nice story and fabulous cake. Well done!

  17. Em Says:

    Stunning! And I picked up new tips from reading how *you* did it. Thanks!

  18. Gabi Says:

    Very Beautiful! Fab job and what about those costumes Ms Spicy Uber Mama?! I love it and you are so creative 🙂

  19. Tanya Says:

    The blue is so pretty! And I really love those costumes you made-they look adorable.

  20. Rebecca Says:

    The blue is amazing. It really makes your cake “pop”.

  21. Vera Says:

    Wow! Amazingly presented challenge! And your kids are absolutely adorable, may I say.

  22. Kevin Says:

    Nice looking opera cake! I like the sound of the raspberry cream and the blue glaze looks good!

  23. Molly W Says:

    Your cake and king and queen are all so charming. You have done a wonder job on this project.

  24. I wasn’t very excited about this challenge until I saw your early post and saw how beautiful the cake could be. Thanks for inspiring me to perk up and get moving!

  25. Phenomenal first challenge! Love your little inspirations! You did a great job with the cake and I am so highly impressed with your “writing” skills!

  26. Claire Says:

    What cute little revolutionaries!!! Your cake is gorgeous. So elegant.

  27. Lisa T. Says:

    What a beautiful cake – you did amazingly well. Thanks for sharing your baking adventure.

  28. Jen Says:

    I love your cake, your flavorings, your kids are adorable, and way to go the extra mile, a milieu of Marie photos! great work.

    My hubby’s favorite part was the edges too!

  29. dhanggit Says:

    this is just my opinion, your opera version is so far the best thing i’ve ever seen!! i love your post, the pictures (specially your kids in costume) and your opera..this cake rocks!!

  30. Aran Says:

    That is beautiful piping on top of the cake. I’m impressed!

  31. melandroweb Says:

    It seems that time has stopped.

  32. zorra Says:

    Wonderful cake and great pictures! I love Amaretto.

  33. Sheltie Girl Says:

    You did a wonderful job on your cake. It’s simply beautiful. Your children are adorable in the costumes you made. Over all a lovely post.

    Natalie @ Gluten a Go Go

  34. Garrett Says:

    I love the color of the glaze! The cake looks like it turned out so well. I wish I could do that sort of pretty writing that you decorated the top with. Welcome to DB, fellow first-timer!

  35. Aparna Says:

    Very beautiful and truely an opera cake. Yours was one of the first I saw on the forum. Haven’t stopped admiring it since then.

  36. I am so impressed! Your cakes and food photography are beautiful. That’s no small feat, making an opera bar from scratch!

  37. Beautiful job and your children are absolutely adorable!

  38. Meeta Says:

    This is so amazing – you blow me away. Love the step by step. Great job!

  39. Lisa Says:

    I’m so impressed with your piping of the “Opera”! What a steady hand you must have! Beautiful! I think I commented on this in the Forums (or at least meant to) but I love the popping blue color too. Perfect!

  40. texana Says:

    Your children and their costumes are adorable. Your cake, and the “Opera” piping are superb. Well done!

  41. Belinda Says:

    What a truly gorgeous cake! I love your creativity, and color palette…and of course, your super cute children were the perfect inspiration in their captivating Halloween costumes. 🙂

  42. Christina Says:

    Gorgeous cake! Not only did you excel on the challenge, but your post is a great read!

  43. Just a gorgeous Opera Cake! Love the aquamarine candy coloring – also the delightful opera props plus kids.

  44. Shari Says:

    I love how your raspberry and Amaretto opera cake turned out. And what a great idea to pipe the writing on parchment and then placing it on top after.
    Shari@Whisk: a food blog

  45. Milli Says:

    I love our cake, reminds me of tiffany’s.

  46. Lisa Says:

    Show-off! Coordinating children – that’s just unfair advantage. Seriously though, the cake looks great and those children are ADORABLE.

  47. Cynthia Says:

    I must say, I think yours was the prettiest one I have seen so far. I will be joining for the next challenge… gulp.

  48. madcapCupcake Says:

    Your cake is gorgeous, the photos are amazing….the costumes are beautiful…you are so creative and talented 🙂

  49. Laurie Says:

    You are one Rockin and Spicy Mama!! This is so colorful and beautiful…and your little bambini were so gracious to cooperate so, they’re adorable!

  50. Rebecca Says:

    Lovely! These colors are gorgeous.

  51. Brownie Says:

    Wow! That is gorgeous! I love the color you added to your glaze it really makes it pop. This was my first DB challenge, too. 🙂

  52. kellypea Says:

    I don’t know what to comment on first — the exquisite costumes on your adorable children, or the idea for your opera cake! Fabulous. The colors are excellent, and the raspberry buttercream sounds delicious. Very, very nice!

  53. Joanna Says:

    Oh my goodness, your children are the most adorable things in the world. And your DB opera cake is every so precious. I love the pale blue and the white chocolate writing, very classy. Congrats on a lovely cake and for completing your first challenge!

  54. […] finally, at A Beautiful Mosaic, this spicy Korean-American mama created this Marie Antoinette-inspired Opera Cake… Isn’t it […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: