Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Daring Bakers - L'Opera ~ the scent of coconut

What a challenge!

When I read about this month's challenge - a traditional French Opera cake - I nearly clapped my hands in glee. Now this was the stuff I wanted to make - beautiful, elegant, complex, a multi-stepped whirlwind of a challenge. There were the layers of jaconde soaked with syrup, buttercream, chocolate mousse, and chocolate ganache, all with the potential to go terribly wrong. Because May is liveSTRONG month, the cakes were suppose to be yellow or light in color. I decided to go with coconut, almond, and vanilla.

The jaconde, an almond genoise made with almond meal and leavened with beaten egg whites, was light and delicate. I made my own almond meal, so the texture was perhaps not as fine as it should have been. But I rather like slightly coarse feel of the cake. I left this base flavored simply with vanilla, choosing to incorporate my flavorings into the other components. My problem with this portion of the recipe was that it stuck horribly ot the pan. I accidently forgot to put down parchment paper, and despite having buttered the pan generously, the cake needed a lot of coaxing to come out. Note to self, next time a recipe calls for parchment paper, don't forget it. I brushed on a syrup flavored with coconut cream.

The French buttercream didn't come out as well as the Swiss buttercream from Dorie Greenspan's party cake recipe. While smooth on the palate, it was too loose coming together. I prefer a firmer buttercream to work with. I flavored this with also with coconut cream and vanilla.

The white chocolate mousse was just plain delicious. Melted Ghiradelli white chocolate lightened with freshly whipped cream, flavored with coconut - it tasted like a Ferroro's Raffaello. I also made a white chocolate ganache to top the cake. However, I felt the combination of the mousse and ganache was too much. Because the traditional L'opera cake is made with the darker chocolates and flavored with coffee, it is less cloying, with the bitterness of the chocolate and coffee balancing the sweetness of the other ingredients.

Overall, I felt very proud of myself for accomplishing this challenge. I like producing something delicious from my kitchen, but I also love the entire process - making the different components, tasting as I go along, assembling.