May 28, 2008

An Opera Cake in Tones of Cardamom and Mango Buttercream: Daring Baker Challenge May 2008

We Daring Bakers are back again and we are all singing in the kitchen this time, though different tunes! No, we haven’t taken to singing choruses. Our hostesses for this month, Lis of La Mia Cucina and Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice, and co-hosts Fran of Apple,Peaches, Pumpkin Pie and Shea of Whiskful decided to challenge us to bake an Opera cake.
An Opera cake is a French dessert cake with origins somewhere in the early 1900s. Some also know it as the Clichy cake and believe it was first made by Louis Clichy. An opera cake is traditionally made of 6 layers of joconde (almond sponge cake) moistened with a syrup and then sandwiched with buttercream, covered with a ganache and covered with a dark chocolate glaze. The cake is usually decorated with musical notes or the word “opera” piped in chocolate or edible gold leaf.

Our hosts are dedicating this month’s challenge to Barbara at Winos and Foodies. So all our cakes were to be made using only light flavours and pastel shades of colour rather that the dark and light coloured layers of the typical Opera cake.
Barbara is the moving force behind the food blog event called “A Taste of Yellow” in support of Lance Armstrong’s LiveSTRONG Foundation.
Lance Armstrong has written a book called “It is Not About the Bike – My Journey Back to Life”which is worth reading if you already haven’t done so.

Back to the challenge.
We had to follow the provided recipe but were given a full freedom regarding the shape of our cakes, choice of flavouring for the cakes, buttercream and ganache and even the options to leave off the ganache/ mousse or the glaze if we wdid not want to make them.
So I made my cake using a mixture of powdered almonds and cashewnuts (instead of all almond), moistened with cardamom infused sugar syrup and sandwiched the layers with mango buttercream. I chose not to make the ganache/ mousse and glazed my cake with white chocolate tinted to a pale green.
Here’s are two pictures of my version. Quite cute, don’t you think?


Well, don’t be fooled by the picture because my cake looks a lot better here than it actually was. I’m beginning to think I’m a better photographer (and that’s not saying much) than a baker!


The recipe we were to use and a printable version of it can be found here.

My Experience With The Opera Cake:

Our hostesses were very kind to give us detailed instructions on making and assembling this cake. I decided that this cake should not be too difficult as the various parts could be made on different days and then assembled together. I also decide to halve the ingredients to make a smaller cake.

So I started off by making the sugar syrup. Very easy. I used vanilla extract as flavouring and added about 1 ½ tsp of powdered cardamom. The result was lovely cardamom flavoured syrup.

Making the buttercream:

This was where I first got a hint that things were going wrong and this whole Operatic business wasn’t as easy as I thought!
I made the buttercream according to instructions. I used the original recipe and not the revised version suggested. I added about 4 tbsps of mango puree at the end while beating the buttercream. It’s the mango season here in India and I just couldn’t resist using a mango buttercream here.
The result was a very tasty but soft mango buttercream. I also noticed a bit of curdling in my buttercream resulting in a slightly grainy texture. Beating it some more didn’t solve this problem. So I put it in the fridge and it stayed there for a couple of days before I could make the joconde. I beat the buttercream after taking it out of the fridge but this didn’t make any difference, either.
Some DBs suggested the curdling could have been because the hot sugar syrup wasn’t added slowly enough and could have cooked the eggs in the buttercream. I don’t think this was the reason with me, as I was careful to pour the syrup slowly.


Making the Joconde:

Making the joconde took a bit of adjustment on my part. I didn’t have jam/ jelly roll pans. I have never made jam/ jelly rolls before. So I decided to use 2 same sized round cake tins to make the cake. So far so good. That’s when I discovered I didn’t have enough almonds for the cake. My fault entirely. It suddenly struck me that I had used the almonds to make some Crunchy Granola and forgotten to restock.
But I did have some cashewnuts. So I used half and half of almonds and cashewnuts and powdered them as instructed. This worked perfectly.
I baked the first cake for about 12 minutes. When I was baking the second one, I realized the first cake hadn’t cooked and the middle had a consistency of raw marzipan. So I baked my second and third cakes for 20 minutes each and then baked the first one for a further 10 minutes. I have one of those newer small convection ovens and can bake only one cake at a time.
Now all the 3 cakes were cooked. But I had a tough time removing the parchment off the cakes. One cake almost came apart. This was when I started feeling that this challenge was perhaps not really working for me.

Assembling the Opera Cake:

I decided not to make the ganache/ mousse as I couldn’t find heavy cream here. What I had was a 25% fat cream. Some fellow DBs suggested alternatives and I wasn’t feeling courageous enough to experiment and find out if it would work. Not a very Daring Baker this time, eh?
I moistened my three cakes with the cardamom flavoured sugar syrup and then took out the mango buttercream. This is where the music in my Opera started to sound funny! The middle layer of my cake was now threatening to disintegrate. I managed to put it together when I discovered the buttercream layers in my cake were becoming soft. Before it could become “runny”, I stuck the cake back in the fridge.
By now I was feeling so miserable I couldn’t look at that cake anymore. So it was the next day before I could pluck up the courage to even think about glazing it. I melted the white chocolate, added the cream with 25% fat and a bit of green food colouring (I thought it would be a nice colour contrast to the yellow/ orange of the buttercream) and glazed the cake.
The glaze was fine but the buttercream started softening again and oozing down the cake! Now my cake no longer had neat sides and looked awful. So it went back into the fridge. When the mango buttercream ooze had solidified, I cut the round cake into a square so that my cake would have neat sides. Mission accomplished!!
Well, partially accomplished anyways because my cake wouldn’t win even a mention in any competition for “neat sides”. And now I had to decorate my cake. By now I was sure that there was no way I was going to be trying anything new in this direction. For one thing, with so many “cosmetic” adjustments, my cake had diminished considerably in size! For another, any cake decorating that took more than 5 minutes would require me to sit in the fridge with the cake. If I kept my cake out longer than that it would start oozing buttercream.
That’s when my daughter suggested I could cut my square (and small) cake in half and practice my decorating on one half. And if it didn’t work I could leave the other half plain and at least get a nice picture. This seemed a great idea.
So I melted and coloured (with yellow to match the buttercream) some white chocolate and tried decorating one half with some dots. It ended up as if my cake had broken out into a weird yellow rash!!
Not having the courage for any more disasters, I settled for piping some lines across the other half. I at least managed to get a decent picture. And if you can hear some very tragic singing (or howling) in the background, let me tell you it’s not me. :D
One thing I must make very clear though. This makes for a very tasty cake. We kept tasting the cake right throughout (Where else do you think all those trimmed scraps went?) and every time we kept saying, “But this tastes good”.

Verdict:

This cake wasn’t difficult to make. But I think I might to use a different buttercream next time, perhaps the buttercream recipe from the Perfect Party Cake because it worked for me. I was, however, attracted to this buttercream recipe because it uses a lot less of egg.
I think the reason for my buttercream softening so much and oozing out of the cake was the high temperature here at this time of the year. May is peak summer in southern India and it has been hotter than ever this year! So this is not a cake for the summertime.
While this particular cake making episode didn’t work out for me, we liked the cake. I particularly liked the nutty flavour of the joconde and I know I will make this cake at least once more (using stronger flavours and dark chocolate) to see if I cannot make a success of it.
Please bloghop across to my fellow Daring Bakers to see the astonishing variety of Opera cakes that they have made and decorated. I am yet to recover from the visual feast.

93 comments:

Rachel said...

Finally..the awaited post..despite your probs..I love the colour.....and I bet it tasted good .

Barbara said...

Wow that is a beautiful cake. I'm overwhelmed with this honour from the Daring Bakers. Thank you.

zorra said...

Great idea to use Cardamom and Mango. I would like to taste a piece or two of it right now!

Dharm said...

Great flavours!! I think your cake looks just fine and as long as it tasted great and everyone loved it, then I say you have a Winner!

sher said...

The pictures are so beautiful, it's hard to belive it wasn't absolutely declicious. I love all the flavors you used. But, I agree with you about the buttercream--it was a bit tricky

Passionate baker...& beyond said...

Beautiful post Aparna...can see the cashews from Goa are being put to good use! Love the colours of your Opera, & the frosting...pretty pretty pretty!

Dhanggit said...

wow, your opera is definitely stunning!! great entry for this month!!

Suzana said...

Nice cake, Aparna! I'll definitely be trying the mango opera cake soon. ;) Great job!

Cakelaw said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cakelaw said...

Your cake looks lovely Aparna - you'd never know that you had any issues. Love that cheeky orange shade in the buttercream.

maybelles parents said...

good job. I love the color. I read your posts in the web site and I am glad your cake turned out. I actually made mango too.

Gretchen Noelle said...

Great job being really daring. I love the idea of mango and cardamom - that sounds delicious!!

Dana McCauley said...

Well, your photography certainly did make your cake look great. I have a feeling you are being humble about it's looks in real life.

Great work - I like the fun way you decoarted your opera gateau!

jayasree said...

Great cake. Lovely blend of colors used.

Asha said...

Looks gorgeous to me! This is 3 rd cake I am seeing today, your's is great too.
Loved the eggless Oat cake too!:)

Bellini Valli said...

I love the decorative touches on your Opera Cake. Very creative Aparna!!!!I love the fact that it was blonde and dedicated to Barbara and the LiveSTRONG event:D

Dayna said...

Delicious sounding cake - looks great too.

Chantal said...

mmmmmmmm, sounds delicious! You did a marvellous job.

Baking Soda said...

Interesting flavour combination. Oh and the sides...mine did the same! Can't believe the perfect slices I see pop up everywhere!

Sunshinemom said...

It definitely looks yummy, and you have decorated it so beautifully!

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

What ever are you going on about?
Your cake - both cakes - look fabulous and you're all eating scraps and saying this tastes good! You have a wonderful opera cake Aparna AND you are plenty daring to take on any of the DB challenges. Yes I'm with you about the heat and buttercream. Dallas is hot these days and hot with buttercream are not friends! Great idea to use the cashews and your daughter really has the spirit with her idea to cut it in two.

Megan said...

Well it looks beautiful and it tasted good, I would have to say it was a sucess even with oozy buttercream!

Susan/Wild Yeast said...

In spite of your troubles your cake is beautiful! Cardamom and mango sounds like a winning flavor combination.

Happy cook said...

Wow i havve been blog hoping and seeing lots of oopera cake today, i loved you idea of adding cardamom in it.
Looks so delicious.

Sukanya Ramkumar said...

WOW>>>> That was a gorgeous cake. Loved the color combination. Mango butter cream rocks.

TBC said...

It's that time of the moth again for you DBs...

The cake looks marvellous! Love the bright colors.

Allergy Mom said...

You had me at mango...Mmmmm. The colors and cake look wonderful and I'm in complete mango envy. What lovely slices! Libby

Elle said...

What a gorgeous cake! I especially love the colors that you decided on for the icing--so pretty!

sleepingbearinthekitchen said...

Good photography and very good baking skill!!! Mango and Cardamom, great color it seems to me that despite sweltering south Indian heat, you knocked this one out of the park (or should I say Opera House?)
Great job!!

Hannah said...

I love how you decorated yours, it's very different from everything else I've seen so far! Sorry you didn't particularly enjoy it, but looks sure are deceiving because it's gorgeous.

ranji said...

This is a real torture aparna...i am real desperate to have a cake now..will bake one soon:)..simply superrrrb!!!

breadchick said...

OH how pretty and cardamom is just about my favourite spice!

Lesley said...

That's REALLY pretty. You could serve that at easter! I love cardamom, great choice!!

glamah16 said...

Thou protest to much. It lloks fabolous!Love Cardamon and mango.

HoneyB said...

Looks beautiful~Great job!

Medhaa said...

Your cake looks so good. Lovely flavours never thaught of cardamom

Mansi Desai said...

That looks fabulous Aparna! I love the pic, and I'm sure the cake must've tasted great!:)

Fran Z said...

Beautiful cakes. Glad you kept thru to finish. I would bet it was the hot weather that caused the problem with the bc.

tricia said...

cardamom! i wish i had thought of that. how delish! great job and great photos! thanks for hosting.

Bumblebutton said...

Delicious sounding flavors, do try it again when the weather is cooler!

Smita said...

Wow..this looks really good....am sure it tasted as yummy too...
u've gone thru a lot of effort/trouble for this...

marye said...

beautiful job!

CookiePie said...

Your flavors sound fantastic - I love cardamom! And you would never know from your photos that you had any trouble - in the end, your cake came out beautiful! Congrats!!

farida said...

Your cake looks good. I love the colors you played with. Mango sounds like a great idea to use in the buttercream. I too, was not quite happy with the buttercream recipe this time. But it was supposed to be a challenge, right?

Srivalli said...

that cake is a real looker!..lovely !

Vera said...

Great flavor combination! I'm not surprised it tasted good. Cardamom is my favorite spice!

Esther said...

Sorry to hear you had trouble and I can't imagine living somewhere without high fat cream. double cream is so common here in the UK. The finished result looks great though and the flavours sound wonderful.. I really like the look of the dotty version!

Meeta said...

Gorgeous gorgeous flavors. Mangoes and cardamom are so perfect. I love the yellow and green! The buttercream was a bit of a drag - but on the whole I agree it was quite easy to make! Well done!

Lynn said...

The colors of your cake are beautiful, and the mango and cardamom sounds like a great combination. I'm sorry that you struggled with the buttercream too... it was definitely a fussy recipe.

Sheltie Girl said...

You did a wonderful job on your cake. I'm sorry you had problems with the heat...I did too when I made mine. It got to spend it's time hanging out in the refrigerator. Maybe next month we'll have something a little less sensitive to the heat.

Natalie @ Gluten a Go Go

Shilpa said...

Thats a beautiful cake ..I love the idea of mango buttercream.

Anne said...

Thanks for your kind words re: my opera cake! Yours is beautiful - I love the stripes - and it sounds so yummy (mango buttercream!). :)

Erika said...

I think your cake looks great! I love the colors and the decorations!

BC said...

You had a lot of technical challenges. I'm glad it tasted great.

Ivy said...

I've seen a few Opera Cakes this morning and all of them were very beautiful. Yours is also very beautiful and I like the cardamom flavoured syrup and the addition of cashews.

Jasmine said...

What a great idea for flavour! I love cardamom and mango. Thanks for your comment on my blog! Your cake looks totally delicious.

Rosie said...

WOW this is just stunning!! I adore the colours and piping work and all those beautiful flavours - well done :)

Rosie x

Nangil Girl said...

Hi Aparna, Thanks a lot for the comment on my Opera cake. I was freaking out when I read the recipe the first time. I had to make it twice before I got it good enough to take pictures :). I was planning to make Pista-Mango combination. But I couldn't find enough pista to make the meal.

Dianne said...

Your cake does look fabulous! Sorry it wasn't quite what you thought it should be. I had a similar experience with my own.

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

GORGEOUS! I love it! It looks beautiful and I love the cardamom addition!

ChichaJo said...

Your Opera looks adorable! And the flavors sound great :)

aisha said...

The cake looks lovely, you could never tell you had any problems with the buttercream. and what a great idea to use cardamom and mango!

TERESA said...

Congratulations¡¡¡ Wow, that colors¡¡¡¡¡¡

I think like you about buttercream, but your cake iso cute¡¡¡

Natashya said...

I think your pictures are lovely, Arpana. It is comforting to know that other people had a challenge with this on as well as me. I hear that mangoes from India are wonderful. Here in Canada we only get the tough little ones that can survive global shipping. I am a fan of cardamom too, I will have to remember to use it more often.

Christine said...

Wow this cake is beautiful! Wonderful idea to use cardamom and mango!

Agatek said...

Great cake :) I must try it with Cardamon :)

one spicy mama said...

What pretty spring colors! Great flavor combinations - great job!

enza said...

you gave a so fanny description of your cake and so nice shots.
I halved the joconde and not the buttercream just to take nice shots, cause I was too fear about fat and sugar end eggs amount.
I had the same problem...my buttercream curdled and wasn't the boiling syrup...I used a butter with a low fat percentage (it means butter with a certain percentage of water) so it curdled.
second time I use a normal one and it curdled again, but continuing whipping it became normale and silky again and firm...too firm...
so I think that in your case maybe was the excessive temperature determining curdling and melting of buttercream

Hetal said...

I couldn't stop myself from saying WOW...thats an excellent looking cake,gr8 job..

Mike of Mike's Table said...

I love the flavor combo of mango and cardamom and I absolutely love the color on your cake. Very nice work!

Joey Biscotti said...

I love the colors in your cake! It looks really tasty!

Susan from Food Blogga said...

Your choice of decorations is divine! They are too pretty to eat. Well...almost. ;)

toontz said...

I love the flavor combination and color combination!

madcapcupcake said...

Your cake looks fabulous, I just love the colours, and cardamom always sounds appealing to me - great job!! :)

Candace said...

Problems, what problems? Looks fantastic!

Kumudha said...

Aparna, you are absolutely right!

I guess there would be many vegans if products such as earth balance
soy Garden™ Natural Buttery Spread, soy yogurt, dairy-free icecream, dairy-free chocolates , tofutti cream cheese, rice milk and almond milk was available in India...

Thanks for sharing your views on my vegan blog!

Eva said...

It looks great! I think you're too hard on yourself!

Holly said...

Your cakes look beautiful! I love the flavor combination.

Marc @ NoRecipes said...

Nice flavour combo. I love mango and cardamom!

KJ said...

I giggled at the image of you sitting in your fridge decorating your cake.

I had a few problems as well. So long as it tastes good, that's all that matters. good on you for sticking with it.

KJ said...

I giggled at the image of you sitting in your fridge decorating your cake.

I had a few problems as well. So long as it tastes good, that's all that matters. good on you for sticking with it.

Lunch Buckets said...

THe cares are VERY cute - and honesty is over-rated ;)

vandana rajesh said...

That opera cake sure looks inviting...like the color...very beautiful

Natalie... said...

Wow this looks excellent I love the way youve decorated it, I must say I had no problem with my buttercream but I think thats because England is so cold haha!

PAT A BAKE said...

Hey... good job inspite of the disasters encountered. I liked the idea of the cardamom syrup. Cya at future challenges...do visit my blog too.

Dolores said...

I love your flavor combination... cardamom and mango... yum! I'm sorry you didn't have better luck with the buttercream, but your cake looks great!

Ann said...

Lovely work!

Jaime said...

love how you decorated your cake - job well done!

linda said...

That's such a pretty Opera cake! And I love the flavours you used.

Shannon said...

Your flavors were really creative and sound delicious. You have a beautiful cake.

Miss Ifi said...

Thank you so much for your sweet comments on my blog and we will definitely need to make this cake with the original coffee and chocolate.
It is mango time in India eh?.. I have to come visit then.. mmm mango jello followed by mango mousse and more mango stuff ^_^

Aparna said...

Thank you all for dropping by and leaving your comments on my blog.
This definitely makes me want to do better at the next challenge (I hope).

Rebecca said...

Look at those colors! Lovely. But the weather is going to be a problem now. You had problems with butter; I had problems with the meringue. It's so humid! Maybe the next challenge will be better for us. ;)