This month was my Bake Club Challenge month over at Taste forums. This is where a person posts a recipe of something that they have always wanted to try making. The person who posts and other members then proceed to try the recipe and comment on how it all goes. There are normally some really nice recipes posted and it is a lot of fun. I decided that I would be able to kill two birds with one stone and choose something from one of this month's delicious magazines as my challenge recipe.
One thing that I have always wanted to attempt making is an Opera Cake after seeing it all over blogs a couple of years ago in the Daring Bakers challenge. There were some amazing looking opera cakes made during that time, not a traditional recipe, but amazing none the less. I was surprised but very pleased to find Valli Little's Gateau Opera in issue #18. I posted the Gateau Opera as my bake club challenge on a Tuesday and in an amazing stroke of good luck Gary Meighan made one as part of Masterclass on the Australian version of Masterchef the following Friday. Gary's was slightly different so before I started making mine I made sure to pull up the video of Gary on the Masterchef website.
I really enjoyed making this. It wasn't nearly as difficult nor did it take as long as I was expecting too. I did a number of things differently to Valli's recipe. I have posted those along side the method in the recipe so that it is easier to follow. The only thing I will mention up front is that the topping of pure melted dark chocolate that Valli uses is not something that I would do again. It took over a bit but it also made it difficult to cut. I would instead do as Gary Meighan did and make a ganache with scalded cream, chocolate and butter. The flavours can also be varied to suit yourself too as the Daring Baker's showed. I am going to make another one although I have not yet decided if it will be green tea and lemon or pandan and coconut...
Ingredients (serves 6)
85g caster sugar
3 egg whites
100g almond meal
30g plain flour, sifted
1/4 tsp baking powder
150g dark chocolate, melted, cooled
55g caster sugar
2 egg yolks
3 tsp instant coffee powder
140g unsalted butter, softened
70g dark chocolate, broken up
170ml thick cream, whipped
1 tsp instant coffee powder
100g caster sugar
Preheat oven to 200°C. Grease and line base of a 20cm square cake pan.
Beat the sugar and 3 eggs in an electric mixer for 5 minutes or until pale. In a separate bowl, whisk egg whites until stiff peaks form, then fold into the egg mixture. Combine almond meal, flour and baking powder and carefully fold into egg mixture. Spread into pan and bake for 20 minutes or until cooked. When cool, remove from pan and carefully cut into 3 thin layers. After some reading on blogs, I decided to spread the batter onto two sheets of baking paper, on which I marked a 30 x 20 rectangle. I decided this would be easier than trying to slice the cake into three. Spread out slightly bigger than the rectangle so I could trim. Then cut into two 20 x 20 squares and two 10 x 20 rectangles.
batter on baking paper
baked trimmed & sliced
To make buttercream, heat sugar and 100ml of water in a saucepan over low heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and boil for 5 minutes or until thick and sticky. Remove from heat. Whisk egg yolks, then pour into hot syrup. Continue whisking until thick and cool. Dissolve coffee in 1 tablespoon of boiling water and whisk into egg mixture with the butter. Cool completely. The syrup needs to cook a lot longer than 5 minutes. I followed Gary's instructions from Masterclass and used my candy thermometer and got it up to 120 C. This took almost 15 minutes and it was quite thick and syrupy. Also, whisk the egg yolks to light and fluffy before adding the sugar syrup. Also make sure that the butter and the egg/syrup mixture are a similar temperature before adding the butter. I made one batch following Valli's instructions and it was a dismal failure. Gary's produced a perfect buttercream. (Sorry I forgot to photograph it.)
To make ganache, place chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (don't let the bowl touch the water), until the chocolate melts. Bring milk to the boil in a separate saucepan then combine with chocolate. Remove from heat and cool, stirring occasionally. Fold cream into the chocolate mixture.
To make syrup, place coffee, sugar and 100ml of water in a saucepan over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Increase heat and boil for 2 minutes, then cool. I boiled for about 5 minutes.
As per Gary, I brushed the underside of the bottom layer with some melted chocolate and let dry before assembling to make the base a bit more sturdy. Place the base layer of cake on a serving plate. Brush with 1/3 of the syrup, spread with all the butter cream, then carefully place another layer of cake on top. This is where I used the two 10 x 20 rectangles arranged side by side on top of the buttercream layer. Brush with another 1/3 of the syrup and spread with ganache. Place final layer of cake on top and brush with remaining syrup. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to firm. Spread the melted chocolate over cake, (this should have been a proper ganache, the plain chocolate cracked badly when sliced) reserving a little to be placed in a piping bag. Pipe the word 'opera' on the cake.
chocolate base syrup on base
buttercream topped with chocolate