An opera cake typically consists of multiple layers of cake with coffee syrup and chocolate or coffee buttercream, all topped with dark chocolate like this version from the Splendid Table or this version on flickr. It's not unknown to play around with the flavor combo though, like this tasty looking matcha (green tea) version. This month's Daring Bakers challenge was a twist on the standard Opera Cake, making it more spring-like. We weren't allowed to use any dark colored flavorings, like chocolate or coffee. Since it's strawberry season right now in Tennessee, we decided to go with a lemon-strawberry version of the Opera Cake. Here's a PDF Version of the recipe, with our modifications.
The finished cake turned out quite nicely:
A lot of time and effort (more than the other DB challenges, at least for us) went into this one - we were baking and making various components for something like 4 hours, and that's without counting assembly and decorating time! Fortunately, the end result was very tasty:
If you click on the photo, there are notes in flickr saying what each layer is.
This also gives me a chance to mention my temporary favorite kitchen gadget, the strawberry huller:
I know that it seems silly to have a single-function gadget in the kitchen, but sometimes it's really worth both the purchase price and the even more valuable kitchen drawer space. The strawberry huller can really reduce strawberry waste because you're only pulling off the stem and a tiny bit of the top of the strawberry. Plus, it's quite small and takes up very little space in the drawer (like another one of my favorite single-function gadgets, the cherry pitter).
We had several problems along the way and this was a true challenge to put together. But I suppose that if the recipes were easy, we wouldn't be called the Daring Bakers ;) The worst part was when the buttercream frosting, which had been coming together nicely, turned into a liquid mess. A little time in the fridge, a little more time on the mixer, and it was fortunately saved. Our luck wasn't quite as good with the mousse/ganache. I mixed white chocolate that was still a bit too warm into the whipped cream - oops! No saving that one. Re-doing the mousse/ganache with a dash of added patience had a more successful result.
We also had a bit of an unintentional modification. Because our pans were larger than the suggested pans, our cakes were larger than suggested. We ended up using four layers of cake rather than three, but we still had plenty of buttercream frosting since we went with mousse for the top layer. We were also left with enough cake pieces to make this:
A mini round opera cake. I almost prefer this version to the slices of cake!
FYI, the Daring Bakers have a new website with some discussion forums that are open to non-Daring Bakers. Stop by and take a look, and check out the Daring Bakers Blogroll to find even more exciting interpretations of Opera Cake.This month's DB challenge is dedicated to Barbara of the blog winosandfoodies. Barbara's a former DB member who has been fighting cancer for 4 years. She runs a food blogging event called Taste of Yellow in support of the Lance Armstrong LiveSTRONG campaign (you can see the links to the round ups of the 2007 and 2008 events on the right sidebar of her blog).