daring bakers: opera cake


another month, another daring bakers challenge! this month we were all making opera cakes, as chosen by the founders of the daring bakers, lis from la mia cucina and ivonne from cream puffs in venice.

opera cakes are layered cakes - three layers of joconde (a thin sponge cake made using ground nuts), sprinkled with a flavoured sugar syrup, layered with a buttercream (made using a hot sugar syrup, eggs and butter), a ganache and a chocolate glaze. all very complex and glamorous.

so, you'll have noticed the lack of a photo... i had a complete disaster with this challenge... well, many disasters actually...

  • my joconde, delicately flavoured with orange flower water, was beautiful to look at but the fine crumb and thinness of the cake meant that when it came to cutting it and creating the layers, it crumbled in several places.
  • i made a beautiful lavender syrup which i forgot to use it to wet the layers of joconde.
  • the buttercream came together easily enough but didn't thicken sufficiently to hold the layer structure in place - imagine layers of cake trying to escape sideways from their buttercream surroundings!
  • the roasted peach puree, which i used to flavour the buttercream, had a lovely delicate flavour but the colour contrast between it and the sponge was minimal, meaning that the layers of colour for which the opera cake is famous, weren't obvious.

and at that point i stopped. and i gave up.

i decided that the white chocolate and double cream which were waiting to be used in the ganache and glaze would be better put to use as a hot sauce for frozen berries (an idiot-proof recipe which seemed to be what i needed!). any ideas for using up the lavender syrup would be most welcome!

i know that many of my fellow daring bakers had success with this challenge (and some had similar problems) so i suggest you use visit some of their blogs (listed here) to see what can be done if you are a better baker than i!

the final verdict:

would i have tried this recipe if it hadn't been part of the daring bakers challenge? yes, i think i might have done. the layers of cake interwoven with a contrasting icing and ganache/glaze topping look incredibly beautiful. i also love the idea of eating such a beautiful cake that i’d made myself.

would i try this recipe again in the future? this specific one? no, too many disasters! however, i would happily seek out another layer or opera cake and try that. i’d look for a different buttercream recipe as well – i’m not a fan of the flavour produced by the meringue method used here.