Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Daring Bakers - The Saga of the Neverending Cake Recipe...

So today was a double challenge day for me. Earlier I posted my card for PTI's bloghop and today was also the reveal date for this month's Daring Bakers. This month's challenge was to make an Opera Cake - but to forgo traditional flavours for a lighter, springier (is that a word) flavour combination. No dark colours allowed!

Well, I joined Daring Baker's in the quest to make me a better baker by challenging my skills and venturing out of my comfort zone. This cake definitely fit the bill. It took me nearly the whole month to decide if I was up to the challenge or not and I finally dove in on the last day. Let me say, this cake took me all day to make. I once made a cake in the shape of a Blackberry (the phone, not the fruit), with keyboard, screen and everything, and it took me half the time to make that this cake did.

First off, I have to confess that this cake was like one giant disaster for me. I cut the cake recipe in half because I couldn't see getting rid of a cake for twenty. I decided to go with a tropical theme so macadamia nuts replaced the almonds in the cake layer, a coconut cream was spread on each layer followed by pineapple flavoured buttercream.

My cake was lopsided - thinner on one side then the other (but at least not burned). My buttercream was a strange consistency and my ganache never really reached spreading consistancy. I should say, my second ganache. The first time I tried it my husband called in the middle of melting the chocolate and I burnt it (shame!!!). Then, for some unknown reason (let's call it temporary insanity), I over beat the whipping cream and ended up with a curdled mess.

In the end, I managed to throw together some semblance of a cake. So, how did it taste? Not bad, a little sweet for my preference, but overall a nice flavour and the cake has a pleasant nuttiness about it.

But the question remains: did baking this make me a better baker? I would have to say that this was indeed, a learning experience and I look forward to the next Daring Baker's Challenge!
The Recipe (as I made it...)
Coconut Cream Opera Cake
For the joconde (cake layer)
• one 12½ x 15½-inch (31 x 39-cm) jelly-roll pan
• a few tablespoons of melted butter (in addition to what’s called for in the ingredients’ list) and a brush (to grease the pan)
•parchment paper
•a whisk and a paddle attachment for a stand mixer or for a handheld mixer (I would not recommend a hand mixer - there is a ton of beating in this recipe)

• 3 large egg whites, at room temperature
• 1 tbsp granulated sugar
• 1 cup ground macadamia nuts (freeze first then grind with a tablespoon of flour)
• 1 cup icing sugar, sifted
• 3 large eggs
• 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
• 1 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Preheat the oven to 425◦F. (220◦C).

Line jelly-roll pan with parchment paper and brush with melted butter.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or using a handheld mixer), beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Add the granulated sugar and beat until the peaks are stiff and glossy. If you do not have another mixer bowl, gently scrape the meringue into another bowl and set aside.

If you only have one bowl, wash it after removing the egg whites or if you have a second bowl, use that one. Attach the paddle attachment to the stand mixer (or using a handheld mixer again) and beat the macadamia nuts, icing sugar and eggs on medium speed until light and voluminous, about 3 minutes.
Add the flour and beat on low speed until the flour is just combined (be very careful not to overmix here!!!).

Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the meringue into the nut mixture and then fold in the melted butter. Divide the batter between the pans and spread it evenly to cover the entire surface of each pan.

Bake the cake until it is lightly browned and just springy to the touch. This could take anywhere from 5 to 9 minutes depending on your oven.
Put the pan on a heatproof counter and run a sharp knife along the edges of the cake to loosen it from the pan. Cover with a sheet of parchment or wax paper, turn the pan over, and unmold.

Carefully peel away the parchment, then turn the parchment over and use it to cover the cake. Let cool to room temperature.

For the syrup
What you’ll need:
• a small saucepan
½ cup water
⅓ cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp. coconut extract
Stir all the syrup ingredients together in the saucepan and bring to a boil.
Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.
For the coconut cream
What you'll need:
• medium saucepan
1 cup fancy coconut
1 1/4 cup heavy cream
Cook ingredients together over medium-low heat until mixture has reduce and thickened. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
For the buttercream
What you’ll need:
•a small saucepan
•a candy or instant-read thermometer
•a stand mixer or handheld mixer
•a bowl and a whisk attachment
•rubber spatula
1 cup granulated sugar
¼ cup water
1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1¾ sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tbsp crushed pineapple in juice
Combine the sugar, water and vanilla extract in a small saucepan and warm over medium heat just until the sugar dissolves.

Continue to cook, without stirring, until the syrup reaches 225◦F (107◦C) on a candy or instant-read thermometer. Once it reaches that temperature, remove the syrup from the heat.

While the syrup is heating, begin whisking the egg and egg yolk at high speed in the bowl of your mixer using the whisk attachment. Whisk them until they are pale and foamy.
When the sugar syrup reaches the correct temperature and you remove it from the heat, reduce the mixer speed to low speed and begin slowly (very slowly) pouring the syrup down the side of the bowl being very careful not to splatter the syrup into the path of the whisk attachment. Some of the syrup will spin onto the sides of the bowl but don’t worry about this and don’t try to
stir it into the mixture as it will harden!
Raise the speed to medium-high and continue beating until the eggs are thick and satiny and the mixture is cool to the touch (about 5 minutes or so).
While the egg mixture is beating, place the softened butter in a bowl and mash it with a spatula until you have a soft creamy mass.
With the mixer on medium speed, begin adding in two-tablespoon chunks. When all the butter has been incorporated, raise the mixer speed to high and beat until the buttercream is thick and
At this point add in the pineapple and beat for an additional minute or so.
Refrigerate the buttercream, stirring it often, until it’s set enough (firm enough) to spread when topped with a layer of cake (at least 20 minutes).

For the white chocolate ganache/mousse
What you’ll need:
•a small saucepan
•a mixer or handheld mixer
7 ounces white chocolate
1 cup plus 3 tbsp. heavy cream (35% cream)
1 tbsp. liquer of your choice (Bailey’s, Amaretto, etc.)
Melt the white chocolate and the 3 tbsp. of heavy cream in a small saucepan.
Stir to ensure that it’s smooth and that the chocolate is melted. Add the tablespoon of liqueur to the chocolate and stir. Set aside to cool completely.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the remaining 1 cup of heavy cream until soft peaks form.
Gently fold the whipped cream into the cooled chocolate to form a mousse.
If it’s too thin, refrigerate it for a bit until it’s spreadable.
If you’re not going to use it right away, refrigerate until you’re ready to use.
For the glaze (Note: It’s best to make the glaze right when you’re ready to finish the cake.)
What you’ll need:
•a small saucepan or double boiler
7 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup heavy cream (35% cream)

Melt the white chocolate with the heavy cream. Whisk the mixture gently until smooth.
Let cool for 10 minutes and then pour over the chilled cake. Using a long metal cake spatula, smooth out into an even layer.
Place the cake into the refrigerator for 30 minutes to set.
Assembling the Opéra Cake
(Note: The finished cake should be served slightly chilled. It can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 1 day).

Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper.
Cut the cake into 3 equal pieces.
Place one piece of cake on the baking sheet and moisten it gently with the flavoured syrup. Spread with 1/2 of coconut cream
Spread about half of the buttercream over this layer.
Top with the next piece of cake. Moisten with the flavoured syrup and spread with remainder of coconut cream.

Spread the remaining buttercream on the cake and then top with the third piece of joconde. Use the remaining syrup to wet the joconde and then refrigerate until very firm (at least half an hour).

Prepare the ganache/mousse (if you haven’t already) and then spread it on the top of the last layer of the joconde. Refrigerate for at least two to three hours to give the ganache/mousse the opportunity to firm up.

Make the glaze and after it has cooled, pour/spread it over the top of the chilled cake.
Refrigerate the cake again to set the glaze.

Serve the cake slightly chilled. This recipe will yield approximately 10 servings.


Elle said...

Glad that this was a positive learning experience for you and that you are a Daring Baker. This challenge was more challenging than many. Your cake looks lovley and that was wise to not make a full recipe. I had to give away more than half of the half recipe I made...too rich and too sweet. Welcometo the Daring Bakers! See 'ya next month!

Foodie Froggy said...

I understand what you mean...It took me two days to make it (I made the Joconde a day ahead) and with all the refrigerating times between the steps, the second day was full, too ! Ah, well, to be a DB or not to !

Dawn said...

Congratulations on completing your first challenge. It was a big undertaking, but we both survivied our first Daring Bakers test! I think your cake turned out lovely and loved your idea of flavor combinations.

Engineer Baker said...

Wow - that's some dedication! I'm glad it finally worked out for you.

Mevrouw Cupcake said...

Macadameia nut jaconde, yum! I think you did wonderful, all things considered! Good job!

Andrea said...

I love it, a tropical opera cake! The flavor combination sounds wonderful. And good for you for persevering in the face of a challenge. Welcome to The Daring Bakers!

moowiesqrd said...

Great flavor combination! The process is definitely tedious, but I think your results look great! Welcome to DB!

ostwestwind said...

Normally I wouldn't make such a cake because it's so time consuming, but that's DB.

Ulrike from Küchenlatein

Jaime said...

glad you decided to step up to the challenge! despite the hiccups along the way, your cake looks great.

Anne said...

Great job on your first challenge! This was definitely one of the harder ones! :)

Shari said...

This was a daring and challenging cake! Great job!

Anonymous said...

I can certainly empathize with you on the mishaps and the challenges. But just like you, I am so looking forward to the next challenge. Your flavors sound fantastic and I'm sure it was good (I agree that it was a bit too much on the sweet side)!

Barbara said...

Lopsided or not, I'd eat that cake any day. Love the flavors you chose.

Claire said...

Great job...despite your troubles.

Jacque said...

Congrats on getting through it and rising to the occasion. I was a challenging challenge (LOL). Your version sounds delish!

Joy said...

I'm glad you decided you were up for the challenge and I think you did a fab job. The tropical-esque flavours sound great too.

Rebecca said...

Mine was one disaster after another, too. Glad to hear I wasn't alone. ;)

silverrock said...

cute cake! yeah, this challenge was indeed a challenging one. I too am a first-time DBer, but I must say that after a truly challenging recipe, you feel like you could bake anything :P

Andrea said...

It was my first Daring Baker challenge as well. It is interesting about the learning curve that DB takes you on.

Debyi said...

Your cake looks great! I'm sorry to hear about your burnt chocolate, that's always a bummer. Coconut is an awesome choice for this cake, I bet it tasted great! Good luck this month.