My first Daring Bakers Challenge!!!

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I am so excited!!! After debating wether to join or not and drooling over everyone’s posts for the past 6 months, I finally decided to join the Daring Bakers! You can check out their site and see all of the scrumptious baked goods that everyone have made. Some of the past challenges that I have dreamed of being a part of are: Cheesecake Lollipops, Perfect Party Cake, French Bread, Lemon Meringue Tart, Yule Log, and Tender Potato Bread.

I absolutely love to bake! It has been a joy since I was a little kid, but I was nervous about how much time I would truly be able to give to joining. I finally realized that it is only once a month, so I would have the whole month to plan time and I knew that I would get so much joy out of it, so I finally took the plunge!

Now, what exactly is a Daring Baker? Here is the history of the Daring Bakers: http://daringbakersblogroll.blogspot.com/2007/07/welcome.html Basically, it is a group of people who love to bake. Each month the host (different each month) chooses a recipe, and then we all make that recipe, following it to a T (unless we have food allergies, are vegan/celiac/ etc, then we are allowed to swap out those ingredients) and then we all blog about it and post pictures on the same day. It’s really fun and an amazing group of people! They are all so friendly and helpful, I am so glad that I joined!

Who were our hosts for this months challenge? The two founders of the Daring Bakers: Lis & Ivonne & 2 of our newer members Fran of the blog Apples Peaches Pumpkin Pie  & Shea of the blog Whiskful. Some of us are dedicating this month’s challenge to Barbara of winosandfoodies.com. Barbara is an honourary Daring Baker for her bravery & character in the face of a challenge. Barbara is the force behind the food blog event called A Taste of Yellow that supports the LiveSTRONG foundation started by Lance Armstrong. This year’s LiveStrong Day is in May so we are showing our support by dedicating this month’s challenge posts to Barbara. In light of the LiveSTRONG foundation and of spring, we are keeping everything light, all colors and flavors. And now what you’ve all been waiting for! What is the May 2008 Daring Bakers’ Challenge???

L’Opéra!

The Origins of Opéra Cake:

For those of you that don’t know about this cake, it’s an extremely elegant & polished French dessert that is believed to have been created around the beginning of the 1900s.

There are many stories about the origins of this cake, known as both Clichy cake & Opéra cake. Many believe that Louis Clichy was its creator because he premiered the gâteau, with his name written across the top, at the 1903 Exposition Culinaire in Paris. It became the signature cake of Clichy’s shop on the Boulevard Beaumarchais. However, another pastry shop, Dalloyau, sold a very similar dessert, known as L’Opéra (in honor of the Paris Opera), & some claim that theirs was the original.” So what exactly is an Opéra Cake? It’s a cake that is made up (usually) of 5 components: a joconde (a cake layer), a syrup (to wet the joconde), a buttercream (to fill some of the layers), a ganache or mousse (to top the final cake layer) & a glaze (to cover the final layer of cake or of ganache/mousse).Traditionally, a joconde is flavoured with darker flavours such as chocolate or coffee. But in honour of the season (spring in our neck of the woods) & as part of our decision to tie our posts in with the LiveSTRONG theme, we are making Opéra Cakes that are light in both colour & flavour.A Taste of Light: Opéra Cake
This recipe is based on Opéra Cake recipes in Dorie Greenspan’s Paris Sweets & Tish Boyle & Timothy Moriarty’s Chocolate Passion.
For the joconde: (Note: The joconde can be made up to 1 day in advance & kept wrapped at room temperate)What you’ll need:
•2 12½ x 15½” (31 x 39-cm) jelly-roll pans (Note: If you do not have jelly-roll pans this size, do not fear! You can use different-sized jelly-roll pans like 10 x 15”.)
•a few tablespoons of melted butter (in addition to what’s called for in the ingredients’ list) & a brush (to grease the pans)
•parchment paper
•a whisk & a paddle attachment for a stand mixer or for a handheld mixer
•2 mixing bowls (you can make do with 1 but it’s preferable to have 2)
6 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 tbsp. (30 grams) granulated sugar
2 cups (225 grams) ground blanched almonds (Note: If you do not want to use almond meal, you can use another nut meal like hazelnut. You can buy almond meal in bulk food stores or health food stores, or you can make it at home by grinding almonds in the food processor with a tablespoon or 2 of the flour that you would use in the cake. The reason you need the flour is to prevent the almonds from turning oily or pasty in the processor. You will need about 2 cups of blanched almonds to create enough almond meal for this cake.)
2 cups icing sugar, sifted
6 large eggs
½ cup (70 grams) all-purpose flour
3 tbsp. (1½ ounces; 45 grams) unsalted butter, melted & cooled
1.Divide the oven into thirds by positioning a rack in the upper third of the oven & the lower third of the oven.
2.Preheat the oven to 425◦F. (220◦C).
3.Line two 12½ x 15½- inch (31 x 39-cm) jelly-roll pans with parchment paper & brush with melted butter.
4.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 & beat until the peaks are stiff & glossy. If you do not have another mixer bowl, gently scrape the meringue into another bowl & set aside.
5.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) & beat the almonds, icing sugar & eggs on medium speed until light and voluminous, about 3 minutes.
6.Add the flour & beat on low speed until the flour is just combined (be very careful not to overmix here!!!).
7.Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the meringue into the almond mixture & then fold in the melted butter. Divide the batter between the pans & spread it evenly to cover the entire surface of each pan.
8.Bake the cake layers until they are lightly browned & just springy to the touch. This could take anywhere from 5 to 9 minutes depending on your oven. Place one jelly-roll pan in the middle of the oven & the second jelly-roll pan in the bottom third of the oven.
9.Put the pans on a heatproof counter & run a sharp knife along the edges of the cake to loosen it from the pan. Cover each with a sheet of parchment or wax paper, turn the pans over, & unmold.
10.Carefully peel away the parchment, then turn the parchment over & use it to cover the cakes. Let the cakes cool to room temperature.
For the syrup: (Note: The syrup can be made up to 1 week in advance & kept covered in the refrigerator.)What you’ll need:
•a small saucepan
½ cup (125 grams) water
⅓ cup (65 grams) granulated sugar
1 to 2 tbsp. of the flavouring of your choice (i.e., vanilla extract, almond extract, cognac, limoncello, coconut cream, honey etc.)
1.Stir all the syrup ingredients together in the saucepan & bring to a boil.
2.Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.
For the buttercream: (Note: The buttercream can be made up to 1 month in advance & packed in an airtight container. If made way in advance, you can freeze the buttercream. Alternatively you can refrigerate it for up to 4 days after making it. To use the buttercream simply bring it to room temperature & then beat it briefly to restore its consistency.)

What you’ll need:
•a small saucepan
•a candy or instant-read thermometer
•a stand mixer or handheld mixer
•a bowl & a whisk attachment
•rubber spatula
2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
½ cup (60 grams) water
seeds of 1 vanilla bean (split a vanilla bean down the middle & scrape out the seeds) or 1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract (Note: If you are flavouring your buttercream & do not want to use the vanilla, you do not have to. Vanilla will often enhance other flavours but if you want an intense, one- flavoured buttercream, then by all means leave it out!)
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1¾ cups (7 oz; 200 gm) unsalted butter, at room temperature
flavouring of your choice (a tablespoon of an extract, a few tablespoons of melted white chocolate, citrus zest, etc.)
1.Combine the sugar, water & vanilla bean seeds or extract in a small saucepan & warm over medium heat just until the sugar dissolves.
2.Continue to cook, without stirring, until the syrup reaches 225◦F (124◦C) on a candy or instant-read thermometer. Once it reaches that temperature, remove the syrup from the heat.
3.While the syrup is heating, begin whisking the egg & egg yolk at high speed in the bowl of your mixer using the whisk attachment. Whisk them until they are pale & foamy.
4.When the sugar syrup reaches the correct temperature & you remove it from the heat, reduce the mixer speed to low speed & 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 & don’t try to stir it into the mixture as it will harden!
5.Raise the speed to medium-high & continue beating until the eggs are thick & satiny & the mixture is cool to the touch (about 5 minutes or so).
6.While the egg mixture is beating, place the softened butter in a bowl & mash it with a spatula until you have a soft creamy mass.
7.With the mixer on medium speed, begin adding in 2 tablespoon chunks. When all the butter has been incorporated, raise the mixer speed to high & beat until the buttercream is thick & shiny.
8.At this point add in your flavouring & beat for an additional minute or so.
9.Refrigerate the buttercream, stirring it often, until it’s set enough (firm enough) to spread when topped with a layer of cake (about 20 minutes).
For the white chocolate ganache/mousse (this step is optional – please see Elements of an Opéra Cake below): (Note: The mousse can be made ahead & refrigerated until you’re ready to use it.)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.)
1.Melt the white chocolate & the 3 tbsp. of heavy cream in a small saucepan.
2.Stir to ensure that it’s smooth & that the chocolate is melted. Add the tablespoon of liqueur to the chocolate & stir. Set aside to cool completely.
3.In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the remaining 1 cup of heavy cream until soft peaks form.
4.Gently fold the whipped cream into the cooled chocolate to form a mousse.
5.If it’s too thin, refrigerate it for a bit until it’s spreadable.
6.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
14 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped
½ cup heavy cream (35% cream)
1.Melt the white chocolate with the heavy cream. Whisk the mixture gently until smooth.
2.Let cool for 10 minutes & then pour over the chilled cake. Using a long metal cake spatula, smooth out into an even layer.
3.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.Working with one sheet of cake at a time, cut & trim each sheet so that you have 2 pieces (from each cake so you’ll have four pieces in total): one 10” (25-cm) square & one 10 x 5” (25 x 12½-cm) rectangle.Step A (if using buttercream only and not making the ganache/mousse):Place one square of cake on the baking sheet & moisten it gently with the flavoured syrup.Spread about one-third of the buttercream over this layer.

Top with the 2 rectangular pieces of cake, placing them side by side to form a square. Moisten these pieces with the flavoured syrup.

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

Make the glaze & 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 20 servings.

Step B (if making the ganache/mousse):

Place one square of cake on the baking sheet and moisten it gently with the flavoured syrup.

Spread about ¾ of the buttercream over this layer.

Top with the 2 rectangular pieces of cake, placing them side by side to form a square. Moisten these pieces with the flavoured syrup.

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

Prepare the ganache/mousse (if you haven’t already) & then spread it on the top of the last layer of the joconde. Refrigerate for at least 2 to 3 hours to give the ganache/mousse the opportunity to firm up.

Make the glaze & 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 20 servings.


The Elements of an Opéra Cake:
Joconde: The base of an Opéra Cake is a thin sponge cake that is made using nut meal, traditionally almond meal (finely ground blanched almonds).
Syrup: The joconde is flavoured with a sugar syrup that can be flavoured to suit your tastes.Buttercream: The first 2 layers of the joconde are covered in a rich buttercream. This particular buttercream is made with a syrup, eggs & butter.Ganache/Mousse (optional): In some recipes, the final layer of the joconde is covered in a ganache or mousse. While not hard to make, this makes the recipe quite involved. We are giving Daring Bakers the option of either using the buttercream to cover the final layer or, if they’re feeling up to it, to go ahead & make the ganache/mousse.Glaze: The final step to an Opéra Cake is the glaze that gives the cake a very finished & elegant appearance.Dear Daring Bakers … go forth & make some music! The End! Lis, Ivonne, Fran & Shea
What changes did I make? Well, I am vegan (and lactose intolerant) and I was making this for my mom’s birthday, which means my dad would be eating it too (who had diabetes, so I had to cut back on the sugar a bit), so I had to do a few susbstitutions. My Opera Cake was flavored with almond, coconut and matcha. Yummy! Here is what I did:
Day 1: (You can make it all in one day, but I opted to spread it out so as not to confuse or overwhelm myself)

Made the buttercream and the syrup. The Buttercream! I was so nervous to make the buttercream, so I decided to make it first. Veganizing it was the daunting part to me, especially since I don’t use any form of butter or oil – vegan or not. I read about using agar/gelatin, but I’d never used those before (and didn’t have any) and I didn’t want to add anything else that looked complex to this challenge. So, I fretted and researched buttercreams for about 2 weeks and finally decided to adapt a recipe from The Joy of Vegan Baking and it turned out great! In fact, it was my husbands favorite part of the cake. I used ½ tofu and ½ earth balance (I broke down and bought some, it is a special occassion, right?) and cut the sugar by 1/4. I added some matcha (green tea powder), coconut milk and coconut extract as well as the vanilla. My husband liked it even more since I cut back on the sugar (he’s not a big sweets person), he actually liked off almost the whole beater! Now, on to the syrup.

The syrup for the jaconde came together quickly and easily. I did the recipe as is, using 1 tablespoon of almond extract.

Day 2: The Mousse & the Jaconde

I made the mousse today, not too hard, I’ve made lots of chocolate mousse before, but this time, I didn’t have enough vegan white chocolate (I didn’t remember how much I needed when I ordered it, and did not order enough), so I improvised a little. Well, it didn’t come out quite right. I should’ve read the directions one more time. I added 12 oz silken firm tofu, 1 cup coconut milk and ½ tsp almond extract, then blended it. Well, I should’ve blended the tofu, then added the coconut milk as needed, or whipped the coconut milk (well, half of it) and then folded it into the blended tofu. Live and learn. It still tasted great, it just didn’t set, too runny. I added some honey and vanilla to boost the flavor and hopefully the honey will help it set abit. Into the fridge it goes and we’ll see what it looks like tomorrow, right!

On to the Jaconde. I subbed 1 ½ cups soy yogurt and 2 tablespoons egg replacer to replace the egg whites, added 1 ½ tsp matcha, subbed 1 ½ cups firm tofu for the whole eggs, used whole wheat flour and used earth balance for the butter. It took about 15 minutes for mine to cook, but that’s understandable since egg whites cook up quickly. My didn’t really rise or bake up like a cake (I knew I should’ve added the baking powder when I thought about it, oh well). I think I would use either less yogurt/tofu &/or add more flour (or baking powder) next time! I’m going to try baking it again tomorrow and use todays for my hubby and me to snack on (it is delicious!).
Day 3: Re-do the Mousse, re-make the Jaconde and the glaze.

Marika from http://madcapcupcake.wordpress.com/ came to my rescue for the Jaconde. She had already finished her cake and was willing to help me out by sharing her recipe. Thank you so much Marika!!! Make sure you check out her finished cake on her site! I made a couple of changes to adapt the recipe to what I had on hand, and this is what I did:

Jaconde

2 cups almond meal

½ cup whole wheat flour

1 cup soy flour

1 ½ tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

1 ½ cups confectioners sugar

2 cups almond milk

1 TBSP egg replacer (whisked together with some of the almond milk)

¼ cup soy yogurt

1 TBSP apple cider vinegar

1 tsp vanilla

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

  2. Combine the almond meal, flour, soy flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and confectioners sugar in a bowl.

  3. Whisk together the egg replacer with ¼ cup of the almond milk, then add the remaining 1 ¾ cup almond milk, soy yogurt, apple cider vinegar and vanilla and mix until smooth.

  4. Gently stir the dry ingredients into the wet, a little at a time until combined.

  5. Divide the batter evenly into 2 baking sheets (or jelly roll pans) lined with parchment paper (I sprayed mine with a baking spray, the one with flour added) and bake for about 20 minutes. Cool in the pan for another 20 minutes.

The jaconde came out great!!! Thank you Marika!  It wasn’t until after I finished making the whole cake that I realized that my first attempt didn’t rise as much as I thought it should because the pans were a lot bigger than I thought. That’s okay, I got 2 cakes out of it and they both tasted awesome!

Now, for remaking the mousse.

Coconut Mousse

12 oz tofu, silken firm

¼ cup of my runny mousse (or coconut milk)

1 tsp almond extract

½ cup honey

  1. Blend everything together until smooth and combined.
  2. Refrigerate until you are ready to use.

Next up, the glaze. This came out great!!! I was so happy.

Coconute White Chocolate Glaze

10 oz of vegan white chocolate chips

1/3 cup coconut milk

½ tsp matcha

  1. Melt the chocolate with the coconut milk in a saucepan over low heat, whisking constantly.
  2. Once it has started to come together, sprinkle in the matcha.
  3. Whisk until the white chocolate has completely melted. Remove from heat and let cool, whisking occasionally.

Last step, the Assembly.

I forgot to pour the syrup on the first layer, so I poured a little over the buttercream, then assembled the rest as instructed. To write on the top, I added a little of the runny mousse to a little of the glaze, it worked great. I cut out some marizipan into flour shapes and used those to decorate the top.

img_2321.jpg The Jaconde   

img_2322.jpg Spreading the buttercream

img_2324.jpg First layer done

img_2327.jpg All three layers, with mousse

img_2359.jpg Side shot, before trimming

img_2354.jpg  Completed cake

img_2360.jpg Decorations img_2361.jpg 

img_2368.jpg 1st piece

Verdict: I would totally make this again, using the original flavoring of dark chocolate, but I would still leave out the coffee flavor and opt for some black tea instead. This was sooooo good! Not a low fat cake, but it was a great way to celebrate my mom’s birthday. What did I do with the rest of the runny mousse and the other jaconde? I made another cake, just without the buttercream (which my hubby did not like as much, he looooved the buttercream). It tasted good. The mousse thickened up a little more so used it as the glaze on top and used the extra glaze I had as the “buttercream” layer on the inside. I still really liked it. Half of that cake is in the fridge and the completed Opera Cake is completely gone, except a small sliver I saved out for my hubby while I eat the “messed up” cake. It was a great experience and tested my veganizing skills, as well as my willingness to admit I don’t know everything and to ask for help. So, thank you again Marika!

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24 Responses to “My first Daring Bakers Challenge!!!”

  1. Vegan_Noodle Says:

    Gorgeous cake!! I love your decorations on top. Sounds like you were very successful in veganizing. Hope you enjoyed your first Daring Bakers Challenge (this month was my first too!).

  2. Shellyfish Says:

    This looks great. Mine didn’t turn out so well…veganland isn’t always an easy one to live in for baking, but I learned a lot!

  3. maybelles mom Says:

    Beautiful and I love that you veganized it so perfectly. I must admit while I do a lot of vegan baking but I didn’t have the guts.. Great job.

  4. JennDZ_The LeftoverQueen Says:

    Awesome job! I love your decorations!

  5. Marika Says:

    You are so sweet - thank you for your thanks!! Your cake looks and sounds delicious…the idea of coconut mousse makes my mouth water. For a couple of first timers, I think we did alright :)

  6. Tartelette Says:

    Amazing job! Welcome to the DBs! I love how you approached the cake and the flavors you used!

  7. Maggie Says:

    Your cake looks beautiful. The coconut buttercream sounds really good.

  8. Christine Says:

    Your cake looks beautiful! I love how you made it vegan and cut down on the sugar so your dad could have some!

  9. joey Says:

    Your decorations are so pretty! Love the flowers and the sparkling silver on white! :)

  10. Kristen Says:

    I can’t imagine how hard it must be to trun a recipe of that magnittude into a vegan friendly one. Great job your cake looks delicious! The coconut buttercream and mousse sound yummy! Welcome to the Daring Bakers.

  11. Anne Says:

    Oh, it’s so pretty! I’m very impressed that you were able to make this recipe, so heavy on eggs, vegan - kudos! And I adore the little floral decorations in the corner - a lovely touch. :)

  12. Lynn Says:

    I have such respect for vegan bakers… I can’t imagine converting that recipe and still having it work and taste good too. Congratulations!

  13. kiandra Says:

    oh your cake is so pretty! i love your decorations! you did a good job on veganizing it and adapting it to your family’s needs, isn’t that so empowering?

    i loved my coconut “butter” cream, i bet yours was wonderful with the addition of the matcha. great job…on the mousse too, that’s one thing i wish i would of made.

    this is my first month as a db also…isn’t it such a wonderful community!

  14. Miss Ifi Says:

    Congratulations on your first challenge you did a beautiful job!!!
    I hope you throughly enjoy being part of the daring bakers and I look forward to seeing what you create in your future challenges!!

  15. rachel Says:

    veganizing your buttercream….lovely…congrats on your first challenge

  16. Aparna Says:

    Welcome to the Daring Bakers.
    Your cake looks lovely. I would love to bake these kind of cakes without eggs, but then I don’t get most of the alternatives where I live.

  17. Stephanie Says:

    This cake is sooo very lovely and serious snaps for making it vegan friendly! I’m new to DBs too, so it’s great to see all these lovely cakes and flavor combinations!

  18. Barbara Says:

    Congrats on your first challenge! And on the pretzels. Your cake looks great!

  19. Rebecca Says:

    Congratulations! This one was my first DB challenge, too. Whoa, Baby. I like the idea of picking up past challenges, though.

  20. Shari Says:

    Your cake looks great! The lettering is perfect too. Way to go.
    Shari@Whisk: a food blog

  21. Joanna Says:

    Your cake looks delightful. I love the way you decorated it. Congrats and welcome to the daring bakers… this is my first challenge as well. Isn’t it great to bake in groups!?

  22. laimay Says:

    Welcome to DB! I hope you’ll have as much fun as I am in making them! I’ve only been a member for three months and I’m loving it! Your cake looks really good and I love the flowers you created for it! Great effort!!

  23. Paula Says:

    I’m so impressed with the amount of work you put into veganizing such a egg/dairy filled cake! I may have to try it your way! And your finished product was so lovely. Very inspiring!

  24. Tiffany Says:

    What cute decorations!!

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