Sunday, August 29, 2010
When I think back to my pastry II days in 2007 the hardest thing I remember making was the opera cake...my team had it during the week our class had to do biscuit batters. At the time it was the hardest cake to do and no one could even do the musical notes on top to decorate...it was just an all around hard project. I also remember it being one of my favorite cakes from that semester, it just relayed sophistication. It was my first cake that was a step above the rest, it definitely wasn't some gooey bright baby birthday cake...this was for the grownups. Since that day I didn't get to try a piece of that delicious coffee chocolate infused goodness until I passed by Lassen and Hennings in Brooklyn for a slice of red velvet and saw that they had opera cake as well. I decided to try a piece but I was sorely disappointed. Everything was wrong the cake was too grainy, buttercream lacked the velvety texture, its only saving grace was the ganache. Earlier in the spring semester my professors suggested that I bake my own but I felt to intimidated to attempt the project on my own also at the time I didn't purchase my kitchen aid mixer as yet so to pull off this project on a hand mixer would be futile. Fast forward to August 2010 and several successful baking projects later I have a new confidence in the kitchen that makes me feel I can make anything. I decided that opera cake would intimidate me no more and I would finally be able to taste my beloved cake again. I did some research and settled on this recipe from Dorie Greenspan via The Splendid Table. I gathered my ingredients, hoped for the best, and got to work. I used almond flour instead of grinding my own almonds as I believed that would give the cake that grainy texture I hate. I followed the recipe exactly except for the aforementioned flour swap, I added brandy to the coffee syrup, and I didn't used the entire amount of butter in the final ganache topping. And honestly I wouldn't do any differently than I did...the changes I implemented contributed to a cake that was out of this world! This opera cake was just a slice of heavenly goodness. The biscuit was perfect and didn't have the chunks of almonds in it that I dislike, the syrup with added liqueur had the right punch, the ganache was silky smooth, and the buttercream was...was...it was perfecto! This tasted even better than the one made in school and this made me so proud. It was a one woman show, no classmates or instructor necessary and it came out great. My sister was not to fond of this cake since she is not a coffee lover but me and my brother tore it apart. I know this cake seems really intimidating but it really is not and any baker can make this with enough patience so I wholeheartedly encourage you to try it.