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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Gateau l'Opera: Sweet Music from the Daring Bakers

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When I first learned that this month's Daring Baker challenge was to make an Opera Cake, my heart did a little happy dance. Un Gateau l'Opera! What could be more perfect? Regular readers of this blog might remember that I'm a classically trained lyric soprano. And that, my friends, means opera. I sing it, listen to it, study it and go to see it as much as I can. From the time I first heard Beverly Sills sing the Merry Widow Waltz on the Ed Sullivan Show when I was about five, opera has been an important part of my life. I'm also proud to say that Mini-SGCC is quite a budding little coloratura, herself. By the time she was nine, she had already appeared in a Mainstage production of Bizet's The Pearl Fishers with the Sarasota Opera.
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There are conflicting stories about the origin of of the Opera Cake, which is also known as the Clichy Cake. One theory is that the cake was created by Louis Clichy because he premiered it at the 1903 Exposition Culinaire in Paris. It was Clichy's signature cake at his shop in the Boulevard Beaumarchais. A few years later an identical cake showed up at the legendary Parisian pattiserie, Dalloyau, allegedly created to honour the new Paris Opera house, and was dubbed Gateau d'Opera, or Opera Cake. Regardless of its beginnings or moniker, I think most would agree that the Opera Cake is an elegant, delicious and quintessentially Parisian confection.
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An Opera Cake is made up of five different components: a joconde, which is a light almond sponge cake, a syrup to moisten the joconde, a rich buttercream, a ganache to top the final cake layer, and a glaze to top it all off. The traditional flavors used in this cake are coffee and chocolate. However, for this challenge we were asked to use only light colors and flavors in our cakes.

I chose to use vanilla, almond and orange as the main flavors in my gateaux. The joconde already contains a significant amount of almond meal and I added a touch of vanilla extract and orange flower water to the batter. My syrup was also flavored with almond extract. I flavored the buttercream with vanilla extract, orange flower water and a few drops of orange oil and added some Amaretto to the white chocolate ganache.
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This is a very labor intensive recipe, not because it is so difficult, but because there are so many steps involved. I had decided to make several small round cakes, so that I could give some away. I spread out the creation of my cakes over three days. On the first day, I prepared the sugar syrup and the ganache. The next day, I baked the jocande, made the buttercream, cut out my cake pieces and assembled my cakes using cake rings. Then I left them to chill overnight. On the third day, I made the white chocolate glaze, constructed my decorations and chilled the cakes for several more hours until the glaze was firm enough to paint on.
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Amazingly, I had absolutely no problems at all with any of the components of this recipe. Each one, including the buttercream, turned out exactly as it was supposed to the FIRST time. If I hadn't been frantically trying to get my cakes finished before the deadline, I would have been in awe!

When I think of the Paris Opera House or the Opera Garnier, as it is also called, I think of gilded, glittery things. I've only been there once, but what I remember is masses of beautiful frescoes bathed in light from a multitude of gleaming chandeliers and encased in golden walls. I wanted my Opera Cakes to look like that. Trying to achieve a gilded effect, I painted some of my cakes with a bronze-colored pearl dust. I had used pearl dust to decorate my Cheesecake Pops and really like the effect. I dusted the rest of my cakes with an edible gold dust. With the help of my gracious sister-in-law, I piped out several treble clefs and assorted musical notes out of pink and white candy melts. Actually, she did most of the piping because I have a shaky hand and no patience, and she used to work in a bakery. Hey, I know when to turn to the experts!

I can't tell you how thrilled I was with the way my little gateaux turned out. The layers got a little muddled when I slid them out of the cake rings, but they were still very pretty. I really loved the look of the bronze pearl dust. It looks a bit darker in the photographs than it actually was, but it truly gave my cakes that "gilded" feel. The gold dust was more yellow than I would have liked, but it went well with the pale pink decorations. I love the combination of pink and gold, so I was very pleased with it too.
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Of course, the most beautiful cake in the world isn't worth much if it can't pass the test of taste. I am happy to report that my gateaux tasted like little golden nuggets of heaven! The buttercream was divine and the ganache....well, the ganache was sublime! I could swear I heard strains of Nessun Dorma as I took my first bite! I was glad that I made double the amount of both so that I can now use them to make another delicious dessert. Or, I could just grab a spoon and have at it!
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My thanks go out to this month's hosts Ivonne, Lis, Fran and Shea for a giving us such a great challenge. I would also like to dedicate this post to former DBer, Barbara from Winos and Foodies, for her tireless work to promote Lance Armstrong's LiveStrong Foundation.

Please take some time visit the Daring Baker Blogroll to see what my fellow Daring Bakers have "composed" for this challenge. There are many, many talented and creative bakers in the group and I know that you will be "wowed".
The recipe for this Opera Cake is quite long and I have opted not to type it out in this post. If you are interested in having the recipe, I have provided a printable version of it here.
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This recipe is based on Opera Cake recipes in Dorie Greenspan’s Paris Sweets and Tish Boyle and Timothy Moriarty’s Chocolate Passion.
Enjoy!

90 comments:

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

WOW WOW WOW! Those are some good looking cakes! So perfect for your personal connection to the cakes! I really enjoyed this post, Susan! Well done!

Augustina said...

These look so cool! Great job!!

Aran said...

Susan, it's funny because when I started going through my DB blogroll to see what other fellow Dbers made, I thought, I bet Susan was happy with this one! No kidding, I really did think that. It looks gorgeous, so elegant. Fantastic!

Aran said...

Susan, it's funny because when I started going through my DB blogroll to see what other fellow Dbers made, I thought, I bet Susan was happy with this one! No kidding, I really did think that. It looks gorgeous, so elegant. Fantastic!

canarygirl said...

WOW Susan! Those are incredible cakes! I love that you added the cleft and the note on the tops. :) And I had no idea you sang opera! How cool is that?? My fil used to be an opera singer as well...a tenor here in Las Palmas...He used to sing at the "Teatro Galdós" back in the day...now he just sings for us. :)

Claire said...

So beautiful! I love the picture with the cakes on the framed music. I also used vanilla for my syrup and, despite my doubts that it would matter, it really does add to the flavor of the resulting dessert.

I love that you little one is continuing the tradition (?) of musical performance! Keep it up. When she's without it, she'll miss it...I know I do!

Tartelette said...

I have been looking forward to your write up and I am not disappointed...I can hear your singing! They turned out amazing! Love them!!

Shari said...

I am in awe! Your round cakes look amazing. And, I love how you presented them on a framed sheet of music. Very creative. They sound delicious too!
Shari@Whisk: a food blog

giz said...

Your opera cake is just great - I wish I would have done these smaller individual portions - so much easier to give away while still making it look like they're getting a whole cake. Gorgeous.

Megan said...

Love the individule serving size. They are beautiful!

CookiePie said...

Your cakes are so beautiful! I love the musical notes, what a creative and whimsical finish. Lovely, as always!!

Engineer Baker said...

Such cute little cakes! Orange sounds like a perfect choice too.

Bellini Valli said...

Your cakes are very harmonious Susan. You always do such a beautiful job with your baking and decoration...how could your rendition be anything but jawdropping:D

Judy said...

The cakes are fabulous. I love the presentation and the story.

Judy @ No Fear Entertaining said...

Susan those are incredible looking! I love the connection that you shared to the cakes!

Patsyk said...

I am in awe of your cakes! Maybe one day I'll be able to make one as pretty!

Bumblebutton said...

Loved the way that this challenge came full circle for you! Lovely job!

Kevin said...

Nice looking opera cakes. I like the circular cut.

Cakelaw said...

Gorgeous little opera cakes Susan! I love the ones with the bronze dust too.

maybelles parents said...

good job--such pretty little cakes.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

These are absolutely gorgeous, Susan! I've been so bowled over by these entries.

I take my hat off to all you Daring Bakers!

Obsessive Foodie or Food Addict....You Decide said...

What a cute mini you have!!!!!

You are also getting too good for your britches beotch!!!! These are some of your best yet!

Shayne said...

Beautiful, I love the caramel on the top.

rainbowbrown said...

Very cool that you got to do something that hit so close to home for you. Your cakes are quite marvelous.

Proud Italian Cook said...

I love the shape of your cakes, you did a beautiful job Susan, as always!

bernard n. shull said...

i did a little research after you told me about your "thing", and if you want a way to make more money using your your blog you can enter this site: link. bye.

StickyGooeyCreamyChewy said...

Thank you all so much for your kind comments! I'm so thrilled that you like my little Opera cakes! I think that this was my favorite DB challenge yet. It will take me a few days, but I'm really looking forward to making the rounds to see all of your great gateaux! :D

Vegan_Noodle said...

Your opera cakes are gorgeous!! I love all the detail you included with your photos... (sheet music in the background)

My Sweet & Saucy said...

Simply gorgeous! The cylinder shape is lovely!

Big Boys Oven said...

such a high standard piece of work! so beautifully done!

enza said...

hey, I don't think that pierre herme will do it better! nice job..

Peabody said...

Those are stunning.

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Very pretty! What wonderful cakes!

cheers,

Rosa

Marija said...

Beautiful cake and beautiful post!

HoneyB said...

Beautiful!

Kim said...

What a great post, this was a perfect challenge for you. Beautiful cakes, splendid.

Clumbsy Cookie said...

Just one word: Beautiful!

francijn said...

Beautiful! I like them this way (round and small) more than the big, normal ones. Congratulations!

nicisme said...

Wow, that's a cake and a half - so beautiful!

zorra said...

I'm impressed! You can really be proud of your work. Well done!

zorra said...

I'm impressed! You can really be proud of your work. Well done!

Ginny said...

Excellent job! The photos are gorgeous! :)

toontz said...

I love the little round cakes! Beautiful!

Lori said...

Wow. I would like to know how you cut them so perfectly or how you got the glaze to stay where it was suppose to. I need a tutorial : ).

Very lovely, I wish there was a youtube link of you singing!

marias23 said...

Susan, your creations are breath-taking and I simply adore your pictures! Using music scores and books as background is brilliant. Wonderful job, dear!

joanne at frutto della passione said...

Stunning, I wish I could have been there to receive one of those lovely cakes!

Mansi Desai said...

As perfect as ever Susan! loved the shape and the presentation!

Katie B. said...

Golden nuggets of heaven, indeed! Your little cakes look magnificent!

michelle @ TNS said...

dear god, woman!

PheMom said...

Oh WOW! As if your darling little cakes weren't perfect and beautiful enough - just check out your "plating" skills! (Maybe that needs to be skillz!) The framed sheet music as plate shot is sheer genius! Way to go girl!

Mary said...

Your little cakes are simply beautiful.

Mary said...

Your little cakes are simply beautiful.

LyB said...

I have been looking at so many Opéra cakes, I'm craving it really bad! Oddly, I also feel like listening to Verdi's La Traviata, go figure! :) Your cakes are magnifiques Susan, very chic!

Melissa said...

Susan,
These are INCREDIBLE. Job well done! WOW.

Arundathi said...

Absolutely Gorgeous!

Mike of Mike's Table said...

I'd never heard of an opera cake until now, but I have to say, I'm quite impressed! That looks really amazing and quite elegantly put together!

sarahmarie said...

very pretty. i love the dark-ish color of the glaze in contrast to the rest of the cake.

Deborah said...

What gorgeous cakes!! I had never thought of doing orange and almond before, but it sounds like a match made in heaven!

Nicole said...

These should be sold in a Patisserie in Paris! So gorgeous. You are a marvel to me.

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

These look beautiful and delicious. I'm really enjoying watching this particular challenge because I love seeing how everyone varies these pretty little cakes. Want to ship some up to me?

I'm so envious of your beautiful voice (well, I know I've never heard it, but I know it's just beautiful). I can belt out a show tune or a pop tune pretty well, but I'll never have the voice for opera.

familiabencomo said...

I love it that you have such a connection with l'Opera cake, in a way. What a gift it is to be able to sing & to pass it on to your adorable daughter. You cake is tres belle!

xoxox Amy

Venus ~ Vi said...

The mini cakes look so delicious! They are just too pretty to eat!

Ben said...

Oh wow, those are gorgeous. What a great even this was :)

Laurie said...

Gorgeous cakes.."Opera suits you perfectly"..you definitely rose to the occasion! Brava and magnifico!! :) Ciao!

Gabi said...

What I a great combination- you and L'Opera- a class act! I love your mini cakes and you must be so (rightly) proud of mini SGCC- lovely!
Brava Encore!

Mother Bliss said...

Holy smokes! My jaw dropped in awe! Super-duper awesome job!

Y said...

The cakes look great. And so beautifully photographed as well!

ostwestwind said...

You are a pro, your cakes just look perfect and elegant. Great work, yo can be proud.

Ulrike from Küchenlatein

Sheltie Girl said...

Oh this does look very yummy! I love your flavor combinations and the different glazes. The sides of my cake got a little smeared too when I took them out of the pastry rings.

Natalie @ Gluten a Go Go

Mevrouw Cupcake said...

You've done an amazing job here! Your L'Opéras look like they were made by a professional pastry chef, wonderful!

HoneyB said...

Your cakes look lovely! I especially love the last photo (as I am a musician myself!). Great post!

Patricia Scarpin said...

Not only you cook and bake wonderfully, make stunning, beautiful photos, have a great sense of humor and crack up quite regularly, you sing too?? Life is so not fair. :)

Susan, your cakes are adorable! And I love how you styled the photos.

RecipeGirl said...

I had no doubts that your opera cakes would turn out wonderful. These are absolutely beautiful. I think you did it right... taking the time for things to chill and firm up and making it a process of a few days. Nice work Susan!!

Tracy said...

Even though I'm more of a rocker, I think your opera cakes turned out great!

Amy said...

Brava! These look wonderful!! I bet you had a blast with this challenge!! Although I'm not a member of DB, I really enjoyed looking at everyone's Opera cakes!! I love the pictures with the sheet music!! So cute!

Helene said...

It's so beautiful, great job!

noble pig said...

A masterpiece!

Prudy said...

Oh, if those aren't the most adorable cakes! Nice work. How do you have time to read all these comments? I think I'm number 78!

White On Rice Couple said...

Oh Susan, when I heard about this challenge, I just had to run on over here ASAP and see what you made.
Wow!! Your opera cake is just amazing! Now I really wanna hear the beautiful voice behind all these wonderful photographs and dishes. Will you be putting up a video of you singing anytime soon? :)

Manggy said...

Those are sooo cute Susan!! I'm so glad you 'dared'!

Bakerette said...

wow these are so adorable!

Christine said...

Wow you are so talented! Cakes are amazing!

Dolores said...

What glorious gateaux! I love the attention to detail you put into not only making them, but staging them as well. Great job!

farida said...

These look absolutely adorable! I am speechless.

bonnie said...

wonderful~ so cute.

Gretchen Noelle said...

Those turned out very lovely! Great job!

Sharon said...

I've seen a lot of opera cakes & I'll have to say yours is definitely one of the prettiest! I'm sure they were quite tasty as well.

Jen Yu said...

your opera cakes are stunning! i love that little sgcc is getting in on the opera action too :) i'm sure she's got talent - just look at big sgcc! xxoo

Sophie said...

Yes, I love the bronze too...these are so cute! It's so appropriate that you put the little musical note on there! I'm so jealous of your singing ability :P!

Sheesh, it's been forever since I've paid a visit to your site :). Hope you're doing well.

Great job on this DB challenge :).

creampuff said...

Wow, Susan! You put us all to shame. You sing opera and you bake a damn fine opera cake (or little cakes)!!!

Beautifully done!