Fire and Ice Opera Cake

Ginger Turmeric & Peppermint Opera Cake

For the past two months I’ve watched Tastespotting fill up with Daring Baker’s Challenge photos towards the end of the month. Last month, curiosity got the best of me and I decided to join. When the May challenge was revealed, I was both excited and horrified by the challenge… to bake an opera cake.

If I remember my French correctly “l’opera” means “delicious pain in the ass”. It involves layers of an almond meal based cake called joconde soaked in a flavoured syrup with buttercream sandwiched in between each layer, topped with a mousse then covered in a chocolate glaze. Lost yet? The recipe reads like a Russian novel circa Leo Tolstoy, and it will probably take a normal person 2 days to make this.

That said, it tastes like heaven and your friends will love you if you bring it to their BBQ. I’ll admit I’ve always been curious about how these were made, but like with croissants, I’ve always just paid a real pâtissier to bake one for me. It’s now clear to me why a small slice is so damn expensive. Beyond the labour, I spent close to $40 on just the ingredients.

Those who are frequent readers know my aversion to following recipes which made this challenge doubly challenging, but I managed to get through it as written, fighting spastic urges to sprinkle some additives the whole way through. I was allowed the change the flavourings for the syrup and buttercream, so I decided to go with a ginger turmeric syrup for some spicy fire and a cool peppermint buttercream for the ice. It may sound a bit strange, but the two flavours play off each other in a very pleasing way.

If I were to ever make this again there are some changes I would make (which weren’t allowed for the challenge). At the top of the list would be to include powdered ginger and turmeric in the joconde itself as glazing it with flavoured syrup wasn’t enough. I’d also probably double the amount of mousse so I could eat half of it straight out of the bowl (yes, it was that good).

I’m not sure if I’m going to continue on with this Daring Bakers business, but I am grateful for the opportunity to workout my atrophied baking muscle.

Because of the lack of ginger turmeric flavor, the cake was more icy (from the peppermint) than firey, but I’m sure including ginger and turmeric in the cake would rectify that problem. Beyond that I’d say this cake is moist, rich, creamy and delicious (in a “I just went to Paris and picked this up at Dalloyau” kind of way).

This recipe is based on Opera Cake recipes in Dorie Greenspan’s Paris Sweets and Tish Boyle and Timothy Moriarty’s Chocolate Passion by way of this months hosts, Lisa and Ivonne, as well as Fran of Apples Peaches Pumpkin Pie and Shea of Whiskful. This month’s challenge is also dedicated to Barbara of Winos and Foodies, home of A Taste of Yellow, a food event supporting LiveSTRONG.

for the joconde
6 large egg whites (room temperature)
2 Tbs granulated sugar (30 grams)
2 C almond meal (225 grams)
2 C powdered sugar
6 large eggs
1/2 C all-purpose flour (70 grams)
3 Tbs unsalted butter, melted and cooled (1½ ounces; 45 grams)

for the ginger turmeric syrup
1/2 C water (125 grams)
1/3 C granulated sugar (65 grams)
2 Tbs ginger minced
1/2 tsp turmeric

for the peppermint buttercream
1 C granulated sugar (100 grams)
1/4 C water (60 grams)
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
14 Tbs unsalted butter, at room temperature cut into chunks (7 ounces; 200 grams)
8 drops of peppermint oil

for the white chocolate mousse
7 ounces white chocolate
1 C plus 3 Tbs heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract

for the glaze
14 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 C heavy cream

make the joconde
Divide the oven into thirds by positioning a rack in the upper third of the oven and the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees (F).

Line two 12½ x 15½- inch (31 x 39-cm) jelly-roll pans with parchment paper and brush with melted butter.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment 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 and beat the almonds, powdered 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 almond 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 layers until they are lightly browned and just springy to the touch. This could take anywhere from 5 to 9 minutes depending on your oven.

Put the pans on a heatproof counter and 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, and unmold. Carefully peel away the parchment, then turn the parchment over and use it to cover the cakes. Let the cakes cool to room temperature.

make the ginger turmeric syrup

Stir all the syrup ingredients together in the saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature. Strain through a fine mesh sieve, pressing on the solids.

make the peppermint butter cream

Combine the sugar, and water in a small saucepan and warm over medium heat without stirring, until the syrup reaches 250 degrees F on a candy or instant-read thermometer then remove from 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 until pale and foamy.

When the sugar syrup reaches the correct temperature, reduce the mixer speed to low 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).

With the mixer on medium speed, begin adding in a few chunks of butter at a time. When all the butter has been incorporated, raise the mixer speed to high and beat until the butter cream is thick and shiny. Finish with about 8 drops of the peppermint oil.

Refrigerate the butter cream until it’s firm but still spreadable. Put it back on the mixer and whisk until fluffy.

make the white chocolate mousse

Melt the white chocolate and the 3 Tbs of heavy cream in a small saucepan over low heat.

Stir with a silicon spatula to melt evenly and make sure it doesn’t burn. When the chocolate is mostly melted, take it off the heat, add the vanilla and stir until it’s all smooth and there are no lumps of chocolate left. Allow it to cool.

Whip the remaining 1 C of heavy cream until soft peaks form.

Add the cooled chocolate to the cream and beat until you have nice firm peaks (careful not to overbeat). If it’s too loose, put it in the fridge for a bit to set up.

assembling the cake

buttercream and joconde layersCut a 10″ x 10″ square and a 10″ x 5″ rectangle from the center of each sheet of cake. You should end up with 4 pieces (2 of each size).

Place one square of cake on a prep surface and moisten it gently with the flavoured syrup. Spread about half of the buttercream over this layer.

Top with the two rectangular pieces of cake, placing them side by side to form a square. Moisten these pieces with the flavoured syrup. Spread the remaining butter cream on the cake.

Top with the third square of joconde. Use the remaining syrup to wet the joconde and then refrigerate until very firm (at least half an hour).

mousse layerPrepare the mousse (if you haven’t already) and then spread it on the top of the last layer of the joconde. I like to use a pastry knife to make sure my corners are square and that I have a very flat surface on top. Refrigerate for at least two to three hours to give the mousse the opportunity to firm up.

make the glaze

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. Spread out into a thin layer allowing it to flow over the edge of the cake. Refrigerate the cake again to set the glaze.

Serve the cake slightly chilled. This recipe will yield approximately 20 servings.

  • http://www.cococooks.blogspot.com/ courtney

    Well knowing you dont follow recipes you did great!But then again there was so much room to be creative here. And yes it was tres cher! These monthly challenges are becoming my monthly indulgence$$$.

  • http://www.cococooks.blogspot.com courtney

    Well knowing you dont follow recipes you did great!But then again there was so much room to be creative here. And yes it was tres cher! These monthly challenges are becoming my monthly indulgence$$$.

  • http://genkitummy.blogspot.com/ Lauren

    Hi! I’m a DB newbie too! I saw May’s challenge and thought, “What did I get myself into!”
    I love reading your blog and you cake looks amazing! That’s a creative combination of flavors. I think I’ll have to try it some time. :)

  • http://genkitummy.blogspot.com/ Lauren

    Hi! I’m a DB newbie too! I saw May’s challenge and thought, “What did I get myself into!”
    I love reading your blog and you cake looks amazing! That’s a creative combination of flavors. I think I’ll have to try it some time. :)

  • http://www.souvlakiforthesoul.com/ Peter G

    Congrats on finishing this beauty! Phew! What a great effort. I really like the ginger turmeric syrup…its a very creative touch. I need to join DB, I think.

  • http://www.souvlakiforthesoul.com Peter G

    Congrats on finishing this beauty! Phew! What a great effort. I really like the ginger turmeric syrup…its a very creative touch. I need to join DB, I think.

  • http://culinarty.sapiensworks.com/ Lore

    You’ve done an amazing job but I can understand the difficulties you have with following someone else’s directions. I guess that’s why I don’t own any cooking or baking book. But that might also be the reason why I probably wouldn’t be able to make this amazing opera cake :))

  • http://culinarty.sapiensworks.com/ Lore

    You’ve done an amazing job but I can understand the difficulties you have with following someone else’s directions. I guess that’s why I don’t own any cooking or baking book. But that might also be the reason why I probably wouldn’t be able to make this amazing opera cake :))

  • http://www.justgetfloury.blogspot.com/ Ginny

    haha! It definitely is a “delicious pain in the ass.” I was so frustrated and impatient by the end but the results were worth it…love your flavor combo…very intriguing! Welcome to the Daring Bakers!

  • http://www.justgetfloury.blogspot.com/ Ginny

    haha! It definitely is a “delicious pain in the ass.” I was so frustrated and impatient by the end but the results were worth it…love your flavor combo…very intriguing! Welcome to the Daring Bakers!

  • http://www.hungryandfrozen.blogspot.com/ Laura @ Hungry and Frozen

    What a beauty! I was wondering what on earth that gorgeous cake on TNS was :) sounds like one hell of a pain to make though. Love the idea of ginger-tumeric syrup! You seem to have an eye (a tastebud?) for interesting flavours…

  • http://www.hungryandfrozen.blogspot.com Laura @ Hungry and Frozen

    What a beauty! I was wondering what on earth that gorgeous cake on TNS was :) sounds like one hell of a pain to make though. Love the idea of ginger-tumeric syrup! You seem to have an eye (a tastebud?) for interesting flavours…

  • http://www.nofearentertaining.blogspot.com/ Judy

    Great looking cake. I love the flavor combinations!

  • http://www.nofearentertaining.blogspot.com Judy

    Great looking cake. I love the flavor combinations!

  • http://www.sweetendeavors.blogspot.com/ sarah

    nice job. the flavors are very interesting. I would like to try that. Please sick around the daring bakers. We would love to see what you come up with for the next challenge.

  • http://www.sweetendeavors.blogspot.com/ sarah

    nice job. the flavors are very interesting. I would like to try that. Please sick around the daring bakers. We would love to see what you come up with for the next challenge.

  • http://www.sweetendeavors.blogspot.com sarah

    nice job. the flavors are very interesting. I would like to try that. Please sick around the daring bakers. We would love to see what you come up with for the next challenge.

  • http://www.tartelette.blogspot.com/ Tartelette

    I love your choice of flavors Mark! I a reallly excited that you joined the DBs :)
    Sorry if I have visited very sporadically lately (family visiting and all)

  • http://www.tartelette.blogspot.com Tartelette

    I love your choice of flavors Mark! I a reallly excited that you joined the DBs :)
    Sorry if I have visited very sporadically lately (family visiting and all)

  • http://ayankeeinasouthernkitchen.com/ Kim

    Fabulous selection of flavors would have never thought of it. Glad you joined the Daring Bakers. I wonder if Tastespotting hires extra employees at the end of the month when we bombard them!

  • http://ayankeeinasouthernkitchen.com Kim

    Fabulous selection of flavors would have never thought of it. Glad you joined the Daring Bakers. I wonder if Tastespotting hires extra employees at the end of the month when we bombard them!

  • http://thefoodiva.blogspot.com/ maria~

    What a fascinating choice of flavors. Wow! Congrats on completing your first, by the way ;)

  • http://thefoodiva.blogspot.com/ maria~

    What a fascinating choice of flavors. Wow! Congrats on completing your first, by the way ;)

  • http://thefoodiva.blogspot.com maria~

    What a fascinating choice of flavors. Wow! Congrats on completing your first, by the way ;)

  • http://closetcooking.blogspot.com/ Kevin

    Nice looking cake! I like the sound of the ginger, turmeric and peppermint flavour combo.

  • http://closetcooking.blogspot.com/ Kevin

    Nice looking cake! I like the sound of the ginger, turmeric and peppermint flavour combo.

  • http://www.okaramountain.blogspot.com/ toontz

    Wow, what an interesting flavor combination. I was very timid with my first challenge (wanted to make sure someone would eat it besides me) Great job!

  • http://www.weareneverfull.com/ We Are Never Full

    Ok, you are a daring baker. this looks like you’re an expert baker. it’s just one more reason why i would feel very threatened if i tried that event. one day i’ll get my courage up.

  • http://www.okaramountain.blogspot.com toontz

    Wow, what an interesting flavor combination. I was very timid with my first challenge (wanted to make sure someone would eat it besides me) Great job!

  • http://www.weareneverfull.com We Are Never Full

    Ok, you are a daring baker. this looks like you’re an expert baker. it’s just one more reason why i would feel very threatened if i tried that event. one day i’ll get my courage up.

  • http://cupcakemuffin.blogspot.com/ sara

    oooh, yum…so pretty! love the orange color of the cake.

  • http://cupcakemuffin.blogspot.com sara

    oooh, yum…so pretty! love the orange color of the cake.

  • http://cannelle-vanille.blogspot.com/ Aran

    Wow Marc… I don’t know what you meant that yours didn’t looik nice… That’s gorgeous! perfect layers! you did fantastic!

  • http://cannelle-vanille.blogspot.com/ Aran

    Wow Marc… I don’t know what you meant that yours didn’t looik nice… That’s gorgeous! perfect layers! you did fantastic!

  • http://bakerette.blogspot.com/ Bakerette

    wow, looks amazing and what a great idea for the flavors!

  • http://bakerette.blogspot.com Bakerette

    wow, looks amazing and what a great idea for the flavors!

  • http://thebakerandthecurrymaker.blogspot.com/ Sathya

    What a wonderful flavour combination! I would love a bite. I wonder if it’d be like what my tongue is imagining… Your cake looks lovely, well done. I have had moments of wondering if I can continue on the this Daring Bakers road, and 10 challenges on, I’m still here and am starting to love it. Welcome.

  • http://thebakerandthecurrymaker.blogspot.com/ Sathya

    What a wonderful flavour combination! I would love a bite. I wonder if it’d be like what my tongue is imagining… Your cake looks lovely, well done. I have had moments of wondering if I can continue on the this Daring Bakers road, and 10 challenges on, I’m still here and am starting to love it. Welcome.

  • marc

    Thanks Coutney, it was a challenge in more than one way, but it was interesting having the scope of creativity limited.

    Lauren, I love the idea of the Guava in your Opera Cake!

    Thanks Peter G, I have no doubt you’d do well with these challenges.

    Lore, I’ve thought about tossing all the cook books, but I do like looking at the pictures. Going cook bookless, now that’s daring;-)

    Ginny, they were worth it. Your lavender addition sounds delicious.

    Laura, I think some subconscious part of my brain thinks about food all day and every now and then pokes the conscious side and whispers something into its ear.

    Thanks Judy.

    Sarah, I’ll definitely stick around for a few more challenges.

    Tartelette, thanks! Yours looks gorgeous!

    Kim, good question. I’ve noticed they get a little slower in posting around this time.

    Thanks Maria and Kevin :-)

    Toontz, I was actually thinking about this combo for a cupcake before the challenge and just adapted it for the challenge:-)

    We Are Never Full, you should try it, everything on your blog always looks amazing.

    Sara, thanks, although I have to confess that the color was with help from photoshop. The parts where the syrup penetrated were this color, but the syrup didn’t soak all the way through so I had to “help” it out a little. Next time I’m adding the spices straight into the cake batter which should make the color more uniform.

    Thanks Aran, high praise coming from a pro:-D

    Bakerette, thanks!

    Sathya, glad to hear I’m not the only one having doubts (and that you’re still with the program).

  • marc

    Thanks Coutney, it was a challenge in more than one way, but it was interesting having the scope of creativity limited.

    Lauren, I love the idea of the Guava in your Opera Cake!

    Thanks Peter G, I have no doubt you’d do well with these challenges.

    Lore, I’ve thought about tossing all the cook books, but I do like looking at the pictures. Going cook bookless, now that’s daring;-)

    Ginny, they were worth it. Your lavender addition sounds delicious.

    Laura, I think some subconscious part of my brain thinks about food all day and every now and then pokes the conscious side and whispers something into its ear.

    Thanks Judy.

    Sarah, I’ll definitely stick around for a few more challenges.

    Tartelette, thanks! Yours looks gorgeous!

    Kim, good question. I’ve noticed they get a little slower in posting around this time.

    Thanks Maria and Kevin :-)

    Toontz, I was actually thinking about this combo for a cupcake before the challenge and just adapted it for the challenge:-)

    We Are Never Full, you should try it, everything on your blog always looks amazing.

    Sara, thanks, although I have to confess that the color was with help from photoshop. The parts where the syrup penetrated were this color, but the syrup didn’t soak all the way through so I had to “help” it out a little. Next time I’m adding the spices straight into the cake batter which should make the color more uniform.

    Thanks Aran, high praise coming from a pro:-D

    Bakerette, thanks!

    Sathya, glad to hear I’m not the only one having doubts (and that you’re still with the program).

  • http://otherpeoplesfood.blogspot.com/ Katie B.

    Great first challenge! I really dig your flavor combination – fabulous idea!

  • http://otherpeoplesfood.blogspot.com Katie B.

    Great first challenge! I really dig your flavor combination – fabulous idea!

  • http://www.kitchensuccess.blogspot.com/ Randi

    totally beautiful and a genius idea for flavoring. i’m jealous and if i make this again i’m definitely going to try those out.

  • http://www.kitchensuccess.blogspot.com Randi

    totally beautiful and a genius idea for flavoring. i’m jealous and if i make this again i’m definitely going to try those out.

  • http://www.thursdaynightsmackdown.com/ michelle @ TNS

    i had the good fortune of consuming some of this cake, and it was fucking awesome. i may have hoarded a few pieces so other partygoers couldn’t get at ‘em and i’d have ‘em for later. and i’d do it again.

  • http://www.thursdaynightsmackdown.com michelle @ TNS

    i had the good fortune of consuming some of this cake, and it was fucking awesome. i may have hoarded a few pieces so other partygoers couldn’t get at ‘em and i’d have ‘em for later. and i’d do it again.

  • http://www.whiskblog.com/ Shari

    I like your idea of ginger turmeric and peppermint! Great tips about what you’d do next time, and I love the yellow color.
    Shari@Whisk: a food blog

  • http://www.whiskblog.com/ Shari

    I like your idea of ginger turmeric and peppermint! Great tips about what you’d do next time, and I love the yellow color.
    Shari@Whisk: a food blog

  • http://azcookbook.com/ farida

    Wonderful combination of flavors! Turmeric and peppermint – wow, what a creativity!

  • http://azcookbook.com farida

    Wonderful combination of flavors! Turmeric and peppermint – wow, what a creativity!

  • http://allthingsnice.typepad.com/ Syrie

    Nice work Marc! Looks gorgeous.

  • http://allthingsnice.typepad.com Syrie

    Nice work Marc! Looks gorgeous.

  • http://allthingsnice.typepad.com/ syrie

    tee hee, I just read your tag words

  • http://allthingsnice.typepad.com syrie

    tee hee, I just read your tag words

  • http://culinaryinfatuation.blogspot.com/ Ally

    Lovely! I love your creativity with the flavors!

  • http://culinaryinfatuation.blogspot.com Ally

    Lovely! I love your creativity with the flavors!

  • http://www.sporky.net/ Rebecca

    Your cake looks amazing, and what an interesting combination of flavors!

  • http://www.sporky.net Rebecca

    Your cake looks amazing, and what an interesting combination of flavors!

  • http://smitaservesyouright.blogspot.com/ Smita

    OMG – you’ve outdone yourself. Would never have thought those flavors would work!!

  • http://smitaservesyouright.blogspot.com Smita

    OMG – you’ve outdone yourself. Would never have thought those flavors would work!!

  • http://www.mydiversekitchen.blogspot.com/ Aparna

    Your cake looks really good, perfect layers. And most unusual flavours. I use a lot of turmeric and ginger in my cooking (Indian) but in this cake, that’s interesting.
    I really think you should continue with the DBs, though.

  • http://www.mydiversekitchen.blogspot.com Aparna

    Your cake looks really good, perfect layers. And most unusual flavours. I use a lot of turmeric and ginger in my cooking (Indian) but in this cake, that’s interesting.
    I really think you should continue with the DBs, though.

  • http://lunchbucketbento.blogspot.com/ Lisa

    Very daring! I’m totally intrigued!

  • http://lunchbucketbento.blogspot.com/ Lisa

    Very daring! I’m totally intrigued!

  • http://morethanburnttoast.blogspot.com/ Bellini Valli

    Welsome to the Daring Bakers. Your first challenge was just that. It sounds like you would make it again with a few adjustments in flavour. Good job Marc:D

  • http://morethanburnttoast.blogspot.com Bellini Valli

    Welsome to the Daring Bakers. Your first challenge was just that. It sounds like you would make it again with a few adjustments in flavour. Good job Marc:D

  • http://feedingmaybelle.blogspot.com/ maybelles mom (feeding maybell

    I made powdered ginger too, and i must say I added ginger to the jaconde. I paired it with mango but it sounds interesting combined with peppermint.

  • http://feedingmaybelle.blogspot.com maybelles mom (feeding maybelle)

    I made powdered ginger too, and i must say I added ginger to the jaconde. I paired it with mango but it sounds interesting combined with peppermint.

  • http://www.veganvisitor.com/ Dayna

    Your cake is lovely and the idea is delicious. It would be a shame for your creativity to miss out on the Daring Baker challenges.
    …And so what if many of these delicacies end up in the mouths of BBQ goers? After all, it’s the fun and bragging rights that count, right?

  • http://www.veganvisitor.com Dayna

    Your cake is lovely and the idea is delicious. It would be a shame for your creativity to miss out on the Daring Baker challenges.
    …And so what if many of these delicacies end up in the mouths of BBQ goers? After all, it’s the fun and bragging rights that count, right?

  • http://www.ezrapoundcake.com/ Rebecca

    What a gorgeous pain in the ass. ;)

  • http://www.ezrapoundcake.com Rebecca

    What a gorgeous pain in the ass. ;)

  • Anonymous

    Wow! Pitting tumeric and ginger against peppermint flavorings, you are a daring baker if there ever was one. I’m sure the cake tasted as delicious as it sounds and looks. Yeah for opera cake!

  • http://www.salutetosanity.blogspot.com Joanna

    Wow! Pitting tumeric and ginger against peppermint flavorings, you are a daring baker if there ever was one. I’m sure the cake tasted as delicious as it sounds and looks. Yeah for opera cake!

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Welcome!

I'm Marc, and I want to teach you some basic techniques and give you the confidence and inspiration so that you can cook without recipes too!

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