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daring bakers: opera cake

Recipe: opera cake

To my Darling Daring Bakers: I made the cake yesterday and planned to have a post up by this morning, but I got really sick. I’m just posting the final pic and I will have the rest up at a later time. I am off to the ER. I’m sorry!! xxoo, jen

Update: May 30, 2008
I’m back, kids! Sorry to worry everyone. I had a 48+ hour bout of seriously bad stomach juju with fever to boot. Oncology doesn’t like fever+chemo (no one seemed all that concerned with my debilitating stomach cramps) and sent me to the ER to check for infection. I mean, wouldn’t it suck to finish 6 rounds of the toughest chemo regimen on tap only to die of some damn secondary infection at the very end? That answer would be a resounding hell yeah.

So thanks for all of the wonderful and kind comments you have left. It wasn’t my intention to stress you happy bakers out.

the daring bakers: we knead to bake

As most of you have figured out, I *am* a Daring Baker. Daring Bakers kick ass and they are also spreading like a virus through the food blogosphere. If you aren’t a Daring Baker (all two of you who are left) then you will be assimilated soon enough… oh yes… you will be. This month’s challenge is: The Opera Cake. Our hosts for the challenge are our beloved Daring Bakers’ founders Lis (La Mia Cucina) and Ivonne (Cream Puffs in Venice), and two of our newer DB members Fran (Apple Peaches Pumpkin Pie) and Shea (Whiskful). You can scope out all of the gorgeous Opera Cakes at the rest of the Daring Bakers’ blogs on the blogroll. Thank you, ladies!

ground almonds are the base of the jaconde

Now I, like my fellow kickass betty, Peabody, was very excited to see the May challenge was L’Opéra. And I, like my fellow kickass betty, Peabody, swore when I read that it couldn’t be dark. Not morbid, mind you, but dark as in chocolate or coffee or cocoa. I have trouble thinking of an opera cake that doesn’t have that fantabulous dark chocolate glaze and tantalizing layers. Okay, but I’m a sport… mostly. I hemmed and hawed for several weeks over what flavors to select because honestly, I detest white chocolate.

folding in the whites

I left the jaconde with an almond base as I had never tried it before – plus I am a huge fan of almonds. That was simple enough and came together as easily as a chiffon cake.

pour the batter

The first sign of trouble came when I decided to follow the instructions and bake both of my jelly roll pans in the oven at the same time. My oven is not an equal opportunity baker in that the bottom pan burned its base before the top pan even set. Surprisingly unphased, I decided to halve the recipe upon removing the cake from the oven. For the buttercream recipe, I resorted to my favorite Swiss meringue buttercream recipe, because it never fails me and we were given the freedom to make this substitution. I made a half batch and flavored it with Frangelico and a heaping tablespoon of hazelnut butter (from Whole Foods).


I flavored the simple syrup with Frangelico as well. My original plan was to have an orange-flavored (Grand Marnier) white chocolate mousse for my top layer, because I rather liked the combination of hazelnut and orange in this brittle. That tanked because my white chocolate separated too much (my fault – heat was too high) and the mousse never firmed up, insisting on remaining the consistency of vomit. Just reinforcing my already pissy feelings for white chocolate.

applying the simple syrup

I left the glaze as a white chocolate ganache. In hindsight, I should have flavored it with orange and probably should have spread it as thin as humanly possible the way Tartelette did (she’s brilliant, no?). I just cannot stand the stuff. It’s too sweet and I feel it hijacks the other more subtle and pleasant flavors of the cake. Damn you, white chocolate!


I haven’t eaten the cake proper, only tasted the trimmings from the edges. I find the glaze to be narsty, but the rest of the cake is wonderful once you scrape the glaze off. Would I make this again? Not a white version and certainly not one with white chocolate, but I would most definitely go for a classic version with a twist.

hazelnut and white chocolate opera cake

Opera Cake
[print recipe]
based on recipes in Dorie Greenspan’s Paris Sweets and Tish Boyle and Timothy Moriarty’s Chocolate Passion
full recipe

6 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 tbsps (30 g) granulated sugar
2 cups (225 g) ground blanched almonds
2 cups icing sugar, sifted
6 large eggs
1/2 cup (70 g) all-purpose flour
3 tbsps (1 1/2 oz.; 45 g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

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°F. (220°C). Line two 12 1/2×15 1/2-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 (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 almonds, 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 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. Place one jelly-roll pan in the middle of the oven and the second jelly-roll pan in the bottom third of the 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.

1/2 cup (125 g) water
1/3 cup (65 g) granulated sugar
1-2 tbspsflavoring of your choice (i.e., vanilla extract, almond extract, cognac, limoncello, coconut cream, honey etc.)

Stir all the syrup ingredients together in the saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

hazelnut buttercream
8 oz. egg whites
16 oz. sugar
1 lb. butter, room temperature
2 tbsps Frangelico
2 tbsps hazelnut butter

Combine egg whites and sugar in a Kitchenaid mixing bowl. Whisk constantly over a bain marie until 140°F is reached. Place on mixer with whisk and whip until stiff. Turn down whip speed to 3rd and whip until cool to the touch (this takes a while – should be cooler than your hand). Change to a paddle and gradually add soft butter by tablespoon pieces. Mix to emulsify. Once desired consistency has been reached, add flavorings and beat until incorporated.

14 oz. white chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 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 Opera 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 and trim each sheet so that you have two pieces (from each cake so you’ll have four pieces in total): one 10-inch (25-cm) square and one 10×5-inch (25×12 1/2-cm) rectangle. Place one square of cake on the baking sheet and moisten it gently with the flavoured syrup. Spread about one-third 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 another third of the buttercream on the cake and 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 and then refrigerate until very firm (at least half an hour). 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 20 servings.

93 nibbles at “daring bakers: opera cake”

  1. Patti says:

    um, yours looks fabulous…

  2. Amy says:

    Beautiful cake Jen — I hope all is well and that you feel better! :)

  3. Caitlin says:

    Feel better soon! I can’t wait to see the full story on that beautiful cake!

  4. Mollie says:

    Feel better – I’ll be thinking of you!

  5. jennywenny says:

    Get well soon, thats dedication posting a picture before you go to the ER.

  6. Jenny says:

    The cake looks beautiful – praying that you are okay.

  7. Courtney says:

    Get better. Your inmy thoughts.

  8. zoe / puku says:

    oh noes! hope you’re ok, can’t believe you posted before go to the ER.. I find it hard to post when I have *anything much* else to do, you know, pressing things like CSI is on… get well soon :)

  9. peabody says:

    Oh no! I hope everything is alright Jen.

  10. Shoshanna says:

    Jen, hope you are well; come back soon!

  11. Holly says:

    Oh, i really hope you get feeling better soon!! Your cake looks incredible!

  12. Bridget says:

    Oh no! I hope everything is okay!

  13. Shell says:

    I do hope you are much better. That cake looks wonderful – so sorry you are sick.

  14. Mrs Ergul says:

    Oh Jen, get well soon

  15. Nan says:

    The ER, oh geez…I hope you feel better! Your cake looks like a masterpiece, though!

  16. steph (whisk/spoon) says:

    ack! i hope you are ok! i don’t know that i’d even think to post if i were on my way to the ER, but gosh your cake is a stunner!

  17. Laura @ HungryAndFrozen says:

    Gorgeous cake. Hope you’re doing as okay as is possible :)

  18. Lori says:

    Okay thats devotion. You feel awful and still posted anyhow! Hope you are alright!

  19. amanda says:

    I hope everything is going ok! your cake picture is simple and exqusite but having you home safe and sound is a big must :)

  20. Elizabeth says:

    The photo is gorgeous, and your devotion is delightful. My 16yo daughter said “she posted before going to the er?!” “yes” I said “she (that would be you, Jen) is so clever and has this blogging thing down so thoroughly I bet it did not take much time at all”

    But, all that aside, you really must let us know you are okay fairly quickly* or we will start to worry.
    (*I am aware that turn around time at a typical er is easily 8 hours so “fairly quickly” is a relative term. )

    God bless,


  21. the_housewife says:

    You made that while you felt ill? Kudos, girl! It’s gorgeous!
    Get well soon :)

  22. Gretchen Noelle says:

    No need to apologize! Take care of yourself. Your cake looks gorgeous and impressive.

  23. Ginny says:

    Oh No! I think we can wait! You need to take care of yourself and get well! That slice looks divine! yummy!

  24. karen says:

    I hope are are well soon. Beautiful cake!

  25. Amy says:

    Waiting anxiously for an update – hope you are okay!

  26. Phyllis says:

    Hope you are alright.

  27. Tartelette says:

    Cake can wait! Hope you are ok.

  28. Lisa says:

    Hope you’re alright! I can’t believe you even posted a photo first… wow.

    Beautiful cake, though.

  29. Cynthia says:

    You’re the best Jen, and so is that cake. Be better soon.

  30. Jamie in Las Vegas says:


    That’s true devotion. Hope you’re on the mend soon. You know we’ll all be wondering how you are and hoping for a speedy recovery.

    Please feel better and post soon,


  31. Judy (Judy's Gross Eats) says:

    I really hope you’ll be ok. You are definitely in my thoughts.

  32. Jen says:

    you’re amazing, the ER?
    you’re opera is amazing, it looks fantastic.
    Oh, and take care of yourself!

  33. Maja says:

    I hope you’re feeling better! The cake is lovely and you are just unbelivable, i hope to read you real real soon! xoxooxoxox

  34. Rosa says:

    Your cake looks fantastic and ever so perfect!

    I hope you’re feeling a lot better now!



  35. Woolly says:

    I’ve been MIA for awhile and I just got back and read all your posts…
    I’ll be thinking of ya and hoping your ok.
    get better soon!

  36. Nicisme says:

    Hope you are soon on the mend, and the cake looks divine!

  37. Sarah says:

    Hope you feel better soon…your cake looks amazing, as usual!

  38. Patricia Scarpin says:

    Get better soon, dear.
    That is a spectacular cake.

  39. Amy says:

    Well wishes. Get better soon!!

  40. Susan says:

    Jen, be better soon. We’ll be here drooling until you get back.

  41. Lan says:

    feel well soon!

  42. Pam says:

    Beautiful cake… Hope you are feeling better!

  43. Susan says:

    what a beautiful cake. you never cease to amaze me!
    hope you feel better soon!

  44. Lucy says:

    Please come back soon and let us know you’re ok!

  45. HoneyB says:

    I hope your better soon and its nothing too serious! Your cake looks lovely. I can’t wait to read about it!

  46. Jenn says:

    Feel better, Jen!! Your cake looks amazing! I wish I was that talented in the kitchen!! :)

  47. cindy says:

    Oh Jeez. You photographed and posted on your way out the door to the ER?? That is so you. Take care of yourself so you are around to post the recipe. We’ve got opera going on at our house, and this would be a very appropriate dessert.

  48. Meeta says:

    Oh Jenny I really hope you feel better soon. I warmest thoughts and wishes are with you and if it helps a few hugs too. That opera looks great. But come back soon and tell us about it!

  49. Anya says:

    Jen – I hope you feel better soon. Sending warm thoughts and wishes to you. XoXOxo

  50. SallyBR says:

    Thinking of you, hoping you will be back soon in perfect health….

    Take care of yourself…

  51. Gabi says:

    Oh Jen- I hope you feel better- I send you a loving hug and will come back soon to check in.
    Take care of yourself xoxox

  52. Amy says:

    Take care dear! We’ll be waiting for you. <3

  53. Asianmommy says:

    Wow–that looks so good! Hope you feel better soon!

  54. Barbara says:

    Oh no, I hope you’re doing ok.

    Your cake is beautiful.

  55. Kevin says:

    Looks great! I hope you feel better soon!

  56. Bri says:

    Oh dear, I hope you’re feeling better soon Jen! Please let us know when you’re doing better, I for one will be worrying about you until then. *hugs*

  57. Isa says:

    Oh.. whatever is wrong with you, I hope you overcome it soon!! Best wishes :):):)

  58. caroline says:

    Yikes, Jen. I hope you’re okay! *hugs* The cake looks gorgeous and delicious!!

  59. Martin says:

    Not that I don’t like your posts, or anything (everything you post seems to be great!), but do take care of yourself. Pictures of a cake can wait. Hope you’re feeling better soon. Can’t wait for you to be back. Best wishes from your Swedish fan!

    (sorry if this became a double-post… my browser is acting up)

  60. kathi says:

    Delurking to say that I hope you are feeling better soon! And yep, the cake is lovely and looks yummy…

  61. AranciOnissimA says:

    very geometric, seem delicious

  62. fanny says:

    oh Jen, I do hope it isn’t too bad. your cake truly looks wonderful, but right now all my thoughts go to you.

    xxxxxxxxxxx fanny

  63. Eileen says:

    I checked first thing this morning to see if you’re back in the pink. Oh no. I’m sad, and hope you’re feeling better soon! Your cake is amazing, by the way, reflecting both your artist and your scientist sides. So precise, so beautiful.

  64. marion-il en faut peu pour ... says:

    I hope ypu’re feeling better now :) you’ve done a fantastic job, as usual !

  65. Sheltie Girl says:

    You did a wonderful job on your cake. It’s simply beautiful. I hope you feel better soon.

    Natalie @ Gluten a Go Go

  66. megan says:

    Hope every thing is O.K. Feel better soon.
    BTW, Your cake is beautiful!
    In your in my thoughts and prayers.

  67. manggy says:

    Hi Jen, I wrote you an e-mail, but I will say this:
    that Opera looks about as perfect as an Opera can be. Louis Clichy would have been proud.
    *Hugs!* I hope you recover quickly and with nary a scratch.

  68. Susan at StickyGooeyCreamyChewy says:

    Don’t worry about the cake. Just take care of yourself! Although, it does look really beautiful! Sending big hugs and prayers your way. Get well!

  69. Sam says:

    Geez, 68 nibbles?? I don’t even know 68 people! You’re like super popular blogosphere woman ;)


  70. Tanya says:

    Your cake is absolutely beautiful!

  71. Shari says:

    Hope you’re ok. Your cake looks amazing.
    Shari@Whisk: a food blog

  72. Graeme says:

    Good to see you back.
    Don’t do that again. Don’t make me come over there and sort you out.

  73. Maja says:

    So glad to see you’re back! :D I shouted “Jen’s back” to my bf as soon as i opened your blog! I totally agree with you about the white chocolate, it sucks! :) Anyway, glad you’re ok, no more scaring us like that, ok? :)

  74. Shoshanna says:

    Yay! You are back! I totally agree with the white chocolate….meh. Now I can stop my obsessive checking of your blog…hope you don’t have some sort of IP tracker….*whistle* haha

  75. Tartelette says:

    Thank you for the update…the cake was worth the wait! Fabulous!..I love everything about it :)

  76. SallyBR says:

    Even though my feelings are terribly hurt

    —-> I L O V E White chocolate <—-

    I don t mind, I am just thrilled to know you are back and healthy!

  77. Jenny says:

    Hooray – you are back and well!!!

  78. Mrs Ergül says:

    Great to see you back in action! I can finally heave a sigh of relief. We share the same dislike for white chocolate hoho

  79. KatieC says:

    You’re so fancy. It looks de-lish. Tonight, I burned cookies from dough that I bought in a tube.

  80. Jaime says:

    i’m glad that you are ok!!

    your opera cake is beautiful…not sure how you could get the glaze much thinner than you did!?

  81. White On Rice Couple says:

    You’re so inspiring. I’d be full out rested on the couch after a ER visit like you had. But you still find the time and energy to cook, bake and grill. And ….ski too. I wanna be just like you. ;) . Diane

  82. marye says:

    Beautiful job. :)Glad you are feeling better.

  83. linda says:

    Sorry you were feeling so ill! Hope you’re feeling better now.
    Your Opera cake looks just perfect! I’m a big fan of white chocolate but thought it was too much combined with the rich buttercream.

  84. Ivonne says:

    You most certainly are Daring … and you’re also very talented! Those layers are so neat and perfect!!! Glad to hear that you’re feeling better!

  85. bee says:

    dear jen, i am so delighted to discover your blog/s. they are all so endearing and beautiful.

  86. Dolores says:

    I’m glad to read that you seem to be trending in a positive direction. I so admire your determination… you clearly carry the daring baker spirit into everything that you do. Glorious opera gateaux. Bravisimo!

  87. Rebecca says:

    How did you find the energy? Absolutely beautiful!

  88. jenyu says:

    Thanks all for the good wishes. They worked! I’m much better now and feeling pretty spankin’ good as well. xxoo

  89. kellypea says:

    You’ve got me bawlin’ ovah heah…counting my blessings and shaking my head with amazement at your energy and spirit. Over the opera cake? Well, it’s beautiful, but I started two entries or so before it and kept reading. Now I’m headed to Bri’s…

  90. Christine says:

    Jen – this version of your opera is so nice. I love hazelnut too. I’ve been looking for a good recipe for biscuit joconde. I’m sorry if I missed this in your post, but would you say about this recipe for the joconde – a keeper?
    Oh, and you know I’ve got to love the orange zest garnish :)

  91. jenyu says:

    Christine – I like the jaconde, but it was a little finicky since I baked two pans in the oven at once. My oven is not so cooperative that way. I think the jaconde would have baked more evenly with one pan at a time. it’s definitely easier than using chiffon cake like i did last time.

  92. Daring Bakers February 2011|Panna Cotta and Florentines! | Bake Like A Ninja says:

    […] I first joined the Daring Bakers*, it was because of this post – this is a step by step, beautifully photographed and gorgeously detailed account of making […]

  93. Caroline says:

    thanks for the recipe, i am doing this opera cake since the last two year now , and every time it is a hit, the only change i do is for the Glaze , i use semi sweet chocolat instead of white chocolat , have already try the white chocolat glaze and dont like the taste , and this is personal to me , i like the semi sweet chocolat better :-)
    but for the hazelnut butter cream this is the best buttercream i ever taste …
    Thanks again for sharing ur recipe

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