Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Daring Bakers - May '08 Challenge!

Miiiiiiiiiii mi mi mi mi mi mi mi mi mi!!!!! *cough* Ahem. That's me getting ready for the opera - no, not a REAL opera (I can sing, but not like that!) - an opera cake!

This month is a first for the Daring Bakers - typically there are one or two hosts each month, but this time we have four! Lis of La Mia Cucina and Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice, DB's co-founders, along with Fran of Apples Peaches Pumpkin Pie and Shea of Whiskful (a.k.a. The Fearsome Foursome, LOL).

I had seen pictures of an opera cake before, but it looked pretty intimidating. I remember thinking, 'Well, there's something I'll never make.' This, however, was way before I became a Daring Baker! So when I saw our May challenge I was intrigued and kinda nervous. I was also excited because this month is dedicated to Barbara of winos and foodies. I don't know Barbara, but she is a formerly active and always honorary Daring Baker. If Lis and Ivonne honor her, then I do as well. :) Here's to you, Barbara! :)

Now, on to L'Opera! One of our rules was that we not use any "dark" colors or flavors - no brown chocolate, coffee flavoring, etc. - the colors had to be light. I chose to do a Vanilla-Lavender cake with Lavender-Caramel just looked so wonderful. Plus, I have some culinary lavender that a friend gave me which I really need to use! It was easy to make, in light of the fact that I couldn't find my THERMOMETER....which Hubby claims HE hasn't seen in a long time. Yeah, sure, I can tell you the last time *I* saw it -- when I got it from our deck, where it had been sitting on our grill, exposed to the elements. I was just lucky the sucker worked after that. Anyway, I kind of eyeballed it and imagined that something would have to cook a good little while to get to 305 degrees, did a little dropping into water (having minimal knowledge about soft ball, hard ball, soft crack, etc.) and it actually turned out all right!

OK, that was a complete understatement -- the stuff was totally FAB! Eat it with a spoon. Mmmmmm.....

The white chocolate mousse was really easy, too. I like white chocolate fine, especially combined with other things - but if I needed a chocolate fix I wouldn't even look the way of white chocolate. However, I have to say that the white chocolate ganache with lavender-vanilla whipped cream folded in is heavenly! I could never seem to get a smooth texture; I made the ganache first and put it into the fridge, which meant I then had to heat it back up a little to mix it with the whipped cream. Sounds easy, right? Ohhhh nooooooo, I left the ganache in the microwave a little too long so it got bubbling HOT. I stirred it up (it had a lot of grease going on that I had to try and incorporate back in) and put it into the freezer for a couple of minutes to get COOL again. I almost waited too long; the edges were starting to solidify, but I said 'screw it' and mixed it in, anyway. It had little chunks of white chocolate, which I felt would give it "character".

So it was soon after this that I got into my "dumb-butt" mode (ohhhh no, I've not arrived THERE yet). I decided to finish up the cake on a Saturday afternoon when we were having friends over for supper and was trying to rush through the last couple of steps and finish cleaning the house too. Thought I'd impress them with my Opera Cake Skills. Whooo boy! All those fears I'd ever had about the presentation of this art project came to fruition as my Opera Cake became a big sloppy mess right in front of my eyes, as I baked and assembled it!

#1, I reduced the cake recipe and thought I'd be all cool by pouring the batter all into one pan. Big mistake! I pulled it out when it started to turn brown, messed with it a little, and realized the center was still very goopy. Damn! I also realized that my melted butter was sitting there on the counter. Double damn! I fixed it, and back into the oven it went; it came back out looking rather lumpy on the top due to my fooling around with the top and stirring in the butter. When I took it out the second time it was done, and I cut it in half and then halved those 2 pieces horizontally (playing upon my Perfect Party Cake experience *cough*) to have 4 layers and a rectangular cake.

#2 - The buttercream.....apparently needed to be chilled more.
#3 - The mousse.....clearly needed to have been room temp.
#4 - The glaze.....dripped over the sides in the same manner as the buttercream!
(Shall I go on? LOL)

I came out with this lumpy-looking creation that - while extremely tasty, and raved over by adult and child guests alike - was nothing near the beautiful pictures at which I had gazed so fondly for the last several weeks. I will admit that the flavors were heavenly, though!

Sad, droopy, and dripping (but yummy)! LOL

Inside view, after we cut into it

Cake: Almond-Vanilla Joconde
Syrup: Lavender-Vanilla
Buttercream: Lavender-Caramel with Vanilla
Mousse: Lavender-Infused White Chocolate
Glaze: Lavender-Caramel with White Chocolate

This was the best picture I could get - makes ya kind of forget the big sloppy cake, doesn't it?

Well, doesn't it?! :>

I really DO want to try this again, though, and I'm so glad that this was our challenge since, as I said before, I'd never have attempted this on my own. I loved the light version but would love to try the traditional version, too! My biggest lesson learned, in Simon and Garfunkel style: "Slow down, you move too fast...." :D

Check out other Daring Bakers' more beautiful creations here. Many thanks to the Fearsome Foursome, and here's to you, Barbara!


Anna Kline said...

that looks wonderful. rich and flavorful. YUM!

Anonymous said...

You can tell that your cak was made with love - the most important ingredient! Tres belle!

xoxox Amy

chriesi said...

oooh gimme a fork...yummmy :)

Marie said...

I love your flavor profile. I bet it tasted terrific!

Anonymous said...

I found this month's challenge pretty challenging too:) At least our cakes tasted great:)

Sheltie Girl said...

You did a great job on your cake. This was a fun challenge wasn't it.

Natalie @ Gluten a Go Go

Christine said...

You did a great job!

Jen said...

Hi Amy- I'm glad your cake was still tasty... I've never used lavender in baking. Does it actually have a taste or does the cake just smell like it? (I'm sorry if this is a sort of silly question but I am actually really curious).

Gabi said...

Those flavours sound wonderful together-mmmm!
I am a member of the Simon Garfunkel school of wisdom too- I constantly have to remind myself to get into the groove and slow down and work through the process.
I love the picture on the green plate yummy!

By the way we have a few smart cars around town here- waiting for more :)

Natashya said...

Just stick it in a bowl and call it an opera trifle. Looks yummy.

Rachel said...

Love your flavours..I love your spirit of wanting to try again

Lori said...

I love your button on DB. "Hello my name is, Inego Montoya,,, " I just laughed. Great movie, huh?

pixie said...

I am so intrigued by the lavender/vanilla whipped cream. It sounds positively divine!

Sass E-mum said...

It's like two world's collided - opera cake and tiramisu.


bonnie said...

awesome~ i enjoyed reading your post.
you are so funny.
it does look yummy.

chriesi said...

Hey Amy :)
I have tagged you in my blog.

Ami said...

Awww...I totally know how you feel when you work so hard to make something and the end result...well, let's just say it has a wonderful personality!

Nice job--we'll keep struggling on together.

Lore said...

Hi Amy!

I really like the lavender touch, will have to give that a try. You know there's something I've learned from experience: the prettiest is not necessarily the yummiest. Just browsing through the ingredients convinced me that your cake is surely yummy :)

Barbara said...

Like the old saying goes: You can't judge a book by it's cover. Glad it tasted good.

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

It looks super yummy and I love your flavors!

Anonymous said...

Vanilla, lavender and caramel, it was delish, and that's the main thing! :)

Kitchen Vixen said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving such kind words! I'm a firm believer in that fact that food doesn't have to look good to be delicious, and would accept a slice of that cake any day.

Shari said...

Lavender and caramel sound like a nice combination of flavors. Great job!
Shari@Whisk: a food blog

Claire said...

Those flavors sound great and I really enjoyed your write-up. My opera cake was nothing like the more beutiful creations either.

Jenny said...

I love the combination of lavender and caramel. And who cares how it looks, I say!

creampuff said...


Beauty is in the eye of the beholder! As long as it tasted great, that's all that counts. Nice job!

Leslie said...

As long as you did you best that is all that matters. Goodness, I sound like my mom!
Thanks for visiting my site! You are welcome back anytime!!!!!!!
BTW..where is that picture taken from at the top of your blog? It looks like such a beautiful place!