….and I play the triangle….because I can’t carry a tune, which really is funny. No, no, really, I find it really funny that I can’t sing or barely remember three notes on a piano considering that thanks to Mr.Tartelette being a musician, I had no problem finding sheet music, a trombone, a flute, a guitar and a violin lying around the house making it easy to take pictures or get inspired when Ivonne and Lisa , along with Shea from Whiskful and Fran from Apple Peaches Pumpkin Pie announced that the Daring Bakers challenge for May was "The Opera". Early on, I started humming Madame Butterfly and Carmen which greatly influenced the decorations on the cake: lovely "tuile/tulip" butterflies for the former and shapely upside down legs in the cake. Mid-month I was not humming so much anymore as I was making the original Opera for hundreds at work. I was on a mission though…
The Daring Bakers' Opera this month is dedicated to Barbara of Winos And Foodies. Over the last couple of years, Barbara and I have become closer than just blogging acquaintances often sharing very private which each other. As Ivonne and Lisa put it "Barbara is the force behind the food blog event called A Taste of Yellow that supports the LiveSTRONG foundation started by Lance Armstrong. This year’s LiveStrong Day is in May so we decided that we could show our support by dedicating our respective challenge posts to Barbara." For that matter we were asked to keep our challenges yellow or white…my finished cake turned out both depending on the light but some of the ingredients were definitely yellow to start with. Thank you ladies for a brilliant challenge and idea! To check our wonderful Daring Bakers' creations, head over to the blogroll, you won’t be disappointed!
Barbara…I would love to sing you an Opera but if you knew how badly I sing you’d be much happier eating a bite of the one I made! This one is for you my dear dear friend! I am like you: "a cook who cannot sing who married a musician who cannot cook". If only I could give you a hug and thank you for the words of wisdom and comfort you have spoken in my ears since we "met" through Blogging By Mail… Remember I told you your dancing shoes picture was part of my screen saver mosaic? Well…I’d like to think these are the sexy legs that go along with them. You are a true inspiration of strength and compassion, humor and wit. Love you!
I looked at the recipe provided by Ivonne and Lisa and the variations allowed (we could use different recipes as long as the outcome remained white or light colored) and let my mind sing me an Opera for a change…I got inspired by the flavors of my native Provence: orange, honey and lavender and incorporated those ingredients at different stages of the cake. I cannot take credit for the leg shaped tuiles as I had seen them done by a French blogger (original post here) 2 or 3 years ago but the funky idea stuck in my head thinking the right time would come along to play with it. I use tuile butterflies and other shapes a lot at work since it is easier to keep stable with the humidity here. Once I have the cookies and shapes made, I dry them off a bit in a low temperature oven to keep them crispy longer, much easier than blooming chocolate or limping caramel.
I did halve the recipe for the cake base, the Joconde, as there was just the two of us around in the neighborhood that weekend (really strange feeling by the way when you know our street) and added a good dose of orange zest. For the buttercream, I went with a Italian meringue based buttercream I had used in a Swiss Roll and replaced some of the sugar with honey and added some vanilla bean paste (thank you Holly!). I infused the syrup used to soak the cake to keep it moist and flavorful with lavender. We were given the option of adding a light colored mousse to the top of the cake before adding the glaze and here again I used a favorite recipe of mine, a soft and light (although rich) lavender infused mousse. I am a little weary of white chocolate as a glaze as I often find it cloyingly sweet so I made this one very very thin, just to brush the cake off with a nice sheen and slide off the sides.
For the cake (Joconde)
6 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 tbsp. (30 grams) granulated sugar
2 cups (225 grams) ground blanched almonds
2 cups icing sugar, sifted
6 large eggs
½ cup (70 grams) all-purpose flour
2 Tb orange zest
3 tbsp. (1½ ounces; 45 grams) 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 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 (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 orange zest and beat on low speed until the flour is just combined. 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.
For the syrup:
½ cup (125 grams) water
⅓ cup (65 grams) granulated sugar
1 to 2 tbsp. food grade lavender buds
Stir all the syrup ingredients together in the saucepan and bring to a boil.Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.
For the buttercream:
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup water
3 sticks of butter (Butter should be soft but nor mushy, around 65F)
1 Tb vanilla bean paste
In a stand mixer or with a hand held one, whip the egg yolks for a minute.
Boil water, honey and sugar until the temperature reaches 238F on a candy thermometer.
Slowly pour the hot sugar syrup over the egg yolks on a steady stream, continue beating the yolks until pale in color and cooled. Beat in the softened butter until the buttercream is smooth a
and together. Add the vanilla bean paste, beat a few extra seconds until incorporated.
Caramel Lavender Mousse:(makes 5 cups as written)
Note: have the cake cut and ready to be assembled before you make the mousse
6 egg yolks
pinch of salt
1 packet unflavored gelatin
3/4 cup water, divided
1 cup sugar
2 Tb food grade lavender buds
2 cups heavy cream
The day before of a few hours before you start: combine the lavender and heavy cream in a heavy saucepan and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat and let the lavender infuse the cream. Let sit for 30 minutes. Strain the buds out and refrigerate the cream until completely cold.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the egg yolks and the salt. In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over 1/4 cup water, and let it sit while you make the caramel.
Combine the sugar and 1/4 cup water in a heavy saucepan. Cover and bring to a rapid boil over medium high heat (prevents crystallization of the sugar on the side of the pan). Once boiling, uncover and cook the sugar until deep golden brown. Turn off the heat and carefully pour 1/4 cup water into the hot caramel. The syrup will bubble and spurt,so stand back. Make sure the water incorporates fully to the syrup. Return to the heat if you get caramel bits and stir until it is one smooth liquid.
Pour the caramel in a container with a spout, it will be easier to add the to the yolks. Pour the caramel slowly and into a steady stream into the egg yolks with the machine running on medium high. Melt the gelatin in the microwave for 10 seconds or into the (now empty) saucepan until dissolved. Add it to the yolk mixture and continue to whisk on medium high until it triples in volume and cools to room temperature.
In a separate bowl, whip the heavy cream to soft peaks. Add it to the mousse base and fold the two gently together. Use within 30 minutes or it will be too set to spread.
For the glaze:
10 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped
½ 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 Opéra 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 x 5-inch (25 x 12½-cm) rectangle.
Place one square of cake on the baking sheet and moisten it gently with the flavoured syrup.
Spread about three-quarters 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 buttercream on the cake and then 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).
Spread the mousse on the top of the last layer of the joconde. Refrigerate for at least two to three hours to give the ganache/mousse the opportunity to firm up.
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.