Possessing an attention span that can barely stretch through any movie of average length, I’ve honestly never felt compelled to go see any sort of opera. However, I think I’ve found one version that I can not only stand, but enjoy; The kind made of cake and buttercream! This is one dessert that I’ve been itching to make for ages, but there was simply never an occasion to go out on a limb and try it. Traditionally composed of 3 layers of almond cake soaked in coffee syrup, layered with coffee buttercream, one tier of chocolate mousse and a final topping of chocolate ganache, this assembly is nothing to shake a whisk at. Of course, now that the Daring Bakers have taken the reins on this project, I had to change things up a bit. There was to be no coffee, no dark chocolate- No dark colors of any kind were allowed. Any flavors would do, as long as they fell on the lighter end of the color spectrum.
Put off by these restrictions at first, I whined to myself about how this wouldn’t be a true opera cake… But my enthusiasm soon overruled my stubbornness.
Since this was a complicated ordeal with numerous levels to arrange, I thought about mapping it out before hand. Awed by some drawings made by other pastry chefs, I felt inspired to do the same… But in a medium I was more comfortable in.
My little foam and felt replica turned out to be an invaluable tool when it came time to assemble the many components, even if the proportions were slightly off. For some reason, it seemed like a natural choice to make an Ispahan opera cake, flavored with raspberries, lychees, and rosewater. In case this little picture doesn’t help too much, let me map it all out for you…
…And each layer of cake was to be soaked in lychee syrup. Whew!
Although stressful, the process of making this symphony of flavors was remarkably uneventful. Nothing broke, caught on fire, or exploded in the oven. A good day if you ask me! I was even taking notes so that I could share the recipe… But as always, I got so caught up in the challenge that I eventually forgot to keep jotting down alterations and additions, and my notes remained pages behind me. However, I used the exact same mousse as I featured with my white chocolate post (and used my homemade white chocolate to boot) so that part would be easy enough to replicate. The rest of the cake… Might just be a one-time deal.
Bringing the finished opera cake along for Mother’s Day, I felt almost proud that I could share this decadent dessert with the family that has nurtured me, and encouraged me to reach this point in my pastry “career.”
The final touch was a single raspberry and chocolate piped out into the shape of a treble clef to further the musical theme. Trust me, I had to make many clefs to get enough that were acceptable!
While the cake was a huge hit, what really made the whole project perfect was the fact that I was able to give my felt replica to my [diabetic] Nana. Everyone got to enjoy it, one way or another.
…But that’s not the end of the story yet! There was still extra cake from trimming off the edges, and since things are rarely thrown out in this house, I simply applied a bit of heat to melt down the frosting, mashed it all up, and- Voila! Cake truffles! A quick coat of dark chocolate proved a perfect bittersweet contrast to my ispahan assemblage.
It was a wonderful challenge in just about every way… Now I just need to make the traditional version!