May 28, 2008

Praline Rooibos Opera Cake

A May Daring Bakers Challenge

This month's challenge was brought to us by Lis of La Mia Cucina, Fran of Apples Peaches Pumpkin Pie, Shea of Whistful and Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice. Our baking this month is dedicated to Barbara of Winos and Foodies, who is no longer an active member of the Daring Bakers, but will always be an honorary Daring Bakers for her bravery and character in the face of a challenge. To our wonderful hostesses, thank you for an incredible frolic in the kitchen. Barbara, thank you for showing us all how to live life with courage and great joy. The lovely Barbara, is the force behind the food blog event called, A Taste of Yellow, it supports the LiveSTRONG Foundation started by Lance Armstrong.

The Opera Cake is an elegant and beautiful French dessert that was believed to have been created around the early 1900s. Many people credit Louis Clichy with inventing the cake that is sometimes referred to as the Clichy Cake. This recipe is based on the Opera Cake recipes in Dorie Greenspan's Paris Sweets and Tish Boyle & Timothy Moriarty's Chocolate Passion.

I had a great deal of fun making this recipe, making New Orlean style pecan pralines, roasting pecans for pecan meal, making syrup and joconde. My children weren't thrilled in the beginning with this recipe, but they quickly came around when they tasted the cake. A light and moist sponge cake, it is delicious alone and with the buttercream. The ones I made for my husband and myself had the extra layer of the white chocolate mousse made with honey, Rooibos tea, and Jack Daniels. Alas, there isn't much of this cake left over. The Opera Cake is a thoroughly delightful recipe and one I'll make again.


Joconde, The Cake Layer
3 large egg whites
1/2 cup almond meal
1/2 cup pecan meal *
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
3 large eggs
1 tsp chia seed meal
2 Tb brown rice flour
2 Tb sweet rice flour
1 1/2 Tb vegetable shortening, melted

1. Divide your oven into thirds by positioning a rack in the upper third of the oven and the lower third of the oven. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and line a jelly roll pan (15 1/2 x 10 1/2 x 1) with parchment paper.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, or a mixing bowl (if you are using a hand mixer), beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Add the granulated sugar and beat until the peaks are stiff and glossy.

3. Change to the paddle attachment, and beat in the almond and pecan meal, icing sugar and eggs on medium speed until light, about 3 minutes.

4. Slowly add the flour and beat on low speed just until it is combined. Be careful not to over mix.

5. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the meringue into the nut mixture and then fold in the melted shortening. Spread the batter, evenly to cover the entire surface of the pan.

6. Place the pan in the middle of the oven. Bake until the cake layers are lightly browned and just springy to the touch, about 5 to 9 minutes. Note: I baked mine for 9 minutes.)

7. Place the pan on a heatproof surface, then loosen the cake from the pan. Cover the cake with a piece of parchment paper and lay a cookie sheet upside down on top of the paper and the jellyroll pan. Turn the pan with the cake in it over and remove the jellyroll pan. Carefully peel away the parchment paper from the cake and then cover the cake with it. Note: You may need to hold the cake down with your finger tips as you ease away the parchment paper. Allow the cake to cool until it is room temperature.

* Pecan Meal - I made pecan meal by roasting pecan halves on a cookie sheet in the oven for 15 minutes at 325 degrees. Then I dumped them into the bowl of the food processor along with 2 Tbs of arrowroot starch and processing until the nuts became a fine meal.

Syrup for Joconde

1/4 cup water
3 Tb cane sugar
1/2 to 1 Tb mesquite honey

1. Stir all the syrup ingredients together in the sauce pan and bring to a boil.

2. Remove from the heat and allow to cool until it is room temperature.

Butter Cream Layer

1 cup cane sugar
1/4 cup water
2 Tb crushed pecan pralines *
1 egg, beaten
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup vegetable shortening **
1/4 cup coconut oil/butter
2 Tb cocoa butter, melted

1. Combine the sugar, water and praline in a small saucepan and warm over medium heat just until the sugar dissolves.

2. Continue to cook, without stirring, until the syrup reaches 225 degrees Fahrenheit on a candy or instant read thermometer. Then remove from the heat.

3. 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. Whisk the eggs until they are pale and foamy.

4. When the sugar syrup reaches the correct temperature, reduce the mixer speed to low and very slowly pour the syrup down the side of the bowl. Be 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 it as it will harden.

5. Raise the mixer speed to medium high and continue beating until the eggs are thick, satiny and cool to the touch (about 5 minutes).

6. Reduce the mixer speed to medium and add the vegetable shortening and cocoa butter. Once the shortening, coconut oil and cocoa butter are incorporated, raise the mixer speed to high and beat until the buttercream is thick and shiny.

7. Refrigerate the buttercream, stirring it often, until it's set and firm enough to spread when topped with a layer of cake (about 20 minutes). Note: You may need to chill your buttercream for a longer period of time before it firms up enough to spread.

* Praline - I made New Orlean's style pecan pralines for this recipe and then chopped them. The recipe comes from Sherry Yard's The Secret of Baking. This recipe will be my next blog post and will be posted on Friday, June 1st.

** You can substitute butter or all vegetable shortening in this recipe.

White Chocolate Ganache/Mousse Layer

3.5 oz white chocolate, chopped finely
1/4 cup very strong Rooibos tea *
1/2 Tb mesquite honey
1 Tb Jack Daniels Old No. 7 Tennessee Sour Mash Whiskey
5 Tb vegetable shortening
2 1/2 Tb cocoa butter

1. Dump the white chocolate, Rooibos tea and cocoa butter in a small sauce pan. Then gently stirring together until the chocolate and cocoa butter melts and to keep it smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, pour in the melted chocolate mixture. Begin beating on medium speed, until the mixture is creamy. Then dump in the honey, whiskey and shortening and continue beating until the mixture is fluffy.

3. Refrigerate until you are ready to use. Note: You may need to set the mousse out to warm up in order to spread it.

* Rooibos Tea - It is a tea made from the leaves of the Rooibos bush from South Africa. I used 3 tea bags to 1/3 cup of water make the very strong tea. If you cannot find Rooibos tea, you could substitute Honeybush tea for it. Or you could use 1/4 cup of almond milk or heavy cream instead.

Glaze for Top of Cake

7 oz white chocolate
1 Tb very strong Rooibos tea *
2 Tb vegetable shortening
2 Tb cocoa butter

1. Melt the white chocolate, Rooibos tea and cocoa butter, stirring until melted.

2. Let cool for 10 minutes and then pour over the chilled cake. Smooth with a spatula to get a smooth and even layer.

3. Place the cake in the refrigerator until set.

* Rooibos Tea - * Rooibos Tea - It is a tea made from the leaves of the Rooibos bush from South Africa. I used 3 tea bags to 1/3 cup of water make the very strong tea. If you cannot find Rooibos tea, you could substitute Honeybush tea for it. Or you could use 1 Tb almond milk or heavy cream instead.

Assembly of the Opera Cake

1. Cut strips of parchment paper that are the width of the roll of the parchment paper and 4 inches wide. Have some tape ready to hold the parchment paper together around the cake.

2. Cut out circles of the cake using a round pastry ring or cookie cutter. Using a pastry brush, paint one side of each cake round with the honey syrup.

3. Then set the parchment paper around the cake in a tube and tape to hold the tube shape.

4. Spoon some buttercream on top of the cake round and smooth until the mixture is even. Then ease into the tube another cake layer. Spoon the mousse mixture on top of this cake layer and spread evenly. Set another cake layer into the tube and cover with a layer of buttercream.

5. Place the cake into the refrigerator to chill for at least 30 minutes before glazing. When the buttercream is firm, pour the glaze on top. Then set the cake back into the refrigerator to chill.

6. Top with powdered sugar, colored powdered sugar and a white chocolate treble clef.


Cheryl Harris said...

how absolutely lovely. did you use a mini round pan or did you cut them? Either way, I'm glad it came out so well and it was fun baking with you!

glamah16 said...

Beautiful I the toaste pecans/prailens, and rooibos tea sound amazing.You need your own Gluten Free cookbook.

LizNoVeggieGirl said...

I KNEW that I could count on you to create a truly innovative, beautiful dessert for this month's Daring Bakers Challenge - LOOOVE your variation on the opera cake!!

Anonymous said...

Ooh, your cake is very pretty - I love the pink and gold combo. And the little treble clef is a cute touch, too!
Anne :)

Aparna Balasubramanian said...

A perfect cake, truly. And an unusual combination of flavours.
If I could get the alternative ingredients here, I would definitely try this version.

Jen said...

Rooibos...brilliant! It looks beautiful!

Vegan_Noodle said...

Looks beautiful!! I love the addition of pecan meal, mostly cuz I love pecans in just about anything!
Thanks so much for all your support on the Alternative DB forum this month (for all of us). Also looking forward to next month's bake along :-)

Anonymous said...

This is so beautiful, and I just love your flavour choices! You're inspiration for me! :)

Esther said...

oh pecans and praline sound great. I've never had Rooibos tea so can't really imagine what those layers taste like but it looks great. I love this cake was nut based it give so many more options to mix things up.

linda said...

Beautiful Opera cake! Did you taste the rooibos tea? Love the combination of flavours you chose.

Anonymous said...

Rooibis sounds delightful (as does the Jack Daniels). It was fun baking with you this month. Great work!

Rachel said...

Thanks Natalie!
I must admit, your cake is drop dead gorgeous. Better than anything I could ever imagine to purchase at a store.
Good job. Very creative =]

Christine said...

Oh praline and jack daniels sounds wonderful! Love the minis great job!

Sophie said...

This is so sweet :). I love the pale pink and yellow, plus, the flavor combo is so unique. I bet it even smells wonderful, with the tea and all. Great job :).

Dianne's Dishes said...

Your cake looks beautiful!

Rachel said...


Love the platter...

Kiandra said...

oh my land these sound so good! i love pecans...i can't wait to get my braces off this i can really indulge and stop sneaking in pieces...

kudos for some really different flavors...i bet they were really good.

your cake looks beautiful and i love the plate...the gold is such a nice touch.

thanks for stopping by!

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Love your photo of the cake! Almond and pecan with your praline and Rooibos tea (had to look that one up, now have it on my ever growing list of things to look for) great flavor combination. I did like this joconde cake layer, I really hadn't done anything with so little flour and mostly nuts before.

Venus ~ Vi said...

Wow, you took it way beyond the given basic recipe! This Praline Rooibos creation is so innovative! Hat off to you!!!

Emilia said...

The cake looks very pretty and I especially like the delicate colors.

That taste combination is innovative and probably very delicious, I never thought of using rooibos like that.

I always enjoy seeing your taste combinations since they are so creative :)

Half Baked said...

Beautiful cake and wonderful flavor combos! Nice job:)

Anonymous said...

How lovely! I love the shape and treble clef. Kudos for creating such a beautiful cake gluten-free!

Sea said...

So beautiful! I wasn't up for the challenge this time (not feeling great) but you did such a wonderful job. Gorgeous!!!


Anonymous said...

BRAVO!! - what an inspired flavour combination, I love it - I bet it was delicious...very nice!! :)

Y said...

Rooibos and Jack Daniels! That's probably the most unique opera cake flavour I've ever heard of :) I like the pink sprinkles and the musical note as well.

Shandy said...

What a terrific flavor combination! Your little opera cake is absolutely beautiful and I love the way that you cut the the little cakes into circles. . .a very nice touch =D.

BitterSweet said...

Beautiful cake, and I love the idea of using praline and tea together!

creampuff said...

I'm always so impressed by how you come up with so many incredible alternatives. The end result is so pretty!

Amy J. said...

What a beautiful job, and an awesome flavor combo! :)

Miss Ifi said...

That is such a gorgeous cake!!! I love the combination of colours and the plate!!! wow.. beautiful!

Anonymous said...

This is one creative - innovative - artistic - beautiful cake! You did a great job. Love your presentation!

Dolores said...

I love your cajun touch and your secret ingredient (Jack makes lots of things better). Great job!

iTink said...

great sounding flavours!

Unknown said...

I would have never though of putting the tea and Jack Daniels together...I am intrigued! I know that this month dedication was special for you two. *hugs*

Dana McCauley said...

rooibos tea - fun idea! I went for orange (in the form of grand marnier) and raspberry in my OC. I would have like to have tried a bite of yours!

Anonymous said...

yay for pink sugar!!!

dailydelicious said...

Really lovely and interesting.

Candace said...

Nice flavoring idea... beautiful cake and pic!

Gabi said...

Praline and Rooibos are an inspired combination- you are so creative!!!

I am so impressed with your mad baking skills and beautiful presentation as well :)

Deborah said...

Your cake is just gorgeous! Great job!

The Cooking Ninja said...

oooooh... simply delicious! :) Bravo!

Anonymous said...

This is sooo beautiful! I love the round shape too!

Anonymous said...

oh my goodness! your flavor combinations were genius and your cake looks amazing! I aspire to your level of DB greatness!

Naomi Devlin said...

What a cake! Pecan Praline and Rooibos sounds so sophisticated. Nice to see a nut rich cake too. Top marks!

x x x

Cakelaw said...

What a terrific flavour combination, and the presentation of your cake is just gorgeous!

Elle said...

Roobios, honey, pecans and Jack wonder theres not much cake left. They sound super delicious! I love the way you decoreated them, too.

Wendy said...

Your cake looks so sweet! I love that side dusting of colored powdered sugar! Jack Daniels and rooibos takes the award for original flavor combinations. I have never had a rooibos but must try it soon. I felt confined by not being able to use chocolate or coffee - you face this kind of challenge daily - you are an inspiration. Great challenge. Wendy

Barbara said...

Your cake is just so pretty! Love the praline flavoring you chose.

Shari@Whisk: a food blog said...

I've visited lots of opera cakes over the last week, and you're the first rooibos-flavored one I've come across. Very unique. The praline sounds good too - I like a bit of crunch in a dessert. A very pretty cake too with the piped treble clef.
Shari@Whisk: a food blog

Miss Diane said...

It sure was a challenge for you to make this cake without gluten. Congratulations, it looks sumptuous!

BC said...

This was a great gluten free challenge.

Jack Daniels and Rooibus! You win for most adventurous.