Opera Cake

Opera Cake

Opera Cake

One of Patrick’s favourite things to do in the kitchen is make buttercream and decorate cakes – he even has an entire instagram page devoted to his cake decorations (Check it out here: www.instagram.com/pogicakes). So when we decided to bake a cake for a friend, buttercream was at the forefront of our minds. This decadent cake consists of layers of sponge cake, buttercream and chocolate ganache, topped with a layer of chocolate glaze. We chose to serve our cake sliced, decorated with edible gold paint, but traditionally the cake would be served whole, with the word “Opera” piped on top in chocolate ganache. Either way, it’s a decadent hit of chocolate and coffee goodness best to share with friends so you aren’t tempted to go for a second slice!

Joconde Sponge Cake:

  • 85g   almond meal
  • 75g   icing sugar
  • 25g   plain flour
  • 120g eggs (around 2 medium eggs)
  • 80g   egg whites
  • 10g   caster sugar
  • 30g   butter, melted

Preheat oven to 200°C. Mix together the almonds, icing sugar and flour in a bowl. Add the eggs a little at a time and mix well until the batter becomes smooth and pale. In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites and sugar together until they form stiff peaks. Gently fold the batter into the whipped egg whites, then fold in the melted butter.

Spread the mixture on a baking sheet lined with baking paper to 5mm thickness, smoothing the mixture to ensure an even layer across the baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the cake is golden and firm to the touch. Remove form the baking sheet and cool on a wire rack.

Coffee Buttercream:

  • 5g instant coffee
  • 15ml boiling water
  • 250g sugar
  • 60ml water
  • 90g egg yolks
  • 300g butter, softened
  • 4ml vanilla extract
  1. Dissolve the instant coffee in 15ml of boiling water and set aside to cool.
  2. Combine the sugar and 60ml water in a saucepan and place over a medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Continue to boil until the sugar syrup reaches 115°
  3. While the syrup is boiling, beat the egg yolks until they are thick and pale.
  4. As soon as the syrup reaches 115°C, pour it slowly into the egg yolks, continuing to whisk constantly.
  5. Continue to beat until the mixture has completely cooled. The yolks should be very thick and pale.
  6. Continue beating the mixture as you add the butter a little at a time.
  7. Beat in the vanilla and coffee mixture. If the buttercream is too soft to spread, refrigerate until it becomes firmer.

Dessert Syrup

  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 tsp instant coffee

Combine sugar and water in a saucepan and bring the boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add the coffee and stir well.

Chocolate Ganache

  • 200g dark chocolate, chopped
  • 250g double cream

Melt the chocolate in a bowl set over a hot water bath. Heat the cream and add to the chocolate. Mix well and chill.

Opera Glaze

  • 350g dark chocolate couverture
  • 60g peanut oil

Melt chocolate in a bowl set over a hot water bath. Stir in the oil. Allow to cool a little before using. (Makes a thin coating which sets solid but can easily be cut with a hot knife)

To assemble:

  • Joconde Sponge Cake
  • 50g dark chocolate, melted
  • Dessert Syrup
  • Coffee Buttercream
  • Chocolate Ganache
  • Opera Glaze
  1. Cut the sponge into 3 equal rectangular portions. Spread one piece with a think layer of dark chocolate, then refrigerate to set the chocolate
  2. Remove the chocolate coated sponge from the refrigerator, turn chocolate side down and brush with the Dessert Syrup.
  3. Spread a layer of Coffee Buttercream above the sponge rectangle, about 5mm thick.
  4. Place the second sponge rectangle on top. Brush with the syrup and then spread a thin layer of Chocolate Ganache on top.
  5. Top with the third and final layer of sponge. Brush with the syrup and spread with a layer of Coffee Buttercream, about 5mm thick. Smooth the top carefully with a palette knife.
  6. Refrigerate or freeze until firm. The cake must be quite cold so the warm glaze doesn’t melt the buttercream.
  7. Place the cake on a wire rack over a tray and pour over the warm Opera Glaze. Smooth the surface with a palette knife and refrigerate the cake until the glaze has set.
  8. Remove cake from the rack and trim the sides of the cake with a hot knife.

To Serve:

  • ¼ tsp gold powder
  • ½ tsp gin

If you like, cut the cake into rectangular slices approximately 5cm x 10cm. Mix together the gold powder and gin, and using a fine paintbrush, decorate the top of each slice with a triangle of golden glaze. Use a piece of baking paper cut to purpose as a guide to ensure a uniform triangle on each slice of cake.

Alternatively, using chocolate ganache, you could pipe the word “Opera” onto the top of the entire cake and serve whole.

Louise Cake

20180409_103155Once again we’re adapting a recipe from Ottolenghi and Goh’s Sweet. They in turn have been inspired by the traditional Louise cake from New Zealand, which is a slice with a cake layer topped with raspberry jam and a coconut meringue. Ottolenghi and Goh’s version uses fresh fruit; you could use any stone fruit which is in season, just be sure it’s ripe but not too soft. We love the addition of flaked almonds to the meringue, as it adds a delicious crunch to the fluffy meringue and syrupy fruit. The cake is fairly rich so you could bake it in a square tin and cut into small squares to serve, or bake in a round tin as we did for a more decadent serving.

Ingredients:

  • 125g unslated butter, at room temperature, cut into 2cm cubes
  • 100g caster sugar
  • finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 125g plain flour
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 20g desiccated coconut
  • 80ml whole milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 5 medium plums (450g), ripe but firm (or any stonefruit in season)

For the meringue:

  • 60g flaked almonds
  • 140g egg whites
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 185g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp cornflour

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 170°C/Gas mark 3.
  2. Spread the flaked almonds on a baking tray and toast for 10 minutes, or until they are a light brown colour. Remove from the oven and set aside.
  3. Increase the oven temperature to 185°C/Gas mark 5. Using a 20cm square or 23cm round tin with removable base, line the base and sides with baking paper.
  4. Place the butter, sugar and lemon zest in a bowl and beat together until pale and creamy. Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating until combined. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together into a separate bowl. Add the coconut and stir to combine. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture, beating on a low speed, and alternating with the milk and vanilla. Spoon the batter into the prepared tin and smooth the top. Place in the oven and cook for around 25 minutes. The cake is cooked when a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  5. Slice each plum vertically in half and discard the stones. Slice each half into four segments so you have 8 segments per plum.
  6. Once the cake is cooked, remove from the oven and turn the temperature up to 200°C/Gas mark 6. Place the plum segments on top of the cake, forming a layer of fruit across the surface. Be sure not to overlap the plums though, or the fruit layer will become too watery.
  7. To make the meringue, whisk together the egg whites and salt on a medium-high speed, until soft peaks form. Add the sugar a little at a time, and continue to whisk until the egg whites are stiff and shiny. Add the vanilla, vinegar and cornflour and whisk again until combined. Fold in the toasted almond flakes.
  8. Spoon the meringue into the cake tin, on top of the fruit layer and spread out evenly. Create waves and peaks in the meringue by dabbing a spatula into and out of the mixture. Place in the oven and immediately lower the temperature to 180°C/Gas mark 4. Bake for 35 minutes or until the meringue has formed a hard crust and is just beginning to brown. Remove from the oven and cool the cake in the tin for at least 30 minutes before removing the base of the tin and removing the baking paper to serve.

Lime Yoghurt Cake with Rosewater and Pistachios

IMG_5344We were so impressed with this cake that we decided to include it on our blog even though we hadn’t originally intended to. Ian baked this to take to work for a morning tea, and it was not only easy to make but such a pretty cake that it was almost a shame to eat it. The Middle Eastern flavours of pistachio, rosewater and lime are a great combination, and the yoghurt keeps the cake moist. We had some leftover ground pistachios from making our Madeleines a few weeks ago, but if you’d rather use almond meal that would work just as well. The cake was a hit at work, by the way!

This recipe is adapted from one by Rachel Allen

Ingredients:

  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • a pinch of salt
  • 75g ground pistachios or almonds
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 50g honey
  • 250ml natural yoghurt
  • 150ml sunflower oil
  • finely grated zest of 1 lime
  • 40g chopped pistachios
  • rose petals, to decorate

For the syrup:

  • 150ml water
  • 100g caster sugar
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1-2 tsp rosewater

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas mark 4, and grease a 22cm round springform cake tin.
  2. Sift the flour, salt and baking powder into a large bowl. Add the ground pistachios or almonds and caster sugar, and mix together.
  3. In another bowl, mix together the eggs, honey, yoghurt, sunflower oil and lime zest.
  4. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients, and gradually pour in the wet ingredients, mixing together with a whisk until just combined.
  5. Add a few of the chopped pistachios to the mix, if you wish, or retain all of them for decorating.
  6. Pour the cake mixture into the greased tin and bake for 50 minutes, or until a skewer stuck into the middle of the cake comes out clean.
  7. Remove cake from the oven and allow to cool for 20 minutes in the tin. Turn out onto a wire rack.
  8. While the cake is cooling, make the syrup. Combine the water and sugar in a small pan and bring to the boil. Once the syrup has reduced by half, about 5 minutes, add the lime juice and boil for another 2 minutes. Set aside, and once it has cooled, add rosewater to taste.
  9. Using a skewer, make holes all over the top of the cake, then spoon the syrup across the cake. Scatter the pistachios across the top, and then leave to sit for an hour.
  10. Decorate with rose petals just before serving.

Saffron, orange and honey madeleines

 

20180110_145552

Continuing with our French theme, we decided to make madeleines for the first time. We were given a copy of Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh’s Sweet for Christmas, and decided to try their untraditional version. Madeleines are a very light and fluffy little French cake, baked in a scallop mould. In the traditional version, they are best eaten while still warm as they will become stale quickly. Ottolenghi and Goh’s version uses a food processor rather than hand beating so will last for a few hours after baking (if you can resist from eating them all at once!)

Adapted from a recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh.

Ingredients:

  • 90g unsalted butter, plus 20g extra butter, melted, for brushing
  • 2 tsp honey, plus an extra 3 Tbsp, for glazing
  • ¼ tsp saffron threads
  • 2 large eggs
  • 75g caster sugar
  • ½ tsp vanilla bean extract with seeds
  • finely grated zest of 1 small orange
  • 90g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 20g pistachio kernels, finely blitzed

Method:

  1. Place the butter, honey and saffron threads in a saucepan over low heat. Once the butter has melted, remove from the heat and set aside until the mixture has reached room temperature.
  2. Place the eggs, sugar, vanilla and orange zest in a food processor and mix until combined. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl, then add to the egg mixture. Pulse a few times to mix, then add the cooled butter mixture. Process once more to combine, then pour the mixture into a bowl. Cover with cling film and rest in the fridge for an hour.
  3. Preheat the oven to 200° Grease the moulds with melted butter and sprinkle with flour (you can skip this step if using a silicone or non-stick tray). Tap to coat all the moulds and then shake off any excess flour.20180110_134015
  4. Spoon a heaped tablespoon of batter into each mould, so the mixture rises halfway up each mould. If you only have one tray, place the remaining batter in the fridge while you bake the first batch. You will need to wash, dry and re-grease the tray before baking your second batch.
  5. Bake for approximately 10 minutes, until the madeleines are browning around the edges and spring back when lightly pressed on the top. Remove the tray from the oven and allow to cool for a minute before releasing the cakes from their moulds. You may need to use a knife or spatula around the edges of the cakes if not using a silicone or non-stick tray. Transfer the madeleines to a wire rack to cool.
  6. Melt the 3 tablespoons of honey in a saucepan or microwave. One madeleine at a time, brush the honey onto the shell-shaped side of the cake, then roll the base of the madeleine in the blitzed pistachios so that you have a 1cm strip of pistachio at the base of each cake. Serve on a platter with some scattered pistachios and saffron (optional).