Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Daring Bakers Challenge - Opera Cake!

I was so excited to hear that this month's challenge would be opera cake that I ran home and made it the day it was announced.

No, I'm not joking. For those of you who have read my stories of procrastination in the past, I am sure you are shocked. I had many reasons - I had made a strawberry mousse that was not great on its own and needed something to do with it, and the students in the music department were doing an oratorio the next day. I decided my first cake, rather than being an opera cake, would be an oratorio cake!

Before heading home I skimmed through the text of Dona Nobis Pacem by Ralph Vaughan Williams and wrote down some catchy phrases to potentially use in decorating. I went grocery shopping and then raided my cupboards to try to find an interesting flavor combination. I was originally going to do strawberry and cardamom, but then I spied the rosewater that I don't think I had used since making rice pudding almost two years ago. (The thought suddenly occurs to me that maybe it had expired, but I didn't kill anyone). I decided to use strawberry just in the mousse, and rose everywhere else - the cake, the syrup, and the buttercream.

Almost disaster

I baked the Oratorio Cake in three rounds rather than using the jelly roll pan approach the first time, but even after an extended amount of time they still were not really done. I tried to flip one over too soon, but then saw how undone it was inside. This picture is the aftermath, after properly baking. Phew, disaster averted. I do like these cake layers with very little flour though. It got me thinking about creative things to do instead of almonds - surely other nuts. I wonder if things such as graham cracker crumbs would have worked. Can you substitute those for nuts or flour? I'll have to try sometime (mental note).

Rose Strawberry Oratorio Cake Layers
The buttercream wasn't quite as nice as Dorie's recipe but I still had no problems with it breaking or anything. The rose flavor was delicate but nice, and I colored the remainder to decorate the top of the cake. I still had enough left over to make what are now forever known as stress cupcakes.

Top of Oratorio Cake
I ended up being very happy that I had picked round cake pans for the Rose Strawberry Oratorio Cake, since the quotation I liked the most was about the moon. I brought it into the music library the next day. The student workers and a bunch of other students devoured it, in fact I had students coming back in unabashedly asking for seconds. For normal things like cookies or brownies, this doesn't surprise me, but I honestly was not convinced that the rose, almond, white chocolate, and strawberry combination would be pleasing to college student palates.

Rhubarb-Ginger Opera Cake
Since I live in South Carolina, we get a lot of spring fruits coming in really early. This month was the month for strawberries AND rhubarb, and I had been wanting to try something else with rhubarb. When Tartlette made this rhubarb mousse, I e-mailed her to ask if I could borrow the recipe for my opera cake, not wanting to use it if she was planning to. Her recipes are always superb, but this mousse was light and foamy and delicious.

I didn't want to just make a rhubarb opera cake. I decided to incorporate ginger in some way, because it seemed that a lot of traditional rhubarb recipes added ginger. I was at Tea Junction in the local mall and they had premade simple syrups - I almost jumped ship and went with lavender instead of ginger, but ultimately decided the white ginger would be nice. This time I added it to the cake as well as the buttercream, and used it as a substitute for the syrup that is brushed onto the cake layers.

Rhubarb-Ginger Opera Cake

I went ahead and used the three square layers this time around, and was pleased with the result, even if I skipped the white chocolate layer and didn't really decorate. As you can see above I attempted to make a rose out of rolled out crystallized ginger, in a similar way I have seen flowers made out of gumdrops, but it was unwieldy. The toothpicks are an indication of how I prepared it for transportation since the square cake wouldn't fit in my round cake transporter!

I liked the spring flavors in this, but think I would like the chocolate version the most!

Daring Bakers Blue
This month was hosted by Ivonne from Cream Puffs in Venice, Lis from La Mia Cucina, Fran from Apples Peaches Pumpkin Pie, and Shea of Whiskful. The Daring Bakers have grown so huge, we are now hosting challenges with small armies, in order to involve our newer members before the next century. To view all the Daring Bakers posts for this challenge, please view the blogroll.


Categories: Almond, Buttercream, Cake, Daring Bakers, Ginger, Mousse, Rhubarb, Rose, Strawberry

30 comments:

glamah16 said...

Wow. You have mastered this challenge!

Peabody said...

Rhubarb and crystalized ginger...yummy.

Sarah said...

Oh YUMMM!! I love BOTH of your combinations - the strawberry rose sounds breathtaking and ethereal, and the ginger rhubarb sounds like just the right amount of spice and tart to offset the sweetness of the white chocolate. Great ideas and unlike any I've seen so far today!

Renee said...

Your cakes look wonderful - yummy!! Awesome job.

Jacque said...

MMMmmm, I LOVE rhubarb... I will definitely go check out Tartlette's mousse recipe. Thanks for the link.

Your opera cake sounds delicious! Nice job.

hellokitty138 said...

I wish I didn't always see these when I'm starved and have nothing decent to eat. Your stuff always looks amazing.

Sara said...

wow, you did it twice!! very daring. :) the rhubarb-ginger cake sounds AMAZING...i am such a fan of rhubarb but i've never paired it with ginger before...i'll have to try that!

wmpe said...

Wow, so you are so creative. Your cake looks great. I love the quote on top. Your flavor combinations sound delicious. Wendy

Natashya said...

Wow, it never occured to me to do rose. I have some extract that is sitting in my cupboard doing nothing in particular - I should put it to work. Very creative.

Jenny said...

Two cakes, you really were into the challenge this month!
Nice flavor combinations (and if you need more rhubarb, I have plenty in my yard that I would be happy to share with you.)

Christina said...

Wow, you really dove right in! Great job in both variations. Not only do the pictures look nice, the flavor combinations are brilliant!

Christina ~ She Runs, She Eats

Leah_Leanna said...

Finally, I re-found you! Everything looks delish!

familiabencomo said...

You were a busy woman this month! nice job on BOTH cakes. I love the flavor combination you used for them.

xoxox Amy

breadchick said...

Oh rhubarb and ginger! What an interesting and original combination! Both cakes look lovely.

Christine said...

Wow you cake is beautiful!

Meeta said...

rhubarb and ginger!! That sounds simply grand!

Tartelette said...

Glad you tried the mousse! Great choice of flavors! I hope we can meet when you come down to Charleston!

Christina said...

Just replying to your comment. I'd love to see the recipe for the pumpkin cheesecake! I figured that kirsch was meant more to heighten the taste rather than be the taste, but I'm a n00b so this brand just seemed wrong. I'm on the hunt for recipes to use it, though!

HoneyB said...

2 cakes! I barely had enough time for 1! Great job...and they look great!

Lunch Buckets said...

Over-achiever. But seriously, I so want to bake something rose-y now, maybe with pistachios...

Dolores said...

Finished with the challenge at T-1. And not one but two operas in May. Great job!

Jen said...

Great job! Also a great use for the strawberry mousse you already had...

Rachel said...

Wow...2 cakes..awesome cake

Barbara said...

You're braver than I am to do not one but two cakes! Great job!

Rebecca said...

I love your oratorio cake! What a cool idea and mighty fine timing.

Deborah said...

I actually just read a pancake recipe yesterday that substituted part of the flour for graham cracker crumbs - so you'll have to let us know if you try it out!!

I'm so impressed that you made 2!

Shari said...

Love the quote! You're daring to make two of these cakes!
Shari@Whisk: a food blog

Mobula said...

WoW!!! Ginger and rubard sounds great combinatiĆ³n!!! I love ginger...

good job!!

Ana

Fran Z said...

MMMM Rhubarb and ginger sounds divine....great job!

Debyi said...

Wow, rhubarb mousse & ginger opera cake sounds so good. I love rhubarb. Your oratorio opera cake looked really nice, what a great treat for your students. Great job!