sweets

Raspberry Opera Cake

HELLO! This may be one of the most ambitious projects I have ever attempted, but the results were well worth it I promise you! I mean, just LOOK at it. I have never felt more like a contestant on the Great British Bakeoff and it was so fun. The other day I was scrolling through Instagram as one does, and came across this masterpiece by Zoë François of the blog Zoë Bakes and I immediately began plotting. The recipe below was adapted from that very recipe, with a few minor flavor changes including raspberry jam instead of blackberry, and dark chocolate for the ganache. Be warned, this is not a quick recipe, and there are a lot of different pieces and parts, so prepare to have a whole day set aside for this. Put on your comfiest clothes, put on a movie (I watched Solo while I baked this and simply had a blast) or your favorite cooking music, and have lots of iced coffee at the ready, you GOT this.

This weekend was completely free of obligations and plans, which are my favorite kinds of weekends. I get to tackle so many baking and cooking projects in two days it feels like I might as well move into the kitchen. Saturday’s projects were this cake and some shrimp scampi for dinner, and Sunday brought this fall’s first of many apple pies (recipe for that coming soon, it’s my pride and joy)! Now if only the weather outside matched my fall mood. All in good time I guess!

Before we start, here are your 5 things to be happy about today!

ONE. Hot apple cider with mulling spices.
TWO. Marathoning a movie series on a rainy day.
THREE. Switching out your summer wardrobe for your thickest sweaters.
FOUR. Running through a corn maze as an adult and having just as much (if not more) fun.
FIVE. Homemade breakfast sandwiches with the crispiest bacon.

Serves: 6 to 8 people
Prep/Assembly Time: 1 hour
Bake Time: 12-15 minutes
Inactive Time: ~2 to 3 hours

Almond Joconde

3 eggs, room temperature
90 grams sugar
3 egg whites
30 grams sugar
115 grams almond meal
28 grams flour

Raspberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream

½ cup egg whites (from 3 to 4 eggs)
1 cup sugar
3 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
Kosher salt (a pinch!)
1 tsp vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)
¾ cup raspberry jam

Dark Chocolate Ganache

12oz. dark bakers chocolate
12oz. heavy cream

Meringue Topping

½ cup egg whites
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)

*Fresh Raspberries for topping

 

Almond Joconde Steps

ONE. Preheat your oven to 350ºF. Line an 11″ x 16″ baking sheet with parchment paper, then brush with butter to prevent the cake from sticking. In a large bowl, sift together the almond meal and flour, then set aside.

TWO. In the bowl of your stand mixer, whip the whole room temperature eggs and the 90 grams of sugar until the mixture has tripled in size and, when drizzled, forms ribbons that hold their shape momentarily before disappearing back into the rest of the egg. It should take about 7 to 8 minutes. Gently fold this mixture into the almond meal mixture.

THREE. In the clean bowl of your stand mixer, whip the three egg whites and the 30 grams of sugar until stiff peaks form. Fold this mixture into the rest of the cake batter. Pour into the prepared baking sheet and spread evenly with an offset spatula. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until the top is lightly golden. Allow to cool completely.


Raspberry Buttercream Steps

ONE. In the bowl of your stand mixer, mix the ½ cup egg whites and the 1 cup of sugar until thick and combined. It will be very grainy. Set this bowl over a pot of boiling water (a double boiler situation!), and heat, stirring occasionally with a rubber spatula, until the sugar has completely dissolved.

TWO. Transfer the bowl back to the mixer and beat the egg whites until stiff, glossy peaks form and the egg whites are back down to room temperature.

THREE. Once the egg whites are the right texture and temperature, add the butter in, two tablespoons at a time, until completely incorporated. Some notes about this: if the egg is still too hot and the butter starts to melt, put the whole thing in the fridge for a while to cool it down. If, while you’re adding the butter, the mixture begins to look like it’s curdling, don’t panic!! This happens, but if you keep mixing, it will fix itself.

FOUR. Once all the butter is added, continue to mix for another minute, until the frosting is thick and glossy again. Add in the vanilla, salt, and raspberry jam and mix with a rubber spatula until fully incorporated.

FIVE. Dollop the frosting over the completely cooled cake and spread with an offset spatula. It’s important that the frosting is as even and flat on top of the cake as possible, as it will make stacking much easier later. Chill the cake until the frosting is set.


Chocolate Ganache Steps

ONE. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the heavy cream until simmering, then remove from heat. Add in the chopped chocolate and swirl to ensure that all the chocolate is covered by the hot cream. Allow to sit for 3 minutes.

TWO. After 3 minutes, whisk the mixture together, as the heat from the cream will have melted the chocolate by now. Let the ganache cool before spreading on the cake so as not to melt the frosting.

THREE. When the ganache is cool and the cake is set, spread the ganache evenly over the buttercream and smooth with an offset spatula. Chill until the chocolate is solid.


Cake Assembly Steps

ONE. Once the cake is chilled and completely set, run a hot knife around the edges to loosen the cake and the chocolate from the tray. Wrap the top of the cake with plastic cling wrap, and place another (same size) baking sheet on top of this, with the bottom of the baking sheet touching the plastic wrapped top of the cake. Flip the whole thing upside down so that the ganache side of the cake is now on the bottom. Remove the original baking sheet and peel the parchment paper off the bottom of the cake.

TWO. Flip the cake back to right side up by placing the bottom of the original baking sheet on top of the cake and turn upside down again, then peel the plastic wrap off the ganache side of the cake. At this point, you should have your cake sitting on an inverted baking sheet (to make it easier to slice) with the ganache on top and the cake on the bottom.

THREE. Using a heated knife (keep a large glass of boiled water nearby to dip your knife in as you slice), trim off any uneven edges of your sheet cake so that all the sides are perfectly straight.

Shot from my snapstory, gotta get those angles you know??

FOUR. Using a ruler to keep measurements exact, turn your tray so that the long side is vertical. Cut the cake into thirds on the long side (the 16″ side), so that you have three long strips of cake. Then, turn the tray so that the long side is horizontal, and slice in half so that you have 6 even rectangles of cake. *If at any point the ganache starts to get soft, place  the cake back in the fridge until everything is set again.

FIVE. To assemble, take a long spatula and place one cut rectangle onto your desired serving tray. Repeat with each rectangle, making sure that the sides all match up and the cake doesn’t end up lopsided. Top the finished cake with even rows of raspberries.


Meringue Topping Steps

ONE. This step is optional, but it looks so pretty so 10/10 would recommend. In the bowl of your stand mixer, mix together the egg whites and sugar until stiff and glossy. Mix in the vanilla extract/ vanilla bean paste. Dollop or pipe the stiffened meringue over the raspberries, making spikes and swirls with the back of a spoon. Using a kitchen torch, toast the meringue until golden.

You DID IT!!! I’m so proud of you, it’s been quite a journey!! xoxoxoxoxoxD

sweets

Fresh Fruit Tart

So ever since we’ve had a minimum of one nice day a week, I have convinced myself that the warm weather is here to stay, and with that comes an overpowering desire to bake with summer fruits, you know? I’ve been waiting for the rhubarb to arrive at the farm since practically last spring, but thanks to the stubborn cold weather, it won’t be for sale for around another month. A MONTH. I am devastated, as you can imagine, so to try and fill the void left in its wake, I made this tried-and-true fruit tart last weekend and I am happy to say that there was not a crumb left after dessert.

It begins with a buttery tart shell with just a hint of sweetness, topped with vanilla pastry cream that is literally so good that I ate the leftovers out of the bowl with a spoon, and an artfully disheveled pile of fresh fruit on top. The best part about this is that you can really use whatever fruits you feel like based on what’s in season- blueberries and blackberries alone would make a gorgeous and dramatic looking tart, pitted cherries or mango or some stewed rhubarb- it’s totally up to you what fruits should be featured. For this one, I settled on what I could find at the store because it’s technically not berry season, so I was going to take what I could get, but I would love to hear your flavor ideas as well!

I’m posting this on a Saturday because this week just got away from me, but hopefully this will give you an excuse to try your hand at this tart right away. As for me, I will be looking for any excuse to use a blowtorch so I think I’m seeing a meringue pie in my future. Happy Saturday!

Tart Shell Ingredients
from 
The Fearless Baker, by Erin McDowell

2 cups All Purpose Flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
10 tablespoons salted butter, very cold and cut into cubes
¼ cup ice water

Pastry Cream Ingredients
from 
The Fearless Baker, by Erin McDowell

3 cups whole milk
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
¾ cup granulated sugar (divided into ¼ cup for milk mixture and ½ cup for egg yolk mixture)
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract), or ½ vanilla bean (seeds and pod)
5 large egg yolks, at room temperature
1/3 cup cornstarch
3 tablespoons butter, at room temperature

Plus assorted fruit and berries, to top

Steps

1. Using a food processor, pulse together the flour, sugar, and salt until combined. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture is coarse and the butter is in small, pea-sized pieces. If you don’t have a food processor, mix together the flour, sugar, and salt, and then cut in the butter with a pastry blender or mix with your hands until the butter is incorporated in the same way.

2. Move the mixer from the food processor to a large bowl and make a well in the center. Pour the ice water into the middle and knead with your hands until the dough comes together and looks smooth. At this point, it should not be overly sticky or too wet. Wrap this dough in plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset
All ready to roll!

While the dough is chilling, start your pastry cream here.

3. Combine milk, salt, and ¼ cup of the sugar in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add the vanilla (extract or paste), or add the seeds and the pod of the vanilla bean to the mixture. Heat to a simmer over medium heat- do not let it boil!

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset
Confession: I forgot to capture the pastry cream I was making this time, but this is what the beginnings will look like!

4. Meanwhile, in a glass bowl, whisk together the remaining ½ cup of sugar and the cornstarch so that they are evenly mixed without lumps. Whisk the egg yolks into this bowl until all is incorporated.

5. When the milk is simmering, remove the vanilla bean there is one and turn the heat to medium-low. Slowly, and whisking constantly to prevent scrambled eggs, add a little of the hot milk mixture to the egg mixture to temper. Then, pour the bowl of egg mixture back into the pot with the rest of the milk and return the pot to the stove, stirring constantly with a silicone spatula until the mixture is thick and just about to bubble, about 5 minutes.

6. Remove from the heat, and stir in the butter until incorporated. Chill in the fridge until cold and set, pressing plastic wrap directly to the surface to prevent a skin forming.

Back to the tart dough!

7. Let your dough rest at room temperature for 5 to 10 minutes so that it rolls out easily. Preheat the oven to 400ºF. On a lightly floured surface, roll your dough into one large circle, about 2 inches wider than your desired pan on all sides. Make sure to check periodically to make sure that the dough isn’t sticking to your work surface, and re-flour as necessary.

8. Very carefully roll the finished dough over the rolling pin, and then drape into your tart pan, pressing it into place and allowing the extra dough to hang over the side. If you’re using a metal fluted pan (like I am), you can roll your rolling pin over the top of the pan, and the excess dough will be cut off, leaving you with a perfectly neat tart.

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset
Look at those perfect edges!

9. To blind bake this crust (bake without a filling in it), cut a square of parchment paper slightly larger than the pan size and place it in the pan on top of the crust. Fill this with dried beans, rice, or pie weights and bake like this for 12 to 15 minutes, until the crust starts to turn golden.

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset
Ready for blind baking!

10. Remove the parchment paper and weights from the shell and return the tart to the oven, baking for another 10 minutes until it’s evenly golden brown. Remove from the oven and immediately brush with 1 egg white- the heat of the shell will cook the egg white and seal the tart to prevent a dreaded soggy crust. Let it cool completely before removing from the pan.

11. When the shell has completely cooled, fill with the chilled pastry cream, and top with your desired choice of berries and other fruits. Now, eat the whole thing in one sitting and never look back.

xoxoxoxoxoxD