Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Daring Bakers May - Apricot and Ginger Opera Cake

I found this month's challenge, well challenging. I tend to love baking but I'm nothing more than a homespun baker. My cakes and cookies always look homemade. A little rough around the edges but tasty nonetheless.

I wasn't sure what flavoring I'd use. I tend to not like the flavor of white chocolate and I've never really done a lot with butter cream b/c all I ever really taste is butter. The mouth feel of butter cream is something I don't tend to enjoy. But I joined this group as a way to grow and learn so if part of the challenge calls for white chocolate and butter cream, well, I'm certainly happy to give it a shot and test it out!

Still uncertain what flavoring I'd do, I took a T-ride to Trader Joes where I was told I'd find almond meal for a fraction of the cost of Wholefoods. While I was at TJ's I noticed fresh apricots. I picked up some of those and got to thinking that one of my favorite flavor pairings is ginger and apricot. Panini, a bakery that has been closed for a while now, use to serve up apricot and ginger scones and they were pretty darn tasty. So I decided that my opera cake would include fresh ginger, fresh apricots, apricot nectar and some white peachello that was leftover from another dinner party.

I came home and go into my crocs and prepped for an evening of baking.

The cake batter came together rather quickly and easily. I grated fresh ginger into the batter and poured some apricot nectar in as well.
But the issue is always my oven. It seems to have two vastly different temperatures. And the result of cooking the cakes at the same time in the same oven based on the Daring Baker instructions resulted in this:

Hmm, I should have known better, since I know that my oven is kinda weird and baked one jelly roll sheet at a time. I went ahead and used the slightly overcooked cake anyway b/c I just assumed that the syrup would moisten it enough.

Into the syrup, I put a serious shot of the peachello and a big chunk of fresh ginger chopped big enough so I could fish it out once it was done cooking.
The apricots I quickly popped into some boiling water and fished out. I let them cool and peeled off their fuzzy skins and set them side.

The mousse also got a shot of grated ginger, apricot nectar and peachello.

The hardest part of this challenge, for me, was the buttercream recipe. I ran into issues when I went to add the boiled sugar (up to 220) to my egg mixture. The sugar did harden but it hardens so quickly that I didn't use quite a bit of it. As you can see, a lot of it ended up on still in the side of my pot and also on the side of my bowl. This buttercream recipe stressed me out. It seemed so wasteful to not even get a chance to use so much of the sugar due to hardening on the side of my pan. Did I do something wrong???
Since Elizabeth had decided to join Daring Bakers too, we decided it would be fun to have a bake off at her place and taste our different takes on Opera Cake. So I decided to put all my cake components into go-to containers and assemble at her place. I would make the glaze her at her place too. Bagged and ready to go, I waited for the bus to take me to Dot.

Little did I know that I'd be waiting for over 40 mins for a bus that would never arrive. Aaaauuurrrgggghhhh. It was so frustrating that I opted to go home and just assemble my cake there.

I opted to glaze the cake the next day after it had chilled a while. Clearly, I need to work on my professional cake glazing skills! Finally it was done.

How did it taste?

I liked it a lot. I wasn't very pleased with the texture of the almond meal from TJ's. Elizabeth had used blanched almonds and made her own meal and I liked the texture of her cake much better. But the flavor of apricot and ginger tasted great with white chocolate. I wish I had used a bit more grated ginger, but I was conservative b/c I didn't know what baking would do to the ginger. Next time, I'll add a lot more! Plus the syrup did moisten up the overcooked cake piece quite a bit and I was very pleased with that too.

I don't think I'll ever go thru the trouble of making an opera cake again but it was nice to try and if you're ever looking for a nice spring flavor combo, I think you can't beat fresh apricot and ginger.


Sara said...

yum! apricot and ginger sounds like an amazing flavor combo!

Troop Leader said...


Christine said...

I got my almond meal at TJs too! Love the combo of apricot and ginger your cake looks delish!

Lunch Buckets said...

I don't think my oven is particulary weird but my two pans came out vastly different too. The top being better than the bottom.

Anonymous said...

I like the flavor choices you chose!!! Fresh with a hint of exotic spice!!!
Bottom line in my book comes to taste, pretty is nice but taste is better!!!
Nice job on your challenge.

Leah said...

Thanks for the kind words everyone!!!

Barbara said...

mmmm...Ginger and apricot sounds delish! Great job.

Rebecca of "Ezra Pound Cake" said...

Apricot and ginger does sound good! Sounds like your sugar might have been crystallizing around the pot. One trick is to put a lid on the pot partway so you can still get your candy thermometer in there.


Leah said...

Barbara - I read your blog much before I even had my own! It's fantastic and I love your user pic.

Rebecca - good to know! If I ever make buttercream again, I'll keep that in mind. I felt like it got hard really fast. Maybe my thermometer was broken and my sugar hit hard candy temp. It's was baffling to me for sure :P

Shari said...

Ginger and apricot sound amazing together!
Shari@Whisk: a food blog