Monday, 13 December 2010

A Day with the Opera

I admit that this recipe has not only an exhaustive ingredients list, but a rather exhausting method too.
I'll also admit that by the time I had finished waiting for various layers to cool down and assembling the Opera, that well over half of my day had disappeared.
It was worth it though; L, R, M and E's faces said it all!
Only one, a much smaller L wasn't impressed with my day's work - but he is only 3, and he settled for an oatcake instead - so I suppose I won't take it to heart!

L and I are both suddenly terribly excited for Christmas. It seems M is bringing out the children in both of us.
Our advent candle is burned each day and this week, we put the Christmas tree and decorations up at the restaurant and have Christmas songs playing while we work. Don't worry though - I don't mean Slade or Mariah Carey. I mean classics like Bing Crosby and Ella Fitzgerald.

At some point in the next week or so after L's birthday, I will mull some Hereford cider for us and we will dig out Elf to watch one evening after work, curled up together on the sofa. We will quote the film for weeks afterwards, and probably even watch its inevitable screening on TV over the festive period.
I bet we are not the only big kids who think that this film is worth its weight in Christmas cheer!

Mango and Passionfruit Opera

For the joconde sponge

6 large egg whites
2 tbsp granulated sugar

225g ground almonds
250g icing sugar, sifted
6 large eggs
70g plain flour
45g unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Preheat the oven to gas mark 7. Line 3 35cm x 23cm shallow oven tins with greaseproof paper (or only one if like me, that's all you have!)
Whisk the egg whites in a kitchenaid or other processor until they form soft peaks. Gradually add the granulated sugar and beat until the peaks are stiff and glossy.
Scrape the meringue into another bowl and set aside.
Wash the used bowl ready for the next task.
Beat the ground almonds, icing sugar and remaining eggs until they have increased in volume and are lighter in colour.
Add the flour and continue to beat on low speed until mixed.

Carefully fold the meringue into the almond mixture and then fold in the melted butter.
Divide the batter between the pans and spread it evenly to cover the entire surface of each pan. (If like me, you only have one tin, put a third of the mixture in at a time, relining the cake tin for each cake.)
Put the sponge in the oven and cook for about 7 minutes until it springs back at a touch and is just beginning to colour.
Once cooked, cool in the pan for three minutes before carefully unmoulding from the tin and cooling on a cooling rack to room temperature.

For the syrup
125g water
65g granulated sugar
1tbsp orange juice

Place all three items into a small pan and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat slighty and simmer until the liquid has thickened to a syrup

For the mango buttercream layer
100g egg whites
100ml water
200g sugar
300g unsalted butter
75g pureed and sieved mango
Combine the sugar, water in a small saucepan and warm over medium heat just until the sugar dissolves. Watch this stage the whole time, swirling the pan if necessary, but do not stir! Cook until the syrup reaches 240◦F on a thermometer.
Remove the syrup from the heat.
While the syrup is heating, begin whisking the egg whites at high speed in a mixer until stiff peaks form.
When the sugar syrup reaches 240◦F reduce the mixer speed to low speed and begin slowly pouring the syrup down the side of the bowl being very careful not to splatter the syrup.
Increase the speed to medium high and whisk for around 5 minutes until the mixture is cool to the touch.
Cut the butter into small pieces and add a few pieces at a time, combining well with each addition.
When all the butter has been mixed in, turn the whisk up to high and beat until the buttercream is shiny.

For the passionfruit mousse layer 
200g white chocolate
230g and 3 tbsp double cream
Sieved pulp of 4 ripe passionfruit

Melt the white chocolate and the 3 tbsp. of heavy cream in a small saucepan.
Add the passionfruit and stir to combine before setting aside to cool.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the remaining 1 cup of heavy cream until soft peaks form. Gently fold the whipped cream into the cooled chocolate to form a mousse.

To assemble the Opera
Place one square of cake on a baking sheet or serving plate and moisten it gently with the orange syrup. Spread one third of the buttercream on top, smooth slightly with a warm palette knife and place in the fridge for 30 minutes to harden.

Spread a third of the mousse on top of this and gently press the second joconde layer on top.
Moisten with a little more of the syrup and then spread another third of the buttercream layer , smoothing slighty once again, before returning to the fridge; this time for an hour.
Finally, spread another layer of the mousse on top, followed by the last joconde layer, moistened once more.
Spread the last buttercream on top, smooth slightly and follow with the end of the mousse. Smooth this top layer with a warm palette knife and refridgerate for several hours to allow the cake time to firm up. It will be much easier to serve this way.
If you wish, make up an arrowroot glaze (follow the instructions on the back of the packet) and spread over the top of the cake to finish it off.


  1. Wonderful! una meraviglia! che lavoro ma chissà che buona!!! Baci

  2. Worth all the hard work - looks really delicious.

  3. Stunning! Sounds very delicious!

  4. Wow! They look worthy of my boulangerie/patisserie! Chapeau.

  5. that is a gorgeous dessert!! i love it:)

  6. Goodness what a labour of love. They do look so elegant though and I'm sure were most delicious. Thank goodness for the camera, at least there is some lasting record.

  7. That is so beautiful I don't know where to start! Such fresh and tropical flavors - two fruits Brazilians love and I am no exception here.

  8. that is a great recipe! I love your blog!:D

  9. Oh my gosh..., this looks awesome. The ingredients are all just gorgeous & I can imagine how this would taste too. Loved it Alice :)
    Really great to connect through the blogosphere, looking forward to reading more of your posts.
    Cheers chef Anna

  10. Looks yummy... and lovely pictures too
    bises from France

  11. They look great! I wish I had the patience and dexterity to pull of something as attractive as that.

  12. These look absolutely stunning--fit for a bakery case for sure! They sound delightful, and certainly worth all of the hard work :)

    Happy Holidays! Hope you have a great week!

  13. Beautiful! I have a recipe for a white opera I am dying to make, but i just Feel sooo lazy!