I used to love the opéra… Daring Baker’s May Challenge

NB: The following is the désastre of a very new baker (vegan or otherwise!)…but please go visit some of the other Alternative Daring Bakers & traditional bakers, my misery is the result of my inexperience, but there are some great success stories out there in Veganland!

Riding my (sugar) high from last month’s challenge, I was really looking forward to this month’s Daring Baker’s Challenge which was an opéra, a lovely French patisserie usually composed of three thin layers of almond sponge cake-ish cake, with a coffee flavoured syrup poured over each layer (or often soaked in the syrup), between the cake layers is a buttercream or mousse generally coffee or orange flavoured, then it’s topped with a chocolate ganache and often dusted with cocao powder. It is a very rich and decadent treat that is oft sold here in France as a whole cake, or as individual servings in the boulangeries or patisseries. I’ve had them (it’s been a while, but the memory was clear). They’re crazy rich, but good. Part of the challenge was that we couldn’t use the traditional choco-café flavourings… all the better!

The day the challenge was posted I went out in search of all I’d need to make my vegan version for the challenge. I managed to get my hands on some vegan white chocolate, which was my main concern, and a back up bottle of Lemoncello just to be sure (since I couldn’t remember how full our bottle at home was!). I knew right away what I wanted for my flavours : almond & rose water for the cake (I’ve been on a bit of an eau de rose thing lately), lemon & coconut for the buttercream, lemon for the syrup, and coconut & lime for the white chocolate ganache. It seemed the perfect idea (that’s usually a warning sign, when things just seem a little, you know, too, perfect).

I’m having a rather hard time being a good sport about my échec or failure here, so I won’t go into detail about all the horrible things that could-and-did-go-wrong. Some real basic issues should have set off warning signals in my head, but I was really naive (I’m so new to baking, and have had really good luck, so thought this would be no problem!), and I did learn some valuable lessons from this recipe (like not not having a jellyroll pan is problematic for some recipes & vegan white chocolate doesn’t harden up, at all, unless refrigerated for 24 hours…)

I’m mostly disappointed because of the huge amount of waste I managed to create. I love buttercream & sweets in general, but this cake is just horrible. I have forced down two pieces and they have each made me feel nauseated. Even the Guppy, who loves loves loves anything remotely too sugary only managed a few bites and was done. Being a neophyte baker, I opted for my favourite – but not cheap – flavourings, and that was my biggest mistake of all. I guess it would be like using your fave material for your first attempt at sewing yourself a pair of pants – better get the muslin out first baby before you regret it!

So I did indeed learn a lot from this challenge, and if I’m angry/frustrated/disappointed/a bit ashamed, well, it’s with myself for my silly mistakes, and I humbly thank the ever talented hosts of this month’s event : Fran of Apples Peaches Pumpkin Pie, Shea from Whiskful, and Ivonne of Creampuffs in Venise and Lis from La Mia Cucina. It’s thanks to lovely ladies like this that I am pushing the envelope of culinary catastrophes and learning & trying new things. And hey, it’s the Daring Bakers – I’ll get a new chance next month to kick some buttercream!

40 thoughts on “I used to love the opéra… Daring Baker’s May Challenge

  1. That sucks the cake didn’t work out. No worries though! There will be many more challenges and you shall rock them all! I wish I was able to participate this month, but life interfered and it was not meant to be. Can’t wait for next month! 🙂

  2. Awww sweetie, I’m so sorry it didn’t work out! But I have to say… you trudged through the ordeal in true Daring Baker spirit!! Next month will be a fresh new start and you’ll have better luck – I just know it. 🙂


  3. Oh no, I’m so sorry things went awry for you… It says a lot about your character for still trying and seeing it through though. Bravo for giving it a go no matter the results!

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