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I want to start off by saying this is by far my favorite Daring Bakers Challenge yet. Why? Well, true to its name… It was very challenging, and it was a lot of firsts for me as well: first buttercream (that worked), first mousse (that worked), first time making almond flour and first time making dulce de leche. So after creating this cake, or 15 mini cakes, in my case, I felt really really accomplished and super happy about how delicious they were. So thank you very much Lis and Ivonne, our fearless founders for this wallop of a pastry!

So here we are, just getting back from our wedding (there was cake there) and then our fabulous honeymoon in Jamaica (yes, there was cake involved there too) and when I check to see what the DB challenge for May is, I am faced again, with cake. Opera Cake to be exact, and when I printed out the directions and it was 9 pages long, I almost passed out from spiking glucose levels!!!
BUT, I had missed the challenges for March and April and I was not about to miss another. So I decided to just be smart about this challenge and create some mini cakes (easily given away, and small portions) for Mother’s Day, because who deserves all this time and effort I was going to put into these cakes more than my Mom? Who happens to love cake and opera…(right, mom? back me up here!)
*pics of my Leftover Opera Cake Ice Cream follow*

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As I mentioned there were really a lot a lot of layers and components to this cake and we were allowed to be creative with the flavor of these layers, provided that we adhere to one requirement – that we keep it light. Both in flavor and color. I have been wanting to do something with dulce de leche for a long time, and so I chose to flavor my layers with a combination of dulce de leche and coconut. Due to the many steps and processes, I also decided to go ahead and pace myself. So starting on the Monday before Mother’s Day, I made one step per day. I highly recommend this procedure. If you do a cake like this all in one day, it would literally take all day – right, Judy??? I know you can attest to this one!

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I knew the mousse layer was to be white chocolate, so I went from there when choosing my other flavors. The cake, called a joconde, was to be made of almond flour, or any other nut flour. I decided that I have been making too many things with my beloved hazelnuts, so I decided to stick with the almonds. By making my own flour, as opposed to purchasing it, it was not perfectly fine and so the joconde had a nice nutty bite to it, which I liked.

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The syrup used to wet the joconde I flavored with creme de coconut. For the buttercream, I decided to go the dulce de leche route, but since it was my first time making dulce de leche, and sadly I had not really planned ahead, therefore not realizing the time involved, I just added straight sweetened condensed milk to the buttercream as opposed to cooking it down into the dulce de leche first and then adding it the buttercream. It was very yummy by the way…

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Next was the white chocolate mousse, which I read too late, could be flavored any way we wanted too…I would have likely flavored the mousse a different way, since I am not a fan of white chocolate. But it turned out rather tasty nonetheless – probably due to the addition of Irish Creme liquer – and as a layer in a cake, it was pretty undetectable as white chocolate. The final step was the glaze. This is where I went ahead and cooked down the sweetened condensed milk to make dulce de leche. This I thinned with heavy cream, and I used it more as a drizzle than a glaze. I decided to top my mini cakes with shredded coconut. A few I completely covered in the white chocolate mousse and coconut, others, I let the layers show through.

I created my mini cakes by using a drinking glass to cut out small circles of joconde – then I followed the other directions to the letter. There was leftover bits if joconde, so instead of throwing it away, I, like a good Leftover Queen, decided to make none other than Almond Joconde Ice Cream!

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I followed my directions for making the ice cream base, and then folded in frozen pieces of joconde and shredded coconut before putting my ice cream bowl in the freezer. YUM YUM. :)

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A little dulce de leche on top and you have an ice cream…well…opera cake! :)

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If you are so inclined to try out this monster recipe, go check out the Daring Baker’s Forum.
Or you can join us over there for lots of discussions about our favorite pastime, baking! :)