I’m going to be honest… Haruka’s dessert was the most difficult for me so far. I had the flavor profiles set pretty early, but her aesthetic was simultaneously so specific and so hard to pin down that I just could not figure out the decor at all. In fact, I finished Haruka’s dessert with a completely different design at first. The second it was done I knew it wasn’t up to my standards at all. I’m sure any of my readers that are more creative will know the feeling… you KNOW you can do better, but somehow it’s just happening.
Thankfully, I have a really honest group of friends to help me in these moments. After a day of complete frustration, I polled them for blunt opinions on where the issues were, and with their constructive criticism I managed to completely retool the decor for this cake. I worked in homages to both the World Shaking attack and the Space Sword. The end result was infinitely better, and felt much more “Haruka.”
I’ll also admit this recipe is stretching the boundaries of what can be called an opera cake. The basic components are there: almond sponge, buttercream, ganache and glaze. The flavors, however, are not remotely close to the classic coffee and chocolate combination. I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to say that in honor of their relationship, Michiru’s dessert will also be an opera cake… though hers will stretch the boundaries of this dessert equally far. It’s also worth noting these are way taller than your average opera… but more cake for you, right? One day I’ll do a proper Opera cake to make up for my pastry sins.
ACT EIGHT: HARUKA
Yuzu, Ginger and Honey Opera Cake
Yield: 6 individual cakes.
Timing notes: It is best to allow yourself at least a full day of working time for this recipe. The the cake will be far easier to work with if it has had a sufficient amount of time for everything to chill and set up. Additionally, the tuile batter is best rested overnight.
White Chocolate Ganache, recipe follows
Yuzu Buttercream, recipe follows
Joconde, recipe follows
Honey Ginger Glaze, recipe follows
Honey Ginger Syrup, recipe follows
Tuile Garnish, recipe follows
Jewel Garnish, see procedure
Gold, Red and Blue Powder food coloring
12 oz (335g) White Chocolate
1. To begin with, cut your joconde sheet in half to make two smaller sheet cakes. Carefully split each sheet of cake into two thin layers. Choose one layer and spread a very thin layer of white chocolate on top. Flip the chocolate side onto a piece of parchment and allow it to firm up. The purpose of this is simply to make moving the slices much easier later on.
2. Begin assembly. Brush a small amount of syrup onto your cake, and spread a level layer of yuzu buttercream on top. Top it with another cake layer, syrup, and then a layer of ganache. Top this with a cake layer, syrup, and buttercream. Finally, place on your final cake layer. Spread an extremely thin layer of buttercream on top of your cake to create a barrier that will prevent the glaze from seeping into the cake. Refrigerate.
3. Gently warm your glaze. Pull out your cold cake and carefully cover it in half of the glaze. Wait until it begins to firm up, then pour on a second layer of glaze. Chill again.
4. If you want to give the top a gold sheen, wait until the glaze is totally set. Drop a bit of gold powdered coloring on top of the glaze and spread it carefully with your fingertip or a brush. You don’t want to disturb the glaze.
5. Using a large, warm knife (either dipped in hot water and dried or held briefly over a flame), trim the edges from your cake sheet. Then, cut the cake into 6 rectangular pieces. Clean and re-warm your knife between each cut.
6. Once your slices are cut, measure them for height and width on all sides. Using these measurements, create two templates: a square to cover one side of the cake slice, and a triangle that covers the front face of the cake slice halfway. (Note: You will also need this measurement to make your tuile template, as described in the tuile recipe.) On a sheet of parchment or food-safe plastic, spread a thin layer of tempered white chocolate. You may also use a “faux” temper, where you add approximately 1/2 tsp of vegetable oil for every 4 oz. of melted chocolate. Allow the chocolate to firm up almost completely. Using your template, cut 2 of the triangular pieces for each slice, and one square for each slice. Once completely firm, carefully peel the parchment/plastic from them and set them aside.
7. Blow up six small balloons, no larger in diameter than your cake piece at its narrowest point. Dip each one in white chocolate, leaving the bottom quarter or so of each one undipped. Carefully transfer them onto a sheet of parchment, undipped side down, to firm up. Once the spheres have firmed, pop the balloons and remove them to leave the chocolate spheres hollow.
8. Choose a pastry cutter large enough to just fit over your chocolate spheres, then choose a second pastry cutter 1/2″-3/4″ larger. Spread more of your chocolate onto a parchment or plastic sheet, and once again allow it to firm up for the most part, but not entirely. Using your two pastry cutters, cut out a ring for each sphere. Allow them to firm up completely before peeling the plastic off. Dry-dust your spheres with gold dust, and do this for the rings as well. Set your spheres on top of your cake pieces. Using a small dab of white chocolate, secure the rings onto each sphere. Dry brush this with gold as well to disguise the spot you glued. (Note: the rings are pretty fragile. If one breaks, it’s okay to carefully glue it back together with some melted chocolate. Making extra also never hurt.)
9. Finally, finish your tuiles and panels. Mix your food colorings in individual containers with a few drops of vodka (or other high proof alcohol) to make a paintable paste. Paint the three dots as shown above onto each of your triangular panels. Then, paint the jewels onto your tuile cookie. You can paint the tuile directly, or you can do what I did and roll and flatten balls of chilled ganache, then paint and adhere them. This gives it more of a 3D look. Lean the tuile on the planet, adhering it at the bottom with a dab of buttercream or glaze if you want.
10. If desired, use extra glaze to garnish the plates. Serve!
15 oz (400g) white chocolate
6 oz (170g) heavy cream
1. In a saucepan, heat the heavy cream to a simmer. Pour it over your white chocolate and allow to sit for five minutes before whisking together into a smooth mass. Chill in the fridge.
12 oz (340g) butter
3 oz (85g) egg yolks
2 oz (60ml) water
8 oz (225g) sugar
10-11 oz (about 300g) yuzu marmalade (I’ll link to the one I used at the end of this entry)
1. Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan and begin to boil. Either keep a close eye on it or monitor it using a candy thermometer. If you don’t have a thermometer, check the sugar by dropping a bit into a cup of ice cold water. The sugar should harden into a pliable ball. In the meantime, beat the egg yolks until pale and doubled in size. When the sugar reaches 240°F (115°C), remove it from the heat. Allow it to cool for just a moment, and then very gradually pour the hot sugar into your egg yolks while beating vigorously. Beat the yolk mixture until it has cooled to room temperature.
2. Once the yolks have cooled, beat in the softened butter until you have a smooth, rich buttercream. At this point, you can beat in the yuzu marmalade. I used one with rinds included in it, which intensified the bitter taste. If your marmalade has rinds, you have the choice of straining them out to reduce the bitterness. I kept the rind, but ran the marmalade through my food processor to make the pieces smaller.
Ginger White Chocolate Glaze
1 tsp (3g) gelatin
2 tbsp water
1 oz (30g) ginger juice
2.8 oz (80g) cream
5 oz (140g) white chocolate
1 tbsp (20g) honey
1. Sprinkle the gelatin over the water and allow to bloom for 5 minutes. In a saucepan, heat the ginger juice to boiling. Boil for about 30 seconds, and add the cream and honey before it evaporates away. Once this mixture is heated to a simmer, add the white chocolate and stir until smooth.
2. While the glaze is still warm, add the bloomed gelatin. Stir until dissolved.
Joconde (adapted from Joe Pastry)
8 room-temperature egg whites
10 ounces (280g) almond flour
10 oz (280g) powdered sugar
7 large eggs
3.75 (110g) oz all-purpose flour
3 oz (85g) vegetable oil
1. Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C) and line a medium sheet pan in parchment. In a large bowl, beat your egg whites to soft peaks. Add a couple tablespoons of the powdered sugar and beat until you reach medium to stiff peaks. Scrape the meringue into a different bowl, and use your first bowl to beat your whole eggs with the remaining sugar until light, fluffy and pale. Add in the almond flour and beat vigorously for an additional minute. Stir in your flour until just combined.
2. Fold the meringue into your batter, taking care not to deflate it too much. Once it is mostly incorporated, fold in your oil. Spread the batter into your sheet pan and bake for approximately 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Honey Ginger Syrup
4 oz. (115g) water
4 oz. (115g) sugar
1 oz. (28g) honey
.75 oz (20g) ginger juice
1. Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and just bring to a boil before removing from heat. Stir to ensure all your sugar is dissolved.
2 oz (60g) flour
2.6 oz (75g) granulated sugar
1 pinch salt
1 1/2 large egg whites
1 tbsp (15g) melted unsalted butter
1 tbsp milk
1. In a small bowl, whisk together all ingredients except for the butter. Once the mixture is smooth, stir in the butter. Cover in plastic wrap and rest in your refrigerator for 1-4 hours, or overnight. In the meantime, create a template by drawing a lengthened triangle a bit longer than your cake slice, and the same width as the slice at its most narrow point. You should also find something to drape the tuiles over, such as a can or a container of salt.
2. Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C). Line a baking sheet with either a silicone mat or a sheet of parchment, and grease very lightly. Set the template on your parchment and spread the tuile batter on top of it evenly. Lift up the template to leave the triangular shape. Repeat this twice more, to make three triangles. (You will bake and complete these, and then go back and do the next three. Otherwise, the tuiles may cool before you have a chance to mold them all.)
3. Bake the chain for approximately 4 minutes, or until set in the middle and just starting to brown on the very ends. Pull the sheet out, and quickly use an offset spatula or knife to loosen the triangle from the sheet. Start at one end and work your way across. Return it to the oven for 45 seconds. At this point you should have whatever you’re molding the triangles around ready to go.
4. Remove the tuile from the oven. Working extremely quickly, pick up the hot tuile and drape it over your can/salt container/whatever you’re using. You only have about 5 seconds to get it into the shape you want before it will harden and crack. This may take a little practice. Once the tuile is firmed up, gently slide it from the can and set it aside. Repeat for the remaining chains.
Note: If you make the tuiles ahead of time, keep them in an air-tight container. A silica packet or small bowl of baking soda in there with it won’t hurt either. They do absorb moisture quickly and become soft, otherwise. Your best bet is making them day-of.
This cake is rich because of the ganache and honey, but the bitter and tangy taste of the yuzu keep it from being a one-note dessert. I’d pair it with a green tea or good strong coffee.
The below is an Amazon affiliate link. I used this jam in my buttercream. One jar was the perfect amount for the batch of buttercream listed above.