I’m feeling rather nostalgic this week, most likely because today sees the start of series three of The Great British Bake Off on BBC2. It feels like only yesterday when I was sat at home, nervously awaiting the first ever episode, but in fact it has been two years. Those months and years since winning the show have been an amazing roller coaster for me, I moved cities, met my boyfriend and most importantly (for this websites purposes at least) have made baking my career. By the time the series comes to an end I will have published two cookbooks and I will have started a baking business in London, to say I feel lucky is an understatement. Every day I am thankful that I get to live my dream and make a living following my passion. Its definitely been a busy few years and sometimes I find my mind wandering back to just before I started filming the show, when I visited Paris on a mission to try as many French pastries as possible. My day to day work isn’t high end French pastry, macarons not included, but I have an obsession with the way French patisseries do it, the precision, the beauty. On my trip I think I managed to visit 15 shops in 7 days and I think I probably put on a stone too! I often think back to that trip, and remember that a week after I came back I found out I was on the show and my life turned a huge corner.
On coming back to the UK I picked up a book that has become one of my favourites, it is written by Dorie Greenspan, a baking author extrodinaire. She has written many books, on her own and with others but it is this book, her smallest and most unassuming that I love the most. It’s called Paris Sweets and is a book that even without a single photo still instantly takes me back to the streets of Paris and into the many Patiserrie shops. When I decided I wanted to make a Gateau Opera, a layered cake traditionally made in the flavours of chocolate and coffee, I flicked through her book and found that she had the recipe from Dalloyau, the Patisserie that is credited with popularising the cake in the 1950′s. Instead of making my own version I decided to stick to the original, the one I ate on my pastry trip. Well with one little, but very important change. I love the combination of passion fruit, coffee and chocolate so I soaked the sponge in a passion fruit syrup instead and it adds a delightful little twist to a well loved classic.
Amended from Dorie Greenspan’s Paris Sweets
6 large egg whites
30g caster sugar
225g ground almonds
225g icing sugar
6 large eggs
70g plain flour
45g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Passion Fruit Syrup
125ml passion fruit puree
65g caster sugar
10g instant espresso powder
15ml boiling water
100g caster sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
200g unsalted butter, room temperature
240g dark chocolate, finely chopped
125ml whole milk
60g double cream
60g unsalted butter, room temperature
115g unsalted butter
150g dark chocolate, finely chopped
To make the cake preheat the oven to 220C/200C fan and line two swiss roll tins or high sided baking trays 30×40 cm with parchment paper and brush with melted butter. Whisk the egg whites in a grease free bowl until they hold soft peaks. Add the sugar and whisk until the whites are stiff and glossy, set aside. Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat the almonds, icing sugar and eggs for a few minutes until light. Add the flour and mix until just combined. Gently fold in the meringue and then fold in the butter. Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared pans and spread out evenly. Bake in the preheated oven until the cakes are lightly golden and springy to the touch, about 5-7 minutes. Turn the cakes out onto a parchment lined work surface and gently peel the parchment off the base of the cakes and allow to cool.
To make the syrup place the passion fruit puree and the sugar into a small saucepan and set over medium heat and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and set aside until needed.
For the buttercream make a coffee paste by mixing the instant expresso with the boiling water, set aside. Place the sugar, water and vanilla bean paste into a small saucepan and over medium heat cook until the syrup reaches 124C on a candy thermometer. While the sugar is coming to temperature place the egg and egg yolk into the bowl of an electric mixer and whisk until pale and fluffy. When the sugar is at temperature remove it from the heat and then carefully pour it into the egg mixture, with the mixer still on low speed. Once fully incorporated increase the mixer to medium and whisk until the egg mixture is at room temperature, about five minutes. When ready turn the mixer to medium speed and slowly add the butter a tablespoon or two at a time beating until you have a smooth satiny buttercream. Add in the coffee paste and mix to combine. Chill the buttercream, stirring frequently for about 20 minutes or until firm enough to spread.
For the ganache place the chocolate into a medium sized bowl and set aside. Place the milk and cream into a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate, leaving for a few minutes before stirring to make a smooth chocolate ganache. Add the butter and stir until fully combined. Refrigerate, stirring occasionally until the ganache is thick enough to spread, about 20 minutes.
To assemble the cake cut the cakes into two pieces one 10×10 inches and the other 10×5 inches. Place one of the squares of cake onto a baking tray and moisten the cake with the passion fruit syrup. Spread the buttercream over this layer, making it as smooth as possible. Top with the two rectangular pieces of cake and moisten as before. Top with the ganache spreading evenly across the cake. Top with the final layer of cake and again moisten with the passion fruit syrup. Pop the cake in the fridge for a minimum of an hour before glazing.
To glaze the cake bring the butter to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove from the heat and skim the foam off the top and then pour off the clear butter into a small bowl, discarding the milky residue at the bottom of the pan. Melt the chocolate and then mix in the clarified butter. Place the cake on a wire rack set over a baking tray and pour the glaze over the cake, not worrying if it drips down the sides. Place the cake in the fridge until ready to serve. When ready dip a sharp knife in boiling water and dry on a kitchen cloth. Cut into slices and serve.
A Side Note – Whilst this recipe is absolutely delicious next time I would play around with the flavour ratio a bit. I want the coffee to be a bit stronger so would make the buttercream passion fruit flavoured and make a strong coffee syrup to soak the cake