The Opera Cake
The Assembly Line
So I didn't have to come in at 3:30 a.m. during the assembly-line action for the day as Kristina made me a singular cake from start to finish (thank you!). They make up to around 80 of the 9" Opera Cream cakes alone a day during the holiday season! At least four people team up to do the batch in succession, while others are responsible for the finishing touches and boxing them directly for custom orders or to be sent to other stores. Here, they get their new Bananas Foster Gateau ready for the day.
The Cake Base
Unlike the traditional Opera Cake, The BonBonerie uses a thick chocolate chip cake that they'll slice into layers and top with a boozy filling.
Trimming the Top
Yes, it may be silly to show you how to slice the top off of a cake, but I learned quite a bit on this trip. First off; the bigger the knife, the easier it is to slice evenly the on first go. The top gets trimmed flat for the smooth edges of frosting to come.
Dividing Into Three Layers
A big knife (and 10 years in the BonBonerie kitchen) means Kristina doesn't need anything special to make sure her layers are even and flat.
A clean line and pocked surface mean that a lot of flavor is going to get soaked into the cake and each bite will pack much more than just studs of chocolate chips.
A Boozy Soak
Each layer (including both sides of the top most layers) gets a soak of brandy and crème de café that's been whisked into vanilla syrup.
First Layer of Filling
The filling is essentially a heavy cream whipped to a thick state with a bit of chocolate flavoring. While substantial, it offers a break from full-on chocolate overload.
The first two layers are sandwiched together, then get another sequence of boozy soak and creamy filling, with constant checking that the layers are straight and flat.
With a little time, the coffee/brandy/vanilla wash will soak into both sides of each cake layer, keeping everything moist without the cake itself being too heavy or rich.
Another very large utensil and heavy-bottomed cake stand make it easier to get an even coat around the top and sides. Note to self: those cute little offset spatulas may be adorable, but they're the reason why my large layer cakes look like a Brownie Scout made them.
Here Comes the Icing
Chocolate, coffee, butter, sugar, and more brandy go into the icing, which is tempered on the stove so that it's pourable and spreadable but not too thin.
Spreading of Icing
Transferred onto a sheet tray, a hefty amount of icing is ladled and then spun into an even coat all around.
Chocolate Curls in Bulk
Kristina explains that these chocolate curls are normally spread out onto sheet trays when dozen of cakes are done in succession. Because of the high volume of the bakery's weekly product (they use around 3,060 whole eggs per week during non-holiday periods), they source most of their chocolate through one private sales rep. But the "curls come in from a few places, depending on who has it and who doesn't, because they're a little aggravating."
Chocolate Curl Layer Complete
The coated cake gets a chill in the fridge for at least ten minutes so everything can firm up a bit.
Scoring for Slicing
The now-chilled cake gets a portioning score before the final touches.
Garnished with Double White Chocolate
Each slice gets a white chocolate rosette and hand-made white chocolate diamond so that, when sliced, the dramatic white and dark chocolates will reveal a stunning contrast.