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Daring Bakers Challenge – May 2008

31 May

To be a Daring Baker you need daringness…  but you also need to know your boundaries.  That’s what happened to me when I learned about May’s challenge.  We’re making WHAT!!!!!

Opera Cake…

Oh my gosh, they’re beautiful, dainty little cakes with a trillion layers…  cake, mousse, ganache, more cake and so on…  but I know where my limits are and if I had a tough time decorating Dorie’s Perfect party Cake…  for sure this would have just frustrated me to the core.  So in the interest of not adding more stress into my life, I decided to forego this particular challenge.  However, I do wish to share with you some of the creations my fellow Daring Bakers have made.

This month’s challenge was brought to us by 4 hosts – Lis from La Mia Cucina, Fran of Apples Peaches Pumpkin Pie, Shea of Whiskful and Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice.  Which is kind of cool, because Lis and Ivonne are the founders of the Daring Bakers group…  now saying this, I’m kind of embarrassed that I skipped this challenge… but here we go.

First, we start with Gluten a GoGo, who is one of my companions on the Alternative Bakers side of the Daring Bakers…  she is a gluten-free baker, so I highly recommend you visit her site if you’re in need for gluten-free inspiration.  Her Praline and Rooibos Opera Cake looks and I am sure tastes delicious too.  It’s made with Rooibos tea, which I have never heard of, but I will sure do some research on…


Secondly…  I loved this photo of Addicted Sweet Tooth’s  Apricot Pistachio Opera cake.  She’s a former pastry chef with a sweet tooth to envy…  this cake really looks delectable, no??


I also wanted to showcase a Vegan version and Bex, from How to Feed a Vegan who lives in beautiful Vermont made this rendition of the Opera Cake…  which goes to show you, there are no limits to making any recipe suitable to our dietary needs.  Opera cake’s original recipe is full of eggs and dairy products and Bex found a great way to adapt and conquer.


From the Canary Islands, I present to you Delicias y Tentaciones…  the blog is in Spanish (sorry to those of you who are not fluent in it) but I had to share her creation with you – a wonderful Orange and Saffron Opera cake.  Very beautiful, very Spanish.  Olé!!!  I’ve never been to Canarias, but the first time I went to Spain, almost everyone asked us if we were Canarios…  so I feel we have a “connection” there…  and isn’t this picture pretty?!?!

And finally, at A Beautiful Mosaic, this spicy Korean-American mama created this Marie Antoinette-inspired Opera Cake… Isn’t it beautiful?!?!

There’s more and more versions of May’s Daring Bakers Challenge Opera cakes… for that you can visit our Daring Bakers Kitchen Forum to check them out and maybe even join us in future challenges… 

For now, this is it… until June’s Challenge posting date that is!!!

Dorie’s Perfect Party Cake – DBC March 2008

30 Mar




I was very excited to receive the recipe for March 2008 Daring Bakers Challenge – a cake!!!  That is definitely something I can do.   This month’s challenge is hosted by Morven at Food, Art and Random Thoughts and the original recipe comes from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours.  So thanks Morven for such a nice recipe.  I was so excited about this recipe that I actually tried it twice – the first time I made it with whole wheat pastry flour and the second time I tried it with spelt flour.  As you’ll see, spelt yielded better results overall.  What I loved most about this challenge was that Morven gave us the flexibility to change ingredients and presentation as long as we followed the basic recipe components – the cake, the frosting and the fruit preserves.  The rest, was up to us, the creative daring bakers…

I was faced with 2 other challenges for this recipe… First, I do not own any round cake pans – as I mentioned in my last DBC post, I am not a “baker” per se, so I have never attempted to do any layered cakes before and second, I could not find lemon extract anywhere.  My solutions to these dilemmas…  to use my cupcake/muffin pans and to double on the lemon zest and add the juice of the lemons to get the lemony taste.


So here’s the Karma-Free version of Dorie’s Perfect Party Cake…

For the Cake:
2  ½ cups spelt flour
1 tbs baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups buttermilk
6 tsp egg replacer diluted into 8tbs water
1 ½ cups brown sugar
Zest of 2 lemons (about 4 tsp)
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
The juice of 1 lemon
For the Sweetened Whipped Cream frosting:
1 pint heavy cream
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla powder
For Finishing:
2/3 cup seedless raspberry or strawberry preserves stirred vigorously or warmed gently until spreadable
  1. Centre a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour your pans – I used 2 cupcake/muffin pans. I also used cupcake liners and worked great too.

To Make the Cake

2. Sift together the spelt flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

3. Whisk together the egg substitute and buttermilk. Set aside.

4. Whisk together the sugar and lemon zest in a mixer bowl or another large bowl and rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant.

5. Add the butter and working with the paddle or whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light.

6. Beat in the lemon juice, then add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed.

7. Beat in half of the milk-egg sub mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated.

8. Add the rest of the milk/egg sub mixture beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients.

9. Finally, give the batter a good 2- minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and well aerated.

10. Divide the batter in your muffin/cupcake pans.

11. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the cupcakes are well risen and springy to the touch – a thin knife inserted into the centers should come out clean

12. Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then take them out of the pans to fully cool.

To decorate the Cake

I made a Sweetened Whipped Cream Frosting just because I do not particularly like the taste of buttercream.  So, to make the frosting:


  1. Using both a chilled bowl and chilled beaters, beat the cream until frothy.
  2. Add the brown sugar and vanilla gradually while beating.
  3. Whip until light and a thick enough consistency to spread as an icing.
  4. Use immediately.


Here are my renditions of these lovely cupcakes… 

whole-wheat-version.jpg     spelt-2.jpg

This first picture is the whole wheat version.  As you can see, the tops cracked and the color was a bit paler.  The picture on the right, are the spelt version, with much nicer color, top texture and flavor too.

As you can see, I still have a lot of ways to go in terms of decorating techniques… but the flavors were spot on.

combo-1.jpg     combo-2.jpg

combo-3.jpg     combo-4.jpg

This recipe is super easy to make.  After you’ve done it once, the following tries are much, much easier… and everyone who had the chance to taste them were impressed by the lemony taste and the crispiness that the bundt muffin pan imparted to the outside…  aren’t they cute?

My favorite way to eat them was to leave them plain, without any decorations, and just spread some of the preserves to a morsel of cupcake and pop it in my mouth.  Delectable!!


The cake is best the day it is made, but you can refrigerate it, well covered, for up to two days. Bring it to room temperature before serving.

combo-6.jpg                    combo-5.jpg

Pain Français- DBC Feb 2008

1 Mar

I am not a baker.  So I joined the Daring Baker’s Challenge.


If I am not a baker, why in the world would I join a group of  called Daring Bakers???  To get out of my comfort zone precisely.  To try recipes I would never dare to try. To learn things, techniques I may be avoiding…  to indeed, become a baker after all.  

I was inspired last month with January’s challenge – Lemon Meringues.  All the recipes I saw looked sooooo beautiful that I felt compelled to join.  Please remind yourselves… I AM NOT A BAKER!!!  My dessert repertoire extends to cookies and flans – anything else besides that is just baked fruits, fruit sauces, and boiling cans of condensed milk… ahhh, and buying Haagen-Dazs mango sherbet at the supermarket.  Yet, after knowing all of this, I dared and joined the group. No pun intended.

I have to admit, I was daunted and excited when I received my first recipe – Pain Français from a Julia Child recipe…. Oh my gravy!!!!  I was excited, as you know I take French lessons at the Alliance Française.  To say I was super excited was an understatement!!  But, why daunted???  French bread only has really 4 ingredients – flour, water, yeast and salt.  What can be simpler???  Anything in this world is simpler, if you ask me. 

And, I am not a quitter.  I was not going to pass this up , my first Daring Baker’s challenge, just because I had an 11-page recipe – yes, this is not a typo, 11 pages… I was sent a video to see the kneading technique, the forming technique, the baking technique…  I read the recipe 3-4 times.  I saw the video twice. Yet… I never achieved the perfect loaf of Pain Français.  The only thing I did change in the recipe… was the flour.  I only like to use whole wheat products when I bake, so I used whole wheat flour…  here are the results:

This is the flour I used – I do not recommend it for this recipe.  This was the dough, before kneading. How dry it was should have told me something then, but I continued with the process as dictated in the recipe.


This was the dough after “kneading” for about 500 times… I was so tired after that, I had to lay down to rest.  Really.


 And this was the frustrating moment when, after 3 hours of “rising time” my dough was exactly the same size as it started.


But, in my opinion, there are many ways to define success.  Success is not only demonstrated by showing here my “perfect loaves of french bread from the first try”… To me, success is also achieved by all the learnings gathered from trying to execute this recipe.  I actually have a list of learnings I would like to share with you and all my fellow Daring Bakers:

  1. You need a really large kitchen with lots of counter space to bake bread. – my kitchen is TINY and trying to knead bread almost inside the kitchen sink is not the ideal of any bread baker.
  2. A Kitchen-Aid mixer is a must if you’re a petite bread baker. – I am sorry, but kneading 800 times by hand is not my definition of a good arm workout.  My arm was about to fall off – I guess because the flour/water proportions were off when using whole wheat… but that’s another learning.
  3. Stone-ground whole wheat flour is NOT ideal when trying to make Julia Child’s french bread recipe. – Start with whole wheat pastry flour and then move gradually to coarser flours, especially when you do not have a stand mixer.
  4. Bread baking is not for the impatient. – You need a good day to make this recipe… no plans to go out, no plans for someone to come over, just stay home and bake bread.  Now I know why Rachael Ray is not a baker…
  5. Bread-baking is not for the compulsive cleaner. – No matter how clean I tried to keep the kitchen floor, there was flour all over… all over!!!  all over my dishes, all over the sink, all over the counters, all over the floor, all over me!!!!
  6. 11 page recipes need to be left to professionals. – I am sure that if I had spent a day learning this by actually watching someone do it, I would have grasped it a little better.  I felt consumed by the pages in the recipe.
  7. I will try this recipe again SOON.– I was not able to do it all over before the posting date, but I will not let this recipe get to me. 

Let’s say I have a new-found appreciation for bread bakers.  And as a consolation prize for my ego… the only thing left for me was to try… The No-Knead Bread recipe. YEAH!!!

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