Caramel and Apple Opera Cake

caramel apple opera cake recipe white chocolate topping gbbo great bloggers bake off british

This week my parents came over for dinner, providing a perfect opportunity to try out another dessert from The Great British Bake Off, as part of The Great Bloggers Bake Off. The choices from the semi-final program were a Charlotte Royale ‘brain cake’ from the technical challenge, or a rather more appealing layered Opera cake. Easy choice.

The Opera cake recipe is pretty much the same all over the web – for the basic Joconde (almond) sponge at least. My recipe was based on this one over on BBC Food. However on reading through, my baking tins were not 18 x 13 inches as they’d used – so I scaled it down to 2/3 to fit with my 14 x 11 inch tins, which are your standard kitchen baking trays.

Ingredients – Joconde sponge

4 egg whites (you can use the yolks in a french buttercream, see below)
18g sugar
150g ground almonds
150g icing sugar
4 eggs
55g plain flour
58g butter, melted


– Beat the egg whites to a soft peak stage, and add the sugar to form a stiff peak meringue mixture
– In a separate bowl, beat the eggs, ground almonds and sieved icing sugar for about 5 minutes, until roughly double the size
– Fold the egg whites gently into the almond mixture, before folding in the melted butter, a couple of spoonfuls at a time
– Spread the mixture into 2 tins – approx. 14 x 11 inches, lined and well greased. Ensure it fills up the corners
– Bake at 220 degrees for 5 – 7 minutes, until lightly golden on top and springy to the touch
– Remove from the oven and carefully peel off the paper. I found cooling on top of another sheet of baking paper helped move them around during assembly. Slice in half and fill.

opera cake method joconde sponge recipe meringue mixture ground almonds melted butter

opera cake joconde sponge mixture in prepared trays 11 by 14 inches

joconde sponge for opera cake sliced into two for layers

To fill

Buttercream – french or otherwise! My attempts at French buttercream weren’t great, but it’s a great way to use the leftover egg yolks, and is the perfect complement to the almond sponge.

Syrup to moisten the sponges

Ganache, or caramel in my case

Chocolate, to top

I borrowed some great tips from Joe Pastry for this bake as a whole. One of the best ones being covering the bottom sponge white another layer of chocolate, so it wouldn’t stick to the plate and would be easier to slice. Cool with the chocolate face down on a layer of greaseproof paper.

To moisten each layer of sponge, I made a caramel apple syrup. 2 apples, chopped (I didn’t peel them, the red skin added to both the colour and flavour), boiled in a saucepan on a medium heat with 1 tablespoon of water and 60g brown sugar, stirring to prevent sticking and burning, for 5-10 minutes, until the apple turns into a mushy puree. I added a couple of tablespoons of amaretto and left to cool, sieving, and spreading on each layer before adding the fillings. Another good tip I picked up was to have the cake facing upwards as it had baked, as the top is more porous than the bottom.

caramel apple syrup puree simple sieved for use on joconde sponges in opera cake

spreading apple caramel syrup on joconde sponge in opera cake layers

For the bottom layer of my cake, I used a spiced apple buttercream. Chopping the apple into small pieces, I microwaved it for a few minutes to remove most of the water, and soften to a stiff puree. When cool this was beaten with 30g butter and about 75g icing sugar – enough to make a stiff paste, and flavoured with 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon and a pinch each of ginger and nutmeg.

dehydrated apple puree for making spiced apple buttercream

In the centre – a gooey caramel. I used about half a can (200g) of ready made dulce de leche, available in the supermarket, or you can make your own.

dulce de leche tinned caramel layer on cake with palette knife opera cake recipe

And the top section, some caramelised, spiced apple chunks for a bit of texture – 2 apples chopped and heated in 30g brown sugar, a teaspoon of water and a little cinnamon, for just a few minutes to soften.

crunchy caramelised fruit pieces in caramel apple opera cake recipe

I topped these with my no-so-great attempt at French buttercream. Made using egg yolks, a boiled sugar syrup, and butter, all whipped to (supposed) perfection, I think my problem came with not testing the sugar syrup temperature / texture, so it may not have been cooked enough. I followed this lovely recipe and simple steps, it looks so easy in the pictures!
Nevertheless whilst building my other layers, I found it was starting to set in the fridge, so chanced using it on this top layer. It was a bit thin but did add a certain something taste wise.

thin french buttercream spread over applie pieces in opera cake patisserie

Finally, my chocolate topping. Having a tableful of guests waiting for dinner I had no time to temper it, but honestly don’t think it mattered! I used around 150g of white chocolate although could have got away with a bit less.

white chocolate topping on caramel apple opera cake layered

At this point the cake was a little oozy – mostly from the French buttercream – but half an hour in the fridge did wonders!

oozing layers of caramel apple opera cake french butter cream dulce de leche

And to finish – decoration with more white chocolate.

opera cake white chocolate writing and swirls topping

The edges needed a quick trim to neaten them up – this is best done with a hot knife (run under hot water and dry), so as to get a smooth cut and not stick to any of the layers. This end wasn’t so straight – Paul Hollywood wouldn’t be pleased!

opera cake trimmed layers buttercream caramel dulce de leche apple white chocolte

And finally ready to serve – some websites suggest edible gold, I opted for a sprinkle of iridescent edible glitter for that shimmering touch.

opera cake great bloogers bake off gbbo caramel apple with white chocolate recipe

Again sliced with a hot knife, and I was so happy with how the layers looked inside!

opera cake perfect slice four layers joconde almond sponge buttercream dulce de leche caramel spiced apples french recipe

It was a lovely showstopper of a dessert, quite rich, but very well received. As for the 4+ hours spent in the kitchen making and assembling – lovely as it was, I think this might be a one off!

See more attempts at this weeks GBBO challenges over at the Great Bloggers Bake Off with Helen and Jenny.


Toffee Apple Upside-Down Cake

toffee apple upside down cake from gbbo great british bake off bbc recipe review

Made a couple to weeks back, this cake was an amazing dessert to accompany a big Sunday lunch.  Not that it lasted long enough, but I’m sure a slice would be amazing any day of the week!

I wanted to make a dessert that used apples – as some of the best traditional desserts do – but something with a bit more of a challenge than your usual pie or custard.

toffee apple upside down cake granny smith apples three

Not very much research later, and I stumbled across this great recipe over on the BBC, from last years Great British Bake Off. As I’ve never made anything upside-down before, let alone something so spectacular, I followed the letter as close as I could, so won’t retype here. The only thing I added was a little spice to the cake mix which really ramped up the taste – a teaspoon of lemon juice, a teaspoon of cinnamon, and half a teaspoon each of ginger and nutmeg.

First step in the cake was by far the most challenging – toffee! I’ve not made anything like a tarte tatin before so was intrigued to see how this would work. Such a simple combination of water and sugar, boiled over a high heat until golden. But leave it just 10 seconds too long and it turns into a black, vicious, tar-like substance that will smoke out the kitchen!

burnt toffee sugar and water instructions
smoke in kitchen from burnt baking

Oops! Lesson learnt, and pan cleaned (you need HOT water to get this toffee off anything…), a second batch fared much better, and it was poured into the tin and covered with apple rings and slices.

layering apple rings in toffee upside down cake loose bottomed tin

Cake batter mixing and baking was a doddle after the caramel disaster (and to add insult to injury the house smelt of burnt sugar for a good few days after).
The next obstacle was to turn the cake out, and the moment of truth for its’ upside-down-ness, would it stay in one piece?

toffee apple upside down cake viewed from the top

turned out toffee apple upside down cake apple rings didn't stick

It made it! Just about – you can see a few small pieces of apple stuck on the greaseproof paper in the background. Next time I’d perhaps use large slices of apple, and not so many small bits.

As it cooled on the rack I was slightly concerned that all the toffee seemed to be dripping down the sides…

toffee dripping from upside down apple cake like tart tatin

…but other than put a tray underneath to catch the drips there wasn’t a lot I could do! Actually it turned out this wasn’t such a bad thing, when we ate the cake it was good to have sticky toffee flavour all the way down.

Finally – a third batch of toffee:

making caramel from sugar and water easy recipe bubbling in non stick pan

This was drizzled over the cleaned baking tin bottom, so as to create a sugar sculpture shell that was the same size as the cake itself.

toffee drizzles on round baking pan for hardened sugar topping freeform artistic cake topping

Quite how it was supposed to “gently remove” in one piece is still completely beyond me, but I was quite happy with my 3 pieces, you can hardly tell and they still finished off the cake to a T!

caramel apple upside down cake with abstract freeform sugar work on op

caramel toffee crown on apple upside down cake sugar toffee pieces

I have to say it looked amazing – the colours on the top were just fantastic, reds, golds, and browns, more autumnal than our current weather! On arrival at our Sunday dinner I took the lid off the tin to reveal an amazing scent of spices, apples, and sweet, sticky, sticky toffee.

hardened sugar pattern caramel on for toffee apple upside cake from gbbo recipe

toffee apple upside down cake caramelised sugar crownt topping

So I’d say another technical challenge really rather well conquered! Any suggestions on what to try next…?

toffee apple upside down cake with toffee sugar caramel crown art

toffee crown sugar artwork on top of upside down cake