Lessons Learned While Making an Opera Cake

You’re never too old to learn…and apparently the lessons I need to learn involve time management, coordination and reading comprehension. All of these valuable skills would have made my very first Daring Baker challenge go a lot smoother. But as the saying goes, you live, you learn…and then you have a margarita (what do you mean that’s not how the saying goes?).

Lesson #1:  Read the Full Recipe First

I actually did read the entire recipe (similar recipe can be found here), but that was over two weeks ago and I have the attention span of a five year old…after eating ten Twinkies.  So I completely forgot about the amount of time required to chill the various components of the dessert before and after the finished, assembled cake.  This was mistake number one.  Why you may ask?  Because I was making the cake not only for the Daring Bakers’ Challenge, I was making it for the neighborhood dinner.  Oh and did I mention I waited until the day of said neighborhood dinner to start making the cake?  Yes, I know…I really should have read the recipe again.

Lesson #2:  Do Not Wait Until the Last Minute to Make an Intricate Dessert

Why oh why did I wait until the last minute to start on the cake?  The recipe even lets you know which elements of the cake (there are a total of five:  the joconde, or almond cake base, the syrup, the buttercream, the mousse and the glaze) can be made ahead of time.  It practically screams:  “Stephanie!  Make these things on Friday night because you know you’ll be busy Saturday!”  But I was fairly heavily medicated on Friday night and I wanted to watch the four episodes of Ugly Betty on my TiVo.  This was mistake number two.

Lesson # 3:  Utilize Your Space Wisely

I live in a basement apartment with a tiny kitchen (read:  little counter space).  Because of this, I have had to be fairly creative when it comes to space utilization.  However, with five different things being made almost simultaneously, it was extremely difficult to find places to set things down.  And since I was already frazzled because of the time crunch (did I not mention that I waited until 3 to start making this dessert…and dinner was at 7?), my wits were not about me.  In fact, my wits had taken the shuttle up to New York City to take in the Sex and the City tour (Oh my God! Oh my God…the movie opens tomorrow!!!!!).  Making things even harder was my attempts to capture the stages of the process with my Canon.  

Lesson # 4:  Never Carry a Dessert While the Diva is Underfoot

Not too long after taking the shots of the finished dessert, I plated all of the individual pieces for transport to Carmen and Aster’s house.  I got together my camera equipment, picked up the cakes…and tripped over the Diva.  I watched helplessly as all of the cakes went flying to the floor…much to the Diva’s delight.  Cake everywhere and nothing I could do about it…

Yes, this lovely cake, after all of my hard work, ended up disastrously on my kitchen floor.  And I am not ashamed to admit, I cried.  Not insane water-works crying; but I did cry because even though the entire process was rushed due to my mistakes, I had a lot of fun.  And to know that my work would not be shared with others really got to me.  

Trust me, these lessons will not go unheeded, especially with future challenges.  But all in all, this was a fun cake to make and made me very glad that I am in fact, an official Daring Baker!


Filed under Baking, Daring Bakers Challenge

33 responses to “Lessons Learned While Making an Opera Cake

  1. Tanya

    Your cake looks beautiful! Great job!

  2. OH MY GOD!!! on the floor? not on the floor! oh darling. that just sucks… and it happens to everyone at least once. bravo on being a daring baker… even if your treats end up on the floor 😉

  3. The cake you saved looks good! It took me two nights to make the cake and I had to do the dishes in between almost each step.

  4. Looks like you get the best post of the challenge award…at least from me. Not only did you learn alot, you have a delightful way of writing about it. SO sorry the cake ended up on the floor…was that an Opera Diva?? The photo shows that it was a lovely cake…very glad you are a Daring Baker! Next month will be perfect….although perfect is rarely much fun.

  5. I had my fair share of disasters making this cake as well – but yours looks fantastic. Great job and thanks for sharing!

  6. You did a wonderful job on your cake. I’m so sorry you didn’t get to enjoy it. Well it had to be good since the Diva enjoyed it so much.

    Natalie @ Gluten a Go Go

  7. You poor thing 😦

    I wasn’t able to tackle this one. Congrats on a “successful” first challenge. They’re not always this complicated!

  8. Oh no, after all that hard work, it fell on the floor! I bet the diva was thrilled, it looked tasty. I would have cried too.

  9. Aw! I’m sorry your cakes ended up on the floor. That totally stinks. The one you snapped a pic of looks fabulous! I would have cried, too. And maybe eaten some cake off the floor. Better luck next time. Cheers, A.E.

  10. I definitely would have had to taste it anyway – just dig that fork in right on the floor – he he he.

  11. How sad…it does look wonderful!

  12. That looks so good, I probably would have forgone the fork, the five second rule, and dove in with my hands. But as evidenced by my display when the song came on outside of Artomatic as we were leaving, I have no restraint.

  13. I love the list of things you learned! Too bad the cake fell, but you did get a good photo!
    Shari@Whisk: a food blog

  14. Awww, thank you guys for saying it looked good! It was such a labor of love, so I was crushed to see it fall to the floor. The Diva, however, was not and I spent a great deal of time trying to pull her away from the mess before cleaning it. I’m looking forward to the next challenge (and hopefully it won’t end up on my floor…but the Diva already looks like she’s plotting against me).

    And I love calling her the Opera Diva!

  15. oh my gravy! I can’t believe you dropped it after all that! tragic really.

  16. Oh no! I’m so sorry all that hard work was ruined!

    If you ever find a system that works in a small kitchen, send it my way. I do think the small spaces adds to the frazzled feeling.

    The one you were able to take pic of is lovely.

  17. Congratulations on your first challenge and welcome to the DBR’s! I’ll be exited to see your future challenge posts as well as your write-ups! Great cake and flavors!!

  18. That last picture is beautiful – at least you captured it pre-cat-disaster. Though we may retreat and clean up now, we will live to bake another day.

  19. I’d cry if that beauty hit the floor too. Did ya at least take a wee bit to taste??

  20. sleepingbear

    Yes, that is the phrase, “you live, you learn …and then you have a margherita”, only thing different I know is if you don’t like tequila then you sub for your favorite spirit! Speakin of spirit, with all you had to deal with, and to finish with such a great looking cake, you definitely have the DB spirit!!
    Wonderful first challenge!!!!
    SleepingBear in the Kitchen

  21. oh dear. that’s too bad. but the last pic looks good to me!

  22. Oh, but THAT’s bad! I would definitely have cried too! But – are you going to try again? That would be really daring 🙂

  23. I waited last minute too. : )
    I’m sorry your pretty round cake ended up on the floor, I’m sure it tasted heavenly.

  24. Noooo! I would have cried too! but thank goodness you got pics – it look(ed) great!

  25. That’s a lot of lessons for such a lovely cake! Nice job before the crying 🙂

  26. I’m so sorry, your cakes looked amazing! I hope you at least got to taste one. Thank you for the lessons learned, those are all something we should remember every time we go to make our next challenge.

  27. oh honey, i really am so very sorry…

    what a disappointment. next time…

  28. No matter what, I will definitely be up for the next challenge! These lessons will be forever etched in my head, so hopefully next time (much to the Diva’s disappointment) others can enjoy my challenge recipe! I am going to try to make the opera cake again and play with the flavors more. It really is a great cake and not all that hard if you plan ahead.

    I’m just so excited to be a part of the Daring Bakers and everyone has been so very supportive and encouraging. Thanks to my fellow Daring Bakers for their words of support and to everyone else who commented on this little piece.

  29. ON the FLOOR?! You poor, poor thing! I’m sooo sorry that happened to you. You are a trooper!

  30. I’m so glad I wasn’t the only one who got schooled by this cake! But we made it. Huzzah. 😉

  31. Wow! What an eventful first DB challenge. I hope all turned out well in the end. Don’t let this turn you off of baking, because you certainly do have talent. If I had tried to bake that cake at the very last minute, it would have been even more of a disaster 😛 You did well, and the cake looks to-die-for! Congrats

  32. Rebecca – I felt such a sense of accomplishment when it was all done, but then to see it fall, I was so crushed. But knowing that I finished it was a “huzzah” indeed!

    Joanna – Thanks for the words of encouragement. And as long as there is breath in my body, I’ll bake! It’s my passion 🙂

  33. I might have just joined the Diva on the floor. I’m glad you accomplished the challenge though, even if you didn’t get the chance to share it that you had hoped!

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