Eleven years ago I hit “publish” on my very first post, got a huge thrill when I did it, and right after went through many bouts of anxiety as I waited and waited… how many people would read what I just wrote? Could I keep the blog going for 6 months? For a year? Well, eleven years have passed, I went from cake-o-phobe to tent-baker, met a ton of wonderful people through this site, and have absolutely no desire to stop writing. I never get tired of it, it is always exciting to share stuff I make. Like this Blog-Birthday cake. I wanted it to have tropical flavors. Passion fruit and coconut sounded good. And I also wanted it to be colorful and fun. Buttercream and sugar work to the rescue!

(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

for the cake:
280 g  all-purpose flour
300 g granulated sugar
2 + 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup full-fat milk + squirt of lemon juice
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 tsp Amoretti passion fruit flavor
½ cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
¼ cup grapeseed oil

For the buttercream:
340 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
750 g confectioners’ sugar, sifted (you might not use the full amount)
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon clear vanilla extract
pinch of salt

for the coconut pastry cream:
(adapted from a recipe from Martha Stewart)
2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup cream of coconut
1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1/2 tsp vanilla paste
4 large egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
pinch of salt

for drip icing:
2 tbsp white chocolate chips
100 g candy melts
43 g tbsp heavy cream (about 3 tablespoons)

for the sugar decorations:
(following Kim-Joy’s youtube tutorial)
food gel dye, any color you like

Butter and flour three 6-inch cake pans. Melt the butter gently and reserve. Mix the milk with lemon juice and let it sit for a few minutes (congrats, you just made full-fat buttermilk). Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. In another bowl whisk together the buttermilk, eggs, vanilla, and passion fruit flavor. Pour the liquid mixture into the flour. Whisk the ingredients together to combine. Pour in the melted butter and oil. Stir everything together until the batter is smooth.

Divide the batter into the three prepared pans. Bake for about 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of each cake comes out clean. Let the cakes cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes before removing from the pans. If making the cakes in advance, you can freeze them or keep in the fridge, they are easier to work with if completely cold.

Make the coconut pastry cream (preferably the day before assembling the cake). Bring milk, cream of coconut, coconut, and vanilla to a simmer in a medium pan over medium-high heat. Remove from heat. Cover and let it sit for 30 minutes at room temperature.

Put egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a bowl. Whisk with a hand-held blender until thick, about 5 minutes. Heat the coconut infused milk mixture until very hot. With mixer on medium-low speed, slowly pour in milk mixture. Transfer to saucepan. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until boiling, and boil for a couple of minutes. Strain through a sieve. Let cool completely and store in fridge until assembling the cake (cover surface with plastic to prevent a skin from forming).

Make the buttercream. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy. With the mixer running on low, slowly add all but 1 cup (125 g) of the confectioners’ sugar, the heavy cream, vanilla, and salt. Once incorporated, turn the mixer up to medium-high and mix for 3 to 5 minutes, until the buttercream is white, fluffy, and smooth. Add the remaining cup of confectioners’ sugar as needed, a small amount at a time (I used about half of it), until it reaches good spreadable consistency.  Keep half of it white, divide the other half in four small bowls and use food dye to make four colors of your choice. Reserve.

Assemble the cake. Place one cake layer on a cake board over a turntable. Spread half of the coconut pastry cream. Top with a second cake layer and repeat. Place the final cake layer on top. Crumb coat the cake with white buttercream and chill in the refrigerator for 15 minutes. Add splashes of the different colors of buttercream and work them with a bench or cake scraper as you rotate the cake. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Made the drip icing. Chop the chocolate chips into small pieces. Add the chips and candy melts to microwave safe bowl and pour heavy cream on top. Microwave for 20 second intervals, stirring in between each interval, until all the chocolate is melted. Let sit for 15-30 minutes, until it reaches 90 F. Pour over chilled cake, spreading towards the outside of the cake with the back of a spoon or small spatula so that it drips. Put back in the fridge to chill until ready to finish decorating. Transfer to a serving stand before adding the final sugar decorations on top.

Make the sugar decorations (can be made a couple of weeks in advance). Pour small amounts of glucose over a half-sheet lined with Silpat. Add drops of food gel dye, keep in mind a little goes a long way.  Bake at 300F for about 1 hour. Let it cool, break into pieces and use to decorate the cake.


to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Social isolation makes baking pretty tricky. I can still bake for homeless meals on Fridays but everything must be individually wrapped for take-out, so that limits a lot what I can make. No frostings, no mousse cakes, no mirror glazes… I wasn’t even sure I should bake a cake for the Bewitching anniversary because we eat at most one slice each, sometimes we just share a single slice and call it a day. Our departmental colleagues enjoy most of it. But at the present time, no sharing food is permitted in our building. Problem solved: our two graduate students agreed to do the sacrifice and help us with this pressing matter. It was my first time doing this type of watercolor design, so I kept the buttercream recipe simple. It is a fun technique and I intend to do it again in the future, perhaps with more pastel tones and using Swiss meringue buttercream. The real fun part was making the sugar decorations. Interestingly enough, the cake baking started with them. I subscribe to Kim-Joy’s youtube channel and on May 15th she uploaded that tutorial. I was so smitten by the whole idea, I made them later that same day.

I made two batches, the first one definitely using more dye than needed, the second batch using a lot less. With less dye, you get the subtle effect shown on the right picture of the composite above.  You can play with colors and amounts, it is amazing to see the changes the whole thing goes through during baking. At first you will think it’s all going to be ruined. Just trust Kim-Joy, let the oven do its thing, it will all settle into a nice outcome. Make sure to watch her video to get a better idea of the whole method.

The sculpture was a gift from my sister Nyrma, during a trip to Brazil many years ago. I thought it matched the sugar decorations quite well…   And no, it was not intentional at all  😉

The sugar decorations change quite a bit depending on the light, which I find fascinating. And they hold so well! I made them without any precise goal about how or when to use them, but then realized that the blog would turn 11 soon, and a cake was needed. I hoped they would last long enough for that, and they did, just sitting at room temperature, in a single layer. Exposed to the air, not in a box or anything.  Keep that in mind if you want to include sugar decorations on cupcakes or other concoctions. You can make them way in advance.

I loved the cake, the flavor from Amoretti does a good job when you cannot have fresh passion fruit pulp to use. It paired well with the coconut pastry cream. I actually added back to the pastry cream some of the shredded coconut sieved out, just to add a bit of extra texture, but you don’t have to do that, as most of the flavor will have infused the milk anyway. Your call.

So here I am, at the beginning of the 12th  year of my blogging life. It does feel like yesterday, but it also feels it all started a lifetime ago. I don’t have any special plans for the future. This site is just a reflex of my daily life. I am sure year number 12 will continue with a lot of baking, but also regular cooking.  I’ve been exploring a bit more vegetarian and vegan options, not with intentions of changing my eating habits, but for the challenge they represent, particularly in baking.  I found out last year that one of the graduate students in our department is allergic to eggs. That means she could never enjoy any of the bakes I shared with our colleagues in the “Mondays with Sweetness.”  It made me so sad. At some point I will be able to bake again for the department, and intend to get some bakes especially for her. Who knows when it will be? But I am practicing and getting my baking mojo ready for it…


To my readers, thank you for being here, your support is truly what makes it all so special for me, it’s the fuel that keeps my blogging engine going…


ONE YEAR AGO: The Bewitching Kitchen Turns 10, and a Giveaway…

TWO YEAR AGO: The Bewitching Kitchen turns 9!

THREE YEAR AGO: The Bewitching Kitchen turns eight!

FOUR YEARS AGO: The Bewitching Kitchen Turns Seven!

FIVE YEARS AGO: Bewitching Kitchen Turns Six!

SIX YEARS AGO: The Bewitching Kitchen turns Five!

SEVEN YEARS AGO: The Bewitching Kitchen turns Four!

EIGHT YEARS AGO: The Bewitching Kitchen Turns Three! 

NINE YEARS AGO:  The Bewitching Kitchen turns Two!

TEN YEARS AGO:  Bewitching Birthday!

ELEVEN YEARS AGO: Welcome to my blog!






Not everyone is fond of opera. I go as far as saying that it is an acquired taste. But if you switch from music to cake, the polls are reversed: most people will go weak in the knees anticipating a slice. Opera Cake is often described as a dessert in six acts. Layers of thin cake, moist with a delicate coffee syrup, separated by luscious coffee buttercream and chocolate ganache. A real French classic. A real beauty. A perfect way to say I love you on February 14th. Or any other day of the year. Because this is a cake that creates its own moment. And thanks to Colette Christian and  Craftsy lessons online, Sally, the cake-o-phobe produced a version that made her very happy…



(based on Colette Christian’s Miniature French Desserts at


It all starts with the mis-en-place for a Joconde sponge cake. With a name like that, you know it’s going to be special. Joconde is a cake leavened exclusively by beaten eggs, with a nice proportion of ground almonds (or almond meal) in the batter. Colette gives very nice tips to make it homogeneous in thickness, because the Opera Cake is all about precision. Any small mistake in a step, and the outcome might suffer.

You can use any formula you like for the cake, I will give you one example from BBC food, very similar to the one I used from Colette.


3 whole eggs
15g sugar
100g almond flour
100g icing sugar
3 egg whites
20g granulated sugar
30g cake flour
30g unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Almonds and icing sugar are sifted into a large bowl, eggs added and whisked to combine.

A meringue is made with the egg whites, raining the granulated sugar slowly, until soft peaks form. Increase the speed to medium-high, and mix until the whites are at a firm peak. Add 1/3 of the meringue to the almond mixture. Add half the cake flour and half the melted butter.  Add another 1/3 of meringue, the rest of the flour and butter. Finally fold in the remaining third of the meringue.

Spread the batter as homogeneously as possible on a half-sheet pan. Try not to deflate it and bake it right away for about 15 minutes at 375 F. The cake should not get any color, but it should spring back lightly when touched at the center.


After baking, the cake is cut in three rectangles. Try to be precise, but don’t worry too much, as the cake will be trimmed at the very end. One layer is painted with melted chocolate and allowed to set. That layer of chocolate will be the very base of the final cake, preventing any soaking syrup from forming a puddle in the bottom.

You will also need to make a coffee buttercream, more specifically a French buttercream, in which a mixture of sugar and water is cooked to 236 to 240 F (soft-ball stage).  You can use this recipe, which is again very similar to the one I got from Craftsy. Just include 1 tablespoon of coffee extract together with 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. You need coffee extract to make sure the flavor will come through without diluting the buttercream too much and affecting texture.

Apart from the buttercream, you’ll need chocolate ganache for one of the cake layers.  A regular kind, equal weights of chocolate and heavy cream, allowed to cool to room temperature and placed in a piping bag.  The buttercream also goes in a piping bag, the easiest and less messy way to assemble the cake. No need to use a piping tip, just cut the bag to form a 1/2 inch opening.

To assemble, first start with the cake painted with melted chocolate at the base. A nice soaking of coffee syrup (water, strong coffee extract and sugar, cooked until the sugar fully dissolves). A layer of buttercream. A second layer of cake. More soaking. Ganache lavishly spread on top. Final layer of syrup-soaked cake, final top layer of buttercream. Now, the assembled cake rests in the fridge for a couple of hours, waiting for the final step. Don’t worry about the way the sides look now. It will all be fine in the end…

The pouring ganache, perhaps better described as a chocolate glaze. A good formula would be 227g chocolate (at least 60% cocoa), 170g heavy cream, and 28g light corn syrup. The glaze cannot be too hot, and cannot be too cold. A little colder than body temperature will be perfect. Colette shows a nice technique to pour the glaze, so that it sits as a very smooth layer on top. Once all that is done, the cake is refrigerated for several hours so that all layers are nicely set. Do not dare cutting it before it sets, you will not have defined layers unless you exercise patience. That gave me a bit of a chuckle. Me, advising patience, the virtue I lack the most…

Then what? Then the final fun begins… I decided to cut the cake in 2 inch squares, and for that I used a very cool gadget. I tell you, just getting that tool ready made me feel like some heavy hitter baker… I know, I’m easily amused. But, seriously, just look at how cool that is:

I also used this tool to cut the laminated dough for croissants and pain au chocolat, but failed to get a picture at the time.  All you need to do is measure the precise dimension of what you want to cut (or score the surface, as in the case of the Opera Cake), and lock the rolling blades in place.  Gently roll them over the surface of the fully set cake, and you will have perfect squares, ready to be sliced with a serrated knife. The edges are trimmed off to reveal clean layers on all sides of the cut pieces. The secret is to place the knife in very hot tap water, and clean the blade after every cut you make. If you’d like to order one, here is a link to (I do not make any profit from your purchase, by the way).

A little buttercream goes in a small piping bag couple with a star tip. And you are ready to decorate the top. Or, you can do the more authentic decoration, writing Opera on each slice. Since I opted to cut the cake small, I went with the buttercream instead. What do you think?

This cake was so much fun to make!  I started early on a Sunday morning, and tried to work as relaxed as possible. It is cake, after all, and they make me a little nervous. But, less now than in the past.

For those who celebrate…


I know I’ll be repeating myself, but I must give high praise to the online baking classes from Craftsy, particularly those taught by Colette Christian.  Without her guidance, making the Opera Cake would have been a tragedy in six acts… 

ONE YEAR AGO: Incredibly Simple Times Four

TWO YEARS AGO: Raspberry Chocolate Truffles

THREE YEARS AGO: Red Velvet Cupcakes

FOUR YEARS AGO: Valentine’s Day: The Finale

FIVE YEARS AGO: Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

SIX YEARS AGO: Dan Dan Noodles

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Sophie Grigson’s Parmesan Cake

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Antibiotics and Food