Opera Torte [split from Manhattan board]
I'm sorry, but you seem to have arrived in New York too late for the tastes you crave. There were many such places as you desire on the Upper West Side: Lichtmann's, Grossingers, Gruenebaum's, and the Royal which appeared in the Seinfeld Babka episode (are they gone, too?), and last but best, the Eclair, which made the grandest Opera Torte in the world.
What I want is to reconstruct their opera torte for my birthday, but I can't figure out how to construct it in the right sequence, and there is one still-unknown element. Please search your sense memories and help me out.
It had layers of genoise, alternating with chocolate cream, mocha cream, and praline cream, apricot spread always atop the chocolate, and a crispy brownish layer that could have been a very dry dacquoise (almond or hazelnut?), all robed in dark chocolate and served "mit schlag". Now, I tried to make it once, and discovered that you have to finish with cake on top or you can't spread the chocolate very well! I believe the sequence would be cake, praline cream, cake, mocha cream, cake, chocolate cream, apricot, dacquoise/rusk. How many times should the sequence repeat? Would seven layers make the most sense? Who remembers? Where are the bakers who worked there? By the way, do you also remember the names of the 30 other torten they had on display? I only remember the Creme de Cassis torte, as I nearly always had the opera torte. After that, a traditional opera torte is a big nothing. They also sold wonderful rye and pumpernickel, and challah, I think. Their bread prices were very reasonable. Eating dinner or lunch was a little pricey. They had high prices and labor problems because they were unionized, so the overhead was terribly high, and the service could be indifferent, to be sure. My Viennese "auntie" proclaimed the backhandel and cucumber salad to be perfectly authentic. These places passed on with the gross exaggeration of commercial rents and the passing on of the wartime generations. There is, however, in Saratoga, a Mrs. London's cafe and bakery that is of exactly that type that should be visited and discussed. It may be worth a trip. They do have a website. It is my dream to someday open a truly traditional Hungarian Cafe somewhere, but where and when and how remain to be seen.