This opera cake is a sophisticated and elegant dessert recipe that is deceptively easy to make! Layers of almond sponge cake with the most perfect coffee and chocolate flavor.
What is an Opera cake?
Hailing from France, an opera cake is made up of an almond sponge cake with layers of chocolate ganache and rich coffee buttercream. What sets this dessert apart from others is the coffee soaked sponge cake.
While it may look impressive, it’s actually quite easy to make.
Why this recipe will be a dessert-time favorite-
- Easy to make. Sure, there are multiple steps to making this cake, but they are very basic. Even a beginner cook could prep it.
- The almond sponges are soft and airy. Infused with coffee syrup, almond sponges that make up the base of the cake are perfectly soft and light.
- Perfect for events. This cake can be made up to a week in advance, so use it as a birthday or celebration dessert.
Although the ingredient list may be a little long, this recipe calls for simple, everyday ingredients that you most likely will already have on hand. Here is what you’ll need:
- Almond flour. Like in our almond flour cake, using this for the sponge base keeps it light and airy.
- All purpose flour. To mix with almond flour.
- Sugar. Both powdered and granulated sugar will be used.
- Butter. Melted.
- Eggs and egg whites. Whole eggs for the flour mixture and egg whites for meringue.
- Salt. To enhance and balance all flavors.
- Espresso powder. For a concentrated coffee flavor.
- Milk. To dilute the espresso powder.
- Butter. Room temperature, unsalted.
- Vanilla extract. To create a richer flavor.
- Instant coffee. Instant coffee for easy mixing. Decaffeinated coffee can also work.
- Cointreau liquor. I use orange-flavored liquor for this syrup. Rum and brandy would work well too. If you want to make this alcohol-free, just omit it.
- Water and sugar. Just like any syrup, you will need water and sugar to it.
- Chocolate. Use semi-sweet chocolate to balance out the sweetness of the cake layers.
- Whipping cream. I use whipping cream for my chocolate ganache to make it set properly.
- Chocolate. Dark chocolate of your choice.
- Vegetable oil. Or coconut oil.
How to make it
Although there are plenty of steps, the actual hands on time for the entire recipe is under five minutes. Let’s get baking!
Step 1- Preheat the oven
The first step in making any cake is preheating the oven and preparing the pans. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F. Then, get three 8-inch square pans and line them with parchment paper.
Step 2- Prep the sponge
For the almond sponge, mix almond flour with regular flour and powdered sugar. Crack two whole eggs into the mixing bowl and mix until smooth.
In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks. Gradually add the sugar and beat until stiff. Add the foamy egg white mixture into the almond batter and mix cautiously until fully combined. Then, add melted butter and mix again.
Step 3- Bake the sponge cake
Divide the batter into three equal parts. Pour it into the cake pans and bake for around 10 minutes. You can do the toothpick test to decide if the sponges are baked through or not. If the toothpick comes out dry and clean, remove the cakes from the oven.
Step 4- Prepare the coffee syrup
In a saucepan, mix water, instant coffee, sugar, and liquor. Place on low heat and bring the mixture to a boil. Remove the syrup from the heat when it thickens.
Step 5- Make the chocolate ganache
For the ganache, melt the chocolate in the microwave or using a double boiler. Add the cream to the melted chocolate and whisk until smooth and glossy. Allow the ganache to cool.
Step 6- Make the coffee buttercream
Combine espresso and milk and set it aside while you cream the butter. To do this, mix the butter at medium-high speed until fluffy. Slowly add the powdered sugar. Once fully combined, add the espresso and milk mixture and mix.
Step 7- Assemble the cake
It’s time to assemble the Opera cake. Start with brushing the sponge with coffee syrup.
Then, spread half of your buttercream on it.
Soak the second layer of the cake with syrup and place it on top. Spread chocolate ganache on the second layer and cover it with the final layer of cake.
Brush with syrup and spread the remaining buttercream on it. Cover the cake and refrigerate for at least two hours.
Step 8- Glaze the cake
Prepare the chocolate glaze. Melt the chocolate in the microwave. Add vegetable oil and whisk until fully combined. Place the cake on a wire rack and spread the chocolate glaze on top. Return the glazed cake to the fridge for another hour.
Draw a musical note on the cake using a piping bag and the remaining glaze.
Tips to make the best recipe
- Prep all the ingredients first. For all components of the cake to turn out well, you need to use the specific ingredients listed.
- Don’t over-mix. Whether you are making the almond sponge batter or the coffee buttercream, don’t over-mix. Over-mixing the batter will cause the sponges to be dense and flat. As for the buttercream, incorporating too much air into it will ruin the texture.
- Take your time to assemble the cake. The beauty of the Opera cake is in the layers. Take your time to cut out the almond sponges evenly. Divide the buttercream and ganache into equal parts, and spread them evenly on the sponges.
To store: Store leftovers in a cake keeper or in an airtight container. It will remain fresh in the fridge for 3 to 5 days.
To freeze: You can also freeze pieces of Opera cake for up to 3 months if wrapped tightly in food wrap and foil. It will keep well for up to 3 months.
Frequently asked questions
There are a few key differences between an Opera cake and tiramisu. Firstly, Opera cake has a French origin while tiramisu is Italian. Opera cake features bold coffee and chocolate flavors while a classic tiramisu is all about espresso-dipped biscuits layered with creamy mascarpone filling.
A classic opera cake features bold chocolate and coffee flavors combined with light almond-flavored sponges.
Traditionally, an opera cake has six layers. It consists of three layers of almond sponge, two layers of coffee buttercream, and one layer of chocolate ganache. The cake is also topped with a chocolate icing.
- 2/3 cup water
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 3 teaspoons instant coffee
- 1/4 cup cointreau optional
- 1 cup chocolate chopped
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 2/3 cup chocolate
- 2 tablespoon coconut oil
- Preheat the oven to 200C/400F. Line 3 8 x 8-inch cake pans with parchment paper and set aside.
- Add the almond flour, powdered sugar and flour in a mixing bowl. Add the whole eggs and mix until combined.
- In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Add the sugar until stiff peaks form, then add the egg white mix into the almond mixture until combined. Add the melted butter.
- Evenly distribute the batter amongst the two cake pans and bake for 9-10 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Let the cakes cool completely.
- In a small saucepan, add the coffee syrup ingredients and place over low heat. Bring it to a boil then remove off the heat to thicken.
- Make the chocolate ganache by melting the chocolate in the microwave until smooth. Add the whipping cream and fold through until smooth and glossy. Let it cool to room temperature.
- Make the coffee ganache. Combine the espresso and milk and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter on medium high heat until light and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar slowly, until combined. Add remaining ingredients and mix until fluffy.
- Assemble the cake. Place the first cake on a flat surface then brush with the coffee syrup. Spread half the coffee buttercream on top. Soak the second cake in the coffee syrup and place on top. Spread the top with chocolate ganache, Add the final layer of cake, brush with syrup and spread with the remaining coffee buttercream. Cover the cake and refrigerate it for at least two hours.
- Make the glaze by melting the chocolate in the microwave until smooth. Add the oil and whisk until smooth.
- Place the chilled cake on a wire rack and spread the chocolate glaze on top. Refrigerate until set.
- Using the remaining glaze, use a pipping bag to draw out a musical note.