Opera Cake

Opéra Cake - courtesy Flickr User arnold | inuaki
through a Creative Commons License.
To me, there is nothing more close-your-eyes decadent than an Opéra Cake, probably because I know what goes into it. It is sinfully rich and since it is typically served in small portions, the whole presentation makes it a little sexy for adults - you know you're getting something good inside a small package. For the kids, if they enjoy chocolate, they'll love a little Opéra Cake at tea time.

The origins of this cake differ. Some say Opéra Cake is credited to Gaston Lenôtre (1920 - 2009), who started École Lenôtre in 1971. Others say it was invented in the kitchens of Dalloyau, where it is still showcased today.

Opéra Cake consists of thin layers of joconde moistened with a coffee-flavored syrup, and sandwiched between layers of coffee-flavored buttercream and ganache. Depending on where you find the dessert, you'll find variations ranging from several layers of joconde with the buttercream and ganache, to just a few. The topping for it is generally a smooth chocolate glaze. You will often find flakes of edible gold leaf, gold dust, a piping of a musical note, or a coffee bean on the top.

Here is my favorite recipe for Opéra Cake, and it's very simple. This cake has three layers of joconde separated by a thin layer of ganache and a thicker layer of coffee buttercream. It is then topped with melted ganache that sets up shiny and smooth. It yields one sheet pan.

Opéra Cake
  • 3 sheets biscuit joconde
  • 2 lbs. 2 oz. coffee-flavored Italian buttercream
  • 1 lb. 4 oz. ganache
  • 30 oz. Coffee Syrup (see recipe below)
  • Additional ganache for the top
Lay a ganache frame or rectangular stainless steel frame over parchment paper or a silicone sheet on a flat sheet pan . Trim 3 biscuits joconde to fit inside the frame. Place one joconde sheet on the bottom. Brush 10 ounces of coffee syrup over the top, ensuring all the syrup is used up. Evenly spread the ganache over the top of the biscuit joconde.

Place the second joconde over the ganache and gently press to make sure the layer is evenly flat. Douse this layer of joconde with 10 ounces of coffee syrup, again making sure all the syrup is used up. Spread the buttercream over the second joconde evenly, and press the last joconde down evenly to get a perfectly flat cake. Use the last of the syrup for this layer, and spread a very thin layer of ganache over the top. This will act as a crumb coat. Chill until the cake is firm, then melt an amount of ganache for the top, spreading or tilting to make an even layer. Chill again, then cut into small rectangles for service.

Opéra Cake Coffee Syrup
This recipe yields about 30 ounces. Use 10 ounces for the bottom layer, 10 ounces for the middle layer, and the rest for the top layer.
  • 16 oz. water
  • 1 packet espresso
  • 10 oz. granulated sugar
  • 2 oz. Kahlúa, or use a coffee-flavored syrup like Torani
  • 1/2 oz. Trablit
Stir everything together in a saucepan until almost boiling. Remove, and cool before using.



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