French Opera Cake: 7 Tips And Tricks To Bake Perfect Opera Cake

Opera cake is a classic French dessert that boasts an exquisite combination of flavours and textures. Renowned for its decadent layers, this elegant treat is a favourite among dessert enthusiasts. The opera cake features delicate layers of almond sponge cake soaked in coffee syrup, alternating with smooth buttercream and rich chocolate ganache.

The French opera cake, also known as "Opéra," is a classic French pastry that is known for its elegant and layered composition. It is a cake made of thin layers of almond sponge cake soaked in coffee syrup, alternating with layers of coffee-flavoured buttercream and chocolate ganache, all topped with a chocolate glaze.

It is believed that the opera cake was invented in 1955 by pastry chef Cyriaque Gavillon, who hailed from a family of renowned pastry chefs, including his father at the Ritz. Gavillon ran the Dalloyau House, and the opera cake emerged as a modernised masterpiece of its time. Gavillon aimed to create a cake where all the layers were visible and the flavours harmoniously merged in each bite. It is said that his wife, Andrée, bestowed upon it the name "Opera" in reference to the stage of the opera house.

This cake also served as a tribute to the "Petits rats de l'opéra," the dancer customers of the pastry shop. Its clean shape and unique ingredients were considered avant-garde. Gavillon reduced the sugar, omitted alcohol, and shaped it into a distinctive rectangular form, giving birth to an unmistakably Parisian delicacy.

However, five years later, Gaston Lenôtre developed his own version of the opera cake, claiming its authorship. It wasn't until 1988 that Le Monde newspaper settled the dispute, officially recognising Dalloyau House as the originator of the opera cake. Today, you can find opera cake in many patisseries and upscale bakeries around the world, showcasing its popularity and enduring appeal.

Ingredients, Flavours And Texture

To create a delectable opera cake, it's crucial to understand the significance of each ingredient and the role it plays in achieving a sublime taste and texture. 

    Almond Sponge Cake: This delicate cake owes its lightness and nutty flavour to almond flour, which adds a distinct character. Combined with all-purpose flour, eggs, sugar, and unsalted butter, it forms the foundation of the opera cake's layers. 

    Coffee Syrup: A mixture of strong brewed coffee and sugar, the coffee syrup adds a subtle yet essential element. It infuses the sponge cake layers with a delightful hint of coffee, elevating the overall flavour profile. 

    Buttercream: Made with egg yolks, sugar, unsalted butter, and vanilla extract, the buttercream contributes a luxurious and creamy component. Its velvety texture and sweet essence harmonize the different layers of the cake. 

    Chocolate Ganache: A luscious blend of dark chocolate and heavy cream, the ganache crowns the opera cake with decadence. It lends a smooth, glossy finish and a rich chocolate flavour that complements the other elements. 

Utilizing high-quality ingredients is pivotal in attaining the finest results for your opera cake. The freshness of almond flour, eggs, butter, and the richness of dark chocolate are paramount to creating a truly exceptional and indulgent dessert. 

7 Tips And Tricks To Perfect Opera Cake

To ensure a flawless result when making the perfect opera cake, here are seven valuable tips and tricks: 

Precise Measurements

Accurate measurements of ingredients are crucial for the ideal texture and flavor. Use measuring cups and spoons to ensure precise quantities, especially for the sponge cake and buttercream. 

Room Temperature Ingredients

Bring ingredients like eggs, butter, and cream to room temperature before starting. This promotes better incorporation and a smoother texture. 

Almond Flour Texture

Sift the almond flour to remove any lumps or large pieces, ensuring a finer texture and even distribution in the sponge cake. 

Even Layer Thickness

When slicing the sponge cake into layers, use a sharp knife or a cake leveller to ensure uniform thickness. This ensures consistent layers and even flavour throughout the opera cake. 

Soaking the Cake

Apply the coffee syrup generously to each layer of the sponge cake. It adds moisture and enhances the coffee flavour, making the cake more indulgent.

Chilling the Cake

After assembling the opera cake, refrigerate it for several hours or overnight. This allows the flavours to meld together, resulting in a more cohesive and delicious dessert. 

Patience in Ganache Preparation

While making the ganache, ensure that the cream is hot enough to melt the chocolate. Be patient when stirring to achieve a smooth and glossy ganache without overmixing. 

By following these tips and tricks, you can create a sublime opera cake with impeccable taste, texture, and presentation. Enjoy the process and savour the delightful results of your efforts.

Opera Cake Recipe

Here's a detailed recipe to make the perfect opera cake: 


For the Almond Sponge Cake: 

    1 cup of almond flour 

    3/4 cup all-purpose flour

    1 cup of granulated sugar 

    6 large eggs 

    1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled 

For the Coffee Syrup: 

    1/2 cup strong brewed coffee

    1/4 cup granulated sugar 

For the Buttercream: 

    4 large egg yolks 

    3/4 cup granulated sugar 

    1 cup unsalted butter, softened

    1 teaspoon of vanilla extract 

For the Chocolate Ganache: 

    8 ounces of dark chocolate, chopped 

    1 cup of heavy cream 


For The Cake:

    Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Grease and line a 9x13-inch baking pan with parchment paper. 

    In a mixing bowl, whisk together the almond flour, all-purpose flour, and granulated sugar for the sponge cake. 

    In a separate large bowl, beat the eggs until pale and fluffy. Gently fold in the dry ingredients, followed by the melted butter. 

    Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread it evenly. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden and a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let it cool completely. 

For The Coffee Syrup:

    Meanwhile, prepare the coffee syrup by combining the brewed coffee and granulated sugar in a small saucepan. Heat over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and let it cool. 

For The Buttercream:

    To make the buttercream, whisk the egg yolks and granulated sugar in a heatproof bowl until pale and thick. Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water, ensuring the bottom of the bowl doesn't touch the water. Whisk constantly for about 5-7 minutes until the mixture thickens. Remove it from the heat and let it cool completely. 

    In a separate bowl, beat the softened butter until creamy. Gradually add the cooled egg yolk mixture, beating until smooth and well combined. Stir in the vanilla extract. Set aside. 

For The Chocolate ganache:

    For the chocolate ganache, place the chopped dark chocolate in a heatproof bowl. In a small saucepan, heat the heavy cream over medium heat until it simmers. Pour the hot cream over the chopped chocolate and let it sit for a few minutes. Stir gently until the chocolate is completely melted and the ganache is smooth. 

    To assemble the opera cake, carefully trim the edges of the cooled sponge cake and slice it into three equally-sized rectangular layers. 

    Place one layer of the sponge cake on a serving platter. Brush it generously with the coffee syrup. 

Assemble The Cake:

    Spread a layer of buttercream evenly over the soaked sponge cake. Repeat this process with the second layer.

    Finally, place the third layer of sponge cake on top. Brush it with the coffee syrup as well. 

    Pour the prepared ganache over the top layer of the cake, allowing it to drizzle down the sides. Use a spatula to smooth the ganache over the surface. 

    Refrigerate the opera cake for at least 4 hours or overnight to allow the flavours to meld and the cake to set. 

    Before serving, let the cake sit at room temperature for a few minutes. Slice and enjoy the decadent layers of almond sponge cake, coffee syrup, buttercream, and chocolate ganache. 

This detailed recipe will guide you in creating a perfect opera cake that is sure to impress your guests and satisfy your sweet cravings.