Classic French Opera Cake Recipe

French Opera Cake

The Spruce

Ratings (113)
  • Total: 110 mins
  • Prep: 80 mins
  • Cook: 30 mins
  • Yield: 1 Cake (16 Servings)
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
577 Calories
38g Fat
50g Carbs
11g Protein
See Full Nutritional Guidelines Hide Full Nutritional Guidelines
×
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 1 Cake (16 Servings)
Amount per serving
Calories 577
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 38g 49%
Saturated Fat 18g 88%
Cholesterol 129mg 43%
Sodium 158mg 7%
Total Carbohydrate 50g 18%
Dietary Fiber 5g 17%
Protein 11g
Calcium 104mg 8%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

There is much debate as to who, exactly, invented the original opera cake recipe and where. Some culinary historians have set it as far back as the 1890s, while others put its creation at a Paris shop in the mid-twentieth century. Most opera cake enthusiasts agree that the best - to some, the only - place to buy opera cake is at Dalloyau. Whichever camp you fall into, we think you'll agree that this opera cake recipe is well worth the time investment. Layers of light almond sponge cake, coffee buttercream, and dark chocolate ganache make it the showstopping dessert.

Do not be put off by the number of ingredients, it may be daunting but they effort is so worth the result. 

Ingredients

  • For the Almond Cake
  • 6 large egg whites (room temperature)
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 cups ground, blanched almonds
  • 2 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar (sifted)
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons butter (melted and cooled)
  • For the Coffee Buttercream:
  • 2 tablespoons instant espresso
  • 2 tablespoons water (boiling)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 14 tablespoons butter (at room temperature)
  • For the Dark Chocolate Ganache
  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate (finely chopped)
  • 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 4 tablespoons butter (at room temperature)
  • For the Chocolate Glaze
  • 5 ounces bittersweet chocolate (finely chopped)
  • 1/2 cup butter

Steps to Make It

Note: while there are multiple steps to this recipe, this dessert is broken down into workable categories to help you better plan for baking.

To Make the Almond Sponge Cake

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Opera Cake Recipe ingredients
     The Spruce
  2. Preheat the oven to 425 F. Line two 15-inch by 12-inch pans with parchment paper and brush the surface of the paper with butter. Set them aside for a moment.

    Opera Cake Recipe
     The Spruce
  3. Using an electric beater, beat the egg whites on high until they become foamy and start to expand. Sprinkle in the sugar, one teaspoon at a time, until all of it is incorporated into the egg whites. Continue beating the meringue until it is glossy and holds stiff peaks.

    Opera Cake Recipe
     The Spruce
  4. In a separate bowl, beat the ground almonds, confectioners' sugar, and whole eggs on medium just until the mixture becomes light and foamy.

    Opera Cake Recipe
     The Spruce
  5. Gently stir the all-purpose flour into the almond batter.

    Opera Cake Recipe
     The Spruce
  6. Then, gently stir 1/4 of the almond batter into the whipped egg whites. Fold the remainder of the almond batter and the melted, cooled butter into the egg whites.

    Opera Cake Recipe
     The Spruce
  7. Divide the sponge cake batter between the two prepared pans and bake the cakes for 5 minutes, until the surfaces spring back from a light touch.

    Opera Cake Recipe
     The Spruce
  8. Cover the top surface of each cake with a fresh piece of parchment and carefully invert them onto a clean surface. Slowly peel back the old parchment from the cakes and allow them to rest loosely over the cakes to prevent them from drying out.

    Opera Cake Recipe
     The Spruce

    To Make the Coffee Buttercream

  9. Gather the ingredients.

    Opera Cake Recipe ingredients
     The Spruce
  10. Stir together the espresso powder and boiling water and set the mixture aside for a moment.

  11. In a medium saucepan, set over medium heat, bring 1 cup sugar, 3 tablespoons water, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract to a boil. Continue cooking it until it reaches 255 F on a candy thermometer. Remove the sugar syrup from the heat and allow it to cool slightly.

    Opera Cake Recipe
     The Spruce
  12. In a separate bowl, beat the egg and egg yolk until they begin to get fluffy.

    Opera Cake Recipe
     The Spruce
  13. Continue to beat the mixture and add the hot sugar syrup to the bowl in a smooth, steady, slow stream.

    Opera Cake Recipe
    The Spruce 
  14. Once the syrup is incorporated, mix in the reserved coffee mixture.

    Opera Cake Recipe
     The Spruce
  15. Continuing to beat on medium-high and add the butter, one tablespoon at a time, until it is fully incorporated into the buttercream. The coffee buttercream is complete once it turns thick and fluffy.

    Opera Cake Recipe
     The Spruce

    To Make the Ganache

  16. Gather the ingredients.

    Opera Cake Recipe Ganche ingredients
     The Spruce
  17. In a medium saucepan, set over medium heat, bring the milk and cream to a boil.

    Opera Cake Recipe
     The Spruce
  18. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the chocolate. Continue stirring the chocolate for 2 minutes, to ensure a completely smooth texture.

    Opera Cake Recipe
    The Spruce 
  19. Stir in the butter and continue stirring the ganache for 90 seconds.

    Opera Cake Recipe
     The Spruce

    To Assemble the Cake

  20. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut one 10-inch by 10-inch square out of each layer of cake and place it on the baking sheet.

    Opera Cake Recipe
     The Spruce
  21. Carefully spread 3/4 of the coffee buttercream over the surface of one cake. Lay on another layer of cake. Spread the ganache over another cake in a smooth layer. Place the last layer of cake over the ganache, and then spread it with a thin layer of the coffee buttercream.

    Opera Cake Recipe
     The Spruce
  22. Chill the cake in the refrigerator for 1 hour before glazing it.

To Glaze the Cake

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Opera Cake Recipe glaze ingredients
     The Spruce
  2. Clarify the butter by boiling it and skimming off and discarding the solids.

    Opera Cake Recipe
     The Spruce
  3. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler and stir in the clarified butter until the glaze is smooth; pour the chocolate glaze over the cake.

    Opera Cake Recipe
    The Spruce 
  4. Allow it to set in the refrigerator, then cut off the edges before serving.

    Opera Cake Recipe
     The Spruce
  5. Enjoy!