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Opera Cake

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This Opera Cake is a classic French dessert that packs a coffee and chocolate punch, perfect for coffee lovers. It’s a soft, delicate, and rich layered dessert that looks so impressive!

Opera Cake - close up shot of the layers of the cake
Opera Cake - single piece on a plate

If you’re looking for a cake that will turn heads at your next get together or you just feel like dessert challenge this weekend, give this cake a go. It’s into a hard dessert to make, but it takes a bit of planning, precision, and patience. The end result is a neatly presented, layered dessert that is flavorful, rich and melts in your mouth.

I tested this cake, and I learned a lot, so I’m going to include all of my tips and tricks in this post so that you can get the best-looking opera cake!

If you’re looking for more French desserts to tickle your baking bone, I haver loads on the blog, but some of my favorites include my Chocolate Eclairs, French Macarons and my easy Vanilla Crème Brûlée!

What is Opera Cake?

An Opera Cake is a neatly presented French cake that is layered with three dessert elements.

  1. Almond sponge which is brushed with a coffee syrup
  2. Coffee flavored French Buttercream and
  3. Chocolate Glaze (my Chocolate sauce recipe)

It’s a very unique dessert with visual flair that shows off it’s many layers. Some people will add gold dusted chocolate decorations on top, I decided to pipe wavy chocolate lines on top to give it a bit more of a classic/modern twist.

This cake is not hard to make, but it takes patience and a little time. The end result is worth it, I promise! Once you’ve made it, you’re left with a cake that looks super impressive and is a melt in your mouth experience with every bite!

Opera Cake - illustration of layers of cake

While I was researching this cake

I quickly realized that nobody has shown a visual representation (other than in photos) of the different layers or even how to cut this cake! Grrrr.

Opera Cake - how to cut your cake properly

And sometimes it can be hard to see exactly which layer goes where just from looking at photos. So I’ve included a simple illustration at the top of this post that you can refer back to when putting your cake together. I wish someone had done this because The second last test had to be re-done because I got confused with the order of the layers!

Opera Cake - single piece on a plate shot from the side top

Let’s talk Almond Sponge, Chocolate glaze and French buttercream!

This cake is a unique blend of soft almond sponge, smooth chocolate glaze and an almost mousse like buttercream. It all comes together to make a deliciously chocolate and coffee dessert. Let’s dig into the different elements a little more!

  • Almond Sponge – my favorite thing about this sponge, other than how soft and delicious it is, is how quickly it bakes. It’s done in just ten minutes! Once it’s gently soaked in the coffee syrup it’s soft, moist and melts in your mouth.
  • Chocolate Glaze – this is my chocolate sauce recipe which is glossy and so easy to make. It’s all made in one bowl and melted in the microwave. Once melted, it’s set at a soft spreading consistency and is very similar to a soft ganache.
  • French Buttercream – this is a coffee flavored, egg yolk buttercream which is almost mousse like. The egg yolks are gently cooked with a sugar syrup and the whipped with softened butter. The result is an ultra-smooth and rich buttercream!

Ingredients You Need To Make Opera Cake

Note: the whole recipe, including the ingredient quantities, can be found at the bottom of this page – just scroll down to the bottom, or click the ‘Jump to Recipe’ button at the top of this post. I would highly recommend weighing all of your ingredients using kitchen scales.

Opera Cake - ingredients image
  • Almond flour – different from meal with is much coarser and still has the skin on it. Measure it using scales and then sieve it.
  • Powdered sugar – also known as icing sugar. Make sure you sieve it.
  • All-purpose flour – also known as plain flour.
  • Salt – I used fine salt.
  • Eggs – I used large eggs. Make sure they’re at room temperature.
  • Granulated sugar – this is regular white sugar.
  • Unsalted butter make sure you let your melted butter cool slightly before using.
  • Espresso powder – this is a fine powdered coffee. It’s used to make the coffee syrup and to flavor the frosting. If you have a fancy coffee machine you can just use coffee shots. One for the frosting and one for the syrup.
  • Brandy – I used Frangelico instead because I don’t like brandy. You can leave it out and replace it with more coffee if you like.
  • Dark Chocolate – make sure you’re using dark chocolate here. This recipe needs cooking chocolate which can be found in the baking isle of your supermarket. I use the Nestle Bakers’ Choice Dark Choc Melts. Can you use milk or white chocolate? Yeah, you can. But it’ll be sweeter. Keep in mind also, the addition of brown sugar will make an attempt at white chocolate sauce slightly golden. So replace the brown sugar with caster sugar.
  • Heavy / Whipping Cream – this is the cream you use to whip cream and will help the sauce thicken, but weirdly enough also helps thin it out and keep it soft. Make sure your cream has at least 30% fat content.

How to make Opera Cake!

Sponge Cake

Opera Cake - steps 01
  1. Sieve and whisk dry ingredients together.
  2. Whip up sugar and eggs until frothy and glossy.
  3. Add dry ingredients half at a time, folding each time until combined.
  4. Add melted butter and fold through.
  5. Line half sheet baking tray with baking paper.
  6. Add batter and spread evenly. Bake and allow to cool in the tin.

Coffee Syrup and Chocolate Glaze

Opera Cake - steps 02
  1. Coffee Syrup: Bring all ingredients for syrup to a boil and then allow to cool down.
  2. Chocolate Glaze: Add all ingredients to a heat proof bowl and microwave until melted. Allow to cool to a soft spreading consistency.

French Buttercream

Opera Cake - steps 03
  1. Make the syrup
  2. Whip up the egg whites until pale and frothy
  3. Slowly pour the syrup into the egg yolks with the mixer on high
  4. Mix until thickened and pale (takes a couple minutes)
  5. Add the butter 1 tbsp at a time
  6. Add the coffee shot ad mix until evenly combined.

Assembly

Opera Cake - steps 04
  1. Slice a 4-inch wide slice of cake along one side and then slice the entire cake in half.
Opera Cake - steps 05
  1. Lay one sheet of cake on a serving plate or chopping board. Brush with coffee syrup.
  2. Add 1/2 of the buttercream and spread.
  3. Add the next layer of cake and brush with coffee syrup.
  4. Add 1/3 of the chocolate glaze (make sure it’s a soft spreading consistency).
  5. Add the final two pieces of cake and brush with remaining coffee syrup.
  6. Spread other half of buttercream on top. Chill for 15 minutes.
  7. Spread 1/3 of chocolate glaze. Chill for 2 hours.
  8. Pipe waves of chocolate on top.
Opera Cake - steps 06
  1. Dip a large knife in boiling water and dry with paper towel. And slice the edges of the cake off. You want to clean, heat and dry the knife with each slice you make. Slice cake in half and then slice each half into 4 bars. You’ll have 8 slices all together.
Opera Cake - top down shot of wavy chocolate piping

Tips and Tricks For Recipe Success!

I tested this cake a lot! Here’s what I learned.

I learned a lot about this cake when testing it. It’s a cake that needs to look pretty, have even sized layers and needs precision. You need to give yourself time to make it and have patience. Having said all of that, it’s not a hard cake to make, especially if you prepare some of the elements ahead of time. Have a read of my tips and tricks because it includes all the things I learned when testing this recipe.

Ingredients

  • Measuring ingredients by weight: Make sure you measure your ingredients by weight using kitchen scales. Measuring by cups is the worst way to measure ingredients.
  • Sieve dry ingredients: make sure you sieve the dry ingredients to avoid any clumps in your powdered sugar and almond flour.
  • Room temperature ingredients: Make sure your ingredients are at room temperature. Your eggs, butter, milk, cream etc.
  • Making elements ahead of time: This is a big recipe. You can make the chocolate glaze, coffee syrup and almond sponge a couple days ahead of time. Just cover the cake with plastic wrap.

Making The Sponge

  • Make sure you use the right sized baking tray for the sponge. The one I used is a half sheet baking tray measuring 43cm x 27cm / 17 x 11-inch and is 1-inch / 2.5cm in height.
  • When whipping up the eggs for the sponge: Make sure you whip your eggs up properly until they’re foamy and glossy and take care to mix at the bottom of the bowl too. I like to use one hand to hold my electric hand mixer and use the other hand to tip the bowl to the side. It causes the eggs to fall to the edge of the bowl toward the beaters and speeds up the whipping process. Avoid overwhipping as it will cause your cake to deflate.
  • When folding in the dry ingredients and butter: use a spatula and take care to scrape from the bottom of the bowl. Dry ingredients love sinking to the bottom and hiding there.
  • Melted butter for the sponge: let your butter cool a little before using. Hot butter will deflate your sponge.

Making The Frosting and Chocolate Glaze

  • Curdled Frosting: If the frosting looks curdled, that’s completely normal. Keep whipping on high speed until it becomes smooth. If it doesn’t come together add a couple tbsp more of softened butter until it comes together.
  • Let Chocolate Set: Once you’ve made the chocolate glaze, give it some time to set to a spreading consistency. Not too firm otherwise it will tear the cake when spreading it.

How To Cut The Cake

  • When layering this cake: make sure you use some sort of unit of measurements for the fillings to get even sized layers that look uniform. I used an ice cream scoop. You can also measure by weighing the fillings using kitchen scales.
  • Spreading layers: the easiest way to get nice flat, even layers when layering the cake us by using an offset spatula.
  • How to cut the sponge: When cutting your sponge, use a ruler to cut out accurately sized pieces. I have more information on how to cut this cake at the beginning of this post with an illustration.
  • To get nice clean slices of cake: dip a large sharp knife in boiling water, dry it and slice. Repeat this with every single slice. It takes a little but of time, but it gives you super clean slices of cake!

Frequently Asked Questions about Opera Cake

What does it taste like?

Silky smooth coffee buttercream, soft almond sponge soaked in coffee syrup and chocolate glaze. Every bite is a melt in your mouth experience!

Is this like a tiramisu?

No. A tiramisu is an Italian cake with cream and sponge biscuits that are soaked in coffee. This takes things to a whole new level! You have layers of almond sponge, coffee buttercream and chocolate glaze. Similar flavors, completely different cake.

How do I store Opera Cake?

Store in an airtight container, in the fridge for up to 4 days. This cake is best eaten with it’s thawed at room temperature.

Can I freeze this?

Yes! This cake freezes really well. Freeze on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Once your cake completely frozen wrap in plastic wrap. It keeps for a month or more!

Gave this a go? Don’t forget to rate the recipe and leave a comment below! Hungry for more? Join me on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and TikTok for more great recipes!

If you loved this recipe, check these out!

Did you make this? Be sure to leave a review below and tag me @thescranline on Facebook and Instagram!

Opera Cake - thumbnail image

Opera Cake

This Opera Cake is a classic French dessert that packs a coffee punch, perfect for coffee lovers. It’s soft, delicate, and rich layered dessert.

Serves 8

4 from 7 votes
Print Recipe Pin Recipe
Prep: 1 hour
Cook: 10 minutes
Chill: 2 hours
Total: 3 hours 10 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: French
Calories: 8081kcal

Ingredients

Almond Sponge

  • 1 1/4 cups / 125 g almond flour
  • 2/3 cup / 100 g powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup / 40 g all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 6 large eggs
  • 3 tbsp / 40 g granulated sugar
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

Coffee Syrup

  • 2 tbsp / 40 g granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp instant espresso powder
  • 1/4 cup / 60 ml water
  • 1/4 cup / 60 ml Frangelico, or brandy

Chocolate Glaze

  • 2 cups / 400 g dark chocolate, 70% cocoa
  • 1/4 cup / 60 g unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 cup / 250 ml heavy cream

French Coffee Buttercream

  • 2 tsp instant espresso powder + 1 tbsp boiling water
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup / 4 tbsp water
  • 1/2 cup / 110 g granulated sugar
  • 1 cup / 250 g unsalted butter, softened


Instructions

Almond Sponge

  • Preheat a fan-forced oven to 160C / 320F. Brush a half sheet baking tray with melted butter and line with baking paper. A half sheet baking tray measures 43cm x 27cm / 17 x 11-inch and is 1-inch / 2.5cm in height.
  • Add the almond meal, powdered sugar and all-purpose flour to a medium sized mixing bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside.
  • Add the eggs and sugar to a large mixing bowl and use an electric hand beater or stand mixer fitted with a balloon whisk attachment. Beat on high speed until frothy, about 3 minutes.
  • Use a spatula to gently fold in half the dry ingredients. Drizzle in the melted and cooled butter and the remaining dry ingredients and fold, taking care to scrape from the bottom. Once there are no dry ingredients showing, stop mixing. The batter should be fluffy and thick.
  • Pour the batter into the cake tin and use a spatula to carefully spread around in an even layer. Bake for 10 minutes or until lightly golden. Take out of the oven and let it cool completey in the tin.

Coffee Syrup

  • Add all the ingredients into a small saucepan and stir. Bring to a boil, then simmer on low heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Take off the heat and allow to cool completely.

Chocolate Glaze

  • Microwave method – Add all the ingredients to a large, microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high, for 20 seconds at a time, mixing well between each interval until smooth.
  • Double boiler method – To make the chocolate glaze over a double boiler, simply add the ingredients to a large heatproof bowl. Place the bowl on top of a pot of gently simmering water making the sure the bottom of the bowl is not touching the water. Stir until melted. Take off the heat and allow to cool completely.
  • Once the glaze is made, allow to cool completely at room temperature to a soft spreading consistency. Set aside about 1/4 cup of chocolate glaze if you want to pipe words on your cake.

French Coffee Buttercream

  • Add the espresso powder and 1 tbsp boiling water to a small bowl and mix until well combined. Set aside to cool.
  • Add the egg yolks to a large mixing bowl and beat on high-speed using an electric hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with a balloon whisk attachment. After about 6 minutes they will be thick and pale.
  • Add the water and sugar to a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn down to low heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
  • While the mixer is on high speed, pour the syrup into the eggs in a slow and steady stream. Allow to continue beating for 2-3 minutes until the mixture becomes thicker.
  • Add the softened butter 1 tbsp at a time while the mixer is still on high speed. It will begin looking curdled but will all come together to be a smooth frosting. Turn down to low speed and add the coffee mixture and continue mixing until well combined.

To Assemble

  • To trim the cake, cut a 4-inch long strip down one side of the cake from top to bottom. You’ll have one thin rectangle and one wider. Then cut both in half. Use a ruler to measure your strips before slicing.
  • Place your first layer of cake on top of a large chopping board. Brush with cooled coffee syrup. Add 1/2 of the buttercream and use an offset spatula to spread as evenly as you can.
  • Add the second layer of sponge on top and brush with coffee syrup. Add 1/3 of the chocolate glaze and spread evenly.
  • Add the third layer of sponge (it will be in two pieces) and brush with remaining coffee syrup. Add the second half of the buttercream and spread evenly. Allow to chill in the fridge for 10 minutes before adding another 1/3 of the chocolate glaze. Spread evenly and allow to chill completely for at least two hours or overnight.
  • Soften the remaining chocolate glaze in the microwave to a soft spreading consistency and add to a piping bag fitted with a small round tip. Pipe wavy lines on top of the chilled dessert.
  • Dip a large sharp knife in boiling water and dry thoroughly. Slice the edges of the cake away so that you’re left with one large, neat looking cake. Then dip the knife in boiling water, dry and slice the cake in half. You want to heat the knife up with each slice and clean it before making the next slice. Slice each half into 4 bars. You’ll have 8 neat looking bars all up.

Notes

Storage – cakes can be stored in an airtight container, in the fridge for up to three days. Thaw to room temperature before serving.
Nutrition – is based on per slice. This recipe makes 8 slices.
A note on measurements – all ingredients in this recipe are offered in Australian cup measurements and weight measurements. Weight measurements are created by me, in my kitchen here in Melbourne Australia. The best way to get recipe success is to measure ingredients by weight, using kitchen scales.
Tips
• If your frosting looks split, the butter may have been too cold. Add about 2 tbsp in the microwave and microwave for 5 seconds. Add back into the rest of the frosting and mix in on medium speed.
• To get a neat looking cake – use an offset spatula to spread the chocolate glaze and buttercream as evenly and flat as possible.
• If chilling – thaw to room temperature before serving.
• If piping ‘opera’ on top of the cake – make sure your chocolate is at a soft spreading consistency similar to Nutella.
• To get distinct looking slices of cake – dip a large sharp knife in hot water and wipe dry with each slice.

Nutrition

Calories : 8081kcal
Carbonhydrates: 482g
Protein: 125g
Fat: 630g
Saturated Fat: 333g
Polyunsaturated Fat: 27g
Monounsaturated Fat : 160g
Trans Fat : 11g
Cholesterol: 3265mg
Sodium: 1190mg
Potassium : 3500mg
Fiber: 54g
Sugar : 350g
Vitamin A: 14893IU
Vitamin C: 1mg
Calcium: 1101mg
Iron: 56mg
Nutrition Disclosure
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1 comment

Nick August 28, 2023 - 7:21 am

5 stars
This dessert is a great baking challenge! Not hard, but it takes patience and precision to get it look perfect!

Reply
4 from 7 votes (6 ratings without comment)

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