April has not been a good month and I am pretty glad it is ending. One post? That’s it? What with all the thesis submitting, problem sets, tests and presentations, I’m pretty happy that I managed this one post.

So, April is my dad’s birthday month. It’s a weird family thing. Our birthdays fall in separate months, one after the other. So we’ll have birthday cakes from December to April and no cake for the rest of the year! Yeaaah…

So, the opera cake is a type of French cake. It consists of layers of almond sponge cake called joconde in French, soaked in coffee syrup, alternating between layers of coffee  butter cream and chocolate ganache. What is there not to like?

Opéra Gateau

adapted from recipe on Foodbuzz

Sponge Cake

85 g  Ground Almonds

75 g  Powdered Sugar

25 g  Cake Flour

120 g Whole Eggs (about 2 medium-sized eggs)

80 g  Egg Whites

10 g  Sugar

30 g  Melted Butter

Mix together the almonds, powdered sugar and flour in a bowl. Add the eggs a little at a time mixing well after each addition.

In another bowl, whip the egg whites with the sugar until they form firm, glossy peaks.
Gently fold the flour and egg mixture into the whipped egg whites. Fold in the melted butter.

Spread the mixture about 1/4 of an inch (5mm) thick in the half sheet pan lined with parchment. (I only have a small convection oven. I baked my cake in a square cake tin in 4 batches). Bake at 200 degrees Celsius for 15 minutes (11 minutes for the square tin) or until golden and firm to the touch. Remove from pan and immediately peel off the parchment paper.

French Butter cream

250 g  Sugar

60 ml  Water

90 g  Egg Yolks (about 2 medium-sized eggs)

300 g  Butter, softened

3/4 tsp  Vanilla extract

1 1/2 teaspoons instant coffee dissolved in 15ml water

Combine sugar and water in saucepan and allow to boil. Continue boiling until it reaches 115 degree Celsius (did not have a candy thermometer, winging it, I continued letting it boil for a minute after it first began to bubble)

While the syrup is boiling, beat the yolks until they are thick and light. As soon as the syrup reaches 115 degree Celsius,  pour it very slowly into the beaten yolks while whipping constantly. Continue beating until the mixture is completely cool and the yolks are very thick and light.

Whip in the butter a little at a time. add it just as fast as it can be absorbed by the mixture. Beat in the vanilla and coffee. If the icing is too soft, refrigerate it until it is firm enough to spread.


The ganache was just one part bittersweet chocolate plus one part cream. Chop the chocolate into small pieces and bring the cream to a boil. Add the chocolate to the cream and let it stand for a minute before mixing to get a smooth shiny ganache.

Coffee syrup

1/2 cup water

1/4 cup syrup

3 tbsp instant coffee

Bring mixture to a simmer in a saucepan and allow to cool.

Assembling the Cake

Melt some chocolate to coat the bottom most layer of the sponge cake (to prevent the cake from sticking to the board). Soak the first layer with syrup before spreading a 1/4 inch thick layer of butter cream. Place the next layer of cake and soak with syrup before spreading a layer of ganache. After placing and soaking the next layer of cake, spread another 1/4 inch thick layer of butter cream. Place the final layer and soak it with syrup before spreading the final layer of ganache (I have replaced the opera glaze with the ganache cos I was running out of time – I was skiving off from studying)

Let the cake set for in the refrigerator before slicing off the edges of the cake to show the beautiful, delicious layers.

This cake is slightly more tedious and you should probably set aside about 2 1/2 hours or perhaps prepare the various components a day ahead. I let the cake set for about half a day to let the flavors mingle. It was worth all the effort when the first bite just melts in you mouth. Two birthday cake requests for this cake have been made. So do try it and tell me how it goes!


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