Classic Opera Cake


An opera cake is a thing of beauty. It takes time and patience, but the end result is elegant and best of all- delicious.

Photo by Grace Holyoke 2019

It does take time, and it can be made over a few days if you wish. You could bake the cake layers one day, wrap them and plastic and keep them in the fridge and make the buttercream and ganache the next day. It is best to ensure that all components of this dessert are prepared and cooled before assembling. In this particular dessert, it is important to work cleanly. Wash your dishes as you go and keep the countertop organized. I know it’s a bit of a pain but it makes life easier in the end.

Photo by Grace Holyoke 2019

The name Opera Cake  came from the originator’s wife. A great French pastry chef named Cyriaque Gavillon. He was coming up with a cake that would taste balanced in each bite. He came up with lots of thin layers with the flavours of coffee, almond and chocolate. When he presented his wife with his creation, she said it reminded her of the Opera House in Paris and all of it’s balconies. The name Opera Cake has stuck ever since.

Photo by Grace Holyoke 2019

It is such an elegant dessert that you can keep in your fridge, slice a few pieces and have a cup of tea with. Invite some friends over for tea and coffee, bring these beauties out and I promise they will be blown away.

If you try this recipe out let me know in the comments below!


Grace Eveline

Opera Cake

  • Difficulty: Moderate
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Cake layers:
  • 1 1/3 cups slivered almonds
  • 2/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 6 eggs separated and at room temperature*
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar divided
  • 1/4 cup strong brewed coffee
  • 1 tablespoon coffee liqueur
Chocolate ganache:
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 8 ounces finely chopped dark chocolate
Coffee buttercream:
  • 1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons room temperature coffee
  • 5 teaspoons instant espresso powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 to 4 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 to 3 tablespoons whole milk or heavy cream


Cake layers:
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Spray 3 (8x8inch) square cake pans with cooking spray and line the bottom of the pans with parchment. Spray the parchment paper with cooking spray, then lightly dust with flour. Set pans aside.
  2. Place the almonds and powdered sugar in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until almonds are finely ground. Set aside.
  3. Place the egg yolks in a medium mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer set to high speed until very thick, about 5 minutes. Add the milk, vanilla, and almond extract, and beat on low to combine. Fold in the almond-powdered sugar mixture.
  4. Wash the beaters—if they’re not completely clean your egg whites won’t whip properly. Set the mixer to medium speed and beat the egg whites and cream of tartar together in a large mixing bowl until they form soft peaks. Turn mixer to high and gradually beat in 1/4 cup of the granulated sugar; beat until the whites form stiff peaks. Gently fold half the the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture to lighten, then fold that mixture into the remaining egg whites. Divide batter evenly between the prepared pans and smooth the tops with an offset spatula.
  5. Bake cake layers for 12 to 15 minutes, until the tops are light golden brown. Cool in pans set on wire racks for 10 minutes, then gently invert onto the racks to cool completely. (Cake layers will be thin.)
  6. While the cake layers are cooling, combine the coffee and remaining 1/4 cup of granulated sugar in a small saucepan set over medium heat. Cook until sugar is dissolved and mixture just boils. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the coffee liqueur. Allow to cool completely.
Chocolate ganache:
  1. Heat the heavy cream in a small saucepan set over medium heat until it begins to steam. Place the chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl and pour the hot cream over it. Let sit for 3 minutes, then stir until the mixture is completely smooth. Let cool for 15 minutes—you want the ganache to thicken enough that it doesn’t run, but still be thin enough to spread easily with a spatula.
Coffee buttercream:
  1. Beat butter on medium speed until very smooth. Add the coffee, espresso powder, and salt and beat 1 minute more. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, then add 4 cups of powdered sugar and mix on low speed until combined. Beat in 1 tablespoon of milk to combine. Turn mixer to medium and beat until very smooth. If frosting is too thick, add additional milk or cream. If it’s too thin add additional powdered sugar.
  2. Assembly:
  3. Set 1 of the cake layers on a cardboard cake board or cake stand. Brush with 1/3 of the coffee syrup. Spread an even layer of buttercream over the cake, then spread 1/3 of the ganache over the cake—don’t go all the way to the edge with the ganache. Repeat with the second cake layer. Top with the remaining cake layer and brush with the remaining syrup.
  4. Refrigerate cake for about 20 minutes, until the ganache is set and the cake layers don’t jiggle. Frost the entire cake with the buttercream. Chill the cake for at least 1 hour, or until the buttercream is set. Top with the remaining ganache and decorate with any leftover buttercream you have. (If ganache has thickened, heat it briefly in the microwave.) Chill to set the ganache, then slice and serve.



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