There’s no doubt that L’Opera – Opera Cake of French Pastry is the ultimate way of baking and making desserts, it’s what we all look up to and work hard to learn and master. Cakes like Paris-Brest, St. Honore, eclairs, choux au craquelin or entremets have definitely sparked my love for French patisserie, for perfect techniques and elegant designs, for layers and for taste.
L’Opera is one of the classics of French patisserie, a cake that everyone admires and looks up to, a cake that can easily impress and it’s easy to see why. Eight layers of pure deliciousness that simply reach perfection! Because that’s what this cake it – perfection to the core. And that doesn’t come from the technique itself, but from the way the layers are combined and what flavors are used, their textures and colors. Everything comes together so beautifully!
I made this cake for the first time last week during one of my pastry classes. Working as a pastry chef instructor has pushed me beyond my comfort zone time after time over the last couple of months. And that’s exactly what happened this particular time. For some reason, I’ve been avoiding the Opera – I was more of a distance admirer. It does look a bit overwhelming or difficult to put together at a first glance – Joconde sponge cake, French buttercream, ganache, glaze, they all require a certain degree of technique and that takes time and patience to master. I guess I just wasn’t ready for it until recently! But oh boy, wish I was sooner because a bite into this cake is beyond delicious! Everyone at the class fell in love with the flavors and textures!
L’Opera – History
L’Opera is believed to have made its first appearance at a renowned pastry shop in Paris – Dalloyau. In 1955, Cyriaque Gavillon started working at this pastry shop. He wanted to create a cake whose flavor you could taste in one bite. After a few trials, he created a cake that had layers of almond sponge, coffee and chocolate. His wife loved the new dessert and as it made her think of the Parisian Opera, its name remained Opera. There are other stories who claim different origins of this beloved cake though. No matter where it comes from however, one thing’s sure – The Opera is one of the most delicious cakes one can taste! Its gorgeous, well defined layers of almond Joconde, chocolate ganache and coffee buttercream are a match made in heaven for every taste bud.
Opera Cake – Chocolate Coffee Cake
Joconde Sponge Cake
- 170 g egg whites
- 45 g white sugar
- 135 g almond flour
- 135 g icing sugar
- 170 g whole eggs
- 5 g vanilla extract
- 25 g all-purpose flour
- 2 g salt
- 30 g butter (melted)
- 120 g white sugar
- 150 g water
- 30 g coffee beans
- 15 g Amaretto/ Cointreau/ dark rhum
- 80 g paillete feuilletine
- 80 g dark chocolate
- 15 g vegetable oil
- 80 g egg yolks
- 150 g white sugar
- 55 g water
- 2 g instant coffee
- 1 g salt
- 300 g butter (softened)
Dark chocolate ganache
- 150 g heavy cream
- 20 g liquid glucose
- 160 g dark chocolate 50-60%
- 250 g dark chocolate 50-60%
- 30 g grapeseed oil
Joconde Sponge Cake
- Sift the almond flour and icing sugar in the bowl of your mixer. Add the whole eggs and vanilla and mix for a 5-7 minutes or until the mixture is light and fluffy.
- In the meantime, whip the egg whites until foamy. Add the sugar and continue mixing until stiff and glossy.
- Fold the meringue into the egg mixture, alternating it with the flour mixed with the salt.
- Drizzle in the melted butter, mixing carefully to not deflate the batter, then spread the mixture onto two sheets of baking paper of 35x25cm. These two sheets of sponge will then be cut so that we end up with 3 23cm sheets of sponge cake. You will most likely make one of the layers from two pieces of sponge stuck together. I usually prefer this for my middle layer so it goes unnoticeable.
- Keep the sponge aside until needed.
- Combine the sugar and water in a pot and place over low heat. Cook for 2 minutes, then add the coffee beans and remove off heat.
- Allow to infuse for 10 minutes then drain well and allow to cool down.
- Stir in the rum/Amaretto/Cointreau and place aside until needed.
- Melt the dark chocolate in a bowl then stir in the oil. Add the paillete feuilletine then mix well.
- Spread the croustillant over one Joconde sponge cake square and place in the fridge until set – 10 minutes in the freezer is enough.
- When the croustillant is set, remove from the fridge then turn the sponge cake upside down on a cake board so that the croustillant layer sits at the bottom. This will be the base of our Opera.
- Combine the egg yolks and salt in a heatproof bowl. Mix for a few minutes until pale and light.
- In the meantime, combine the sugar and water in a pot and bring it to 118C. Just as it hits the needed temperature, add the instant coffee and mix briefly.
- When the syrup has the right temperature, pour it gradually over the whipped egg yolks, mixing all the time. Continue mixing until the yolks turn fluffy, airy and the temperature is neutral to the touch.
- Add the butter, all at once, then mix on low speed until well incorporated, followed by 2 minutes on high speed until fluffy and pale.
Dark chocolate ganache
- Heat the heavy cream and glucose in a small pot to te boiling point.
- Pour the cream over the chocolate and allow to rest for a few minutes. Blend well until shiny and smooth.
- Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge until it has a spreadable consistency.
- Melt the chocolate in a bowl.
- Add the oil and mix well. Use this glaze as quickly as possible after making, given that it is not too hot. If it begins to set, you can rewarm it slightly in the microwave.
To finish the cake
- Remove the sponge cake and the paillete feuilletine layer from the fridge.
- Brush the sponge cake with coffee syrup until well soaked in syrup.
- Spread half of the coffee buttercream over the sponge cake. Continue with a layer of sponge cake followed by coffee syrup.
- Spread the ganache over the sponge cake.
- Finish off with the last layer of sponge cake, coffee syrup and the remaining coffee buttercream.
- Place the cake in the fridge for a few hours.
- Pour the glaze over the chilled cake.
- Allow it to set then cut off the edges of the cake to expose the layers. Now it’s the time to cut the cake into smaller pieces if you want to.
- To decorate, write Opera on the cake or on each slice.