Opera cake

I apologise, this post has been a long time in the running!

The keener readers among you may remember that in the 2nd week of October, the stars align and a statistically improbable number of my housemates have their birthdays within the space of a few days. This miraculous event is imaginatively called ‘Birthday Week’ and this year was the year of 21sts.

I made a Rubik’s Cube Cake for my dear housemate Sam last year, and I struggled this year to think of something to top it. He’s a big fan of opera, so the idea of an opera-themed cake got tossed around… and then –wait, isn’t opera cake a thing?! Yes indeed, it is a thing, and this is how to make it:

Adapted from the Gateau Opera recipe in Edd Kimber’s ‘Patisserie Made Simple’


Almond sponge cakes:

  • 25g unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 eggs + 3 egg whites
  • 115g ground almonds
  • 115g icing sugar
  • 30g plain flour
  • 30g caster sugar

Coffee syrup:

  • 150g caster sugar
  • 150ml water
  • 1 tbsp instant coffee

Coffee buttercream:

  • 100g softened unsalted butter
  • 200g icing sugar
  • 1 tbsp instant coffee, dissolved in a little hot water

Chocolate ganache:

  • 50g milk chocolate
  • 50g dark chocolate
  • 60ml double cream
  • 15g unsalted butter

Chocolate glaze:

  • 65g dark chocolate
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 55ml double cream


Almond sponges:

Preheat your oven to 160*C {fan-forced}, and line a baking tray (or two, if you have them) with greaseproof paper. Grease the paper with a little butter.
Beat together the whole eggs, almonds and icing sugar for 5 minutes using an electric whisk.
Sift the flour and fold it into the mixture. Drizzle in the melted butter and fold in as well.
Wipe down a smaller mixing bowl with some lemon juice if you have any, to get rid of any grease. Put the egg whites in the bowl and whisk until they’re foamy.
Carefully add them {a third at a time} to the cake mixture, trying not to knock too much air out! If you’ve just got one tin, you’ll have to bake the cakes separately, so pour half of the mixture into the tin and bake for 8-10 minutes, and then repeat. Once they’re out, trim off any burnt edges whilst still warm.

Coffee syrup:

Heat together the water and sugar in a saucepan, stirring often, until it starts to bubble. Simmer for a couple of minutes, then take off the heat and whisk in the coffee powder.
Set aside until you’re ready to assemble!

Coffee buttercream:

Beat the butter and icing sugar together in a bowl, and add the coffee to slacken {eugh, icky word!} it and give it that subtle coffee hit. Beat until light and fluffy.

Chocolate ganache: 

Heat the cream and butter in a saucepan until near-boiling, and then pour over the chocolate in a bowl. Leave for a couple of minutes, then stir until the mix is smooth.

Chocolate glaze:

Melt together all the ingredients in a heatproof bowl, set over a pan of simmering water.


Deep breath! Cut each sponge in half so you’ve got 4, and put the first on a serving plate. Spoon some coffee syrup over the top, and top with a third of the buttercream.
Put the next sponge layer on top, soak with syrup and then spread a layer of ganache on top.
Put the third sponge layer on top, soak with syrup and top with another third of buttercream.
Put the last layer on, soak with syrup, and spread the rest of the buttercream on top.
Transport the whole thing carefully to the fridge and leave to set up for a few hours.
NB. This is where I stopped in order to tackle the mountain of washing up, and left the cake at this stage in the fridge overnight.
Finally, pour the chocolate glaze over the top of the cake, and trim off the edges so that they’re neat. You can use leftover glaze to pipe something on top if you wish, or you can just eat it. No judging here.

The cake will happily live in a box in the fridge for a week.

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