French Opera Cake as the name suggests is a French Torte and is beautiful to behold & delicate to create. Traditionally it has 4 layers of joconde (almond biscuit/ cake) soaked in potent coffee syrup, filled with coffee buttercream, ganache & coated with glaze. And then topped with edible gold leaf.
This cake has been in my bookmarked folder for a long time but I was waiting for the right occasion to celebrate with this cake. Last week the occasion presented for double celebration – my blog turned 2 and our marriage turned 7. :) Yes double anniversary celebration!
I came across a Vegan Opera Cake recipe and decided to go ahead with it. The recipe says the batter will make 3 layers but mine gave me 5 layers. Thank God I didn’t tell V that I’ve 2 extra layers, else he would have eaten them straight out of oven. :) Opera cake need gentle hands which I sorely lack. Initially I was very skeptical about my handling capabilities of a thin batter and baking each layer separately. But thankfully the baking bit happened without any mishap and gave me GOOD dose of confidence.
Like most cakes, I pre-made all components & assembled one day. I had some leftover dark chocolate ganache from here, I used that. You can use tempered chocolate but I like to use my leftovers when possible. I also trimmed the cake only at the last stage, my cake was quite small as it is.
My cake was exactly 4 cm tall just like an Opera Cake should be though this was by chance and not design on my part. I also trimmed the layers quite with conservation as my cake was already quite small in size & I didn’t want to trim all of it away. :)
I am quite bad at writing using pastry bag so I totally skipped writing ‘Opera’ as in a traditional French Opera Cake. I kept it in refrigerator for 2 days. This cake is best served cool not chilled.
On D-day V came home from office & we ate it together with my son. The cake was beautiful, moist (would be after so much soaking) and totally melt in your mouth. I do not know how a traditional French Opera Cake would taste but I know that I fell in love with this one. I also loved the crunchy flavor given to it by use of almond meal. I would try making this again & not let it remain once in a lifetime bake. For V this cake surpassed all my earlier cakes. :)
The only damper was that I let the cakes outside just covered with a net for 24 hours before assembling. This, I believe, made the cake layers dry, but nothing that extra soaking didn’t take care of. However, I recommend covering cake layers and keeping them in air tight container at room temp if you plan to assemble them next day like me.
Each bite is melt in the mouth wonder. The strong flavours of coffee and chocolate hit you hard. This time around my slices didn’t turn out as neat as last time. So I am keeping some of the old photos for your reference.
- Pre-heat the oven to 200 °C. Line a 5X8 inch loaf pan with parchment paper & grease.
- Add the dry ingredients together into a large bowl. Combine the milk & vinegar in a separate cup, then add to dry ingredients. Mix vigorously with a fork. Once combined consistency will be similar to a pancake batter.
- Pour ½ cup of batter into the prepared pan to cover the bottom to the edges. Bake for 5-7 mins or until the top appears golden, begins to dry & edges starts leaving the sides.
- Loosen edges with a knife, if necessary and top with another layer of parchment paper. Flip pan to remove the cake, cool on the rack. Reline the pan and repeat with the rest of the batter, baking 3-5 cakes. I stored the cakes for 2 days – each cling wrapped in refrigerator.
- 300 gram unsalted butter softened at room temperature
- 450 gram confectioner's sugar
- 1 tsp almond extract optional
- 1 tbsp instant coffee powder optional
- 2 tbsp boiling water
- food coloring optional
- Dissolve coffee in boiling water. Allow it to cool.
- In a large bowl beat butter & sugar on slow speed until the sugar has blended in. This will keep the sugar from jumping out of the bowl. Then switch to medium & beat for 3-5 minutes.
- Add almond extract & coffee mixture. If you are adding color, this is the stage to add color as well. Continue to beat for another minute. If frosting is too thick you can add milk or heavy cream till desired consistency is reached.
Coffee Flavored Syrup
- ⅓ cup sugar granulated
- 1 cup water
- 3 tbsp instant coffee powder
- Boil water, coffee & sugar together. Once it boils, lower the flame & allow it to heat for another 1 minute. Remove from heat & cool completely. It can be made in advance & stored in refrigerator.
- Use ⅓ cup of syrup to soak one layer of cake.
Check out Joe Pastry for wonderful tutorial on assembling an Opera Cake.
French Opera Cake
- coffee sugar syrup
- ½ cup dark chocolate melted
- The ‘up’ side of joconde layers when they finished baking should remain their ‘up’ side as they are more porous and will more easily absorb the syrup.
- Melt little chocolate in a microwave for 30 secs on high. Keep repeating spurts of 10 secs till it is melted. Allow it to cool down using tempering.
- Move a layer (which will form the bottom layer) of joconde on a separate parchment by flipping over. Apply a thin layer of this melted chocolate on it. Allow it to firm up for few minutes, then place it in the refrigerator for another few minutes. This will make sure that the cake doesn’t stick to the platter when sliced & served apart from adding chocolatey deliciousness.
- Flip it back (chocolate side down) on to the platter or cake board to start assembling. Gently peel the parchment back, you may re-position the layer to center it. And we are good to go!
- Apply coffee syrup thoroughly soaking it. This gives the melt-in-the-mouth texture that Opera cakes in Paris are known for. Layers should be soaked till they are brown all the way through.
- Spread buttercream on top of the soaked layer. Apply evenly & slowly from side to side about 1/4″ thick. Place your next layer, making sure that ‘up’ side of baking is ‘up’ side for soaking. Soak it as in earlier step.
- Now spread a layer of thin ganache. It should be spread thinner than buttercream. I warmed it slightly to get a thin layer. Place the next layer of the cake. Soak it. Spread buttercream. Place the next layer of the cake. Soak it. Spread thin layer of ganache. Place the top layer. If there are any high spots, you can press them down gently with your palm. Soak it in coffee syrup.
- Now apply a thin layer of buttercream similar to a crumb coat to allow even application of chocolate layer. Apply ready ganache/ tempered chocolate. Spread evenly & quickly. It is ok if it drizzle down a bit on the sides. Again I used slightly warm ganache to cover the top layer. You can use tempered chocolate as used traditionally.
- Let the chocolate/ ganache firm at room temp or in refrigerator for 10 minutes. Then dip a knife in hot water & dry off on a towel, quickly trim off the edges to show the layers. You can keep the trims to enjoy the goodie before anyone else in sneak. ;)
- It is best to slice the cake into servings at this time to avoid breakdown of the cake later. Again using knife dipped in hot water & then dried, slice the cake into any size serving you like. Do not separate the slices, and place your cake in refrigerator. It is best to cover the cake in a cardboard box before placing in refrigerator to avoid cake sweating.
- Refrigerate for 1-2 days. Before serving remove the cake an hour before serving. Separate the already sliced pieces using a warm knife dipped in hot water & then dried. Serve slightly cold.