Cakes, Fine Desserts

Classic Opera Cake Recipe

5 from 3 votes
Indulge in the Classic Opera Cake with our recipe-layered coffee-brandy sponge, French buttercream, and luxurious bittersweet chocolate glaze!
Three slices of This Classic Opera Cake are served, featuring layers of sponge cake, coffee syrup, French coffee buttercream, and chocolate butter glaze.

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Hi Bold Bakers!

WHY YOU’LL LOVE THIS RECIPE: This Classic Opera Cake Recipe transports you to a realm of pure decadence—an irresistible allure of a dessert that’s as fancy and elegant as a night at the opera!

  • While this homemade opera cake does take a bit of effort to make, I guarantee each step is very simple, and you’ll be rewarded in taste for your input!
  • With each bite, the delicate coffee-brandy sponge harmonizes with silky French buttercream and rich bittersweet chocolate glaze.
  • After making each layer from scratch and assembling the cake, you get to enjoy the look on your friends and family’s faces when they find out you didn’t teleport to a fancy French pâtisserie.

Table of Contents

Two slices of This Classic Opera Cake are served, featuring layers of sponge cake, coffee syrup, French coffee buttercream, and chocolate butter glaze.

What Is a Classic Opera Cake?

A Classic Opera cake is a French dessert known for its refined, distinct taste, perfect for special occasions.

  • This Classic Opera Cake features layers of sponge cake, coffee syrup, French coffee buttercream, and chocolate butter glaze.
  • There’s some debate about where gâteau opéra originated — some say there was an ad for it in a French newspaper in 1899, while one chef, Cyiaque Gavillon, says he invented the dessert in 1955. Another chef, Gaston Lenôtre, claimed he created the impressive cake in 1960.

Tools You Need for Making a Classic Opera Cake

Key Ingredients and Why

For the Cake

    • Besides providing a nutty flavor, almond flour adds moisture and tenderness to the cake, contributing to its delicate texture.
    • Check out How to Make Almond Flour here.
  • Powdered sugar

    • This finely ground sugar dissolves easily, ensuring a smooth batter while also tenderizing the cake.
    • You can make Powdered Sugar at home.
  • All-purpose flour

    • All-purpose flour has a protein content of 9-11%, and acts as a structural component, giving the cake stability and helping it hold its shape.
  • Eggs (room temperature)

    • Eggs serve as a key binding agent, providing structure and moisture to the cake.
    • Their emulsifying properties help blend fats and liquids together.
  • Egg yolk (room temperature)

    • Egg yolks add richness and a velvety texture to the cake batter, enhancing its flavor and moisture.
  • Butter (melted)

    • Introduces fat content, enhancing the cake’s texture and flavor while ensuring a moist crumb.
  • Egg whites (room temperature)

    • When whipped, egg whites trap air bubbles, resulting in a light and airy texture, crucial for a delicate sponge cake.
  • Granulated sugar

    • Sugar sweetens the cake batter, while also aiding in the aeration of the egg whites, contributing to the cake’s rise and texture.

Coffee Syrup

  • Water

    • Serves as the base liquid for the syrup, providing moisture.
  • Brandy

    • Adds depth of flavor and complexity to the syrup, complementing the coffee flavor and infusing the cake with richness.
  • Granulated sugar

    • Sweetens the syrup, balancing the bitterness of the coffee and adding a touch of sweetness to each layer of the cake.
  • Instant espresso powder

    • Infuses the syrup with a robust coffee flavor, ensuring each layer of the cake is moistened and flavored evenly.

French Coffee Buttercream

  • Instant espresso powder

    • Provides a concentrated coffee flavor, intensifying the buttercream’s taste and aroma.
  • Water

    • Water dissolves the espresso powder and sugar, creating a flavorful syrup that enhances the coffee profile of the buttercream.
  • Egg yolks (room temperature):

    • Offer richness and a creamy texture to the buttercream, serving as a base for emulsification with the butter.
  • Granulated sugar:

    • Sweetens the buttercream while also stabilizing the egg yolks, contributing to its smooth and creamy consistency.
  • Butter (softened):

    • Forms the primary fat component of the buttercream, lending richness, creaminess, and a luxurious mouthfeel to the final product.

Chocolate Butter Glaze

  • Butter

    • Adds richness and a glossy texture to the glaze, ensuring a smooth and velvety finish on top of the cake.
  • Bittersweet chocolate (finely chopped)

    • Provides the main flavor component of the glaze, delivering a rich and indulgent chocolate taste while also contributing to its smooth and shiny appearance.

How to Make a Classic Opera Cake

Make The Cake

  • Prep: Preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C) and line an 11×17-inch (28x43cm) baking sheet with parchment. Butter the paper and set aside.
  • Mix dry ingredients, eggs, and butter: With a stand or electric handheld mixer with the whisk attachment, beat together the almond flour, powdered sugar, all-purpose flour, eggs, egg yolk and melted butter until combined.
  • Whip egg whites: In a separate bowl whisk egg whites until thick and frothy, then slowly add the sugar, one tablespoon at a time and whip to stiff, glossy peaks.
  • Combine egg yolk and egg whites mixtures: Fold the whipped whites gently into the almond flour mixture until evenly mixed and then spread onto the prepared baking sheet.
  • Bake: Bake for 5-7 minutes, until the cake springs back when pressed. Remove from the oven and let cool completely on the pan.
  • Store: Once cooled, wrap carefully and refrigerate until ready to assemble. (The colder cake will be easier to handle).

Make The Coffee Syrup

  • In a small saucepan over low heat, whisk the water, brandy, sugar and espresso powder until the espresso powder and sugar is dissolved. Set aside to cool.

Make The French Buttercream

  • Dissolve espresso powder: Mix the espresso powder with 1 tablespoon of water. Set aside.
  • Whip up eggs: With a stand fitted with a whisk attachment or electric handheld mixer, beat the egg on medium speed until the yolks are thick and pale.
  • Make the syrup: In a small saucepan fitted with a candy thermometer, heat the remaining ½ cup (4floz/120ml) water and sugar until it reaches the soft ball stage: 238°F (115°C). Immediately remove from the heat and transfer to a glass measuring cup to stop the cooking.
  • Combine: While beating constantly on high speed, pour the hot syrup over the egg yolks followed by the dissolved espresso powder and continue beating until completely cooled.
  • Whip in butter: Switch to a paddle attachment if using a stand mixer and add the butter, one tablespoon at a time, and then continue beating until the mixture looks like a smooth buttercream. Set aside.

Make The Chocolate Glaze

  • Combine the chocolate and butter in a small saucepan or microwave-safe bowl and heat gently, until melted. Set aside to cool and thicken to a spreadable consistency.

Assemble The Cake

  • Triscet the sponge: Remove the cake from the refrigerator and cut into even thirds. A ruler works well for this.
  • Laye the cake with syrup and buttercream:
    • Place one layer of cake onto a small baking sheet or cutting board covered in a piece of parchment and brush all over with the coffee syrup.
    • Spread half of the buttercream evenly over the cake.
    • Place a second layer of cake over the buttercream and brush evenly with the coffee syrup.
    • Spread half of the chocolate glaze over the second cake layer.
    • Top with the final cake layer and brush with the coffee syrup.
    • Spread the remaining buttercream over the final layer.
    • Warm the remaining chocolate glaze until pourable but not hot. Pour and spread evenly over the top layer of the cake.
  • Set the Opera Cake: Refrigerate until firm.
  • Serve the Opera Cake: Trim the sides to neaten the cake and then carefully transfer to a serving plate. Let sit at room temperature for a few hours before serving.

Three slices of This Classic Opera Cake are served, featuring layers of sponge cake, coffee syrup, French coffee buttercream, and chocolate butter glaze.

How to Store Classic Opera Cake

  • Store Classic Operacke leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

FAQs

What Type Of Cake Is Opera Cake?

Opera cake is made with “Joconde,” a classic French sponge cake. The airy sponge cake is made with almond flour and then covered with coffee-brandy syrup. 

What Type Of Frosting Is In An Opera Cake?

This French dessert is made with French buttercream — not to be confused with its American Buttercream or Swiss Meringue cousins.

While American buttercream is made with butter and powdered sugar, and Swiss Meringue uses egg whites, French buttercream is made with egg yolks, which gives the cream its iconic, faint yellow color. Instead of a sweet frosting taste, like American buttercream, French buttercream tastes more like custard.

Gemma’s Pro Chef Tips For Making Opera Cake

  • This cake is a big effort, but all of the separate parts can be made a few days in advance and held in the refrigerator. The buttercream must be brought to room temperature on the counter for a few hours to be spreadable. The chocolate butter glaze can be quickly rewarmed to spreadable consistency in the microwave or a saucepan over low heat.
  • Always make sure your eggs are at room temperature for cake making!
  • If you want to make this without alcohol, replace the brandy in the syrup with an equal amount of water.
  • You can replace the brandy with rum, cognac, or a liqueur of your choice for a variation.
  • Because the French buttercream contains egg yolks, this cake should stay refrigerated and only be brought out a few hours before you intend to eat it.

More Showstopping Cake Recipes

Classic Opera Cake Recipe

5 from 3 votes
Indulge in the Classic Opera Cake with our recipe-layered coffee-brandy sponge, French buttercream, and luxurious bittersweet chocolate glaze!
Author: Gemma Stafford
Servings: 8 people
Prep Time 2 hours
Cook Time 10 minutes
Indulge in the Classic Opera Cake with our recipe-layered coffee-brandy sponge, French buttercream, and luxurious bittersweet chocolate glaze!
Author: Gemma Stafford
Servings: 8 people

Ingredients

For the Cake

  • 1 cup (4oz/115g) almond flour
  • ¾ cup (3oz/85g) powdered sugar
  • ¼ cup (1¼oz/35g) all-purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs , room temperature
  • 1 large egg yolk , room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons (1oz/30g) butter, melted
  • 3 large egg whites , room temperature
  • ¼ cup (2oz/57g) granulated sugar

Coffee Syrup

  • ¼ cup (2floz/60ml) water
  • ¼ cup (2floz/60ml) brandy
  • ¼ cup (2oz/57g) granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder

French Coffee Buttercream

  • 1 tablespoon instant espresso
  • 1 tablespoon plus ½ cup (4floz/120ml) water, divided
  • 4 large egg yolks , room temperature
  • ¾ cup (6oz/170g) granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (4oz/115g) butter, softened

Chocolate Butter Glaze

  • 6 tablespoons (3oz/85g) butter
  • 1 cup (6oz/170g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

Instructions

Make The Cake

  • Preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C) and line a 11x17-inch (28x43cm) baking sheet with parchment. Butter the paper and set aside.
  • With a stand or electric handheld mixer with whisk attachment, beat together the almond flour, powdered sugar, all-purpose flour, eggs, egg yolk and melted butter until combined.
  • In a separate bowl whisk egg whites until thick and frothy, then slowly add the sugar, one tablespoon at a time and whip to stiff, glossy peaks.
  • Fold the whipped whites gently into the almond flour mixture until evenly mixed and then spread onto the prepared baking sheet.
  • Bake for 5-7 minutes, until the cake springs back when pressed. Remove from the oven and let cool completely on the pan.
  • Once cooled, wrap carefully and refrigerate until ready to assemble. (The colder cake will be easier to handle).

Make The Coffee Syrup

  • In a small saucepan over low heat, whisk the water, brandy, sugar and espresso powder until the espresso powder and sugar is dissolved. Set aside to cool.

Make The Buttercream

  • Mix the espresso powder with 1 tablespoon of water. Set aside.
  • With a stand fitted with a whisk attachment or electric handheld mixer, beat the egg on medium speed until the yolks are thick and pale.
  • In a small saucepan fitted with a candy thermometer, heat the remaining ½ cup (4floz/120ml) water and sugar until it reaches the soft ball stage: 238°F (115°C). Immediately remove from the heat and transfer to a glass measuring cup to stop the cooking.
  • While beating constantly on high speed, pour the hot syrup over the egg yolks followed by the dissolved espresso powder and continue beating until completely cooled.
  • Switch to a paddle attachment if using a stand mixer and add the butter, one tablespoon at a time and then continue beating until the mixture looks like a smooth buttercream. Set aside.

Make The Chocolate Glaze

  • Combine the chocolate and butter in a small saucepan or microwave safe bowl and heat gently, until melted. Set aside to cool and thicken to a spreadable consistency.

Assemble The Cake

  • Remove the cake from the refrigerator and cut into even thirds. A ruler works well for this.
  • Place one layer of cake onto a small baking sheet or cutting board covered in a piece of parchment and brush all over with the coffee syrup.
  • Spread half of the buttercream evenly over the cake.
  • Place a second layer of cake over the buttercream and brush evenly with the coffee syrup.
  • Spread half of the chocolate glaze over the second cake layer.
  • Top with the final cake layer and brush with the coffee syrup.
  • Spread the remaining buttercream over the final layer.
  • Warm the remaining chocolate glaze until pourable but not hot. Pour and spread evenly over the top layer of cake. Refrigerate until firm.
  • Trim the sides to neaten the cake and then carefully transfer to a serving plate. Let sit at room temperature for a few hours before serving. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Recipe Notes

  • This cake is a big effort, but all of the separate parts can be made a few days in advance and held in the refrigerator. The buttercream must be brought to room temperature on the counter for a few hours to be spreadable. The chocolate butter glaze can be quickly rewarmed to spreadable consistency in the microwave or a saucepan over low heat.
  • Always make sure your eggs are at room temperature for cake making!
  • If you want to make this without alcohol, replace the brandy in the syrup with an equal amount of water.
  • You can replace the brandy with rum, cognac, or a liqueur of your choice for a variation.
  • Because the French buttercream contains egg yolks, this cake should stay refrigerated and only be brought out a few hours before you intend to eat it.
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Chioma
Chioma
23 days ago

Hello there!! I really want to make this cake but I have a serious problem…*sings dramatically* I AM ALLERGIC TO ALMONDS!!!!! How can I make it without almond flour? Any suggestions? I really appreciate it!!

Jayne
Jayne
24 days ago

It was absolutely amazing. I’ll be making this several times a year.

Samuel Williams
Samuel Williams
25 days ago

thank you and i probably will make this cake in the summer

About Us

Meet Gemma

About Us

Meet Gemma

Hi Bold Bakers! I’m Gemma Stafford, a professional chef originally from Ireland, a cookbook author, and the creator of Bigger Bolder Baking. I want to help you bake with confidence anytime, anywhere with my trusted and tested recipes and baking tips. You may have seen one of my 500+ videos on YouTube & TikTok or as a guest judge on Nailed It! on Netflix or the Best Baker in America on Food Network. No matter your skills, my Bold Baking Team & I want to be your #1 go-to baking authority.

 

Weeknight Family Favorites Chapter from the Bigger Bolder Baking Every Day Cookbook