08- French Opera Cake

Sounds fancy, right?! It is! But don’t let that stop you from making it. Coffee almond sponge cake, a coffee soaking syrup, coffee French buttercream, and dark chocolate ganache?! Are you kidding?

“This cake is famous for its elaborate form of layering coffee-soaked sponge cake with ganache and buttercream. Most likely dating back to early twentieth-century Paris, it was typically made in sheets and then cut into neat, individual servings. While it has a reputation for being difficult to make with its meticulous layers and precise portions, my opera cake is assembled as a round layer cake and is a bit more user-friendly. There are still plenty of steps and layers, but it makes for an impressive presentation, and when all of the layers come together, you won’t begrudge any of the time and patience required.” – Tessa Huff in Layered

The more I read these short stories and descriptions, the more I feel like Tessa and I would be best friends if we lived closer to each other. Through the years I have been told that I am organized in some ways but also very unorganized in other ways. When I’m on a roll or in the middle of making something I can be very messy. I know that certain things can be patched, covered, or held together with buttercream. And all these things go against many pastry chefs rules; everything in its place, clean, organized,and perfectly written out. This is what Tessa wrote in part of the description of this cake:

“Sometimes I wonder how I fell into the world of pastry. If you took a peek at my messy baking notebooks, or the desk that I am typing this book on, for that matter, then you too would question how I could ever work in an industry that requires such organization, patience, and attention to detail.” – Tessa Huff in Layered

Let’s break this recipe down.

Coffee Almond Sponge Cake

  • The hardest part of this cake was folding the egg whites into the batter. I haven’t talked about this before but it seems like the perfect time to. Folding egg whites into a batter can be tricky; fold to much and you knock the air out of the whites, but don’t fold enough and you’ll get bits of unmixed egg whites in your batter. You have to find that sweet spot (pun intended).
  • Baked in the right amount of time, even with my weird oven that bakes uneven and silly.
  • After being fully baked the top of the cake was very sticky.
  • With the size pan I baked my cake in I was able to get 3 six inch cakes just fine. I did not enjoy the scraps or extras left over, mostly because I see that as waste.

Coffee Soak

  • We talked about this last week; soaking cakes is something I do for any custom cake I do. Adds moisture and extra flavor if you would like to do so.
  • Super easy to make.
  • If I made this again I would add a little more water or not reduce it as much as I did, because mine came out almost syrupy.
  • Very nice flavor!

Coffee French Buttercream

  • Now, this isn’t Swiss meringue buttercream….so I’ll have to just get over it I guess.
  • All joking aside, French buttercream is equally as delicious as any type of buttercream in my opinion.
  • I think it’s a little more difficult to make then Swiss meringue or American buttercream. Tempering the egg yolks and not getting the sugar syrup splashed on the sides of the bowl while mixing can be difficult.
  • If I made this certain recipe again I would infuse the butter with the espresso powder before anything else. In my opinion, it would make it richer and thicker buttercream because I wouldn’t have to add extra water to make the espresso shot.
  • Chocolate Ganache
    • So.yummy!
      Very simple and easy.
      I love the addition and the richness this brings to this cake.

    Overall, I loved making this cake. Simply because of life and timing it took me longer to make then it should have, but that’s life. The piping on this cake does take some more time then if you just did a simple shell border, just because of the detail and how dainty the pipe work was. BUT seeing how the finished cake came out, I wouldn’t do it any other way.

    There were a lot of steps in this cake, but everyone was done for a reason and was easy to do if broken up into bite-size pieces.

    I would say that this cake is a must try if you love coffee and chocolate!