~ "By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; Through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures." ~ "Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing" ~ "But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy." ~ "Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths."~

Monday, April 7, 2014

Opera Cake... with recipe for joconde almond cake and French/Swiss buttercreams.

Opera Cake... with coffee buttercream, ganache and coffee soaked almond jaconde. I have to caution you before scrolling down... this post is VERY, very long. Probably the longest post ever! 

I debated if I should split the recipe... with a separate post for the different cake parts... the joconde layer, the French buttercream, and the Swiss Meringue buttercream. Because if you wanted to, you could use the individual recipes for other types of desserts. But in the end, I decided to put every part of this cake recipe under one post ... just because I personally like to have everything in one place without having to go back to another part in another post. It would be too complicated that way.   

In any case, this particular cake has been on my mind for a VERY long time! It's a cake we often order when travelling... because when we travel, we don't set too many restrictions on the foods we eat. We really enjoy trying out as many new or different foods as possible... We'll share most times, this way we don't overeat and get sick:). Actually, it's a good thing we don't travel often:). But if we see an Opera cake offered in a bakery, or if it's on the menu, we most likely will order a piece:).

I love to challenge myself from time to time with certain recipes that are a bit more complicated... recipes that include a variety of baking techniques, like making croissants, danish pastry, puff pastry, baguettes, various desserts, etc. But for some reason, I tend to stay away from challenging myself in the cake department. However, I love European desserts.... anything multi-layered will get my attention. This Opera cake has been on my mind for so, so long. Like a really long time.

So one day, when my husband was busy travelling with work, I decided to attempt making the cake... I wanted to surprise him when he came home. 

When making the Opera cake, I  tried going the traditional route ... however, I ended up making mine with 4 layers, versus the more traditional 3 layered cake. AND I didn't skimp on the butter or eggs... can you believe that:)?! To make me feel better, I did cut the sugar down a tiny, tiny bit:). 

The post is long because I wanted to be detailed a bit, in case some of you might want to try the recipe as well. It's not a complicated recipe, but it is best if you bake the joconde a day before... this way when you make the buttercream and assemble the cake it won't be overly tiring. I'm thinking you can even make the buttercream ahead if you like... just bring it back to room temperature.

This recipe makes quite a bit of cake, so you could easily make a half batch if you like... or you can freeze the rest. And because it is a rich cake, I suggest cutting the cake in small pieces. 

One thing I would like to do next time is to bake the cake layers a but thinner ... maybe similar to the Dobos cake. Oh, and make the chocolate top much, much thinner... because when the chocolate hardens it is really hard to cut through the cake. You want it thin... mine was quite thick, due to me fumbling with the camera and allowing the chocolate to cool down too much, making it harder to spread thinly.  But as it was, my husband really enjoyed the cake:). Another cake crossed off my bucket list:). Hope you enjoy...         

You will need: inspired by Joe Pastry

NOTE:  You will have 6 egg yolks leftover from the joconde... it will be perfect to make a whole batch of the FRENCH buttercream.... and that will be enough buttercream for the whole Opera cake recipe. I ended up making my Opera cake a few days later... so I used up my egg yolks ( didn't want to leave the yolks in the fridge for too long) and made some fresh pasta dough. 

When I finally made my buttercream(s), I ended up using just 3 whole eggs...  with the 3 yolks I made a half batch of the FRENCH buttercream... and with the 3 egg whites I made a half batch of the SWISS meringue buttercream. I figured I'd show you both buttercream techniques... you can choose to use either/or.
JOCONDE (Almond sponge cake) 
Note: use scale amounts for better accuracy

6 egg whites ( room temp)
1 ounce(2 TBS) granulated sugar
8 ounces (2 cups) almond flour
8 ounces (2 cups) powdered sugar, sifted
6 large eggs (room temp)
2.5 ounces( 8 TBS) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 ounces (3.5 TBS) melted butter
1.5 oz melted chocolate

COFFEE SYRUP... if you want the cake to be really, really moist, you may want to make another batch(or half a batch). 

1 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
3 TBS instant coffee ( I used 1.5 tsp instant + 2.5 TBS ground espresso powder)


10 oz semisweet chocolate chips
8 oz heavy whipping cream
1 tsp rum extract(or vanilla), I used rum

FRENCH BUTTERCREAM ( can use all of it for the whole cake... or halve the amount + use 1/2 of the SWISS buttercream). I cut the recipe in half and used it for 1/2 of the cake.  

6 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
16 oz butter, room temp.
1 TBS coffee extract + 1 tsp espresso powder (can use instant coffee here to taste) 
1 tsp vanilla

SWISS MERINGUE BUTTERCREAM (can use all of it for the whole cake... or halve the amount + use 1/2 of the FRENCH buttercream). I cut the recipe in half and used it for 1/2 of the cake.  

6 egg whites
1/2- 3/4 cup sugar ( I used 1/2 cup)
16 oz butter, room temp.
1 TBS coffee extract+1 tsp espresso powder
 1/2 tsp rum extract + 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (can use all vanilla)


6 oz chocolate, melted
1 oz melted butter



  • I like to bake the cake a day before assembling.
  • Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F.
  • Line 1 or 2 sheet pans (jelly roll pans 13x17 inches) with parchment and brush with melted butter. 
~NOTE: If baking joconde in 1 pan, you will need to split the cake in two. I baked mine in one pan and cut the layers in 2. BUT you can bake the cake in 2 pans and not have to deal with splitting the cake. Baking time will differ by a few minutes. 

~Gather your ingredients, weigh each one... and allow ingredients to get to room temperature before starting.

1. Using a stand mixer fitted with a whisk, whip the egg whites to soft peaks... about 1 minute on high speed.  Add the sugar, and continue to whip until you get stiff peaks.... another 30 seconds to 1 minute on high speed. 
2. Remove meringue into another bowl.
3. Wash, clean and dry mixer bowl. 
4. Add eggs, almond flour and powdered sugar  to mixer bowl whip on medium/high until light and increased in volume... about 3 minutes. 
5. Sift the flour over almond egg mixture. Fold the flour in until it just disappears.
6. Add 1/4 of the reserved meringue and mix in. Gently fold the rest of the meringue in 3 subsequent batches. 
7. Remove 1/4 cup of the batter and mix with melted butter. Pour this over the rest of the cake batter and gently fold it in.
8. Divide the batter evenly between the two pans ( or 1 pan like I did)... spreading it as evenly as possible over the two pans... or the single pan.

 9. Bake for 5-7 minutes ( if using 2 pans)... or about 8-10 minutes if using 1 pan.... until the cake is lightly browned. 
10. Remove from the oven and place the pan(s) on a cooling rack. Cover cake with a sheet of parchment, then flip the pan over. Carefully peel off the baked layer of parchment, then turn the cake over and allow to cool completely. 
11. If baking only one sheet, then cut cake layer in 2, width wise(short side). Using a very long serrated knife split(cut) the cake pieces in 2 horizontally.... this will give you 4 cake layers that are about 8x11.5 inches.... and about 1/2 inch thick.
If freezing, wrap cake layers tightly with plastic wrap, making sure you place a piece of parchment paper between layers so the cakes don't stick together. The cake layers can be frozen for up to a month. 

1. In a medium saucepan, add water, sugar, and coffee. Bring to a simmer, then turn heat off.
2. Allow to cool completely. Set aside. 

1. Place cream in a medium sauce pan. Bring cream to a simmer, turn heat off and add chocolate. 
2. Allow chocolate to sit in the hot cream for 3-5 minutes.
3. Whisk chocolate ganache until smooth and add rum extract... or vanilla to taste. Set aside to cool and thicken, until you can easily spread it. I left mine at room temperature for a few hours.... so it thickened to a frosting consistency. 
FRENCH BUTTERCREAM: ( I ended up making half the amount (for one set of cake)... using only 3 egg yolks)

1. Place your room temperature yolks in a mixer  bowl. Using the whisk, whip the yolks for five minutes on high speed... or until they appear light in color and a bit foamy.
2. In the meantime, while the mixer is going... make sugar syrup. 
3. Combine the sugar and water in a medium saucepan with a spout (if you have one). Heat syrup to 248 degrees F. If you don't have a saucepan with a spout, then immediately pour the syrup into a pyrex measuring cup with a spout. 
4. With the motor off, start drizzling the syrup into the yolks a little at a time, then whip the mixture for a bit on low(gently)... so as not to splatter it all onto the sides of the bowl, as it will harden and make sugar threads. Then drizzle a little more of the sugar syrup, run the machine a little, stop, drizzle... and repeat until all the syrup is incorporated. Whip the yellow egg foam until it’s cool to about room temperature.
5. When egg foam is cooled, start adding your butter, a piece or two at a time until it’s all in. Add the coffee extract, espresso powder and vanilla.

SWISS MERINGUE BUTTERCREAM ( I ended up making half the amount (for one set of cake)... using only 3 egg whites)

1. Place the egg whites and sugar in a large metal or glass bowl (can use your mixer bowl). 
2. Set the bowl over a pot of simmering water, and whisk, continuously, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the mixture looks opaque.... around 160 deg F.  
3. Remove the bowl from the heat and transfer it to your mixing bowl...  only if you've used another bowl. 
4. Whip on high speed until completely cooled and meringue is at a medium soft peak. Add coffee extract, espresso, rum and vanilla. 
5. Whip in the butter, a tablespoon at a time, until thick and fluffy. If it begins to look curdled (it probably will), continue to whip until it comes back together...  then add in the remaining butter. This process took close to 10- 15 minutes... don't fret if the mixture starts out looking curdled... the longer you beat it, the quicker it will come out smooth and silky.


1. Melt 1.5 oz of chocolate until fluid... then take one cake layer, which will be your bottom layer for the Opera, and spread a thin coating of melted chocolate all over all the way to the edges. Place chocolate side down unto a piece of parchment paper. 
Note: The chocolate on the bottom layer will help the joconde cake to release and not stick later on when you cut the assembled Opera cake... it makes it really nice to lift the cake pieces from the plate without any cake pieces being stuck. 
2. Allow chocolate to cool and harden, then remove parchment paper and  cut cake layer in 2 ... to yield 2 pieces that are about 8x11.5 inches. 
3. Cut the rest of the cake layers to the same size. You will have 2 sets of 4 cake layers that are about 8x11.5 inches.
4. Place a piece of parchment paper(or foil) on large plate or tray that is big enough to hold the cake layers flat and leveled. You could use a plastic/wooden board as well.  
5. Working with 1 set of cake layers(4), place the chocolate covered cake layer on the parchment lined plate... chocolate side down.
6. Using a pastry brush soak cake layer with some of the coffee syrup... making sure all the layer brushed well. 
NOTE: Make sure you divide the syrup( I sort of eyeballed it) so you have plenty to go around for all 8 cake layers (both sets)... you don't want one cake layer to be overly saturated while one is barely soaked. 
7. Place about 3/4 cup of the buttercream unto the soaked cake layer... and using an offset spatula spread buttercream evenly to the edges of the cake.... making sure the buttercream is as level as you can get it to be. 
8. Add a second layer of cake, soak with coffee syrup and add about 1/4 cup of the chocolate ganache (which has thickened and is spreadable). Spread ganache evenly to the edges.
9. Add a third layer of cake, soak with coffee syrup and add another 3/4 cup of coffee buttercream, spreading the buttercream evenly to the edges.
10. Add the last layer(4th) of cake, soak with coffee syrup and spread a VERY thin layer of ganache,..  this is just to smooth out the cake layer to an even and smooth surface... so it will be ready for the melted chocolate glaze. Place in the fridge to chill and harden.
11. Repeat process with the second set of cake layers....
Note: you may have some buttercream and ganache leftover, just freeze those for another use.
CHOCOLATE GLAZE... to be made only after both sets of cakes have been layered and refrigerated.

1. Melt chocolate and whisk in melted butter. Spread about half  the chocolate glaze on one set of cakes, Using an offset spatula, carefully spread the melted chocolates evenly over the entire surface, working quickly so that the chocolate doesn't harden( I left my chocolate to cool down a bit and it is a bit harder to spread cleanly)... try not to go over it too much with the spatula, so it stays shiny.
2. Repeat the process with the second cake and spreading most of the remaining chocolate glaze... you probably won't use all of the glaze. I reserved some and placed it in a small sandwich bag to use for the top decoration (writing out the OPERA name, you could do whatever decoration you like, a music note, a few lines, etc... or you could add an edible gold leaf).
3. Using a long sharp knife trim the edges of the cake.
4. Allow the chocolate glaze to set a little, and then using a knife, score the cake in whatever size pieces you want. Write the Opera word, if desired, with the chocolate glaze or any other melted chocolate (can use white chocolate), or decorate as desired. Repeat the process with the second set of cake.
5. Place Opera cake in the fridge to chill further... the cake is easier  to cut when buttercream is chilled and layers are set. The top chocolate glaze will harden, but you can use a sharp knife dipped in hot water (then wiped) for an easier and cleaner cut.  Wipe knife between every cut. The opera cake is always best after several hours (overnight is best)... 


~~louise~~ said...

Extraordinary Ellie!

I just had to tell you how much I appreciate the time, energy and creativity you put in to creating such a beautiful Opera Cake. Simply amazing!!!

Thank you so much for sharing...

Ellie said...

Louise, Aww... Thanks a bunch:)! SO glad you appreciate the post.

I'll be honest it took me some time to make, write, and post... but in the end it was worth it. If I can inspire someone else to try making the cake, then it would be worth it all:). At least we enjoyed the cake:). And your comment made my day:)!

Thanks a ton for stopping by and taking the time to comment. I really appreciate it.

~~louise~~ said...

Not only was your post inspiring, Ellie. Ever since my visit here I've been looking into the history of Opera Cake for a future post. Thank YOU!

Ellie said...

Oh, wonderful Louise:)! Sounds like a neat blog post... I, too, would love to know the history behind the Opera. I'm sure you'll do a fantastic job researching and letting us all know. Looking forward to reading about it:)

Joanne T Ferguson said...

S-Q-U-E-A-L-E-D JUST seeing your Opera cake and you have SO inspired me to do!
WISH I could come through the screen and try some of this now too!
Cheers! Joanne

Ellie said...

Hi Joanne, So glad I could be of inspiration:)... It's one of those cakes that just HAD to be crossed off my bucket list:)... Granted I still need practice in the cake department:).

But thanks for your sweet excitement:)... Wish I could give you a piece!

Vulpita Calatoare said...

Aceasta "Opera" Cake este, de fapt o "Capodopera" Cake!
Felicitari pentru rabdarea, talentul si pasiunea cu care gatesti! Ma impresionezi cu fiecare reteta! Chiar daca nu prea am curaj sa pun in practica retetele tale elaborate, tot iau ceva idei si pentru retetele mele mai putin pretentioase.
Multa sanatate iti doresc, spor si inspiratie la gatit si un Paste Fericit si luminat alaturi de cei dragi!

Ellie said...

Vulpita, Oh, multumesc mult pentru cuvintele tale scumpe! Apreciez mult ca te-ai oprit sa-mi scri... si ma bucur ca pot sa te inspir si daca numai cu idei:). Pentru mine asta conteaza muuuult...

Iti doresc si tie un Paste plin de har si pace cu Domnul.

And thank you for brightening my day:)!

Anonymous said...

Hi Ellie!
I'm already dribbling here on the keyboard. It looks like it takes quite a bit of work but the final result is impressive. What about writing a cook book? Thank you for sharing with us all these goodies. Raveica

Ellie said...

Hi Raveica:), Oh, thanks for your sweet comment. So glad you enjoyed this post... I wish I could give you a piece as this recipe makes a lot:).

I'm thrilled that you are enjoying the recipes I post. I'll be honest I'd love to do a cookbook, but figure nobody would be interested:). There's tooo, too many good cookbooks out there. And now with the internet, people hardly use cookbooks:). But I've been wanting to make my own personal hard copy for some time now... to include my top favorite recipes I use most. But I've been saying this for years:). One day maybe:)...

Thanks a ton for stopping by... it was good to hear from you!

Anonymous said...

Hi Ellie, love your site. Thanks for all your hard work. I was wondering if you could share how many servings this makes. Also, would this recipe work if it were halved? You've inspired me but I'm a little nervous about being able to make this cake. Thanks so much! Simo

Ellie said...

Hi Simo, I''m thrilled that I've inspired you:). The cake isn't that difficult to do... just takes a bit of time.

You can definitely cut the recipe in half... it will be much easier if you use a hand mixer for the cake and butter creams( to beat the eggs and then butter cream) instead of the big standing mixer ... just because you are working with half the amount of ingredients.

The servings size varies depending on how big or small you cut your slices. I mentioned in my post the yield to be 2 rectangular cake sets... that are roughly 8x11.5 inches. Of course, if you are halving the recipe then you will only have one cake that is about 8.5x11 inch.

I got 16 very large pieces( from the whole recipe amount, not halved) that were about 2.5x4 inch....those are big pieces...so I recommend cutting them even smaller. The yield then will increase accordingly.

Again, because you are planning on cutting the recipe in half, you will only have one 8.5x11 inch cake. The cake can be cut in whatever size you like... you can probably get 16 small pieces(2x3 inch) out of half the recipe.

Hope that helps, and have fun in the kitchen. If you don't expect perfection, all things will be all right:).

Thanks for stopping by...

Hong said...


Thanks for great recipe. My joconde is a little bit hard. Would you help to advise how to make it soft ?

Ellie said...

Hong, Sounds like you either folded the egg whites a bit too much(lost quite a bit of volume) or you over-baked. In either case, the coffee syrup will come to the rescue:).... Just make sure to thoroughly apply the coffee syrup all over the cake layers, the joconde will soften as it sits. If need be, make a bit extra syrup to compensate for the dryness/hardness of your joconde. Hope that helps... and enjoy!

Mihaela said...

Hi Ellie, I haven't visited you in a long time, and look at all the marvels you have here! This looks amazing, and I wanted to make it for some time now, I have to put it on Christmas to-do list :) I wish you all the best!

Ellie said...

Hi Mihaela:)!, I just came back from a trip out of the country and finally had time to read your sweet comment... It was so nice to hear from you!

I pray you are doing well and hope you and your family have a blessed Thanksgiving and Christmas as well!

Thanks for stopping by... and I hope you have a ton of fun baking this holiday season. I've been mesmerized at your cake creations over the past years:). The Lord has indeed blessed you with an amazing talent!

Hugs and blessings to you!