The Grand Opera Cake

True coffee lovers cannot deny or hide their love for a good, moist, strong Opera Cake. No doubt, a good opera is one which has been baked and layered to perfection; and has been served at the right temperature. And for those who don’t yet know, an opera cake is a classic French cake. It is made of layers of Jaconde, coffee syrup, chocolate ganache, coffee buttercream , and chocolate glaze.

This cake is the perfect cake for those who are looking for something exotic, want something coffee flavoured yet nothing too strong, and cannot give up on their love for chocolate.

Read on to find more about the history of this class French pastry, its origin and naming. Also find out why you should definitely try an Opera cake at least once in your life.

How many layers does an opera cake have?

chocolate cake
french chocolate cake opera in front of white background

A classic opera cake comprises of six layers in all. It starts with a thin layer of Jaconde sponge, soaked in coffee syrup, followed by a layer of coffee-flavoured buttercream. This is again followed by another layer of sponge and a layer of chocolate ganache. In the end there is a third layer of sponge and finally a topping of chocolate glaze.

Modern day chefs and pastry enthusiasts, however, have innovated the traditional opera cake. They add more layers to it, to show off their skills and add more levels of complexity to the dessert.

Where did it come from?

There are a lot of interesting stories about the origin of the opera cake. With so many competing stories about the same, it is hard to decide the true story behind the opera cake is. Nevertheless, it is interesting to know and read about all of these theories behind the invention of the cake.

One theory suggests that the cake was invented by one of the most famous and legendary pastry chefs of Paris, Louis Clichy; who showcased it as the Paris Exposition Culinaire in 1903. The cake was well received by all. Ultimately, it became the signature cake at the Clichy’s Shop in the years to come.

The owners of pâtisserie Dalloyau, on the other hand, claim that they were the one who invented the Opera cake back in 1955. As per their version of the story, the pastry chef Cyriaque Gavillon invented the cake. Apparently, the cake reminded his wife of the opera, and thus he named the cake as the “Opera cake” in honor of the Paris Opéra.

A third story that goes behind the cake is that it was invented by the Paris Opéra itself around the year 1890. Since the cake had large amounts of coffee in it, it helped people to stay awake during the final acts of the lengthy epics that were performed in the opera.

ALso Read The curious history of the red velvet cake

What goes in an opera cake?

There are different components that go into an opera cake, all of which combine beautifully together to create the epic and glorious cake that we know of today.

Let us break down the components of a classic opera cake, and try to understand each one of it better.

The Jaconde sponge:

A Jacone is a flavourful and light sponge made with almond flour, and has a lot of air incorporated in it, thanks to the egg whites that are used. Cheaper versions, however, would have a normal vanilla sponge, instead of the much more exotic and also costlier jaconde sponge.

The coffee syrup

The coffee syrup is integral to a good opera cake. Not only does it add a lot of flavour to the cake, but it also keeps it moist and juicy for a long time.

The coffee buttercream

A classic Italian meringue buttercream or a pate bombe mix is used to make the delicious buttercream for the cake. It is then flavoured generously with coffee, with even coffee liqueur is added at times for that extra dose of flavour.

The chocolate ganache:

A ganache is a smooth emulsion of cream and chocolate. It has a delightful and creamy texture, that takes the opera cake to an altogether new height.

The chocolate glaze is a versatile component, with no set recipe or method to be followed. Bakers and confectioners can choose to make a complicated glaze with gelatin and neutral gel if they desire. Or they stick to a simple mixture of chocolate and butter for the shine.

What does an opera cake taste like?

An opera cake is a deliciously balanced dessert, with no flavour overpowering the other. Packed with the flavour of nuts, chocolate and coffee, it is actually one of the most famous and sought after flavour combinations in the world; which is hard to not like by anyone out there.

Variations of the opera cake:

The classic recipe can be altered in various ways to innovate and add personal touches to the cake; which is why homemade opera cakes are simply the best. I have even had a raspberry opera cake. It bore a similarity to the original cake in terms of the structure, but has a completely different taste to it. The classic sponge, however, remains the same; though some people might add a bit of pink food colour to it for that added appeal. Other elements of a raspberry opera include a raspberry sugar syrup, a white chocolate ganache, and raspberry buttercream, complete with a shiny pink glaze to finish the cake off.

 What would your dream opera cake taste and look like? Would you add caramel to this already heavenly combination? Would you increase the strength of the coffee for that amazing espresso hit-in-the-mouth?

Let us know in the comment section below.

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