Opera Cake


Opera Cake

Opera cake is a relatively new (1950s), yet classic, French pastry known for its thin layers of many components — three layers of almond sponge cake soaked in espresso syrup, espresso buttercream, ganache, and a dark chocolate icing or glaze. We’re keeping with the traditional square shape and trimmed, unfrosted sides. Traditionally it’s decorated with the name “Opera” written on top, accompanied by some gold leaf. We’re simplifying things with a no-fuss gold luster dust embellishment.

But, let’s break down each component. The sponge cakes are light and tender, getting their ethereal texture (and leavening) from beaten egg whites. Brushing each layer with a flavored simple syrup helps keep the cakes moist and adds some sweetness and flavor. The creamy Swiss Coffee Buttercream isn’t your usual powdered sugar frosting. And unlike many Swiss meringues, this one cooks the eggs to 160 degrees, so you know it’s safe to eat, plus it gives extra stability to the meringue. The ganache is rich and creamy and does double-duty as the glaze. But best of all, each element can be made ahead, making this an approachable celebratory dessert. If you’re a fan of coffee and chocolate, this beauty is for you. It’s rich yet not filling and truly is a pièce de résistance.


16 servings

Total Time

Print Recipe

Share Recipe








How to Make Ahead

You can make the cake layers ahead. After cooling, wrap them tightly in plastic wrap, then foil, and place in a large resealable plastic bag. Leave them at room temperature for 3–5 days, or freeze for longer storage.


Preheat oven to 425°. Coat three 8-inch square baking pans with butter, line with parchment, and coat paper with butter. Dust pans with flour and shake out excess.

Beat almond flour, powdered sugar, whole eggs, butter, and salt with a hand mixer on medium-high speed until light and combined, 23 minutes. Add all-purpose flour; beat on low speed just until combined.

Whisk egg whites and cream of tartar with a hand mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form; increase speed to medium-high. Gradually sprinkle in 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar and beat until whites are stiff and glossy, but not dry, 1 minute more.

Whisk one-fourth of whites into almond flour mixture until combined. Fold in remaining whites, in three additions, adding more when no streaks remain. Divide batter evenly among prepared pans.

Bake cakes until light brown and they lightly spring back to the touch, 1014 minutes. Let cakes cool in pans 10 minutes, then turn onto racks to cool completely; discard parchment.

Arrange one cake on a serving plate. Brush cake with one-third syrup then spread half the buttercream on top; top with another cake. Brush second cake with one-third syrup and top with three-fourths ganache; top with remaining cake. Brush third cake with remaining one-third syrup and top with remaining buttercream. Chill cake at least 1 hour.

Heat remaining one-fourth ganache in microwave on high until shiny and pourable, but not hot, 20 seconds; pour remaining ganache on top of buttercream and smooth. Chill cake until ganache sets, about 1 hour; trim edges of cake.

Sprinkle top of cake with luster dust.

For the Coffee Swiss Buttercream

Whisk together espresso powder, water, and vanilla until espresso powder dissolves.

Heat egg whites, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer over a pan of simmering water, whisking often (do not let the bottom of the bowl touch the water) until sugar dissolves, mixture thickens, and registers 160°, 510 minutes.

Off heat, beat egg white mixture in a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment on medium-high speed until whites are stiff, glossy, and tripled in volume, 510 minutes, then cool to 80–90° (if not there already).

Add butter, one piece at a time, beating until incorporated before adding the next. (If frosting doesn’t stiffen, chill it in the refrigerator for 20 minutes, then resume beating.)

Beat in espresso mixture until combined. (Frosting can be made and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to one week ahead; bring to room temperature and rewhip before using.)

For the Espresso Syrup

Heat water, sugar, espresso powder, and salt in a saucepan over medium-high until beginning to boil and sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to low; simmer syrup for 5 minutes. Let syrup cool to room temperature. (Syrup can be made and stored, covered, in the refrigerator up to 1 week ahead.)

For the Dark Chocolate Ganache

Heat heavy cream and corn syrup in a saucepan over medium to a simmer.

Off heat, stir in chocolate and butter; let stand 10 minutes, then whisk until smooth. Stir in vanilla.


Adding a little cream of tartar to the egg whites helps stabilize the meringue while offering a slight acidic element to the sweetness of the meringue.


Whisk in one-fourth of the whipped egg whites (meringue) to lighten the batter before folding in the rest of the whites so as not to deflate them.


A Swiss meringue starts with cooking sugar and egg whites over a pan of simmering water to 130–140°. For added stability and to ensure the eggs are cooked through, cook the meringue to 160°.


Be sure the meringue is stiff, glossy, tripled in volume, and cooled to 80–90° (check it with a thermometer) before you start adding the room-temperature butter, or the butter may melt.


You should be able to pick up the butter with your fingers. It should be tacky on the outside but still firm on the inside. If it’s too soft the frosting will become soupy; if it’s too hard, it won’t incorporate well.


Finely chopping the chocolate helps it melt more easily. A serrated knife works best for this task.

Nutritional Facts

Nutritional Facts

Per serving

Calories: 472

% Daily Value*

Total Fat 30g 46%

Saturated Fat 15g 75%

Cholesterol 119mg 39%

Sodium 107mg 4%

Carbs 45g 15%

Protein 8g

*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.

Reviews ()

Add Review

Latest Cuisine Issue Cover

Subscribe Today and Get 4 Free Digital Books!