I saw this on Great British Bake Off and thought I’d have a go. For a first attempt I am pleased. Not ecstatic, but pleased.

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Opera Cake
Recipe type: Cake
Cuisine: French
Serves: 8
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
A richly flavoured cake made from 4 layers of almond sponge, soaked in a kirsch syrup and sandwiched with French vanilla buttercream and dark chocolate ganache.
For the kirsch soaking syrup
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 200ml water
  • 3 tbsp kirsch
For the joconde sponge
  • 3 medium egg whites, at room temperature
  • 15g caster sugar
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 100g icing sugar, sifted
  • 3 medium eggs at room temperature
  • 30g plain flour, sifted
  • 30g unsalted butter, melted
For the ganache
  • 100ml double cream
  • 100g dark chocolate (about 40% cocoa solids), broken into small pieces
For the crème au beurre
  • 3 medium egg yolks
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 225g unsalted butter, cubed and softened
  • 2 tsp vanilla paste
  1. To make the soaking syrup, put the sugar and water into a small pan. Heat gently, stirring frequently, until the sugar dissolves, then bring to the boil. Simmer for 4-5 minutes until the syrup has reduced by half. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the kirsch and set aside to cool completely.
  2. Meanwhile, make the sponge. Heat your oven to 220C/425F/gas 7. Put the egg whites into a spotlessly clean mixing bowl. (the yolks will be used later for the crème au beurre) and whisk with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. whisk in the cast sugar slowly to make a glossy meringue. Cover bowl with clingfilm and set aside.
  3. Tip the ground almonds and icing sugar into a mixing bowl and add the whole eggs. Whisk at high speed for 3-5 minutes until pale and doubled in volume. Gently fold in the flour with a large metal spoon or plastic spatula, then gently fold in the meringue in 3 batches. Pour the melted butter down the side of the bowl and fold in so it is evenly incorporated.
  4. Turn the mixture into a swiss roll tin, buttered and lined with baking paper, and level with a palette knife. Make sure the mixture goes right to the corners. Place in the heated oven for 5-7 minutes until a pale golden colour and springy to the touch in the centre. While the cake is baking, lay a sheet of baking paper over a wire rack. Turn out the cooked sponge onto the paper-lined rack, peel off the lining paper and allow to cool completely.
  5. To make the ganache, gently heat the cream in a pan until just bubbling. Remove the pan from the heat and add the chocolate. Stir until melted, smooth and glossy. Leave to set until firm but spreadable.
  6. For the crème au beurre, put the egg yolks into a mixing bowl, and fit the whisk attachment to the mixer. Put the sugar into a small pan with the water and dissolve over a gentle heat, then boil steadily until the mixture reaches 100 degrees on a jam thermometer. With the mixer running at high speed, slowly pour the syrup over the yolks, and continue whisking until the mixture is mousse-like. Gradually whisk in the butter, then the vanilla paste.
  7. To assemble the cake, slice the sponge into quarters, so you have 4 sponges about 11.5cm x 33cm.
  8. Place one sponge on a cake board and brush ¼ of the kirsch syrup over it. Spread one third of the crème au beurre over. Place another sponge on top and brush with another ¼ of the kirsch syrup. Spread the chocolate ganache over. Add a third cake layer, and brush with another ¼ of the kirsch syrup. Spread another third of the crème au beurre over. Add the final cake layer, brush the last ¼ of the kirsch syrup over, then spread the final third of the crème au beurre.
  9. Put the cake in the fridge for a couple of hours to make trimming the cake easier, then level up the sides and ends with a sharp knife to define the layers.
  10. Decorate however you want!
Keep the layers even, and tap the swiss roll tin on the counter before baking to try removing trapped air.

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