Day 331 – Opera Cake

This is the first bake from my Puff the Bakery course to nearly break me. I’ve made complex bakes before, the chocolate entremet from a couple of weeks ago being the most notable, but the opera cakes complex and multiple layers were a little too much to handle.

Photo by Dima Valkov on

The opera cake is a multi-layered, French patisserie classic. It usually consists of almond sponge, chocolate ganache, and coffee buttercream layered on top of each other multiple times and then topped with a chocolate glaze. It’s something I associate with very fancy patisserie’s purely because that’s the only place I’ve eaten them. The recipe I was going off consisted of a mighty 10 layers consisting of chocolate sponge, chocolate buttercream, caramel sauce, hazelnut daquoise, chocolate ganache, sponge, buttercream, caramel sauce, hazelnut daquoise, and finally a chocolale glaze to bring it all together. I told you it was a lot!

To try and get ahead I made the sponge, and a hazelnut daqouise layer the night before. They were both a bit of a disaster: the sponge became very flat and looked underdone underneath, and the daquoise, normally a crunchy meringue, was soft and squidgy. I wasn’t off to a great start, but a bit of extra oven time the next day helped the daqouise firm up a little more.

Next came a delicate creme anglaise chocolate buttercream. The original recipe calls for the classic coffee flavours, but I am not really keen on too much coffee so I adapted it to chocolate. This appeared to work in the buttercream, but I couldn’t be certain that it hadn’t split, something the recipe warned about.

I continued onto the caramel sauce, my ultimate disaster. Making it was a doddle, a supremely delicious doddle, and I was then meant to leave it for an hour until it became spreadable. This never happened. It had close to two hours to cool, some of that time in the fridge to try and speed things along, and it still remained runny. I decided to cut my losses and go with it anyway and start layering up the cake.

All went fine until the caramel sauce layer when it just went everywhere. Really, it was spilling out all over, the sponge was swimming in it, and I was ready to give up. What was meant to be a thick sticky layer was now an increasingly disappearing pool of caramel cream. I reluctantly continued, feeling utterly dejected with how things were going, The shape didn’t look right, the daquoise was cracking everywhere, there was more caramel sauce out than in – it was a disaster. However, I put it in the fridge and waited, determined to finish it so I could at least write about it, and once I’d put a glaze on and trimmed the edges, a thing of beauty appeared.

Yes, the caramel layer is barely visible, and it’s a little wonky in places, but I was overwhelmed with relief that it didn’t look like a total disaster to truly care. Honestly, it looked so, so good I couldn’t believe it. I knew it would taste good, I’d previewed a bite or two earlier when “squaring off the edges” a.k.a. finding a way to eat some before it was ready and it tasted amazing, but having a proper slice of it with a glass of good red wine was next level.

This opera cake was one of the best tasting bakes I’ve ever made. The different textures and flavours worked together in harmony to create the perfect bite. Despite the tortuous time I had making it, it’s something I would consider making again, that’s how good it tastes. A stressful, yet successful bake!

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