Easy Opera Cake Recipe (video)

opera coffee cake with almond sponge cake

The iconic, classic Opera Cake! If you’ve never tried this famous coffee cake creation, you’re in for a real treat! When you take a bite of this cake, your taste buds will be in cake heaven! This 6-layer coffee cake is made with almond sponge cake, soaked with coffee syrup and frosted with creamy coffee buttercream! Dessert just doesn’t get any better than this! If you want an extra tall cake, just double this recipe!

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The History of Opera Cake

The Opera Cake was created in France in 1955 by French pastry chef Cyriaque Gavillon and named after the Parisian ‘Palais Garnier’ opera house. Cyriaque wanted to create that captured the elegance and style of the city. It’s traditionally made in a rectangle shape and you can find it in just about any Parisian bakery shop!

You’ll also find this classic coffee cake in my dessert cookbook, The European Cake Cookbook. My book features 65 all-new cake recipes you don’t want to miss!

classic french opera cake with chocolate ganache

How to Make an Easy Opera Cake

The original French recipe for this cake requires many intricate steps, but I’ve simplified this recipe so you can easily make and enjoy this dessert at home.

  1. For the cake layers, I used my basic sponge cake recipe and added almond flour for a bit of nutty flavor. I highly recommend adding the almond flour for taste. If you don’t have it, more all-purpose flour will work in a pinch. I have a separate video recipe for my ‘Vanilla Sponge Cake’ recipe – make sure to check it out for an in-depth tutorial!
  2. Make sure to let the layers cool completely, then use a sharp knife to cut the in half. If the layers are too soft, try placing them into the freezer for 30 minutes. This will help make the cake layers easier to work with.
  3. The layers are then soaked with a Kahlua liqueur and coffee syrup, ensuring that you’ll get coffee flavor in every bite! Don’t want any alcohol in the cake? Try adding a teaspoon of coffee extract to the coffee syrup to make it extra intense!
  4. Frost the cake with my easy coffee buttercream recipe next! Once it’s frosted, garnish the top with chocolate ganache, chocolate candies or cookies to make the cake extra special!

opera cake with french buttercream and chocolate ganache

Easy Coffee Frosting

The delicate almond sponge cake layers are frosted with a creamy coffee-flavored buttercream, then topped with a simple chocolate ganache. For my original video recipe, I created what I call a ‘cheat version’ of French buttercream, using sweetened condensed milk.

If you prefer, you can use my traditional ‘French Buttercream’ recipe instead! This buttercream is my personal favorite, made with egg yolks, hot sugar syrup and butter! I like to let the cake stand in the refrigerator overnight to allow the flavors to really come together. Just take the cake out about an hour or two before enjoying to allow the cake to thaw.

Garnishing the Opera Cake

I finish this coffee cake off with rich chocolate ganache! This ganache is so easy to make and requires just two ingredients. Make sure to check out my ‘Chocolate Ganache’ tutorial for in-depth details! Pour the ganache gently on top of the cake and let it drip down the sides. And to make this cake extra special, try topping it off with cookies, wafers, truffles or even chocolate chips!

More Recipes!

Enjoyed this classic cake recipe? Check out some of my other recipes you’re sure to enjoy!

  • German Chocolate Cake – very rich and decadent chocolate cake filled with coconut pecan filling!
  • Coffee Tres Leches Cake – delicate coffee sponge cake with light and fluffy coffee cream!
  • Neapolitan Cake – this iconic cake is made with three different flavors: chocolate, strawberry and vanilla!
  • Torte Napoleon – buttery and flaky layers are filled with vanilla cream for this famous cake recipe!

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Classic Opera Cake video recipe

Opera Cake Recipe (video)

1 hr 45 mins prep + 15 mins cook
16 servings
Easy recipe for the traditional Opera cake, using vanilla sponge cake soaked with coffee, frosted with a coffee French buttercream and garnished with chocolate ganache!

Ingredients 

Almond Cake Layers:

  • 6 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup white granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup almond flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

For Coffee Syrup:

  • 2 tablespoons instant coffee
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 3/4 cup simple syrup
  • 1/4 cup Kahlua coffee liqueur, optional

For Coffee Buttercream:

  • 2 cups unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 tablespoon instant coffee
  • 1 tablespoon water

For Chocolate Ganache:

  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350F. Line and spray 3, 8-inch cake pans with parchment paper; set aside.
  • Prepare the sponge cake layers: place the eggs and sugar into mixer bowl and whisk on high speed for 5 to 7 minutes until light, fluffy and almost white in color. Add the vanilla and whisk to incorporate. In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients: flour, almond flour, baking powder and salt. Using a fine mesh sifter, add the flour into the eggs in small batches. Fold the flour in gently but thoroughly.
  • Divide the cake batter evenly between the 3 pans; I recommend using a kitchen scale for accuracy. Use an offset spatula to spread the batter evenly to the edges of pan. Bake in preheated oven for 13 to 15 minutes, just until top starts turning a golden color. Remove cakes from pans and set onto cooling racks to cool. Cake layers are very fragile, handle with care!
  • While cake layers are cooling, prepare the syrup and buttercream. For the syrup, dissolve the 2 tablespoons coffee in 1 tablespoon water, then add the simple syrup and coffee liqueur. If you prefer a cake with no alcohol, simply substitute with more simply syrup.
  • For the buttercream: whisk the softened butter on high speed for about 5 minutes, scraping sides of bowl often, until butter is light and fluffy. Add the sweetened condensed milk in small amounts until well incorporated. In a small bowl, dissolve the 1 tablespoon coffee in 1 tablespoon COLD water and add the coffee to the buttercream. Continue whisking for a few more minutes.
  • To assemble the cake: use a long serrated knife and split each cake layer in two, to have a total of 6 layers. Soak each layer generously with prepared syrup, then frost with buttercream. Repeat for all layers. Frost the top and sides of cake with remaining buttercream. Even off the tops and sides with a flat spatula, then set cake into refrigerator to set for 15 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, prepare the ganache: heat the 1/4 cup heavy cream in the microwave until very hot. Add the chocolate chips and stir until smooth. Transfer the ganache into a ziplock bag and let cool for a few minutes. Snip off the end of the bag with scissors, then drizzle the ganache down the sides of the cake first. Spread the remaining ganache over the top and use a flat spatula to spread it evenly.
  • Garnish the cake as desired. Place cake into refrigerator to set for at least a few hours, or overnight. Remove the cake from the refrigerator about 30 to 45 minutes before serving to allow the buttercream to soften.

Nutrition

Calories: 497kcal | Carbohydrates: 45g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 33g | Saturated Fat: 19g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 8g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 138mg | Sodium: 337mg | Potassium: 216mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 41g | Vitamin A: 932IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 133mg | Iron: 2mg