I was in a particularly adventurous mood when I decided to make three cakes to participate in my friend Lina´s Cake Challenge. I knew absolutely nothing about the cakes I decided to make and I was very anxious to learn more about them. I decided to learn not only how to make them but also their unique stories behind them.
The first cake I tried was the beautiful Opera cake. I wondered where the name came from. I discovered this on The Good Life France
Opera Cake History
The creation of the cake goes back to 1955 when great French pastry chef Cyriaque Gavillon worked at the legendary Dalloyau shop in Paris. Dalloyau have been trading since 1682 and were suppliers to the court of Versailles. It was the perfect match when Cyriaque, a genius with patisserie and an artist who created the most amazing cakes and sugar decorations, and Dalloyau got together. When inventing the Opera cake he wanted to make something that in taking one bite, would give a taste of the whole cake. He worked on layers and tastes and came up with a wonderfully sophisticated cake. His wife told him it reminded her of the Paris Opera House, Palais Garnier. It was a name that stuck, the Opera cake was born.
Here is a photo of the Paris opera house to help you see why the layers reminded her of it.
I thought that this was was such an interesting story and I couldn´t wait to get started. I was intimidated by the layers and symmetry but as I read the instructions in the recipe that I found, I became less worried and more determined to try! I would say that it had more to do with a longing for a combination of chocolate and coffee than anything else!
I found a lovely recipe on ChocoParis and got started! Here is the recipe!
Adapted from Le Cordon Bleu Home Collection (Chocolate)
This elegant chocolate-covered cake, whose invention is attributed to the Dalloyau pastry house, consists of layers of biscuit soaked in coffee syrup and garnished with butter cream and chocolate ganache.
Preparation time: 2 hours + refrigeration
Serves 4 to 6
- 75 grams (2 ½ ounces) icing sugar
- 2 ½ tablespoons flour
- 75 grams (2 ½ ounces) almond powder [I used finely ground almonds]
- 3 eggs
- 15 grams (1/2 ounce) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 3 egg whites
- 1 tablespoon caster (superfine) sugar
- 200 grams (6 ½ ounces) superior-quality dark chocolate, finely chopped
- 120 ml (4 fl ounces) milk
- 110 ml (3 ¾ fl. ounces) thick cream
- 50 grams (1 ¾ ounces) unsalted butter, softened)
- 1 ½ tablespoons sugar
- 1 ½ tablespoons instant coffee
- 90 ml (3 fluid ounces) water
- 70 grams (2 ¼ ounces) caster (superfine) sugar
- 1 egg white
- 1 tablespoon instant coffee
- 100 g (3 ¼ ounces) unsalted butter, softened
- To prepare the sponge layer, first, preheat the oven to 220 degrees C (425 degrees F). Line a 20 x 30 cm (8 x 12 inches) baking pan with parchment paper. In a large bowl, sift together the flour and icing sugar, then add the powdered almonds. Mix well. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat until pale. Add the melted butter.
- Beat the egg whites until stiff, then gradually add sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks are obtained.
- Add 1/3 of the beaten egg whites to the batter, mixing well, then incorporate the remainder, folding until just combined. Pour onto the baking tray and spread evenly. [Try to spread as evenly as you can but don´t obsess about it! No matter what, it will be beautiful.]Bake for 6 to 8 minutes, or until golden and springy when touched. Loosen the edges with a knife and carefully turn out onto a wire rack covered with a sheet of parchment paper. Allow to cool.
- Place finely chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set aside. Bring milk and 30 ml (1 fluid ounce) of the cream to a boil. Pour the hot liquid onto the chocolate. Wait 30 seconds, then add the butter and mix until smooth. Let cool until a spreadable consistency is obtained.
- To prepare the coffee syrup, place sugar and 90 ml (3 fluid ounces) of water in a pan and stir until dissolved. Bring to a boil and add coffee.
- To prepare butter cream, place sugar and 3 teaspoons of water in a heavy skillet and make a sugar syrup, i.e. stir until sugar is completely dissolved, then boil, without stirring, until syrup reaches soft-ball stage, between 116 and 118 degrees C (214 – 244 degrees F).
- Beat the egg white until soft peaks are obtained. Continue beating while incorporating the hot syrup. Beat until mixture is cold. Dissolve instant coffee in 1 teaspoon of boiling water, cool and add to butter. Add one half of the egg-white mixture and beat well, then gently fold in the remainder until well combined.
- Using a sharp knife, divide the sponge into three equal sections and carefully peel off parchment paper from sections. Each should be 10 x 20 cm (4 x 8 inches).
- Here are some photos. I didn´t measure perfectly evenly but it didn´t matter! Any tiny cracks or inconsistencies you can ignore! What matters is that you have fun and they can be covered up!
- Soak the first section with one-third of the coffee syrup, then spread over it half of the butter cream. Place the next section of sponge on top, then soak with coffee syrup and spread with half of the ganache. Place the last section on top, soak with remaining syrup and spread with the rest of the butter cream, taking care to smooth the surface. Chill until butter cream firmly set.
- Melt the rest of the ganache over a pan of very hot water. Bring the remaining cream to the boiling point and incorporate into ganache. Allow to cool until a smooth, spreadable consistency is obtained and spread over top of cake.
So, what was the result of this effort? Well, the taste was fantastic. I mean, it is what you would expect. Just beautiful and not too sweet. It was worth it. I can honsetly tell you, this is not a difficult cake to make. What it requires is a bit of time and interest. But honestly, aren´t these fundamental to learning? I never would have thought I could make something like this and i never would have dared if Lina had not inspired me. Thank you, Lina!