If you’ve ever watched The Great British Baking Show, or you’re just a fan of fancy desserts, you’ve probably come across an Opera Cake. This showy dessert is indulgent and can feed a large crowd, so I decided to create a simplified mini Opera Cake that you have to try! It’s the perfect combination of chocolate and coffee in one bite.
This page contains affiliate links which means I may earn a commission as an Amazon Associate (or other affiliate program) from qualifying purchases. I only recommend products that I use and trust.
This recipe was originally published on November 14, 2019 and has been updated on May 3, 2021.
A classic French Opera Cake features layers of joconde sponge brushed with a coffee syrup and layered with coffee buttercream and chocolate ganache. This decadent dessert is topped with a silky chocolate glaze and frequently ornately decorated. If that sounds like a lot to handle, don’t worry about it! I made you a step by step video to show you how to make everything and throw it all together. (You can find that video further down in this post too!)
The Opera Cake is an iconic French dessert, but it was invented only 54 years by Cyriaque Gavillon. My friend Morgan fromBlueberry Chronicles clued me in on this little fact she found on theFrench Embassy’s Instagram account. Gavillon’s wife said it reminded her of the Paris Opera House and the Opera Cake was born.
Making a Mini Opera Cake
I first heard about this cake while I was watching the British Bake Off. It’s a stunner of a cake, but it’s so involved and big that I never really thought I would make it. But I wanted to try my hand at a joconde sponge and how could I resist that combination of coffee and chocolate?
As much as I wanted to make this dessert, I knew there was no way I could handle an entire, full sized cake. I figured I could easily make a mini Opera Cake by simply cutting everything in half, while still keeping all of the layers. And you know what? This little guy can still feed plenty of hungry people.
To put this dessert together, you need to make a joconde sponge, coffee syrup, coffee buttercream, chocolate ganache, and a chocolate glaze. Plus there are hours of chill time involved in assembly. To make it easy, I suggest breaking it down into 2 or 3 days of work. You could probably do this in one day if you get started as soon as you wake up, but that’d be a ton of work.
I’ve made this cake twice now, and both times it ended up taking me about a full week to accomplish. This mini opera cake takes a lot of time and energy, but it is hands down my absolute favorite cake. And everyone I’ve made this has agreed!
This recipe is straight fromMy Evil Twin’s Kitchen. She’s got a full, detailed Opera Cake recipe that really helped me develop my own. Once the coffee syrup cools to room temperature, transfer it to an airtight container and store in the fridge. It smelled and looked really strong, but that’s good! The syrup needs to be strong to add that tasty coffee flavor to the sponge. Just don’t try drinking this stuff.
Liz, from theSugar Geek Show, has this really unique Swiss meringue buttercream hack that she calls Easy Buttercream. It uses pasteurized egg whites from the store which eliminates the need for heating and cooling. I finally tried it and added re-hydrated espresso powder to create coffee buttercream.
This recipe makes just enough frosting for the mini Opera Cake. If you plan on going quite thick or want leftovers, double the recipe. You can also add as much or as little coffee to the frosting. However, I suggest adding it a bit at a time so that you don’t end up with a bitter buttercream.
Pour hot milk and butter over your chocolate and let it sit. Now you can stir until you have a silky smooth ganache. Let the mixture cool to room temperature for a few hours. If it is too thick, reheat with a bit more cream. You can always check out my chocolate ganache tutorial for more troubleshooting.
I used semi- sweet chocolate this time around. If you use a darker chocolate, you may need more cream, and if you use milk chocolate, you’ll need less cream. As long as you pay attention to the consistency, you’ll be fine.
The ingredients for this element all come from theSugar Geek Show joconde recipe. However, I changed the method a bit after reading multiple joconde recipes. Luckily, this worked out beautifully! The most important thing to remember is to fold the egg whites into the batter very gently. And you know those extra yolks? Add your carton egg whites to equal the 5 whole eggs you need.
Pro Tip: Make sure to smooth your batter out evenly. The batter will not level out during baking, so any uneven areas will give you uneven layers. Not a big deal, but it does make it more difficult to get a level cake.
I wasn’t sure how to cool this cake, but my method worked out well. After it has cooled in the pan for a bit, place parchment paper on top of the sponge and carefully invert onto some baking racks. Peel the bottom (now top) parchment paper off and let it cool. When it’s done, we’ll be inverting it back into the baking sheet for easy storage.
The night before you assemble the mini Opera Cake, take out the chocolate ganache so it has plenty of time to soften. On the morning of assembly day, take out the syrup and buttercream so that they can also come to room temperature.
You’ve got nearly all of the mini Opera Cake elements pulled out and ready to go. Take the joconde out of the fridge and slice it into 4 equal portions, in half lengthwise and then in half crosswise. We’ll trim the edges at the end, so if it’s a little off, no biggie. I do suggest using a ruler to find the middle of each side though.
Begin by placing the bottom layer of joconde upside down on a piece of wax or parchment paper. Spread a very thin layer of ganache over it and place in the fridge to chill for 15 minutes. This will prevent the cake from sticking to the paper when we transfer the finished mini Opera Cake to a pretty board.
Side Note: Cake Board
This is kind of an awkward sized cake, right? If you don’t have the right sized serving plate or board, I’ve got you covered. You can either buy a rectangular cake board or make your own. I cut a piece of foam core poster board down to roughly 7×9 inches, then I used my cake board tutorial to cover it.
Invert the chilled layer onto a cutting board lined with wax or parchment paper. Brush the sponge liberally with coffee syrup. I suggest using about an ounce per layer and waiting a few minutes to let it soak in. Then spread an even layer of coffee buttercream on top. If you’re neurotic like me, I used ¾ cup.
Repeat another layer of sponge and syrup. This time, top with chocolate ganache. To make all the filling layers even, I would suggest measuring out ¾ cup just like the coffee frosting. Top this layer with the third sponge, syrup, and coffee buttercream.
The final layer of joconde gets a liberal brushing of coffee syrup, just like the previous layers. However, this time we’re going to spread only a thin layer of coffee buttercream on top. This creates a smooth surface for the chocolate glaze. Now the cake will chill for about 3 hours.
The original recipe calls for you to simply melt the chocolate and oil together before pouring over the chilled cake. If the thought of tempering chocolate scares the ganache out of you, just do that. It’s going to be fine.
However, if you’re a special type of extra, you can always follow one of the tempering methods from Sugar Geek show. I prefer to do the microwave method. It can be easy to over heat the chocolate, but I’m cool with that risk for this cake.
When the mini Opera Cake is just about done chilling, prepare the chocolate glaze. As soon as the glaze is ready and not too hot, remove the cake from the fridge. Carefully and slowly pour the chocolate over the cake. It should level out nicely. Try to keep the majority of the glaze on the cake, but don’t worry about any drip.
Transfer the mini Opera cake to the fridge to firm up for about 30 minutes to an hour. When it’s time, get a nice cake board or a pretty serving platter. Remove the chilled cake and trim off the messy sides to create a beautiful rectangle cake. Carefully transfer the cake from the lined cutting board to the serving tray.
Watch It Come Together
Look, there’s a lot going on here. I’m a visual learner, so I made you a step by step video to show you how to make all of the elements and put it together into one delicious Mini Opera Cake!
This video is full of great tips and it can really help to see how the different elements come together. Let me know what you think of this video and if you enjoyed it, consider subscribing to my channel to see more!
I know, I know. Opera Cakes are supposed to be ornately decorated. Well, I hate to break it to you, but writing Opera in cursive with ganache and then adding delicate piping is not in my skill set. At least, not yet. However, go for it if you want to! Personally, I think this cake looks stunning even with a simple finish.
To be honest, I wanted to get some edible gold leaf to add a beautiful accent. Why didn’t I? After working on this cake for a week, I was just done. I wanted to dig my face in and dealing with finicky gold leaf just did not appeal to me.
Tips & Tricks
This cake needs to be at room temperature for several hours before you eat it. The ganache and buttercream need to be soft, otherwise the textures will be off. Personally, I suggest slicing it with a sharp knife while still cold, then letting the slices warm up. That’ll be quicker than letting an entire cake come to room temp.
Make sure the chocolate ganache is the right consistency for that middle layer. At room temperature it should be like a thick buttercream. Check out mychocolate ganache tutorial for more information.
A lot of home bakers are turned off of more adventurous recipes because they just look or sound intimidating. But I’ve found that a lot of recipes can be broken down into multiple projects. Heck! Mycakes are the most popular recipes and those usually take 2- 3 days.
Or take this mini Opera Cake. They had to make one in only a matter of hours on The Great British Baking Show. That sounds awful. This cake did not take me 3 days. It took me a whole week because life happens. Just break new bakes down into tasks you can handle. You got this!
I am head over heels in love with this mini Opera Cake. Delicate sponge, coffee, and chocolate are the perfect combination of flavors in my book. The bitterness of the chocolate balances out the sweetness of the frosting and the thin layers of each element make every bite the perfect bite. Take your time and spend a few days creating this masterpiece. It’ll be worth the wait!
Place the sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil for one minute. Add the espresso powder and stir to combine.
Remove the saucepan from the heat and let the syrup cool to room temperature. Store in an airtight container in the fridge if not using the same day.
Place the pasteurized egg whites and powdered sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk on low to combine, then on high for about 5 minutes.
Add the soft butter in chunks one piece at a time, letting each piece incorporate before adding the next. Whip on high for 8- 10 minutes.
Add vanilla and salt and whisk until combined. While the frosting whips, combine the espresso and hot water in a small bowl. Add the coffee mixture a ½ tsp at a time until you have the desired flavor. (I used 1 ½ tsps.)
Store the finished buttercream in an airtight container in the fridge if not using the same day.
Melt the heavy cream and butter in a small saucepan or the microwave. Be careful not to bring to a boil. Pour over the hot chocolate and let it sit for a minute or two. Stir gently until completely combined.
Let the ganache cool to room temperature. At this point, it should have the consistency of thick buttercream. If it is too stiff at room temperature, I suggest reheating the chocolate and adding more cream to thin out the ganache.
When the ganache is at the correct consistency at room temperature, store in an airtight container in the fridge if not using the same day.
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Spray a rimmed baking sheet with baking spray and line the bottom with parchment paper. Set aside.
Sift the almond flour, powdered sugar, and cake flour into a bowl and whisk to combine. Add half of the eggs (not the whites). Beat on low for about a minute. Scrape the bowl down and add the remaining eggs. Beat for a minute or two.
Add the melted butter and fold gently until smooth and combined. Scrape the bowl down and set aside.
In a stand mixer, whip the egg whites to soft peaks. Then begin adding the sugar 1 tablespoon at a time. Continue whipping on high until you reach firm peaks.
Gently fold in ⅓ of the whipped egg whites into the rest of the batter. Once that is mostly combined, add another third, then the final bit of egg whites. Fold gently until the mixture is no longer lumpy and is just combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared baking sheet. Use a spatula or an offset spatula to gently spread the batter into an even layer. Bake for 10 minutes, or until the sponge springs back when touched.
Cool in the baking sheet for 15 minutes. Then place a sheet of parchment paper on top of the joconde. Place one or two cooling racks upside down onto the baking sheet, then invert so that the baking sheet is upside down on the cooling racks. Remove the baking sheet and gently peel off the parchment paper and set it aside for later.
Let the joconde cool, upside down, on the cooling racks for an hour, or until completely cool. Then place the parchment paper back on the bottom of the sponge. Place the baking sheet back over the sponge and invert the cooling rack so that the sponge is back in the baking sheet.
Gently remove the parchment paper and set aside. Sprinkle the top of the joconde with an even layer of sugar. Gently top with the parchment paper and cover with cling wrap. Chill in the fridge for an hour or until you are ready to assemble the Mini Opera Cake.
Before you begin assembling the Mini Opera Cake, make sure the coffee syrup, coffee buttercream, and chocolate ganache are all at room temperature.
Cut the joconde into 4 equal portions, lengthwise and then crosswise. Place the bottom layer of the cake upside down on a piece of wax or parchment paper. Spread a very thin layer of ganache over it. Place in the fridge to chill for 15 minutes, or until firm.
Invert the bottom layer of joconde onto a cutting board lined with wax or parchment paper. (The ganache side will be down.) Liberally brush the sponge with coffee syrup. Then top with a layer of coffee buttercream. I used about ¾ cup of frosting.
Add the second layer of joconde and liberally brush with coffee syrup. Now top with a layer of chocolate ganache, about ¾ cup.
Add the third layer of joconde and liberally brush with coffee syrup. Add another layer of the coffee buttercream. Make sure each layer is even.
Add the fourth and final layer of joconde and liberally brush with coffee syrup. Smooth a very thin layer of coffee buttercream over this layer. Chill in the fridge for 3 hours.
When the cake is nearly done chilling, begin preparing the chocolate glaze.
Place the finely chopped chocolate and coconut oil in a microwave safe bowl. Heat in the microwave gently, stirring for a minute or two between bursts. Do not let the chocolate go over 90°F.
Take the chilled cake out of the fridge and slowly pour the warm, but not hot, glaze over the cake. Make sure the cake is completely covered with glaze. Place back in the fridge and chill for 30 minutes to an hour.
Once the cake is firm, run a knife under hot water and use the warm knife to gently trim off all four sides. Wipe and warm the knife before each slice. You will be left with a rectangular cake about 5x8 inches.
Chill the cake again for about an hour. Carefully transfer the chilled cake onto a prepared cake board or serving tray.
To serve, use a sharp, warm knife to create slices about ½- ¾ inch thick. Let the cake come to room temperature for the best flavor and texture.
If you do not want to try tempering the glaze, simply melt the chocolate and oil together. Once they are melted, smooth, and not too hot, pour over the cake to cover.
I suggest breaking this recipe into two or three days of work.
Add carton egg whites to your leftover egg yolks for your joconde batter!
Hi there! I’m Colleen, a novice baker with a passion for learning and improving my bakes… and blunders. On Bakes and Blunders, you can find all sorts of tasty recipes that range in difficulty, but most importantly, I’ll try to explain the reason behind important steps. If you know why a recipe works, you can tweak and adapt it to suit your unique tastes, and you’ll be able to reliably produce some very delicious treats. If you love baking and want to expand and grow your skills, or if you are a casual baker and just need some pointers, my blog is right up your alley! Join me on my baking journey and we’ll learn how to make more impressive recipes together.