French Week · Season 2 · Showstopper

The Fat Lady Bakes…

…an Opera Cake!

OK, this is yet another thing I’ve never heard of.  Layers of sponge and jam and things.  Traditionally coffee and chocolate, but of course, we know that I’m not going to do that.  Any flavors we want…

Layers of Joconde sponge, buttercream, ganache… Contestants made:

  • Lemon cake, white chocolate ganache and lavendar buttercream.
  • Praline and saffron.
  • Banoffee Pie: buttercream, caramel, bananas and dark chocolate ganache.
  • Passion fruit and lime opera cake with chocolate cake and a layer of dark tempered chocolate, and chocolate caramel tuiles with truffles inside.

Layers need to be very even and level, and freeze between layers (5 minutes) to firm up ingredients before adding next layer.

After doing a bunch of research trying to find an opera cake recipe, and in the process, I found one called Sicilian Seven Veils Cake (recipe here), which has 7 layers instead of 6.  More is always better, right?

There are four parts to making this cake–and one of those parts makes 3 more–but it made it fairly easy to break up into smaller ‘bites’ in the making.


First, you make the chocolate joconde sponge.  It suggests you use a half-sheet pan, which is what I call a “cookie sheet” with a raised lip.  Line with parchment paper, spray, and make the sponge.

Bake.  Cool.  Done.

Then make the chocolate crunch base.  I have no idea where to find feuilletine, and kinda gagged at the idea of using corn flakes, so I got Rice Chex instead.  I made the amount according to the directions and tried to spread it out to cover the size of the half of the half-sheet cake that I finished baking.  It was not spreading well and a huge mess.

I gave up and doubled the recipe.  It went on a bit thick, but who cares.

Then the Bavarian cream.  I made the custard but it turned into scrambled eggs.  Dumped it out and started again.  It was slightly less lumpy, but it still had bits of egg here and there.  I should have strained it.  If you have a better method for making custard, do that…this method was a little weird and not terribly successful.

Then the directions for splitting up the custard was awkwardly written.  What you need to do is split it evenly between 3 bowls:

  • Chocolate Bavarian Cream:  To the first bowl, you add 100 g dark melted chocolate and 250 ml whipped cream.
  • Praline (Hazelnut) Bavarian Cream:  To the second bowl, you add the hazelnut powder and 250 ml whipped cream.
  • Vanilla Bavarian Cream:  To the third bowl, you add just 150 ml whipped cream.


I was really bad at following directions at the end.  Hmmm…  But this is how I did it:  Assemble the cake starting with the Chocolate Bavarian Cream on top of the crunchy base.  Then add a layer of the joconde sponge, which you will need to cut to size–I kinda left it hanging over the edge like a too-large mattress on a short bed frame….then you trim it down.  Then you add simple syrup (which is a thing I skipped…whoops).  Then spread the hazelnut cream on top of that, smoothing it out.

Then another layer of sponge and more simple syrup.  Then top with the vanilla Bavarian Cream.

Trim the end–now you can see all the lovely layers.  Cover and freeze for a while.  Mine ended up chilling for 2 days in the freezer.

For the final step, the chocolate mirror glaze, the recipe calls for 3 leaves of gelatine.  We don’t buy our gelatine in leaves–we buy them in 7 gram packets of powder.  So here’s the math–a little more than 1 gram = 1 leaf.  So, not exact, but if it calls for 6 leaves, you use 7 grams of powder.  3 leaves = 3 1/2 grams.  Not perfect, but it’ll get you close enough for horseshoes or government work.  In the end, I ended up adding the entire packet and thought the chocolate glaze was still too runny.  Sigh.

And it’s super ugly because I didn’t smooth out the layers before putting the mirror glaze on, but it sure is edible!

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