French Opera Cake Recipe

What is an opera cake

An opera cake is a cake that was developed by French pastry chef Cyriaque Gavillon in 1955. I’m not entirely sure why it’s called an opera cake but I’ve heard two theories. The first being that his wife said it reminded her of the Paris Opera House, Palais Garnier and the second being that it is made up of six layers, like an opera, and topped with an icing (which, to me, means seven layers but whatever). 

Anyways, the cake is made up of an almond sponge, called joconde, coffee french buttercream and chocolate ganache. I’ve seen it made a million different ways but I chose to double the layers to make it extra grande. 

Ingredients & Substitutions for the Sponge

  • Almond Flour – almond flour is what distinguishes the joconde sponge so I don’t recommend swapping it.
  • Sugar – use granulated sugar or super fine/castor sugar for the sponge.
  • Vanilla – I use vanilla extract here but you can also use vanilla bean paste or artificial vanilla extract.
  • Eggs – use room temperature large eggs. If you’re in a pinch, pop them in warm water for 5-10 minutes.
    • there are also additional egg whites used in the sponge, reserve the yolks for the buttercream.
  • Flour – in addition to almond flour, all purpose flour is used in the sponge. This can be substituted for a 1:1 gluten-free flour.
  • Butter – unsalted or salted works in this recipe. If you use unsalted, add the extra pinch of salt. Dairy free butter also works for the sponge.

Joconde is the classic type of sponge used to make Opera Cake. It’s a very light, almond sponge cake that I’ve seen made a million different ways. I prefer to use a limited amount of ingredients so I chose to do mine with just granulated sugar instead of both granulated and powdered sugar. 

I’ve included step-by-step photos for how to make Joconde sponge because if you’ve never made it before, it can be a little difficult to know if you’re doing it right. The basic steps are:

  • Whip the whole eggs with the almond flour and some of the sugar.
  • Whip the extra egg whites with the rest of the sugar and then fold it into the other batter. 
  • Sift in the flour and then fold in the melted butter. 

It seems quite simple, but because there is no chemical leavening agent in the sponge, the egg whites have to be perfectly whipped and folded into the batter without deflating it. 

Troubleshooting over-whipped egg whites  

The most common mistake is over whipping the egg whites. If this happens, the egg whites will be too dry and they won’t fold properly into the batter. Instead of being smooth, it’ll look kind of chunky, like the photo below. 

The recipe starts by folding ⅓ of the egg whites into the batter. If it doesn’t fold in smoothly and looks chunky, then add an extra egg white to the bowl of whipped egg whites and beat it for like 10-15 seconds, just until it’s incorporated. It should look a little less dry but should still hold firm peaks. Then proceed with the rest of the recipe. 

What pan to bake the sponge in

I chose to bake my sponge in six square 6” cake pans because I suck at cutting even squares. However, you can bake this in one large sheet pan (18″x12″), for about 10-15 minutes, and then cut it into 6 even squares. 

Since the classic French opera is half the height of my cake, you can even just slice the large sheet into three layers. You’ll end up with the classic, shorter cake and the layers will be: cake, buttercream, cake, chocolate ganache, cake, buttercream, chocolate ganache.

Ingredients & Substitutions for Coffee Soak

  • Coffee – I prefer hot home brewed coffee so that it can dissolve the sugar.
  • Granulated sugar – if you want to use cold brew or something like that, you can melt the sugar or use a simple syrup to sweeten the coffee so it dissolves properly.

Ingredients & Substitutions for Chocolate Ganache

  • Chocolate – I use dark chocolate for my ganache but you can also use semi-sweet chocolate. If you switch the milk chocolate, you’ll have to reduce the cream by a tablespoon or so.
  • Heavy whipping cream – heavy whipping cream or heavy cream works. Make sure it’s at least 30% fat.

Chocolate ganache is pretty basic. There are various ways to make chocolate ganache but I like to stick to just chocolate and cream. For a thick chocolate ganache, I usually stick to a 2:1 ratio of chocolate to cream and for a thin chocolate ganache, I do 1:1 chocolate to cream. For this particular recipe, I chose to make my chocolate ganache right in the middle of those two so that it’s not too firm and not too soft. 

Ingredients & Substitutions for Coffee French Buttercream

  • Sugar – use granulated sugar for the buttercream.
  • Egg yolks – use leftover egg yolks from the sponge. Make sure they’re room temperature when whipping.
  • Butter – make sure to use unsalted butter for the buttercream and make sure it’s at room temperature so it incorporates smoothly into the egg yolks mixture.
  • Espresso powder – I use espresso powder in the buttercream because I can control the amount of liquid added like this.
    • You can also use actual espresso shots but make sure it’s completely cooled and start with 2 Tbsp to see how the buttercream is taking the liquid. You may be able to get away with 3-4 Tbsp if you add it slowly.
      • If the buttercream separates (added too much liquid) try adding a few more tablespoons of butter and make sure to check out my french buttercream post for more troubleshoot.
    • You can also use instant coffee powder but you may need to double the amount for a stronger flavor.
  • Vanilla – I use vanilla bean paste in my buttercreams but vanilla extract also works.

A classic French Opera Cake uses French buttercream as their frosting…for obvious reasons. This buttercream can be intimidating but fear not, I’ve dedicated an entire post, with step-by-step photos, showing you how to make French Buttercream

Ingredients & Substitutions for Chocolate Glaze

  • Dark chocolate – chocolate chips are fine or chopped chocolate bar. Semi-sweet chocolate also works.
  • Coconut oil – coconut oil solidifies at room temperature I don’t recommend swapping this for other oils.

How to store opera cake

I recommend serving opera cake at room temperature or just slightly chilled, so it’s nice and soft and creamy. However, it does get really soft after a while so make sure to store it fully covered in the refrigerator for about a week.

The cake can also be frozen, for about a month, but make sure to double wrap/seal it so it doesn’t get freezer burn and thaw in the refrigerator overnight. 

Well, congrats if you’ve stuck around this long, I know it was a long one. I hope you guys enjoy this classic french opera cake and if you make it, make sure to tag me @baranbakery on instagram!

This recipe can be a little intimidating but I’d love for you to make so if you have any questions, just comment down below! As always, have a blessed day and happy baking!

Love, B

Yield: 8 slices

French Opera Cake Recipe

french opera cake

The classic French Opera Cake, doubled in layers to make six layers of almond sponge cake, three layers of coffee French buttercream, three layers of rich chocolate ganache and topped with a chocolate glaze!

Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 15 minutes
Additional Time 3 hours
Total Time 4 hours 15 minutes


Joconde Sponge

  • 1 cup (100g) almond flour, spooned and leveled
  • 1/2 + 1/4 cup (100g + 50g) granulated sugar, divided
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 3 large egg whites, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (60g) all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
  • 2 Tbsp (28g) melted butter

Coffee Soak

  • 3/4 cup (177mL) coffee
  • 1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar

Chocolate Ganache

  • 1 cup (6oz) dark chocolate
  • 1/2 cup (118mL) heavy whipping cream

Coffee French Buttercream

  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup (59mL) water
  • 4 large egg yolks, room temperature
  • 1 cup (227g) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ⅛ tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp espresso powder dissolved in 1 Tbsp hot water
  • 2 tsp vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)

Chocolate Glaze

  • 1/2 cup (3oz) dark chocolate
  • 1 Tbsp (15mL) coconut oil


Joconde Sponge

  1. Preheat the oven to 375F (190C) convection (350F/177C conventional) and grease a 6" square cake pan (or as many as you have since you’ll need six layers) .
  2. In a large bowl, combine the almond flour, the 1/2 cup of granulated sugar, salt, vanilla extract and whole eggs. Beat the mixture for 2-3 minutes, at high speed, until the color lightens and the batter looks fluffy.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat the 1/4 cup of granulated sugar with the egg whites, at medium high speed, just until stiff peaks form, 1-2 minutes. Don't over-whip (if you do, see the troubleshooting section).
  4. With a clean spatula, gently fold 1/3rd of the egg whites into the batter until it's fully incorporated. Fold in the second 1/3rd of the egg whites into the batter and then the last 1/3rd.
  5. Sift half of the flour over the batter, gently fold it in just until it's combined and then repeat with the second half. Pour the melted butter around the edge of the bowl and gently fold it in until it's fully incorporated.
  6. Pour 1/6 of the batter into the prepared pan (about 3.5oz) and use an offset spatula to spread it evenly. Bake the cake for 7 seven minutes, on the middle rack, just until it releases from the edge of the pan a little and the cake springs back when you press on it.
  7. Invert the cakes onto a flat surface and then repeat with the rest of the batter. You should get 6 thin layers total.

Coffee Soak

  1. Brew the coffee and mix it with the sugar until the sugar dissolves. Set it aside to cool completely.

Chocolate Ganache

  1. Place the chocolate in a medium, heat safe bowl. Heat the cream in a small saucepan, over medium-low heat, just until it's simmering (not boiling).
  2. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate, cover the bowl and let it sit for 2 minutes. Stir the chocolate until the cream is fully incorporated. Cover the bowl and allow the chocolate ganache to cool completely to room temperature.

Coffee French Buttercream

  1. Place the sugar and water in a medium saucepan and swirl the pan until the sugar is fully immersed in water. Place the saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves and comes to a gentle simmer. Lower the heat to low and place the lid on the pan and allow the mixture to simmer for a couple minutes. 
  2. Meanwhile, place the egg yolks in the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, and turn the mixer up to high speed. Let it whip while the sugar is done cooking.
  3. Use a candy thermometer to see when the sugar reaches 240F (116C), then lower the mixer to medium speed and slowly drizzle the hot sugar syrup into the thick and foamy egg yolks, while they are whipping. Turn the mixer back up to high speed and let it whip for 5-10 minutes, until the yolk mixture is very pale and fluffy and is cool to the touch or no longer warm.
  4. Turn the mixer back down to medium speed and add in the butter, 2 Tbsp of butter at a time, mixing until each chunk is fully combined and the buttercream looks smooth and creamy.
  5. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl, add in the vanilla, dissolved espresso and salt and turn the mixer up to high speed for 1-2 minutes, just until they're fully combine.


  1. To assemble the cake, place the first layer on a flat surface and brush it generously with the coffee soak. Spread a layer of buttercream, about as thick as the cake layer itself, onto the cake.
  2. Top with another layer of cake and coffee soak and then spread a layer of chocolate ganache, about as thick as the cake. Repeat with the rest of the layers and then smooth out the edges as much as possible. Refrigerate the cake for 2-3 hours to let it set.
  3. Slice the edges off the cake to make them smooth and then with the rest of the buttercream, frost the outside of the chilled cake until it's fully covered. Refrigerate it for about an hour, until the buttercream feels firm, and then make the chocolate glaze.

Chocolate Glaze

  1. Place the chocolate and oil in a small aluminum bowl. Place the bowl of chocolate on top of a small simmering pot of water (about ¼ -½ cup of water), to create a double boiler.
  2. Stir the chocolate frequently until it’s smooth and silky. Allow it to cool for about 5 minutes before pouring it on top of the cake. 
  3. Place the cake in the fridge for a few minutes so the chocolate sets.
  4. To get clean slices, run a large serrated knife under hot water and dab the water off. So the chocolate doesn't crack, slowly go back and forth to create grooves into the chocolate before you press down and slice.

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Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 850Total Fat: 58gSaturated Fat: 31gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 24gCholesterol: 275mgSodium: 233mgCarbohydrates: 70gFiber: 5gSugar: 56gProtein: 14g

Nutrition information may not be fully accurate.

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  1. .Made this cake and it turned out exceptional. Used JamaciaMeCrazy coffee for soak and added 1/2 cup Amaretto liquor which enhanced the flavor. Had never made French Butter Cream but it turned out great. Was a little runny but your tip to refrigerate it 40 minutes then rewhip it solved the problem. Now have a new favorite icing! Made the sponge one day, put the layers together on day two and glazed it on day three. Have it wrapped and in the freezer for when guests arrive. Bon Appetite. Now want to try making Macarons.

  2. Hello! I want to make this for my Mom’s birthday this weekend, but need to double the recipe to yield more servings – even though I bought the 6″ pans already 🙂 Should I bake it in an 8″, 9″ or 10″ pan? I’m having trouble determining the volume for each pan. Thank you!

  3. Hi,

    I was keen to make this for Christmas, but I don’t have any square or sheet pans. Can I use 6 inch cake tins instead and make a round cake?


      • Hey Bernice! I was wondering if I could make the full recepie and then divide it in two separate cakes. Do you think this could alter the taste?

      • Hi Sofia, that should work fine 🙂 I would just weigh the batter to make sure it’s even in both pans and use the cues to check for doneness a little later, maybe around 10-15 minutes.

  4. Hi! Cant wait to try this recipe..I have a half sheet pan..not a full i pour batter into 2 half sheet pans? And how much time wld it take..thanx.🌹🌺

    • Hi, yes I would do two half sheet pans. I would do about about 10-12 minute, you want the edges golden brown and the center to not look wet. When you press on the center, you want it spring back.

  5. A lot of work for a small cake, but I wanted to master it. All went well when I used the baking sheet. The drawback to this recipe is the chocolate glaze. It is a watery mess. It needs to be more like a mirror glaze – solid that will cleanly and fully cover the top of the cake. I have never used a topping with chocolate and veggie oil. I would use this recipe again, but replace the glaze as it is incorrect.

  6. Thank you for the wonderful instructions and recipe. I made this yesterday for my husbands birthday. A few question for clarification. In the sponge did I miss when the vanilla was to be added to the mix? I added it with the almond flour, whole eggs mixture but couldn’t find exactly where it was listed. Also for the glaze, it was runny and my bad for wasting when I thought I would do it in the sink for easy clean up. Is 2oz enough chocolate? It seemed so runny but I have also never made a glaze.
    Thank you again. I have been searching for this recipe and could never commit to a process/recipe.

    • Hi Jessica, so glad you finally gave it a try! (So sorry about the vanilla, where you added it is fine, I will update that).
      For the glaze, I’m sooo sorry if it didn’t work out, I will test it again to double check mine and update the recipe if needed 🙂
      Mine was pretty runny and dripped over the sides but didn’t fully cover the sides of the cake. But then it firmed up in the fridge.

  7. Hi Bernice! decided to make this at the weekend and just writing my shopping list! The recipe doesn’t mention what type of oil to use for the glaze – is vegetable right?

    can’t wait to give this a whirl!


      • Hey!
        I dont have a 6 inch or the large sheet pan. If i want to make in a 9inch square pan or 13×9 inch pan, how should i scale up the recipe, or if not scaling up, in how many batches should i bake it and in what measurements should i cut it?
        Thank you♥️

      • Hi Ayesha, I’m sorry I haven’t tested the batter in any other pans. You could bake the whole batch in a 9×13” pan for probably 10-15 minutes and cut it into 6 pieces that are 4.5×3.3”. It won’t be square but pretty close, and the cake will be slightly thicker than mine.

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