the beautiful Opera cake


For the cake:

  • 150g self-raising flour
  • 200g almond meal
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 185ml (3/4c) neutral oil (I used sunflower oil)
  • 60ml (1/4c) coffee (I used ~1/2 – 1tsp of instant coffee + water to reach 1/4c)
  • For the coffee syrup:
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 185ml (3/4c) coffee (I used ~1 1/2 – 2tsp of instant coffee + water to reach 3/4c)

For the coffee buttercream:

  • 200g unsalted butter, softened
  • 360g icing sugar (pure or mixture)
  • 2tbsp coffee (I used ~2tsp instant coffee + water to reach 2tbsp)
  • For the dark chocolate ganache:
  • 300g dark chocolate, chopped or broken into squares
  • 300g thickened cream

For the dark chocolate ganache:

  • 300g dark chocolate, chopped or broken into squares

  • 300g thickened cream


1. Preheat your oven to 170°C (150°C fan-forced). Grease and line a 20cm square cake pan with untapered sides that extend roughly 7.5cm (3in) high.

2. Sift the self-raising flour and baking powder into a medium bowl then mix in the almond meal. Set aside.

3. Using a handheld or stand mixer, beat the eggs and caster sugar until pale and thick, ensuring the sugar is dissolved and the mixture has tripled in size. It should look thick and ribbony when falling off the beaters.
With the mixer on a low speed, slowly pour the oil into the egg mixture, ensuring the oil is fully incorporated.
Fold in the almond and flour mixture until just combined, then fold in the coffee.

4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45-50 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean and the cake is firm to the touch and bounces back. Allow to cool in the pan for 5 minutes then transfer to a cooling rack to cool to room temperature. Allow to cool upside down if the top is mildly domed.

For the coffee syrup:

1. Combine the caster sugar and coffee in a small saucepan over a medium-low heat and cook to dissolve the sugar. Allow to boil for 2-3 minutes then take it off the heat. Do not allow the syrup to thicken too much or it will not soak as easily into the cake. We want those layers to be nicely soaked. Cool to room temperature.

For the coffee buttercream:

1. Beat the butter in a large bowl until very pale and fluffy (keep beating, it will get much lighter than you initially expect!). Add the icing sugar in a little at a time to avoid a cloud of icing sugar in your face. Stir the sugar into the butter before beating to avoid this. Make sure to beat well after each addition and continue until there is no more sugar. Beat in the coffee. Taste and adjust as desired.

For the dark chocolate ganache:

1. Combine the chopped or broken chocolate with the cream in a medium saucepan. Heat it over low heat, stirring continuously to prevent the bottom from burning. Heat and stir until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth, glossy, and homogeneous. Set aside to cool until it becomes a soft, thick, spreadable consistency.

To assemble and serve:

1. Slice the cake into 3 layers horizontally, slicing off the top if it is domed. Place the bottom layer (the layer that would have been touching the bottom of the pan when baking) on the dish or platter you will be serving it on, otherwise it may be difficult to transfer later. You want to ensure it is the bottom layer so that the syrup won’t soak all the way through and stick to the serving dish. Alternatively, you could brush the bottom of a layer of your choosing with tempered chocolate (but that’s a lot more work for a ‘cheat’s’ cake!).

2. Brush the top of this layer with some coffee syrup. Make sure it is nice and evenly soaked. Remember, you can use a third of that syrup per layer, so make the most of it! Don’t just dump it on though, we want it soaked, not soggy.

3. Spread a third of the buttercream (or your desired amount) evenly onto the layer. Do the same with the ganache (refer to the photos for guidance on layering). Don’t worry about the buttercream or ganache spilling out the sides as you spread them (unless it’s because they’re too warm, in which case you should put it in the fridge until they reach a spreadable consistency) – we’ll be trimming off the sides of the cake before we serve it.

4. Place another layer of cake on top, ensuring the sides line up, and repeat steps 2 and 3 for this second layer.

5. For the final cake layer, place it on top, again ensuring the sides align, and soak it with the syrup. Spread the buttercream on top and make sure it is as smooth and even as you can get it.
Slightly heat the remaining ganache to a pourable consistency and cool to room temperature.
Do not place the cake in the fridge whilst waiting for the ganache to cool otherwise the ganache will harden up too quickly when you pour it on.

6. When the ganache has cooled but is still of a pourable consistency, pour it onto the top layer and tilt the dish or platter it’s on to allow the ganache to flow and evenly distribute itself across the top. Don’t worry about it spilling down the sides as, again, we’ll be trimming the sides.
Literally, I had pools of ganache down the sides. It’s fine.
Try to refrain from spreading the ganache with a spatula as it will not be as shiny or smooth. Just let gravity do its thing. Give the dish a little tap on the table or a little jiggle if you must.
Place the cake in the refrigerator to set overnight.

7. Remove the cake from the fridge and prepare a long knife in hot water. Remove the knife from the water and dry with paper towel or a cloth. Slice the sides of the cake to reveal the layers. Clean up the sides of the plate.
Repeat with the knife and hot water and slice up as many pieces as you’d like to serve, and sprinkle with cracked salt if desired.


Laura Mariano

Written by Laura Mariano

Laura Mariano is a food blogger who founded Recipes By to make cooking easier. Growing up on a farm in Spain, Laura was inspired by exquisite dishes prepared using simple ingredients. Laura Mariano is particularly known for making anyone can cook.

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