Opera Cake is a stunning layered dessert with an almond joconde, buttercream frosting, and a fluffy white chocolate mousse that’s sure to impress.
The flavor of creamsicle always reminds me of summer. The classic ice cream treat has always been a favorite in my family. So I decided to upgrade the creamy citrus layers into a beautiful and sophisticated opera cake.
❤️ Why You’ll Love this Recipe: This cake is a special occasion treat that will impress your family or friends. It has a creamy and refreshing orange creamsicle flavor perfect for summer.
Update: This is a fun summertime recipe. I’ve updated the post with new photos and tips to help you build a beautiful Opera Cake without stress.
What is Opera Cake?
Opera cake is a traditional French cake made by layering almond sponge cake with buttercream frosting. On top is a shiny glaze.
The almond sponge cake is also called joconde. It’s light and airy and gets most of its flavor from a simple syrup that you’ll brush over the top of the cake.
Most traditional Opera Cakes are flavored with chocolate ganache and vanilla buttercream. We made a twist by adding orange flavor and white chocolate mousse.
How to Make Orange Creamsicle Opera Cake
To easily pull off this cake, I recommend making the joconde first and letting that cool. Then make the sugar syrup, the buttercream and the white chocolate mousse.
Before making the almond sponge cake, make sure you’re using fresh almond flour. Instead of a leavener like baking powder or soda, the cake rises from foamed egg whites. That’s why it’s important to very gently fold the egg whites into the batter to avoid deflating all that air.
When pouring the batter into the baking sheet, make sure it’s lined fully with parchment paper. For good measure, give the parchment a good spray with nonstick spray too.
Note: The cake bakes up quickly, so keep your eye on it. Ours was done in eight minutes.
How to Cut Almond Sponge Cake
To cut your cooled joconde for this opera cake, you’ll want two squares and two rectangles. The rectangles will be placed together to form a square, the middle layer.
The layers of almond sponge cake get spread with creamy marshmallow buttercream. This recipe is similar to a Swiss meringue buttercream. You will warm the egg whites and sugar until the sugar is dissolved, then let it cool.
Note: The egg white mixture must be at room temperature before you add the butter or the butter will melt. You can either let it sit before whipping into a meringue or make the meringue and let it sit until at room temp.
When you add the orange juice, it’s normal that the buttercream doesn’t easily absorb the liquid. Just keep mixing until it is fully incorporated, it will come together.
White Chocolate Mousse
To make a light and fluffy white chocolate mousse layer for your opera cake, make sure your white chocolate ganache is cooled to room temperature before folding into the whipped cream. And make sure not to beat the white chocolate ganache into the whipped cream or it will separate and become unusable. Instead, gold it gently.
Opera Cake Glaze
The glaze on this cake is a simple, but very pretty, white chocolate ganache tinted orange.
When you add the glaze, make sure your cake is at room temperature and the glaze is at a nice pourable temperature. If it’s too warm, the glaze will melt your mousse. If it’s too cold, it will stiffen and won’t pour or spread easily.
Assembling the Opera Cake
Here is the order in which to build your creamsicle opera cake:
- Square cake layer
- Simple syrup
- Layer (2) rectangle layers to create a square
- Simple syrup
- Square cake layer
- Simple syrup
- White chocolate mousse
Once the cake is assembled and chilled, you’ll want to trim off some of the messy edges. Use a nice sharp serrated knife to true things up.
For garnish, I like a sprinkle of shaved white chocolate and an orange slice.
The cake itself cuts pretty easily with a sharp knife. For best results, run the blade under hot water before slicing.
More Beautiful Layer Cake Recipes
Here are some more stunning layer cakes to try next:
- Triple Chocolate Dulce de Leche Layer Cake is an over-the-top decadent treat for the chocolate lover.
- Black Forest Cheesecake Cake has layers of airy sponge cake and dense, creamy cheesecake for the best of both worlds.
- Instant Pot Layered Strawberry Cheesecake is a three-colored fruity cheesecake made in a pressure cooker.
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- 6 large egg whites, at room temperature
- 2 tbsp. (30 grams) granulated sugar
- 2 cups (225 grams) almond flour
- 2 cups icing sugar, sifted
- 6 large eggs
- ½ cup (70 grams) all-purpose flour
- 3 tbsp. (1½ ounces; 45 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 1/2 cup (125 grams) water
- 1/3 cup (65 grams) granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
- 1 tablespoon almond or vanilla extract
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 4 large egg whites (room temperature)
- 12 ounces unsalted butter (room temperature)
- ¼ cup fresh orange juice
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon orange zest
White Chocolate Ganache/Mousse
- 7 ounces white chocolate
- 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons heavy cream (35% cream)
- 1 tablespoon Grand Marnier liqueur
- 14 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped
- ½ cup heavy cream (35% cream)
- 1 -2 drops of orange gel food coloring
Note: The joconde can be made up to 1 day in advance and kept wrapped at room temperature
Divide the oven into thirds by positioning a rack in the upper third of the oven and the lower third of the oven.
Preheat the oven to 425°F. (220°C).
Line two 12½ x 15½- inch (31 x 39-cm) jelly-roll pans with parchment paper and brush with melted butter.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or using a handheld mixer), beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Add the granulated sugar and beat until the peaks are stiff and glossy. If you do not have another mixer bowl, gently scrape the meringue into another bowl and set it aside.
If you only have one bowl, wash it after removing the egg whites or if you have a second bowl, use that one. Attach the paddle attachment to the stand mixer (or using a handheld mixer again) and beat the almond flour, icing sugar and eggs on medium speed until light and voluminous, about 3 minutes.
Add the flour and beat on low speed until the flour is just combined (be very careful not to overmix here!!!).
Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the meringue into the almond mixture and then fold in the melted butter. Divide the batter between the pans and spread it evenly to cover the entire surface of each pan.
Bake the cake layers until they are lightly browned and just springy to the touch. This could take anywhere from 5 to 9 minutes, depending on your oven. Place one jelly-roll pan in the middle of the oven and the second jelly-roll pan in the bottom third of the oven.
Put the pans on a heat-proof counter and run a sharp knife along the edges of the cake to loosen it from the pan. Cover each with a sheet of parchment or wax paper, turn the pans over, and unmold.
Carefully peel away the parchment, then turn the parchment over and use it to cover the cakes. Let the cakes cool to room temperature.
(Note: The syrup can be made up to 1 week in advance and kept covered in the refrigerator.)
Stir all the syrup ingredients together in the saucepan and bring to a boil.
Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.
Put the sugar and egg whites in the medium heatproof bowl and fit the bowl over a plan of simmering water. Whisk the mixture constantly over medium heat, until it feels hot to the touch, about 3 minutes. The sugar should be dissolved, and the mixture will look like shiny marshmallow cream. Remove the bowl from the heat.
Working with the whisk attachment, beat the meringue on medium speed until it is cool, about 5 minutes. Switch to the paddle attachment and add the butter a stick at a time, beating until smooth. Once all the butter is in, beat the buttercream on medium-high speed until it is thick and very smooth, 6-10 minutes. During this time the buttercream may curdle or separate – just keep beating and it will come together again.
On medium speed, gradually beat in the orange juice, waiting until each addition is absorbed before adding more, and then beat in the vanilla. You should have a shiny velvety smooth buttercream. Stir in orange zest. Press a piece of plastic against the surface of the buttercream and set aside briefly.
White Chocolate Ganache Mousse:
(Note: The mousse can be made ahead and refrigerated until you’re ready to use it.)
Melt the white chocolate and the 3 tbsp. of heavy cream in a small saucepan.
Stir to ensure that it’s smooth and that the chocolate is melted. Add the tablespoon of liqueur to the chocolate and stir. Set aside to cool completely.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the remaining 1 cup of heavy cream until soft peaks form.
Gently fold the whipped cream into the cooled chocolate to form a mousse.
If it’s too thin, refrigerate it for a bit until it’s spreadable.
If you’re not going to use it right away, refrigerate until you’re ready to use.
Note: It’s best to make the glaze right when you’re ready to finish the cake.
Melt the white chocolate with the heavy cream. Whisk the mixture gently until smooth.
Let cool for 10 minutes and then pour over the chilled cake. Using a long metal cake spatula, smooth out into an even layer.
Place the cake into the refrigerator for 30 minutes to set.
(Note: The finished cake should be served slightly chilled. It can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 1 day).
Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper.
Working with one sheet of cake at a time, cut and trim each sheet so that you have two pieces (from each cake so you’ll have four pieces in total): one 10-inch (25-cm) square and one 10 x 5-inch (25 x 12½-cm) rectangle.
Place one square of cake on the baking sheet and moisten it gently with the flavoured syrup.
Spread about one-half of the buttercream over this layer.
Top with the two rectangular pieces of cake, placing them side by side to form a square. Moisten these pieces with the flavoured syrup.
Spread the remaining buttercream on the cake and then top with the third square of joconde. Use the remaining syrup to wet the joconde and then refrigerate until very firm (at least half an hour).
Prepare the ganache/mousse (if you haven’t already) and then spread it on the top of the last layer of the joconde. Refrigerate for at least two to three hours to give the ganache/mousse the opportunity to firm up.
Make the glaze and after it has cooled, pour/spread it over the top of the chilled cake. Refrigerate the cake again to set the glaze.
Serve the cake slightly chilled
This recipe is based on Opéra Cake recipes in Dorie Greenspan’s Paris Sweets and Tish Boyle and Timothy Moriarty’s Chocolate Passion.
This recipe is originally part of a Daring Baker’s Challenge.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 511Total Fat: 30gSaturated Fat: 18gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 113mgSodium: 97mgCarbohydrates: 54gFiber: 1gSugar: 41gProtein: 8g
Nutrition information is calculated by Nutritionix and may not always be accurate.