Singing The Praises of Opera Torte

by Caterina Borg, Good Food Gourmet on August 16, 2011

Opera Torte, www.goodfoodgourmet.comIf you have never had opera torte, I encourage you to find a great European bakery and try it…just once. This is one of my absolute favorite desserts and for good reason. It is usually a square or rectangular shaped cake made of many layers of a sponge cake called jaconde (pronounced ja-kond). The jaconde are super thin cake layers made with almond flour (otherwise known as almond meal). Each layer is filled alternately with mocha buttercream and a quick chocolate ganache cream. The cake itself does not have a very pronounced almond flavor when you make it with almond flour (almond meal), so when I make it at home, I prefer to use almond paste.  I just love the combination of almond, coffee and chocolate together — it is classic and very European.

I use the same recipe for the cake layers that I use to make the famous rainbow cookies that are sold in traditional Italian markets in New York. Instead of baking the batter in a regular cake pan, I bake it in 3 parchment lined half sheet trays which are easy to handle once chilled or frozen. You can bake the batter in a cake pan if you want to, but the great thing about doing it this way is that you don’t have to slice the cake into layers…the mere thought of having to do this sends some people into convulsions.

Since this recipe makes 3 half sheet pans, you can use all 3 layers to make a large half sheet cake or just use one sheet and freeze the rest for later use. Before handling, make sure the sheet of cake is frozen, because it will make it easier for you to handle. Invert the thin sheet of cake onto a sheet of parchment paper and slice into 3 pieces…

Spread a nice layer of chocolate ganache onto the first layer…

Add another layer of cake on top of this and spread on a layer of coffee (mocha) buttercream…

Place the final cake layer on top of this and wrap up the cake with the parchment, top with a small sheet pan that spans the entire size of the cake, place a heavy can on top of the sheet pan and refrigerate…

Once it has all chilled together for an hour, remove from refrigerator and use a large serrated knife to slice individually sliced portions of the opera cake or miniature pastries for dessert platters. When slicing, make sure that the cake is chilled well and use a warm knife for slicing. If dipping the knife in warm water, make sure to wipe off excess water before slicing the cake.

Simple Syrup (not necessary but adds extra moistness, use sparingly)
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup water
Add the water and sugar together in a small pot heat until it comes to a boil, then shut off the heat and allow the syrup to cool completely before using.

Mocha Buttercream
½ cup egg whites (plus pinch of salt)
6 oz granulated sugar
¼ cup water
3 oz corn syrup
8 oz unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened
2 tablespoons of coffee extract or dissolve 1 tablespoon instant coffee with 1 teaspoon warm water.

**For complete step by step directions on how to make the buttercream, check out my instructional link for Italian meringue. Once you have made the meringue add the softened butter and continue to beat until the mixture resembles whipped cream. Lastly, add the coffee extract and combine it all well together.

Almond Cake
1 pound of butter, softened
1 pound of sugar
1 pound 4 oz almond paste
1 pound 4 oz whole eggs
9 oz cake flour, sifted

Cut the almond paste into small pieces and add this to the bowl of your stand mixer along with the sugar. Using your paddle attachment, allow them to combine well together until it resembles a coarse meal. Next add your softened butter and mix for about 5 minutes or so until light and fluffy. Next add the eggs one at a time until all are well incorporated then slowly add in the cake flour until you have a uniform batter. Spray and line 3 half sheet pans and evenly distribute all of the batter between these 3 pans.

Bake each sheet pan at 350°F for approximately 12-15 minutes until golden brown, do not over bake or the layers will dry out.

Allow the layers to cool completely and then freeze them so that you are able to better handle the half sheet layers. If you only want to use one layer and keep the others frozen for future desserts, them remove the later from the freezer and slice into 3 sections…

Opera Torte,

Spread the chocolate cream on the bottom layer….

Opera Torte,

Add the second layer…

Opera Torte,

Add a layer of mocha buttercream…

Opera Torte,

Top with final layer, then wrap in the parchment paper, place a small sheet pan on top to weigh it down, then refrigerate. This will make sure the pastries are even all the way across…

Opera Torte,

Opera Torte,

Opera Torte,

Once it has chilled for about an hour or so, remove from the refrigerator, place the cake on the counter, frost and trim the edges all around until you have something like this…

Opera Torte,

Slice into individual size desserts…

Opera Torte,

Or mini pastries…


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