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7-layer Vegan Opera Cake (Gluten Free)

Updated: Feb 9

There's a symphony of flavors that play in the culinary world, and if there's one dessert that encapsulates this concert, it's the French opera cake.

Opera cake is a classic French dessert with layers of almond sponge cake (Joconde) soaked in coffee syrup, decadent coffee buttercream, and rich chocolate ganache. This cake deserves its own spotlight for its taste and rich history.

vegan opera cake anatomy

The composition of Opera cake

Since we are making a gluten free and vegan opera cake, gluten free joconde sponge is used as the base. To make it less greasy and low on sugar, a coffee whipped ganache is used instead of coffee buttercream.

The alluring history of opera cake

Before we dive into the opera cake recipe, let's understand why it's such an iconic French dessert. Its origins are somewhat debated, but many believe it was created in honor of the iconic Paris Opera.

With its multi-layered structure, the cake resembles an opera house's intricate architecture and levels. Another theory suggests it was named because of its sophisticated layers, much like the complexities of an opera.

vegan opera cake

Opera cake with chocolate and gold leaf decoration

How to compose the gluten free and vegan opera cake

Adapting a classic French Opera Cake to a gluten-free and dairy-free version is easier than you might think. The goal is to maintain the rich flavors and luscious textures while using good alternative ingredients.

Here are some important factors to consider:

Flour Alternatives: Replace wheat flour with the suitable gluten free flour blends. These flours can provide structure and moisture to the cake.

vegan opera cake

Joconde sponge sheet batter

Plant Milk or Dairy Alternatives: Substitute cow's milk with plant milk (soy, almond, rice, oat) or other dairy-free alternatives. The Barista version of plant milk has more fat, adding creaminess and flavor to the cake.

vegan opera cake coffee ganache

Coffee whipped ganache

Layer Components: This dairy free and gluten free opera cake version consists of thin layers of joconde sponge sheet, coffee whipped ganache, and dark chocolate ganache. All ganaches use high-quality vegan dark and white chocolates.

Coffee Syrup Soak: To keep the cake moist, brush all sponge sheet layers with a strong coffee syrup made with coffee powder and hot water. A freshly made espresso is always a good option.

vegan opera cake

Glazing the opera cake

Chilling/Freezing: During assembly, refrigerate or freeze the cake for a few hours before adding the next layers. Chilling allows the cake to set properly.

Decoration: Finish the cake with a smooth layer of chocolate glaze. You can create a glossy finish by gently heating the ganache before applying it. Add decorative touches using gold leaf or shaped chocolate decorations..


Ingredients You'll Need

Joconde Sponge (Almond Sponge sheet)

  • 560 g soy, almond, or oat milk

  • 40 g lemon juice

  • 400 g gluten free flour

  • 180 g almond flour

  • 30 g baking powder

  • 400 g icing sugar

  • 100 g plant-based butter, melted or olive oil

  • 250 g egg-free vegan meringue or regular egg white meringue (for non-vegan)

Coffee Syrup

  • 120 ml water

  • 20 g sugar

  • 20 g instant coffee or espresso powder

Coffee Whipped Ganache

Chocolate Whipped Ganache

  • 250 g dairy-free heavy/whipping cream

  • 100 g dark chocolate, 70-80 % cocoa

  • 300 g dairy-free whipping cream

Chocolate Ganache:

Chocolate Glaze:

  • 130 g dark chocolate, 70-80 % cocoa

  • 250 g dairy-free heavy/whipping cream

  • 60 g glucose

Step 1: Begin with the Joconde Sponge

  1. Preheat oven to 338°F (170°C). Prepare a flat baking tray lined with parchment paper.

  2. Mix the plant milk and lemon juice, then set aside to thicken.

  3. Combine and sieve the almond flour, gluten free flour, baking powder, and icing sugar.

  4. Make the vegan meringue. If the egg is not an issue, make a regular meringue.

  5. Add the liquid to the dry ingredients. Add the melted butter or oil, then mix well until a smooth batter forms.

  6. Gently fold the meringue in two parts into the joconde batter.

  7. Spread the batter (half cm thick) onto the baking tray, then bake for 15 to 17 minutes or until lightly golden. Let it cool.

Step 2: Coffee Syrup

  1. In a saucepan, boil water and sugar. Remove from heat, then mix in the coffee or espresso powder. Set aside.

Step 3: Coffee and Chocolate Whipped Ganache

  1. In a mixing bowl, melt the white chocolate over a double boiler. Add the espresso and mix until well-combined.

  2. Add the cold heavy cream. Cover with cling film, then set in the fridge for 2-3 hours.

  3. Do the same steps for chocolate whipped ganache but this time no espresso.

  4. Whip until stiff.

Step 4: Chocolate Ganache

  1. Heat the heavy cream in a saucepan until it begins to boil. Pour over the chocolate in 3 batches, then stir until smooth and shiny.

Step 5: Chocolate Glaze

  1. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler.

  2. In a saucepan, boil the cream and glucose. Remove from heat. Mix the warm cream with the melted chocolate until well combined.

  3. Use a hand blender to remove air bubbles and smoothen the glaze. Rewarm the glaze to about 115°F (45°C) before use.

Step 6: Assembling the Opera Cake

  1. Cut three joconde sponge sheets into 24 cm X 24 cm X 4.5 cm square mold. If using other molds, cut the sponge sheets according to their shape.

  2. Place one piece of sponge sheet on the bottom of the mold and brush generously with the coffee syrup (first layer)

  3. Spread the chocolate ganache evenly over the soaked sponge (second layer). Place another sponge layer, repeat with syrup, then spread half of the whipped coffee ganache over it (third and fourth layers). Place another sponge layer, repeat with coffee syrup, then spread the remaining whipped coffee ganache over it (fifth and sixth layers). Freeze for at least an hour.

  4. Finally, cover the top with a thin layer of warm dark chocolate glaze, then freeze for at least 5 hours or overnight to set properly.

  5. Remove the cake from the mold. Cut the outer edge of the cake to reveal the layers. Thaw for at least 3 hours in the fridge before serving.


vegan opera cake

The opera cake serves 10-12 portions

A masterpiece worth baking for

Making an opera cake might seem like a lot of work, but with each bite, you'll understand why this dessert holds such a revered place in the world of French patisserie.

Whether you're baking it for a special occasion or to satisfy your sweet cravings, this French opera cake recipe is bound to win applause.

Remember, as with any intricate dessert, patience is key. Relish in the process, enjoy the harmony of flavors, and let every bite bring you to a Parisian patisserie, where pastries and cakes are edible art pieces.

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