The opera cake is a French classic consisting of six layers; a rotation of ganache, coffee buttercream and almond sponge cake soaked in coffee, topped with a chocolate glaze. Like many beloved culinary favourites, the inventor of this cake is disputed. A widely attributed source is French pastry chef Cyriaque Gavillon who worked at the legendary Dalloyau shop in Paris and is said to have developed the cake in 1955. Legend has it that Gavillon’s wife told him the layers of his cake reminded her of the Paris Opera House; others say the six layers are a sweet reference to the six acts of a classic opera.
You know a cake is a good one when a master baker chooses it to grace the dessert table at his very own wedding. Recently, Firehouse Bakery owners Patrick Ryan and Laura Moore tied the knot at their home on Heir Island off the coast of Skibbereen. “We decided to do something a little different for our wedding cake,” master baker Ryan says after their Big Day. “Rather than one cake, we opted for a table of cake.” Featured front and centre, nestled between raspberry and prosecco trifle, passionfruit mousse, layered black forest gateaux, handmade macarons and a tiered cake of Irish and French cheeses, was a giant slab of opera cake.
“The reason I choose the opera cake is because of its elegance,” explains Ryan. “I just love the layers and the whole process that goes into creating it, each layer built upon the next.” Ryan first fell for this cake while working under Kevin Thornton at Thornton’s where the opera was a regular petit four.
For the wedding cake table, Ryan took inspiration from the classic flavours of chocolate and coffee to create layers of salted caramel, hazelnut chocolate ganache and a coffee soaked sponge. “I made the cake myself,” says Ryan, “which was a great idea in theory but in hindsight running around on the morning of your wedding glazing cakes and putting together the whole table of cakes probably wasn’t best for the stress levels. But for anyone who knows me, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.”
If you’ve got a wedding coming up, while you may not be into making and glazing the cake yourself, you could certainly consider a classic opera cake for your wedding dessert table. For sample and taste testing, if you can’t make it all the way to Paris, Bewley’s on Grafton Street do a very delicate take on this classic.