Stephen Jackson's Gateau Opera
Stephen is co-owner and chef at T&Cake Cafe in Almondbury
A COUPLE of weeks back, we took a trip to Vienna, and its grand boulevard cafés, to sample the classic Sachertorte cake, and I must say I rather caught the bug for making these venerable mainstays of European patisserie.
So this week, we’re going to have a crack at another classic in the pantheon of great continental cakes, the beautiful Gateau Opéra.
Firstly, I must say that the recipe, upon reading, and given a swift glance at the picture, looks terribly hard, but is more of an assembly job of very-easily-made parts, most of which can be done at leisure and put together when time allows, so there’s no excuse for those who like baking to roll up the sleeves and have a crack. It’s a terribly versatile cake, whether served in slices, squares or even smaller petit-four sized cubes, and freezes incredibly well, so it’s a pretty handy one to have in one’s cake-arsenal. It serves as a good coffee morning slice, but if you sit a neat slice alongside a scoop of good ice-cream, you have a wonderful dessert.
Gateau Opéra is a relative newcomer to the patisserie world, having been created in 1955 by a talented young patissier called Cyriaque Gavillon, who at the time was working for the highly-respected pastry house Dalloyau in Paris. His idea was to make a cake that was visually stunning, yet whose many complementary flavours could be delivered in one simple mouthful. And so he got to work with sheets of classic almond ‘joconde’ sponge, rich chocolate ganache (like a truffle filling) and coffee-infused buttercream.
A few indulgent tweaks later, and the Opéra cake was born. Named in honour of the prima ballerinas of the Parisian Opera Garnier, the layered cake became an instant hit, and is now made by most large patisseries across the globe, with very little variation in style or looks.
It’s a particular favourite of pastry chefs, as it’s incredibly impressive-looking, and the combination of flavours – coffee, chocolate, cream, almonds – and soft, melting textures, is a tried and tested winner.
You could, of course, always play about with the flavours a little if you like, such as adding the crunch of some hazelnut praline crumbs, or sliced toasted almonds, and there’s no reason you couldn’t tinker with white chocolate or even a drizzle of sea-salted butter caramel or honey, but I think it proper that I present the original, classic recipe before we entertain any major revisions. So, beginners to stage, please. Aprons on!