Opéra Cake with Apricot Mousse and Pistachio Buttercream


I was sooo excited when I found out this month’s Daring Bakers challenge was an Opéra cake. I’ve enjoyed my share of similarly quadrilateral shaped layer cakes in Paris, always wondering how they were done (and mostly questioning how those sides were cut with such laser-like precision).

This month’s Opéra cake challenge was a marriage of recipes from Dorie Greenspan’s Paris Sweets and Tish Boyle and Timothy Moriarty’s Chocolate Passion. While the Opéra cake is typically made with joconde, dark chocolate ganache, and buttercream, the twist for this month’s challenge was to keep the colors and flavors light, i.e. no dark chocolate, coffee, etc. I decided the light theme would be well suited for Mother’s Day, so I ultimately decided upon a combination of almond joconde flavored with apricot-kirsch syrup, pistachio buttercream, apricot mousse, apricot glaze. This flavor combination was inspired by a class on petits gateaux that I took with Chef Chad Pagano at the ICE. I filled it with fresh apricot chunks, and the top is decorated with white chocolate swirls, chopped pistachios and specks of edible gold leaf.


For the buttercream recipe, I used an old standby which can be found on a previous post (with modified quantities). I mixed pistachio paste into the basic buttercream at the end and it was delicious. Sugar Chef made an amazing creation and was kind enough to post her recipe and photo on the Daring Baker’s non-public site and I basically used her mango mousse recipe to create my apricot mousse. For the glaze, I used agar agar dissolved in apricot juice. I also used syrup flavored with kirsch and apricot juice to moisten the cake. The white chocolate swirls were a bit tricky. Instead of just drizzling the chocolate over the top of the glaze, I drizzled it over silpat which I topped with chopped pistachios while the chocolate was still liquid. I then carefully transferred the fragile, hardened white chocolate web onto the top of the cake. I did this perhaps unnecessarily complicated maneuver so the pistachio bits would adhere only to the chocolate, not the glaze. Finally, I added a few small bits of edible gold leaf.

I’m thrilled these seemingly daunting cakes were finally demystified! Though there are some changes I would make to this cake next time, the process was actually much simpler than I would have guessed. And the getting the sides cut neatly wasn’t rocket science and didn’t require a laser. A freezer and a long knife dipped in hot water and cleaned, however, was extremely helpful.


Thanks to Lis, Ivonne, Fran, and Shea for hosting and choosing such an awesome challenge! If you’d like the basic recipe, I’m hoping and fairly certain you will find it on their sites. For an inspiring roundup of other Daring Bakers’ concoctions, click here.

40 Responses to “Opéra Cake with Apricot Mousse and Pistachio Buttercream”

  1. Eliz3333 Says:

    You flavorings are interesting. I like the idea of apricot. I’ll bet that tasted wonderful with the almond meal. Beautiful cake!

  2. rachel Says:

    The apricot mousse looks lovely and the slice of the cake is lovelier…

  3. Chantal Says:

    got me lickin the screen! great job! looks and sounds fantastic!

  4. Jeanine Says:

    Wonderful job on your Opera Cake! Looks fantastic!

  5. Candace Says:

    What a lovely cake! Very nice job on this challenge!

  6. Francijn Says:

    I like your opera cake, it is decorated in a subtle and beautiful way.

  7. lauren Says:

    your cake looks too good to be eaten! i love apricot! awesome job!

  8. Vera Says:

    What a great gob! Adding the fresh apricots is a wonderful idea!

  9. Lesley Says:

    That cake is so fantastic. I love your final look, the way you sliced it, the top and the flavor combo. What a dream

  10. Kim U Says:

    Beautiful cake!

  11. Clumbsy Cookie Says:

    I just adore your decoration! Flavors are really nice as well!

  12. pixie o Says:

    congratulations very interesting cake and very elegant too!

  13. moowiesqrd Says:

    Wow, it’s gorgeous! I love pistachios and apricots. Thanks for the fantastic photos!

  14. My Sweet & Saucy Says:

    Wow, that turned out beautiful looking!

  15. Anita Says:

    So pretty! I love how you decorated the cake and the flavors sound delicious!

  16. Judy Says:

    Great job on your cake. I really admire your decorations and presentation!

  17. courtney Says:

    Oh wow. This is incredible. Great job.

  18. Tartelette Says:

    Fabulous job on the challenge! Great choice of flavors and the decoration is top notch!

  19. Kim Says:

    Wow! I’ve seen a lot of cakes and I want a bite of yours. Love the apricot and pistachio not only the flavor but the colors. Well done and precision sides, way to go.

  20. Hillary Says:

    That is seriously so gorgeous. I like the flavors you chose. Pistachio and apricot is very original and made for a beautiful design!

  21. maria~ Says:

    Gosh! What a beauty! Your layers are as precise as those you saw in Parisian patissiers! It’s unfortunate that I have to sit out on this month’s challenge. But I’m glad I get to live vicariously through you guys!

  22. Mansi Says:

    Very beautifully done, and nice choice of flavors! great job with the challenge!

    btw, I’d like to invite you to aprticipate in the Monthly Mingle I’m hosting on my blog; would be great to have your entry!:)

  23. Rosa Says:

    Wonderful! Your cake looks perfect! I love the flavors you used!



  24. Katie B. Says:

    What a classy opera cake! Perfect idea to do the chocolate webbing and nuts on the silpat – you must have very careful hands to have been able to move it so well! Great job!

  25. Aparna Says:

    Lovely colour and perfect layers. Your cake looks very professional.

  26. silicone_spatula Says:

    that is indeed a pretty, tasty (i bet it is) cake! great job!

  27. Sheltie Girl Says:

    You did a fabulous job on your cake. Your pictures are simply gorgeous! I wish I could stick my fork into the picture and take a bite.

    Natalie @ Gluten a Go Go

  28. venus Says:

    Your take on this classic dessert is by far the most interesting one I have seen so far! Hat off to you!

  29. Christine Says:

    Wow your cake looks amazing! Find the combos very interesting!

  30. marika @ madcapcupcake Says:

    Your cake is so elegant – love your flavour choices, very nice!

  31. Bakerette Says:

    Your Opera looks fantastic. Very Asian looking, in fact your whole blog is really cute! I’ll be coming back!

  32. Sweet Tooth Says:

    How gorgeous are they! I like the decor on top. Part of my cake had diced apricot pieces in the mousse too, but they did not show up well enough to be mentioned or to have their picture taken 😉 . Great layers and pictures.

  33. Sweet Tooth Says:

    Comments are closed on that post, but we so could have run into each other at the chocolate show in NY! Maybe this year?


  34. judy Says:

    Absolutely stunning. The apricots and pistachio version surely rock. You were gr8 with the pics too. Haad a peek at your other blogs too. Excellent..m gonna be a regular at ur blog coz ive added it to my favourites ;). Well done sweetheart.

  35. HoneyB Says:

    Beautiful! Looks delicious!

  36. Rebecca Says:

    How elegant! These photos are amazing. What an eye!

  37. Shari Says:

    Wow, this is impressive. I love the white chocolate swirls with the chopped pistachios. The apricot flavor must have been delicious with the almond joconde. And edible gold leaf to top it off. Amazing!
    [email protected]Whisk: a food blog

  38. Gretchen Noelle Says:

    Very beautiful opera cake.

  39. Lisa Says:

    I am trying this cake as soon as I can. I LOVE the flavor combination, not to mention, it’s aesthetically gorgeous, but then again, I have yet to see anything you’ve baked, that isn’t!

    Also, thanks so much for your photo tips. I posted back to you about my ‘dilemma’ when it comes to natural light. I Love the new camera — I just need to get out of ‘auto’ and explore/learn to use and take advantage of.. all the manual bells and whistles.

  40. Y Says:

    That’s just beautiful, and very original!