Matcha, Lemon and Chocolate Opera Cake

I’m not sure that I can call this cake an opera cake. Some purists might find it offensive. You see, the traditional opera cake is made with layers of joconde or almond sponge, coffee buttercream, coffee syrup and chocolate ganache. Opera cake is tradition and I hate messing with tradition. So ok, my cake has similar elements and it’s built the same way so I will just say that is inspired by opera. Is that better?

This cake has layers of matcha and almond sponge, lemon buttercream and chocolate ganache and covered with a shiny chocolate glaze. I really wanted to use yuzu juice for the buttercream but I looked and looked and was not able to find it anywhere. I could have had to order it online but it would have taken too long and it is quite expensive. So I settled for simple lemon juice and enhanced it with potent lemon oil.

The matcha powder I have is from L’Epicerie and let me tell you, it is fine, fine, fine. Fragrant, delicate. I have to admit I don’t use it very often but this time was well worth it. Some people are not very fond of a strong green tea taste but I think the lemon, the chocolate and the almonds really balance out the entire cake and even C. and my little boy enjoyed it.

Again, this might seem like a complicated cake to make by all the instructions that follow. It really isn’t. OK, yes, it is more involved than making brownies let’s say, but don’t you like a challenge once in a while? I love my quiet time when my little boy naps. I am able to focus and build different elements of whatever recipe I am making. I didn’t make this in one day, it is the work of several days, but I loved every second of it. Patience, patience.

Matcha Almond Sponge Cake

Makes 3 1/4-sheetpan sheets

160 grams almond flour
110 grams sugar
40 grams flour
15 grams matcha green tea powder
4 eggs
4 egg whites
55 grams sugar
30 grams unsalted butter, melted and cooled

In the bowl of an electric mixer combine the first five ingredients. Whip in high speed for about 5 minutes until it becomes thick and the batter forms a ribbon. Transfer this batter to a large bowl and clean the mixer bowl.

In the electric mixer, whip the egg whites until it starts to form a meringue. Slowly sprinkle the 55 grams of sugar. Continue whipping until a stiff meringue forms.

Fold a third of the meringue into the almond batter. Add the rest of the meringue and fold carefully not to deflate it too much. Add the melted and cooled butter and fold until it is well incorporated.

Divide the batter equally into the 3 quarter sheetpans that we have previously lined with parchment paper and sprayed with pan spray.

Bake in a 375 degree oven for about 10-12 minutes until it starts to turn a little brown. We don’t want a brown cake. We want to keep the green color so remove the pans from the oven when the cake is baked and before it starts to change color. Let the cakes cool until we are ready to assemble the opera.

Lemon Buttercream

60 grams egg whites
120 grams sugar
180 grams butter, softened
25 grams lemon juice
1/4 tsp lemon oil or 1/2 tsp lemon extract

Mix the egg whites and the sugar and place them over a double boiler while you whisk them together. The sugar will start to dissolve and the egg whites will start to turn white and fluffy. Continue whisking until the egg whites feel hot to the touch.

Transfer the bowl to the electric mixer and whip in high speed until light and fluffy and the bottom of the bowl doesn’t feel hot anymore. About 3-5 minutes.

Start adding the softened butter by the tablespoon. Keep adding more butter as it is incorporated into the meringue. Once all the butter has been added, add the lemon juice and the lemon oil. It might look as if the buttercream has separated. Don’t worry, keep whipping it because it will come together. Reserve until ready to use.

Chocolate Ganache

170 grams bittersweet chocolate (58% cacao)
170 grams heavy cream

Chop the chocolate into a bowl. Boil the cream and pour it over the chocolate. gently whisk the cream and the chocolate until the ganache is formed. Do not over whisk or it might separate depending on the type of chocolate you have used. We want the ganache to be liquid when we assemble the cake so I recommend making this right before or make it ahead of time and remelt it right before we are going to make the cake.

Lemon Simple Syrup

100 grams water
100 grams sugar
2 tsp lemon extract

Boil the sugar and the water until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and add the lemon extract. Set aside.

Chocolate Glaze

110 grams bittersweet chocolate
110 grams coating chocolate
35 grams vegetable oil

Melt all the ingredients together over a double boiler and keep warm until we are ready to assemble.

Assemble the Opera Cake

The most important thing when you are building a cake with many components, is to set your self ready for success. That means, get your mise en place ready. Clean your work area of pots and pans and line all your components in front of you so you don’t go crazy and you work clean. Working clean is 75% of the success in your final product. I promise!

So get your sponges ready, the melted chocolate glaze, the melted ganache, the room temperature buttercream, the simple syrup, an offset spatula and a rubber spatula.

Place the first sheet of matcha sponge on your working surface. It will still have parchment paper on the bottom of the cake. Spread a very very thin layer of chocolate glaze on the top of the sponge cake. Spread the chocolate very thinly over the entire surface of the cake with a metal spatula (offset spatulas work best). let this glaze harden.

When the glaze has hardened (you can even put it in the refrigerator for a few minutes), turn it over onto a sheetpan that is also lined with parchment paper. So at this point, the glazed side of the sponge is down and you are left with the old parchment paper facing you. Remove this paper and discard.

Soak the cake with the lemon simple syrup with the help of a pastry brush. Then spread a third of the buttercream over the cake with an offset spatula. It is important to have an even layer because when we cut the cake, we want it to look clean and straight.

After the buttercream, pour a third of the ganache over the buttercream and spread it evenly. Place a second sheet of matcha sponge over the ganache making sure that the parchment paper that was on the bottom is now facing up. Remove the paper and brush the top of the cake with the lemon simple syrup. Spread half of the remaining buttercream over the cake, then spread half of the remaining ganache over it. Place the last sheet of sponge on top. Brush with simple syrup, spread the last bit of buttercream on top and finish with the ganache. There will be a total of 3 layers of sponge, 3 of buttercream and 3 of ganache.

Refrigerate the cake until the ganache sets. Then, flip the cake onto the back of another sheetpan so it is raised and we can glaze it. Spread a thin layer of melted chocolate glaze over the top and let the excess run off the sides. Refrigerate it again so the glaze sets.

Cut it into rectangles and decorate with a dusting of sifted matcha powder and gold leaf. This is optional, of course.

This will be my submission to this month’s Sugar High Friday hosted by La Petite Boulangette. This month’s theme is Japanese patisserie which has really been the latest explosion. I just wish I could have gotten my hands into some yuzu juice… Maybe next time.

And on another note, Holly from Art You Can Eat just awarded this blog with An Award For Excellence. That is very thoughtful and appreciated. Thank you!

Now I want to pass this award on to ten bloggers who have been doing an excellent job baking, writing, commenting on life… very interesting.

La Cerise… The most labor intensive, croissant recipe tester out there. I applaud you for it!

My Sweet and Saucy… Beautiful cake and cookie decorating.

Pastry Studio… elegance and perfection.

Make Life Sweeter… Beautiful photos and recipes.

Cakespy… I get a sugar high every time I read this blog. Pure genius.

Pittsburgh Needs Eated… beautiful photos, elegance and non-stop baking over in Pittsburgh.

Eggbeater… fabulous photos and very, very interesting commentary about the life of a professional pastry chef.

Fields of Cake… another great cake decorator and all around baker with beautiful kids!

Veronica’s Test Kitchen… fabulous macarons and French patisserie.

I Shot The Chef.. exquisite photos and great recipes.

Thank you to all those bloggers for doing what they do and I wake up every morning looking forward to my everyday sweet, blogging fix!

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57 Responses to “Matcha, Lemon and Chocolate Opera Cake”

  1. Sherry says:

    I am in such AWE of your skills! That looks like such an amazing cake. It’s beautiful and it sounds delicious as well.

  2. Y says:

    Gosh darn it, what a beautiful looking cake! And you totally beat me to it – I have been thinking about making a matcha layered cake like that, ever since having a gorgeous one at Sadaharu Aoki’s patisserie in Tokyo. Wish I could taste a slice of yours :)

  3. M says:

    And you deserve the Excellence award!

  4. Astrid says:

    Thanks Aran! It’s nice to receive an award, even though I don’t post nearly as often as I would like to.

    Your cake is perfect: beautiful to look at (clean lines, sharp contrast of colors, delicate work overall) and sounds mouth-watering.

    I can’t believe your son liked it though. My daughters only eat the simplest of baked goods. Heh, more for us…

  5. C.L. says:

    A couple of things.
    1. That is one of the most beautiful and awe inspiring cakes I have seen in a LONG time! I need to find Matcha powder!!!!!
    2. Thank you soooo much for the award. You make me weepy :)
    Love ya!


  6. Veron says:

    this is an amazing dessert you have here. I was thinking about matcha lately. I got my stash from Lepicerie too! Thanks for the award…so tickled to be called French patisserie

  7. linda says:

    That combination of tastes must be wonderful! And it looks so very pretty with the small layers and the fibrant green.
    Congratulations on your award and thanks for passing it on :)

  8. Candace says:

    STUNNING! Absolutely perfect cake. The colors are gorgeous together and I’m going to assume its very tasty!

    Thanks for the Excellence Award and congrats to you! :)

  9. Ann says:

    Absolutely beautiful! You so deserved the award!

  10. Okay, let me first say that I am beginning to hate you. Every one of your creations is more gorgeous than the last. You are giving me an inferiority complex! ;)

    This Opera Cake is the last straw. Cut it out! (I hope you know I am just teasing.)

    Congrats on your award. It is well deserved!

  11. Eileen says:

    Hi Aran…
    Can you send me this cake too?

    Eileen (madeleine winner!)

  12. Andreea says:

    this looks very sophisticated. and elaborate :)

  13. giz says:

    Excellence only moderately describes the intricacy of making this cake. All I can say is WOW.

  14. Oh, Aran – what a incredibly gorgeous accomplishment. I’ve been thinking a lot about Opera Cake lately. I think we have a very similar palate! Your photographs are stunning.

    I am deeply honored to learn of your recognition of my blog. As one who is fairly new to this scene, I’ve really enjoyed the warmth and friendship of other very talented bloggers. It is such a joy to see such boundless creativity in pastry. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Abrazos!

  15. Mobula says:

    Hola Aran!!!!

    Impresionantes estos bizcochitos ópera con té matcha. No sabes el tiempo que llevo buscando este té porque tengo como 5 o 6 recetas pendientes de hacer por no encontrarlo.

    Todos los días aprendo algo contigo.



  16. Lovely Opera cake! I really need to get my hands on some of that Matcha powder, you all seem to have so much fun with it! Congrats on the award – you certainly deserve it!!!

  17. You are too nice Aran! But thanks you so much for the award…it really does mean a lot to me. On another note, your Opera cake is fantastic looking! The dimensions are perfect and I love the colors…wish I could taste a bite…I have never had matcha in a dessert.

  18. Kelly-Jane says:

    Such skill! and very pretty with the lovely green layer :)

  19. Irene says:

    Oh, my gosh, what a beautiful cake!! Lemon buttercream? Wow. I’ve always wanted to make an opera cake, but the time and patience needed for it has always intimidated me.

  20. You definitely deserve this award!!! Another stunningly shot cake and am amazing recipe!

  21. Little D says:

    I REALLY want to taste this so bad. It sounds delectable, delightful, and delicious. Thank you very much for giving my mother this award. She was very happy.


  22. Aran says:

    Thank you everyone for the kind words. They really mean a lot to me and I appreciate you taking the time out of your busy lives to leave comments and be so encouraging. This blog is a way to express my love for food and pastry in particular and to share it with anyone that is willing to listen.

  23. Tartelette says:

    I am laughing because you and I are in the Twilight Zone again: I made a provencal inspired Opera this sunday! It is one of my favorite cakes and this Matcha version is just scrumptious! Congratulation on the award!

  24. This is a very classy looking cake. One day I will have skills like you! Nice pictures, they are captivating.

  25. Doodlenaut says:

    How do you constantly wow me…literally EVERY day?! Beautiful Opera Cake! Keep up the artful baking :) You’re an inspiration to us all.

  26. ChichaJo says:

    This is one show-stopper of a cake! So elegant and beautiful! I just made a matcha and white chocolate marbled loaf (coincidence!) but it is nowhere as sophisticated-looking as this :)

  27. This looks so delious and pretty! I will try this out one day!

  28. As always so beautiful. And thanks for thelinks to other great blogs. Unfortunately it just adds to my blog addiction! :)

  29. I’m positive that this tastes as good as it looks! Bravo!

  30. Cakespy says:

    First off, thank you for your kind words! It always makes my day to visit your site too!

    Second, the Opera Cake. This (so I hear) is one of the marks of a serious pastry chef–so many steps and delicate layers. I say that your version is not just an opera cake–it’s the entire symphony. It’s enough of a cake to fill the Albert Hall, Lincoln Center and then some! :-)

  31. Bea says:

    Wonderful! So nice. I’ve always wanted to make one, but never tackled the project. You are inspiring me to change that soon ;-) The best one I had was at Sadaharu Aoki, a few years ago already!

  32. Mandy says:

    OMG! this cake has all my favorite flavor combo. I need to bookmark this recipe and make it soon.

  33. I, too, am very appreciative of your recognition! It’s so nice to get a little support, especially when life/baking get ridiculously stressful. I think 80% of everything i’ve tried to bake this week has gone awry somehow…

    The opera cake is beautiful. I’ve always wanted to make something that looks so sleek and sophisticated. Great job!

  34. PG says:

    Oh, quick question: if you had been able to get ahold of yuzu juice for the buttercream, would you just use the same quantity you did of lemon juice/oil?

  35. Rosa says:

    Impresionante, está de lujo esta receta. Acabo de descubrir tu blog y me parece fantástico. Enhorabuena.
    Un saludo desde Navarra

  36. Aran says:

    Hi PG-
    Yes, I would use the same amount of yuzu juice. However, know that yuzus are a little bit tarter than regular lemons.

  37. Gemma says:

    That is absolutely stunning!

  38. Ali (cane) says:

    Decidido! mañana me apunto a una academia de ingles, yo tengo the macha…y no puedo copiarte…¿como has hecho esas planchas tan tan super finas? me encanta la Opera en “verde”.

    ¿y una banderida de esas traductoras? ¿no podrías añadir? jijiji

  39. Cakelaw says:

    You may call it an Opera Cake – I call it delicious, and that is what counts. Thanks for sharing.

  40. Ana says:

    Qué maravilla de Opera, tienes un blog fantástico pero me falta la traducción, no podría ser posible?
    Felicidades por tu trabajo.
    Un saludo

  41. B says:

    Don’t know if it can or cannot be called “Opera cake”, but certainly it would make a perfect dessert pre- or post- opera in Vienna or Paris! Love the mix of colours in the cake. As always not just delicious, but delightful desserts!

  42. Cakelaw says:

    Lovely cake Aran, and congrats on your well deserved award!

  43. I really can’t wait to try this. Green tea and chocolate ganache are something else, but combined?? My blog centers on tea so I hope I can figure out how to backlink to you. I’ve never really done it before.

  44. Never seen nothing like this before! Got here from Cakespy & am sure glad I did. WOW!!! This is a real treat for the eyes. Agree with you a 100% about clearing & cleaning up as you go; just takes the stress out. Also, if your little boy loved this, mine will too! Have bookmarked it (obviously, it’s too GOOD to miss) also because your buttercream uses no yolks. That’s more my kinda taste. THANK YOU Aran…this is fabulous beyond words!BTW…congrats on the award.

  45. Dr.Gray says:

    The cake looks good but I have to say I think the green tea is going to get way overpowered. It may be helpful to put matcha also in with the ganache. Also I simply cant make this recipe due to it being in grams (who uses grams in the US?). I recommend something like this for matcha powder more so than lepicerie. When looking for specialized ingredients find yourself a good importer. There stuff is going to be fresher and quality most likely higher. Im not a big fan of reseller stores.

  46. Aran says:

    Dr. Gray- thanks for the link. I actually have tried many kinds of matcha powders and find that L’Epicerie’s is very very good quality.
    Also, as for who uses grams in the US… many people (I live in the US). In fact, most professional chefs use grams. It makes much more sense and is much more accurate.

  47. Hi! man…i’m so tempted to try to recipe out but there’s something that’s BUGGING me… according to your instructions, i don’t understand why the first thing to do is glaze the cake with the choc. glaze when the glazed side will remain face down in the end? Would it not melt during the course of assembling the rest of the cake and leave messy smears on the work surface? even if said work surface is parchment paper… >.<

  48. Aran says:

    Crazy Biscotti-

    The chocolate Glaze is not like a ganache that it stays soft and sticky. The glaze is different than the ganache and it sets once it cools and it stays hard. The purpose of having the glaze on the bottom is to create almost like a foot so that you can move the opera around. If you had the joconde as the bottom, this becomes sticky and it would leave a mark wherever you would set it. The glaze allows the pastry to be picked up.

    Maybe my instructions weren’t very clear? What you do is you apply a thin layer of the glaze to a sheet of joconde which will be the bottom layer on the cake. Place this sheet (with the glaze on top) on a sheetpan lined with parchment and transfer it to the fridge for a couple of minutes until the glaze hardens. then flip the sheet over leaving the glazed side down, apply simple syrup on the top part of the joconde and start building the opera from there.

    Does that make sense?

    I know it seems complicated but it isn’t. Once the glaze has hardened, it will not make a mess unless it is super hot where you are and anything melts instantaneously.

    You do need to refrigerate the layers each time so you get clean lines and one layer doesn’t smudge into the other one.

    Let me know how it goes!

  49. Erin N. says:

    Hi Aran,
    I’m making several desserts for an upcoming family wedding and I plan on pre-testing this recipe this weekend (even ordered the matcha you suggested, etc…). I will need to assemble 1 day ahead and on the day of the wedding drive 1 hour to store the desserts in a commercial refrigerator at the reception site. I’ll need to display desserts up to 3-4 hours prior to eating them… the space will be air conditioned.

    Will this opera cake hold up under these circumstances? I was also considering the mini pistachio/choc mousse cakes you featured here on your blog.

    Are there particular fillings, frostings, etc… that might hold up better for all-around use considering the unrefrigerated time? Will buttercream perish for example in a 3-4 hour window?

    Thanks in advance for any guidance.

  50. Erin- buttercream will hold well for 3 hrs in an AC space. I wouldnt try the mousse. Too delicate to sit at room temp. Ganache, buttercream hold up well but anything with whipped cream won’t. Good luck!

  51. Tina says:

    Hello Aran,

    This cake is absolutely gorgeous. I plan on making it for my best friend this weekend, but I have a few questions.

    1. What are the dimension of your sheet pans? (ie. how big are they)
    2. I onlyh have a hand mixer and from my very little experience with buttercream I find that the butter tends to get grainy and almost curdles. Do you have any tips for me?

    Thank you!!!

  52. Tina, they are 13 by 19 inches. make sure your butter is very soft when you added to the fully whipped and cooled meringue. you should be ok. Best, aran

  53. Andrea says:

    Oh my gosh, I so want to eat that cake !!!!!

  54. Clare says:

    Hello, May I know where can I get the almond flour? Can that be substitute with cake flour?
    Also,for the choc. glaze ,one of the ingredient is choc. coating… What is that?? Do you know if I can get lemon extract from groceries store?
    Thanks for your help!! :)

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