We challenged one of the Classic FM team to make one of the most complex cakes in the world – the opera cake

29 August 2017, 10:14 | Updated: 29 August 2017, 10:27

Opera cake asset

The classic opera cake is layers (and layers) of sponge, ganache, Italian meringue and despair. Oh no, NOT THAT LAST ONE. It’s notoriously difficult – and was even one of the technical challenges on the Great British Bake Off 2014. So obviously we challenged one of the team to make it ahead of the launch of the brand new series

Bake Off is back! So, to mark the occasion, we challenged a member of the Classic FM team to tackle the most famous musical cake ever made…

Here’s the Paris Opera – it’s an opulent, richly decorated building.

Paris Opera

So it’s only appropriate that the cake named after it – the extremely French opéra cake, is one of the most complicated, overblown and complex desserts ever to grace a cake stand.

Here it is in all it's cordon-bleu glory:

Opera cake

It’s so tricky in fact it has featured as a technical challenge on the Great British Bake Off. Which was particularly mean of the judges.


So anyway. Meet Lizzie.

Lizzie is one of the content editors at ClassicFM.com. She dabbles in baking.

Opera cake snapchats

She is, however, unclear on the exact meaning of a ganache and does not own a sugar thermometer.

Obviously, we challenged Lizzie to bake an opera cake.

It’s fair to say she has no idea what’s to come. Over to Lizzie…

The beginning…

But first: soundtrack

Right. Now. What’s a sugar thermometer? Ah, probably not crucial. Right guys?

Step one: so far so good

To the soundtrack of Das Rheingold, I have managed to separate three eggs with hardly *any* egg shell in the bowl.

Urgh. Why is this not an instant thing?

Egg whisking is taking so long. SIDENOTE: you can follow Classic FM on snapchat – we're at classicfm (surprisingly)…

Sponges: done. now for the ganache.

Step one: find out what ganache is.

Unexpected success with the ganache.

I am a ganache queen. YAS. Sidenote:

Opera cake snapchats

Learning as I go tho


OK. Italian meringue.

One of the key components of opera cake is coffee-flavoured Italian meringue buttercream. It is with the realisation that all those words describe just one component of this cake that I begin to think I am out of my depth.

I only learned what Italian meringue was about 10 minutes ago but those 10 minutes have been a rollercoaster of terror, nausea and anxiety.

Basically, in musical terms, it is the Well-Tempered Clavier of the patisserie world: it needs to look effortless, be filled with air BUT it's actually one of the most difficult things on the planet. OK THEN.


This, it turns out, is where it's crucial to have a sugar thermometer. OH WELL.

No idea if this is right

But it is so satisfying…

So far it's been fairly smooth sailing… with the odd hiccough.

I spoke too soon



Are we nearly finished?

Enthusiasm is waning now, five hours into this enterprise.




Playlist update!

Time for some Rossini to push me through the home straight. LET'S GET MY ICING GROOVE ON.


The finishing touches…

Opera cake icing



Opera cake snapchats


Hours taken: 8
Layers created: 8
Opera cakes made: 1(ish)
Actual operas listened to: 4
Spirit levels used: 1
Dreams of being star baker shattered: 1
Lessons learned: don't even

If you *do* know what an Italian meringue is and *do* own a sugar thermometer, you can try baking an opera cake yourself – here's the recipe I used on The Telegraph, but there are plenty more available online.