Gateau L'Opera: A Wonderful Chocolate/Coffee Combination

The French really know what they're doing with desserts, and nowhere is this better illustrated than with gateau l'opera

All well-done liquid-soaked pastries, from Caribbean rum cake to Mexican tres leches, have their attractions; but for the chocolate lover, it's hard to beat the French delicacy known as gateau l'opera (opera cake). Never heard of it? Well then, sit back and let us tell you all about it.

The Basics de Gateau

A classic French pastry (presumably invented for symphonic snacking), gateau l'opera consists of many, many micro-layers of coffee-soaked sponge cake, ganache, buttercream, and chocolate glaze stacked together. Drooling yet? I am. It's as delicious as it sounds.

As you can imagine, this is a very, very difficult dessert to make, which is part of what makes it so extreme. Do you know how hard it is to stack millimeter-thick layers of soggy cake into a single pastry? If not, you can certainly imagine the effort it takes to put it together, much less keep it together.

Nonetheless, it's a very popular delicacy, and many pastry chefs consider it a sign of accomplishment not merely to create one, but to create one out of the thinnest possible layers.

But What About Tiramisu?

Glad you asked. One can think of tiramisu as an Italian version of gateau l'opera, though whether that dessert inspired it is hard to say. Tiramisu ("pick me up" in Italian) seemingly appeared out of nowhere in the early 1970s before hitting the big-time in the 1980s. Gateau l'opera dates from the early 1900s.

Be that as it may, if you desire a coffee-flavored pasty and don't want to go to all the trouble of making the gateau l'opera, then tiramisu may be for you. Instead of individual layers of sponge cake, just layer some ladyfingers with a mixture of eggs, sugar, Marsala wine, and a sweet mascarpone cheese.

Cocoa powder, sifted on top, adds the theobromine kick. All in all, still a time-consuming dessert to make, but very delicious.

An Interesting Option

If making either of these coffee-soaked chocolate-flavored cakes is beyond your abilities or patience, here's an alternative: make a milkshake instead.

Though I haven't tried it myself, I have it on good authority that the right coffee-almond-chocolate milkshake recipe can capture all the flavor of a good gateau l'opera, without all the trouble of making one or the annoyance of having to wield a fork to shovel it in.

Here's a recipe for Shake de l'Opera you could try. It looks messy, but it also looks very tasty.

Whatever option you prefer, you should definitely try the extreme tastiness that is the coffee-soaked chocolate pastry (or at least the ice cream version thereof). And if you really want to be extreme, try making your own gateau l'opera from scratch. We dare ya!