Origins of a French pastry: the Opera cake

Published by Rizhlaine F. · Photos by My B. · Updated on 14 September 2021 at 15h55 · Published on 10 September 2021 at 15h39
Many of us love the Opera cake. In the classic chocolate version or revisited, it is a genuine guilty pleasure. But do you know where this cake comes from? Here is more about the origins of the Opera cake.

Among the French pastry staples, the Opera cake stands as a leader. This indulging creation has won the hearts of sweet-toothed whether in the original chocolate version or revisited. But do you know everything about this timeless cake? Let us find out!

First things first, what is an Opera cake? In its most common shape, the Opera cake is a pastry served in a rectangular shape. It is made of Joconde (almond) cake soaked in coffee syrup, chocolate ganache, and coffee buttercream put in layers. The whole is covered in dark chocolate glazing and decorated with gold leaves.

But who has invented the Opera cake? Two major pastry houses have fought over the claim of the discovery for a long time. On one hand, Gaston Lenôtre – founder of the Maison Lenôtre – who claimed in the 1960’s he came up with this iconic pastry. On the other hand, Maison Dalloyau claiming the pastry has been indeed created by Cyriaque Gavillon in 1955. The latter’s wife, Andrée Gavillon, has even come up with the name, “Opéra”, for this creation in tribute to the Opéra Garnier in Paris.

But what is the relationship between the Opera, the cake and the Opera Garnier, the house? According to Dalloyau’s version, the design of the cake reminded Andrée Gavillon of the background of the famous Parisian opera house. Another version says it is more a nod to Opéra de Paris dancers who used to regularly come to the store.

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