Clementine, Saffron & Dark Chocolate Opera Cake (Gluten Free)

It was my boyfriend’s birthday last weekend and I wanted to bake something spectacular. I trawled the internet and found a recipe on the Daring Bakers Website for Opera cake. I drooled over the photos of perfection & thought how difficult could this cake really be? In fact, it took a week of mental preparation, an evening of baking & sleepless nights…my attempt didn’t quite turn out like how Opera cakes should really be as I messed up the butter cream layer (I don’t have a candy thermometer). I decided to rescue my butter cream liquid and turn it into clementine & saffron sponge. Instead of trying to remake the butter cream I decided to make a healthy fool proof version using quark and icing sugar. I created a wonky and mutated Opera cake but I breathed a huge sigh of relief as I savoured it with a glass of chilled cava. It actually was rather delicious & brought a big smile to my face.

Joconde Sponge

3 organic egg whites at room temperature

1 tbsp granulated sugar

1 cup ground almonds

1 cup icing sugar

3 organic eggs at room temperature

3 tbsp millet flour

1 tbsp glutinous rice flour

1 ½ tbsp vegetable oil

1 tsp xanthan gum

  1. Preheat the oven 400F/gas mark 6
  2. Grease a 12″x14″ & 12″x7″ jelly roll pan
  3. Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form and add 1 tbsp sugar. Beat until stiff and shiny.
  4. In another bowl, mix the whole eggs, icing sugar & ground almonds together. Once fluffy, add the flours & xanthan gum, combine but do not over mix
  5. Using a metal spoon, gently fold in the beaten egg whites into this mix, and stir in the vegetable oil.
  6. Pour batter into the tin & bake for 10-15mins. Cool for 10mins, loosen the edges & un mould onto a piece of parchment paper.

Clementine Saffron Sponge

2 organic egg yolks

3/4 cup golden caster sugar

1/3 cup margarine

2 tbsp heavy cream

1 tsp vanilla extract

Juice & rind of 2 small clementines

1 pinch of saffron

½ cup rice flour

½ cup polenta/cornmeal

1 tsp xanthan gum

1 tsp baking powder

  1. Preheat the oven 400F/gas mark 6
  2. Grease one 12″x14″ jelly roll pan
  3. In a small bowl, place the saffron strands to soak in the clementine juice.
  4. Cream the sugar & butter together until pale & fluffy.
  5. Add the cream, eggs, vanilla extract, saffron, clementine juice & rind.
  6. Sift together the dry ingredients and blend into the wet mixture until well combined.
  7. Pour batter into tin & bake for 10-15mins. Cool for 10mins, loosen the edges & un mould onto a piece of parchment paper.

Clementine & Lemon Syrup

6 tbsp caster sugar

2 tbsp lemon juice

Juice of 2 clementines

In a sauce pan, add all the syrup ingredients & bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and let the syrup cool to room temperature

Quark Cream Frosting

3 tbsp quark or cream cheese

6 tbsp icing sugar

Combine together & mix well

Clementine Chocolate Truffle Layer

2 ounces/60g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)

1/3 cup heavy cream plus 1 ½ tbsp

Juice of ½ a Clementine

  1. Melt the dark chocolate & 1 ½ tbsp of cream either in the microwave or over a double boiler. Stir until smooth. Add the juice & combine. Set aside to cool completely.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk the cream until soft peaks form. Gently fold the whipped cream into the cooled chocolate. If it’s too thin, refrigerate until it’s spreadable.

Chocolate Glaze

3.5 ounces/100g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)

¼ cup heavy cream

Melt the dark chocolate with the heavy cream in the microwave or a double boiler. Stir the mixture gently until smooth. Let cool for 10mins and then pour over the chilled opera cake. Place the cake into the refrigerator for 30mins to set.


· Cut the larger joconde & clementine saffron sponge into 2.

· Place one layer of saffron sponge on a cake plate & moisten with the flavoured syrup. Place a layer of the joconde on top of this, and moisten with syrup.

· Add a layer of quark cream frosting, then another layer of saffron sponge, followed by syrup & joconde.

· Spread the chocolate truffle over this layer, then the last layer of joconde sponge. Refrigerate for about 30mins to allow everything to set.

· Make the glaze right before you finish the cake. After the glaze has cooled, pour/spread it over the top of the chilled cake. Refrigerate the cake again to set the glaze. Serve with a blob of orange marmalade.

You can leave the opera cake as a rectangle or use a circular cookie cutter to make individual cakes.. I put the left over bits of cake into ramekins & made them into mini puddings. They tasted great heated up in the microwave for a few seconds.

3 responses to “Clementine, Saffron & Dark Chocolate Opera Cake (Gluten Free)

  1. This was a fantastic cake. I was so privileged to be part of its eating! I’m impressed by the thoroughness of this post. When is the book coming out?

  2. I made 10 individual cakes & there’s one in the freezer with your name on it! I’ll definately be making it again, or a different variant on it!

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