Sweet Saturday: A Sophisticated Pair

I want to introduce you all to A Sophisticated Pair (and encourage you to glance at the blogroll in the sidebar for more recommended reading), a lingerie shop and blog based in North Carolina.  I haven’t visited in person (yet!), but the blog is wonderful and informative, with reviews of individual bras, discussion of the retail experience, comments on bra construction and fit, and more!  In addition to reviewing different bras and styles, the women at A Sophisticated Pair also evaluate how well different bras hold up over time– what an incredibly valuable resource!  Erica, the store owner, has kindly featured me today, and as a fellow baker, she also shared one of her favorite recipes with me.  Check her out, and check out her amazing cake!  Oh man, this cake is right up my alley: chocolate and espresso and chocolate and them some more chocolate.  Plus I’d get to be all fancy and use all sorts of different pastry techniques and laugh airily whenever anyone asks me about it and say “Oh this old thing? I just whipped up a little cake and mousse and ganache and buttercream and slapped it together.  ADORE ME.”  Anyone have a birthday soon?  No reason for asking.  None at all.

Cuban Opera Cake
September 2003 issue of Bon Appetit
by way of Epicurious

Erica’s Cake! The actual one she made!


  • 4 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet  chocolate, chopped
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup crème de cacao
  • 1/2 cup freshly brewed coffee,  lukewarm


  • 8 ounces imported milk chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room  temperature

Coffee Mousse

  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder or coffee  powder
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin softened in 1 tablespoon water 10 minutes
  • 1 cup chilled whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Chocolate  Glaze

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 12 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet  chocolate, chopped

For cake:

Preheat  oven to 325°F. Butter two 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 2-inch-high sides; line  bottoms with parchment paper rounds. Dust pans with flour; tap out excess. Melt  chocolate in top of double boiler over simmering water, stirring until melted  and smooth. Remove from over water. Cool to lukewarm. Whisk flour, baking soda,  and salt in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat sugar, butter, and vanilla  in large bowl to blend. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition  and stopping occasionally to scrape down sides of bowl. Gradually beat in  lukewarm melted chocolate. Beat in dry ingredients in 3 additions alternately  with sour cream in 2 additions, beginning and ending with dry ingredients.  Gradually beat in crème de cacao and coffee. Divide batter evenly between  prepared pans; smooth tops.

Bake cakes until  toothpick inserted into centers comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Cool cakes in  pans on racks 10 minutes. Invert cakes onto 9-inch cardboard rounds or removable  tart pan bottoms; cool cakes completely on racks.

For buttercream:

Melt  milk chocolate in top of double boiler over simmering water, stirring until  smooth. Remove from over water. Whisk sugar, egg yolks, 2 tablespoons water, and  corn syrup in medium metal bowl to blend. Add 1/4 cup butter. Set bowl over  saucepan of simmering water; whisk constantly until mixture reaches 170°F, about  4 minutes. Remove bowl from over water. Using electric mixer, beat until  completely cool and thick, about 6 minutes. Gradually beat in 1/2 cup butter,  about 1 tablespoon at a time, fully incorporating each addition and stopping  occasionally to scrape down sides of bowl. Beat in lukewarm melted chocolate.

For coffee mousse:

Bring half and half, 2 tablespoons sugar, and espresso powder to simmer in small  saucepan over medium-high heat. Whisk egg yolks and remaining 2 tablespoons  sugar in medium bowl to blend. Gradually whisk hot half and half mixture into  yolk mixture. Return mixture to saucepan and stir constantly over medium heat  until thermometer registers 160°F, about 2 minutes. Pour into large bowl. Add  softened gelatin; stir until dissolved. Using electric mixer, beat until cool,  about 10 minutes. Using clean dry beaters, beat cream and vanilla in medium bowl  until stiff peaks form. Fold whipped cream into coffee mixture.

Cut each cake layer  horizontally in half. Place 1 cake layer in bottom of 9-inch-diameter springform  pan. Cover with 3/4 cup buttercream. Place second cake layer atop buttercream;  cover with mousse. Top with third cake layer. Refrigerate 1 hour to allow mousse  to set. Spread 3/4 cup buttercream over third cake layer. Top with fourth cake  layer (cake will rise above rim of pan). Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours  or overnight.

For chocolate glaze:

Stir sugar and 1 cup water in medium saucepan over medium heat until sugar  dissolves. Increase heat to high; bring to boil. Whisk in cocoa; remove from  heat. Add chocolate; whisk until smooth. Let stand until cool but still  pourable, about 2 hours.

Run knife around pan  sides to loosen cake. Release pan sides. Scrape excess mousse from sides of  cake. Transfer cake on springform pan bottom to rack set over baking sheet. Pour  glaze over cake, allowing glaze to drip down edges onto baking sheet (use  spatula to spread glaze over any uncovered spots). Refrigerate at least 2 hours  to allow glaze to set. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep refrigerated. Let stand at  room temperature 1 hour before serving.)

Mmmmmmmm. I’d eat that.

2 Comments on Sweet Saturday: A Sophisticated Pair

  1. Erica of A Sophisticated Pair
    June 16, 2012 at 11:23 am (9 years ago)

    Thanks for the lovely write up! While the Cuban Opera Cake is a labor of love, the end result is well worth the hassle. There are so many different textures and flavors that combine to form a truly fabulous desert. Thanks again, Sweets!

  2. Mom
    June 18, 2012 at 10:37 am (9 years ago)

    That cake is very you!


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