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Apr 8, 2002 11:22 PM

opera cake help!!!

  • c

Does anyone out there know the origin and/or history of the Opera cake or gateau l'Opera as it is known in France? I know it's named after the Paris Opera house but that's it, and I need answers!


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  1. Found this:
    Opera Cake (also known as Clichy)
    info from

    Clichy [pasrty shop]
    5 boulevard Baumarchais, Paris 75003

    The controversy continues as to whether this old-fashioned pastry shop and tea room located at the Bastille first created what's now generically called the "Opera" cake (called "le Clichy" here) or if it was an invention of competitor Dalloyau. Both make excellent versions of the Parisian favorite. Also worth trying here are the mendiants -- rounds of dark chocolate studded with walnuts, raisins and hazelnuts.

    "Chocolate is health," asserted the 19th century French gastronomic chronicler, Brillat-Savarin. Like Voltaire, who drank 12 cups of the heady elixir a day, Brillat-Savarin had a passion for chocolate. He prescribed it for many ills and conditions from lethargy to hangovers long before the therapeutic qualities of this magnesium-rich delicacy were confirmed by science.

    If the French can't claim to have discovered the cocoa bean -- a native of Central and South America imported to Spain by Hernando Cortez in the 1500's -- they can be applauded for having popularized its use throughout Europe. In the early 1600's, Jewish immigrants driven out of Spain brought chocolate to the port city of Bayonne in Southwest France. A few years later, the 14-year-old Spanish princess betrothed to France's Louis XIV, introduced Spanish chocolate to the French court in Paris. Since that time, French artisans have never ceased to perfect chocolate-making, raising it to the fine art it is today.

    (maybe it has a more in depth story - like the GatorAde story. that was invented by a doctor for the Florida football team)


    1 Reply
    1. re: kc girl
      kc girl (one more time at it)

      A little more research to prove. (It was good for me.) Here’s what I found and thought.

      Petit gateaux
      (small cake ready to be eaten)

      One type of this style of cake was the “Opera” cake - (layer of almond sponge with coffee and chocolate cream, very rich in coffee) (
      Food has two functions; to nourish the body and to delight the soul.

      My post above mentions that a pastry shop was credited with creating the recipe. If it was one chef or a few that made the “Opera” cake, the time was probably in the 18th century when chocolate entered France from Spain. “Once the Spanish arrived in the New World and began to survey the riches they found there, they noted the potential of the bitter black beverage the natives were so fond of.” (See,
      Maybe the little Petit gateaux was served to Opera singers after their grand meal and before they went on stage, both as a small flavorful delight and physical effect. Could it have been invented for one person in particular; but then wouldn’t it bear their name (like Melba sauce)? Was it a special event at the Opera House?

      I know almonds give a calming effect (like chamomile) when eaten. When we modeled for Antoine Marengo and Beautex, he suggested we eat almonds mixed with honey before we went on stage (for pep and tranquility).

      Another ingredient, coffee, gives a person a little “wake-up.”

      And then (from , add chocolate as advised by the wealthy. “. . . the original 18th century taste of Marie-Antoinette . . .. Follow her advice; serve it with that new exotic delight called Chocolate.”
      So maybe chocolate added that lyrical richness to the Petit gateaux.

      Given some history near the time of the French Revolution, “French law obliged bakers to sell certain standard varieties of loaf at fixed weights and prices” ( ) so a sponge cake was probably attainable for many people because it was light and conformed to the laws around the time of the French famine.

      The phrase “Qu'ils mangent de la brioche” (Let them eat buns) was rumored to have been said by not Marie Antoinnete (who many a history book say coined it), rather Louis XIV's first wife, Maria-Theresa from Spain.
      “A few years later, the 14-year-old Spanish princess betrothed to France's Louis XIV, introduced Spanish chocolate to the French court in Paris.” That must have been Marie-Theresa who was rumored to have really been the one who said “Qu'ils mangent de la brioche.”
      Info from ( ) (the message above)

      And, you? Is it known?