No Bake Opera Cake

Have you ever visited Austria? I have. I loved Vienna -- such an incredible and vibrant city. It seemed to overflow with creativity and be...

Have you ever visited Austria? I have. I loved Vienna -- such an incredible and vibrant city. It seemed to overflow with creativity and beauty. 

One thing Vienna does not lack is sugar. There is plenty of sugar available at all times of day in the form of decadent yet delicate desserts, sweet coffees and outstanding ice cream. In fact, I stayed around the corner from one of their most famous gelaterias. I was traveling in a hot September week and at the time, I was judging all countries I visited by gelato - flavor and price. I know I know, what the fuck does that mean, eh? It means -- how good and how much does what buy you. Italy was divine...and expensive. Slovenia was inexpensive, bountiful and unusual, yet delicious. And Austria? Well it was affordable, beautiful and unforgettable. In fact, the most unexpectedly delicious gelato I have had anywhere in any country was a small cup that I purchased in Vienna. I was staying around the corner from one of Vienna's best gelato shops. It was a truly fancy little place with pretty affordable (by EU standards) gelato. While it offered all the usual suspects -- straciatella, noicciola, chocolato, vanilla etc etc, it had some locally inspired flavors too. I am of Eastern European descent so I am no stranger to desserts with poppy seeds. I love them -- from hamentaschen to babka. This gelateria was the first and last shop where I found poppy seed gelato! I knew I had to try it. It was... unmatched and unforgettable and perhaps one of my strongest dessert memories, period. It tasted like an intense and concentrated version of every poppy seed dessert I have ever had. Delicious.

Vienna is famous for beautiful cakes like the Sachertorte. When I think of the city my mind always jumps to Opera Cake. A beautiful layer cake with thin alternating delicate layers of chocolate ganache, chocolate-coffee mousse and hazelnut cake. In Vienna they are sold both as whole cakes and as perfect individually wrapped cake slices which highlight the beauty of the cake's many layers.  

Today's recipe is for a mostly raw version of the beautiful Opera cakes I found in Vienna. I say mostly raw because I use maple syrup as a sweetener, canned black beans and brewed coffee in the chocolate-coffee mousse layer. 

You could of course replace the maple with agave and the beans with raw nuts or coconut cream to make the mousse, and leave out the coffee altogether. I make no claims to being raw or even a strict vegan, but I'm happy to experiment and share ideas and recipes for both on this blog.



This cake really surprised me. I had no idea how I could make this dessert well out of mostly raw ingredients yet keep it nut-free, but thanks to my spice grinder I was able to make a lovely "cake" layer using ground pumpkin seeds (raw pepitas).

 I find that most raw desserts call for dates and nuts. I wanted to shake things up and leave both out of the equation. The result is pretty unique and I was really pleased with how it turned out. My very skeptical husband was almost afraid to taste this cake knowing my ingredients that day but was brave enough to try it. To his surprise, he loved it!

I`m not saying one bite of this cake will transport you to Vienna, but I can safely say it`s really delicious and surprisingly healthy!

BONUS: this cake is very high in protein, fiber and flavor!

Coffee Mousse Layer
(high protein, vegan, gluten-free, no-bake)

  • 2/3 cup strong coffee (decaf is fine)
  • 1 can aduki beans, thoroughly rinsed and drained
  • 2  dashes coarse sea salt
  • 2 tbsp raw honey OR coconut nectar or agave (vegan)
  • 2.5-3 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp size hunk cacao butter, melted over lowest heating setting in a pot (or substitute equal amounts solid virgin coconut oil)
  • 1.5 tbsp solid cacao paste (or use equal amounts of very dark chocolate)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp golden flaxmeal
  • 3 heaping tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp white vinegar
Blend all ingredients together thoroughly until very very smooth. Taste!
Add more maple if not sweet enough. Add more salt if the flavor seems dull. Blend again. The texture should be like thick chocolate pudding. When satisfied, transfer to a bowl and place in the freezer.

Sponge Cake Layer
(vegan, gluten-free, raw)
  • Just under 1 cup raw pumpkin seeds, ground in batches in  a coffee grinder to a fine light green powder
  • 1 tsp raw honey OR agave or coconut nectar for VEGAN
  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  • dash coarse sea salt
  • 4-5 tbsp golden flaxseed, ground in a coffee grinder to powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp size hunk raw cacao butter
  • 2 tsp water
Blend everything except water in food processor until it looks like coarse cornmeal. Check the sides to ensure the honey or maple has not stuck, scrape and blend again.
Add the water and pulse until mixture looks a little more wet but still crumbly. Transfer to a bowl and set aside. Clean and dry food processor.

Raw Ganache layer
(vegan, gluten-free, raw)

Part I:
  • 1/4 cup cacao paste
  • 1.5 tbsp size hunk cacao butter
Melt part I ingredients together over lowest heat setting on stovetop, stirring often.
Part II:

  • 1.5 tbsp raw honey OR agave nectar or coconut nectar for VEGAN
  • 2.5 tbsp maple syrup
  • pinch coarse sea salt
Whisk the honey into the melted cacao once the cacao has fully melted. Remove from heat and whisk in maple syrup. Whisk in sea salt.


  • Chilled Coffee Mousse
  • 1/2 zucchini
  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  • Ganache mixture
  • Sponge Cake mixture
Remove chilled coffee-bean mousse mixture from freezer. Place in food processor and blend until smooth with the maple syrup and zucchini.
Layer the dessert in a square non stick baking pan lined with parchment paper -- starting with 1/2 the pumpkin seed mixture on the bottom, then a layer of the mousse (all of it), then the remaining pumpkin seed mixture, then 1/2 the chocolate sauce.
Place in freezer for 5 minutes then spread on remaining chocolate sauce for a smooth finish.

*To make a taller cake, I sliced this cake all the way down the middle and stacked the half pieces.

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