Tipsy Laird Opera Cake

Tipsy Laird Opera Cake

This Tipsy Laird Opera Cake is a new take on the flavors in a traditional Scottish Dessert. The flavors of Drambuie, raspberries, and chocolate come together to make the perfect layers of an opera cake!

Tipsy Laird Opera Cake with Drambuie, Raspberries and chocolate
Tipsy Laird Opera Cake with Drambuie, Raspberries and two types of chocolate.

This Opera Cake is a labor of love. My love of tart raspberries, my love of chocolate and my love of Drambuie are all showcased in this elegant cake.

Hopefully, my love of Scotland comes through as well. I started to develop this recipe over a year ago. I wanted to take the elements and flavors that are typically found in the classic Scottish Tipsy Laird Trifle and infuse them into an elegant, seven-layer opera cake.

A Tipsy Laird Trifle is composed of ratafia biscuits, tart raspberries, custard and, of course, Drambuie. Some recipes will also add Sherry to ensure the ‘tipsy’ result.

If you have never heard of Drambuie, you should run, not walk, to your liquor store and pick some up. Drambuie is a single malt Scotch that is infused with heather honey, herbs, and spices. The recipe is a long-kept secret. The MacKinnon Family has made the liqueur for over 100 years until the brand and the secret recipe was sold to William Grant & Sons, the makers of Glenfiddich, in 2014. ( )

Check out the recipes on their site at

My chosen drink

My husband and I are Scotch connoisseurs. We don’t drink often but, when we do, we both prefer a good dram of Scotch (also called Whisky. Note the spelling – whisky is Scottish and whiskey is Irish.)

There are so many types of Scotch on the market and the flavors are just as diverse as the brands. When someone asks me what my favorite Scotch is, I just can’t give them one answer!

Honestly, it depends on my mood, the food that I may be eating it with, the weather, and just my personal preference on the day.

When I am in the mood for a peaty, smokey dram I will go for Laphroaig. My favorite is Laphroaig Lore which is rich and peaty with a dry and slightly sweet finish. Check out all they do at

If I want a dram that goes with anything, I will grab the Glenfarclas. We are currently nursing a 21-year-old bottle and I just love this scotch. It has a caramel and smoke flavor that feels like what I expect from a good and classic Scotch. I also love that this is one of the last distilleries in Scotland that is still privately owned by the family that began the distillery six generations ago.

We were lucky enough to tour their distillery in September of this year. I can’t wait to go back and visit them again! Check out their story and products at

Glenfarclas Distillery in Ballindalloch, Banffshire, Scotland

Another firm favorite of mine is Fettercairn. You can’t buy this in the US. Take a trip to Scotland and visit this small distillery in the very small town of the same name. This distillery was only a few minutes from where my husband and I met and worked when we lived in Scotland. So maybe it is just nostalgia but I love the ginger and clove notes of this single malt. I will bring a bottle back to the US with me every time that I am lucky enough to visit Scotland! You can see their products and process at

One bottle of scotch that I ALWAYS have on hand is Drambuie. It is perfect when I want a little something sweet (which is ALWAYS!) and it is readily available in the US. It is infused with the perfect blend of herbs and spices and beautiful heather honey. This is my absolute favorite!

This post is supposed to be a post about Opera Cake and I have digressed into a discussion on scotch! Sorry for the digression but Scotch, and especially Scotland, are passions of mine!

About the Opera Cake

Tempered white chocolate on a shiny chocolate glaze
Tempered white chocolate on a shiny chocolate glaze top this elegant opera cake.

As I said earlier, the development of this opera cake began over a year ago. Once I was cast on the Great American Baking Show, personal recipe development went on hold. I had to practice techniques and concentrate on the application, the bakes for the auditions and my quest to bake in the tent.

When the day came that we got the assignment to create a recipe for an opera cake for the semi-final showstopper, I didn’t even have to think about it. I knew I would do a Tipsy Laird inspired cake.

I made this opera cake three times in practice before turning in the final version of the recipe. I wanted to make sure that the Drambuie comes through without the overall flavor being too sweet. The tartness of the raspberries and the bittersweet chocolate ganache overset the sweetness just enough. The scotch comes through without overwhelming.


To bring the flavor of the Drambuie through, I created a honey simple syrup with what I THINK may be some of the spices in Drambuie. Using the simple syrup with some Drambuie in it, allows the flavor to shine without too much of a hit from the alcohol. I know this is a Tipsy Laird but it is also an Opera Cake, which should be delicate and elegant!

Tipsy Laird Opera Cake
Tipsy Laird Trifle is transformed into an elegant Opera Cake.

Take it in stages

Making an opera cake requires a lot of elements. It is quite a production and not everyone can spend 3 1/2 hours at breakneck speed making a dessert the way we were going to in the tent.

But that is the beauty of an opera cake. You can make the elements in stages and put it all together the day you are serving it.

I did add miniature macarons as decoration on my opera cake. The culinary producer wasn’t sure that I would have time. But I had a lot of spare time while the cake was chilling so I decided to not only make macarons, but I would also temper white chocolate and make a cage for the top.

The oven is only used briefly when making an opera cake so I had plenty of time to bake my macarons. They really do come together quickly. I have not listed the recipe for the macarons below as that recipe will be in a different post. You don’t need them on the opera cake if you want to simplify – they are just an added bonus!

Tipsy Laird Opera Cake
seven layer opera cake
Layers of raspberry, Drambuie soaked sponge and chocolate ganache

When making this Tipsy Laird Opera Cake, I made the jaconde sponges, simple syrup and macrons on the day before I wanted to serve the cake. The morning of serving, I made the ganache, the buttercream, and the tempered chocolate decor. About two hours before serving, I made the glaze, which needs a bit of chilling before trimming the sides of the cake.

If you don’t have to rush your opera cake to be judged by Paul and Sherry, then why cause unneeded stress?? Take your time and you will be able to make this opera cake too!

After watching the semi-final, I am sure that the judges would have said that my opera cake was too tall. Everyone got hit on that! But that is something that we all learned during the process. When I eat an opera cake, I always want MORE CAKE. But the judges were looking for delicate and elegant and it was our job to give it to them.

At least this tipsy laird opera cake tastes fabulous!

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Tipsy Laird Opera Cake

Recipe by Tanya Ott


Prep time


Cooking time




  • For the Jaconde Sponge
  • 6 large egg whites

  • 30 grams granulated sugar

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 190 grams almond flour

  • 190 grams powdered sugar

  • 6 whole large eggs

  • 60 grams all-purpose flour

  • 60 grams butter, melted and cooled

  • 113 grams white chocolate, melted and cooled

  • For the Raspberry Puree
  • 200 grams raspberries, fresh or frozen

  • 25 mL Drambuie

  • For the Simple Syrup
  • 150 mL water

  • 150 mL honey

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

  • 1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric

  • 75 mL Drambuie

  • For the Buttercream
  • 6 large egg yolks

  • 200 grams granulated sugar

  • 50 mL water

  • 450 grams unslated butter, cool room temperature

  • 200 grams fresh raspberries, cut in half

  • For the Ganache
  • 227 grams bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces

  • 170 mL heavy cream

  • For the Glaze
  • 227 grams white chocolate

  • 170 mL heavy cream

  • 28 grams light corn syrup

  • Gel food coloring

  • for the White Chocolate decor
  • 170 grams white chocolate


  • Make the Jaconde Sponge
  • Preheat oven to 425℉/218℃. Melt butter and set aside to cool.
  • Spray two baking sheets (10×15) with pan spray and then line with parchment paper fitted to pan.
  • With the whip attachment on a stand mixer, whip egg whites to soft peaks then sprinkle in sugar and salt – whip to stiff peaks. Set aside.
  • Sift almond flour and powdered sugar together into the bowl of a stand mixer.
  • Add whole eggs to the almond flour mixture and whisk on stand mixer for 3 to 5 minutes, until lightened in color and doubled in volume.
  • Sift in flour and fold in gently.
  • Add 1/3 of the meringue to the almond flour mixture and fold in. Add another 1/3 and fold in and then add the last 1/3 and fold until incorporated.
  • Pour butter into the bowl around the edges and fold in to the mixture.
  • Pour batter into parchment lined baking sheets and bake at 425℉/218℃ for 8 to 11 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and cool on baking sheet for 3 or 4 minutes then turn out onto a cooling rack.
  • Cut each sponge 9 ½ inches long. The parts that are cut off will fit together to become the third layer.
  • Make the Raspberry Puree
  • Put raspberries and Drambuie in a small saucepan. Heat until very soft, stirring often.
  • Strain through a mesh sieve to remove the seeds. Set aside to cool.
  • Make the Buttercream
  • Put egg yolks in bowl of stand mixer.
  • Put sugar and water in a medium saucepan. Stir with finger to moisten the sugar.
  • Whip egg yolks with the whisk attachmenton the stand mixer while heating sugar and water to 238 ℉ /114 ℃ .
  • Slowly pour sugar mix into the egg yolks with the mixer on medium.
  • Whisk until cool, about 5 or 6 minutes.
  • Switch to paddle attachment and add butter, a small piece at a time, until incorporated.
  • Add 3 Tablespoons cooled fruit puree and mix in. Taste and add more puree as needed. Remove about 1/5 cup of buttercream if you are also making macarons to use as the filling. Stir in the cut raspberries.
  • Make the simple Syrup
  • Put water and honey in small saucepan with the spices and simmer until reduce by half. Remove from heat and add the Drambuie. stir. Set aside to cool.
  • Make the Ganache
  • Chop the bittersweet chocolate into small pieces and place in a heat proof bowl.
  • Heat the cream in the microwave for 30 seconds, stir. Heat for another 30 seconds. Pour over the chopped chocolate and immediately cover with plastic wrap. Let sit for 5 minutes.
  • Remove the cover and stir until the chocolate and cream are completely incorporated and smooth. Set aside to cool, stirring ocassionally.
  • Make the Glaze AFTER the cake is assembled and chillled!
  • Chop the chocolate into small pieces and put in a heat proof bowl.
  • Heat the cream and corn syrup in a small saucepan or in the microwave until hot but do not boil!
  • Pour cream over chocolate, cover with cling film for 5 minutes.
  • Remove cling film and stir until melted and smooth.
  • Add gel coloring and stir. Set aside to cool.
  • Pour glaze on cake when the cake is chilled and the glaze is about 90℉/33℃ and even out with an off set spatula. Chill then trim the edgesto display neat sides.
  • Temper the White Chocolate
  • Chop white chocolate into small pieces.
  • Melt 2/3 of the chocolate in the top of a double boiler to 113℉/45℃ . Immediately remove from heat and add remaining chocolate. Stir to melt the added chocolate and stir often to cool the hot chocolate.
  • Cool to 77℉/25℃ degrees.
  • Put back on heat very briefly to 82℉/27℃ .
  • Spread on acetate and curl the acetate sheet as desired. Tape or clip to maintain desired shape.
  • Set aside to cool. Freeze if needed before using.
  • Assemble the Opera Cake
  • Spread melted white chocolate on the bottom of one of the Jaconde sponges. Freeze for 5 minutes to set the chocolate.
  • Lay the cake on a rimmed baking sheet with the chocolate side down. Brush with Drambuie simple syrup.
  • Spread on half of the buttercream and spread evenly with an offset spatula.
  • Layer the two smaller pieces of jaconde that were cut off the larger sheets. They should fit together snuggly and one will be a little too long. Cut off the excess.
  • Brush jaconde with Dramuie simple syrup. Spread on the ganache evenly with an offset spatula.
  • Add the last layer of jaconde. Brush with Drambuie syrup. Spread on the remaining buttercream and ensure that the top is very smooth. Chill for one hour.
  • Make the glaze and allow to cool to 90℉. Pour the glaze on the cake, spread with an offset spatula. Add more glaze as needed to cover the entire cake. Chill for 30 minutes.
  • Trim the edges of the opera cake and make sure that all sides are neat and clean.
  • Place chosen decor on top or sides and serve.


  1. Norma Matheson

    For the sugar syrup you have listed two amounts of ground cardamon should one be another spice.

    • Norma – thanks so much for catching that error! I have corrected the recipe. It should be 1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric after the cardamom!

  2. Tanya, I think this Opera is perfect – I like the proportions between filling and cake, I like the color contrast, the mirror glaze and the decorations – very ambitious to plan the mini-macs for the tent, but – it was semi-final, so I think it was really the time to push the limits.

    Beautiful cake!

    • Thanks, Sally! I figured that the oven was only used for a few minutes at the beginning of the challenge for the jaconde. Macs come together pretty quickly and then I could have a second baked element. But, I’ll be honest, I don’t think the tempered white chocolate would have happened in the tent! It was HOT that day!

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