Marfigs' Munchies

Adventures in vegan eats and feats

Rustic orange opera cake {vegan + gluten-free}


Ta da! Ok, can I get my strut on for finally making an opera cake? Please? Marfigs style, of course, but so silly delicious that I had a hard time slicing this up without eating everything, because there’s few pleasures in life as satisfying as making a layer cake (for food nerds, I guess). This is a little teaser for the kind of ridiculousness you can expect in my upcoming ebook (which still needs a title, tears!) because there’s a sneaky secret ingredient which calls for smugness. And cake!rustictopsplashOk, full disclosure time: this cake is “rustic” because I ran out of fluffy fine GF flours and decided to supplement with polenta, which I’ve found actually works pretty awesomely for cakes and helping with the fullness factor which lets you enjoy a small slice without reaching for twenty more (unless you’re recipe testing, in which case it’s legit).cakeside slicedrusticcakeI came across the opera cake a few years ago and was rather mesmerized by the description (coffee infused and soaked cake? Hubba hubba), but decided to take a different spin on things with a focus on an orange undertone to compliment the chocolate overload, since one of my favourite food combos as a kid was jaffa biscuits. Plus I have a healthy stock of NuNaturals NuStevia Liquid Orange lying around (though I’m on my last bottle of cocoa mint syrup!) and this is really the cake for fruity flavours. I know lots of you are swanking it up into spring, so this is definitely appropriate for either that or for winter blues here in the south. 

twoslicesRustic orange opera cake (technique modified and based on this version): serves 8



  • ½ cup almond flour
  • ½ cup brown rice flour
  • 1 cup polenta
  • 2 vegan eggs (boxed powdered vegan eggs)
  • 1 cup non-dairy milk
  • ½ cup carrot purée
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp cardamom
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Orange syrup:

  • ¾ cup water
  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 – 3 tsp orange essence

Chocolate buttercream:

  • 1 cup steamed sliced sweet potato
  • 1/3 cup + 1 TBSP nut butter
  • 4 TBSP cacao powder
  • 6 TBSP agave syrup

Chocolate ganache:

  • ¼ cup coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup cacao powder
  • 2 TBSP agave syrup


  1. Preheat to 180C and line a baking tray.
  2. Blend your pre-made vegan eggs, vanilla milk, purée and vinegar. Add to mixed flour, baking powder and spices, then pour into tray and bake for 20 minutes.
  3. Heat your water, sugar and orange extract to boiling, then simmer for 10 minutes until it forms a syrup.
  4. Blend your sweet potatoes, nut butter, agave and cacao until smooth.
  5. Once baked cut into 9 rectangles (you’ll be keeping the one extra slice for science).
  6. Pour the syrup over the cake slices evenly (still in the pan).
  7. Heat your coconut oil and syrup in the mircowave for 30 seconds, then whisk in the cacao powder and let it cool a bit.
  8. Let the cake cool slightly before removing two slices and flipping upside down.
  9. Paint the bottom with a bit of ganache and place in the freezer for a minute to firm up.
  10. Flip over and layer on a dollop of buttercream, followed by a paint of ganache on each tower.
  11. Continue until you top with a thicker layer of chocolate ganache.
  12. Place in fridge for 30 minutes until the ganache has firmed up.
  13. Using a non-serated knife, saw downwards like a loaf of bread so the layers show clearly if the ganache has drizzled over the sides. Wipe the knife between slicing.
  14. Slice into 8 rectangles and serve chilled with some coffee.
  15. Store in an air-tight tupperware in the fridge.

rustictop1Man-thing had just gotten home when I called him into the kitchen to eat this cake, which has been his job for the past few weeks as I’ve been recipe testing and what not, and can’t eat everything myself. I was cuddling with our foster cats when he burst into the cat room and told me that I need to stop torturing him with all the delicious food, because it was too much for him to handle :p Even the bravest, most munchie-ridden man cannot withstand daily cakes, rusks, desserts and other decadent treats I guess without some consequences. I commiserated and then evil-laughed inside my head, because it’s always so giddy-fying to get the Man-thing seal of approval on so many dishes. 

rustictop2Lovely, sweet but not overly so, and just plain ol’ awesome. The crumbliness which the polenta brings to the cake works pretty great with the buttercream + ganache, and it’s fast becoming a favourite flour replacement for when I’m low on stock. I’ve got an entire KG of wholewheat flour and rye flour, but for now experimenting with gluten-free options without including a thousand starches is pretty fun. I really need a lab coat or something for the kitchen instead of an apron, because I’ve already got the mad cackle and crazy scientist hair mastered.

bittenoutrusticcakeAlso, now I can tick another item off of my to-do list! Hurrah! At some point I’ll experiment again with real fluffy flours and make it a crisp white sponge cake, but I do love my wild colours, and I am super excited to have snuck in some carrots, which is the theme or centerpiece of my upcoming ebook. Apart from the orange-y gooness though, the amazingly simple but rich buttercream is my favourite, as in I was sad that I had measured out the exact quantity required because I could easily have welcomed an excuse to eat a tub of the stuff. YUM!bittenoutrusticcake1Anyhow, I’m booked for a super non fun procedure on Tuesday after finally meeting with my specialist yesterday to figure out what on earth is wrong with me, so in prep I’m going to try a bit of a liquid diet until then starting tomorrow to make things easier, so today is all about indulgence and eating lovely starchy foods with relish. 😀

Author: Marfigs

Ahoy, I’m Margaux! History teacher and freelance editor; wench to my Man-thing; volunteer at a cat shelter; and handmaiden to our kitsy cats, Gatsby, Freyja and Atlas. This blog is dedicated to vegan food, occasionally overthrown by pictures of foster kittens and other fluffy creatures. I love sharing ideas and recipes, so don't be shy: stop by and say hi!

11 thoughts on “Rustic orange opera cake {vegan + gluten-free}

  1. Pingback: Beany citrus zucchini {vegan MOFO} | Marfigs' Munchies

  2. Oh a polenta cake that is suitable for a dairy free diet too, yeh. It looks fab.


    • Thank you! 😀 I’m trying to make as many allergy-free recipes as possible (thank goodness for tahini and the like!), so it’s magic to still have cake after crossing so many things off!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This just sounds incredible! The polenta and carrot puree….orange genius! I have to make this soon!


    • Yay thank you! I love carrot purée – even if there was no ebook it makes for one of the most versatile ingredients I’ve ever worked with 🙂 Let me know if you try it out!


  4. Looks super delicious.
    They should give your own TV show!
    Good luck for Tuesday.
    Love your new photo.


    • Dankie Marmiet! 🙂 Haha there would have to be a lot of censoring for the occasional foul language when the cats try to interfere with my baking. Skoon ma was getting tired of my old pic so this is hopefully a bit better – my hair is at least semi-combed 😉


  5. This looks great!!! I hope your appointment goes well on Tuesday & that you get some answers!


    • Thank you! I had to share the majority of it otherwise it would have all ended up on my stomach :p I hope so too – it’s a pretty invasive, unpleasant business but if it means getting to the bottom of things I’ll undertake my liquid diet sulk-free for few days 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. The polenta in this vegan cake makes more attractive, lovely! 🙂


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