Hazelnut Apricot Opéra Cake: A Daring Baker Challenge

I’m officially a daring baker!
I’m extremely proud of this cake. It’s more than a cake to me, it’s a milestone.

I’ve loved to bake since I was a little kid, but only really got into it in college. Due to a variety of medical issues, I was far too exhausted to cook or bake for the last 3 or 4 years, and I had so many allergies and intolerances that it seemed impossible to bake treats worth eating.

Slowly, things have changed, and I’ve gotten back to baking. Even when I can’t eat everything I make, I still have the joy of creating something new, the opportunity to experiment and the delight of returning to the things I love to do. And so here’s my cake, a beautiful gluten, dairy, egg, soy, corn and sugar* free creation. If you do agave instead of honey, it’s vegan, too. Not only was I able to do it, but it was delicious, too. It’s the start of things to come, and I’m grateful for one of many new beginnings. And we even got to have it for my birthday!

When I saw the Daring Baker Challenge, my first thought was to make a cake for other people. There were too many eggs, so much sugar, butter, cream…where to even begin to adapt it? Then I remembered Susan O’ Brien’s Almond torte from Sugar free, gluten free cooking (great book!!). I ended up changing most of the flavors, proportions, leaveners, shape, size, etc., but it reminded me that this mission was, indeed, possible.

My final creation was a Hazelnut Opéra cake, with layers of rosewater/honey “buttercream” and fresh apricots topped with a hazelnut white chocolate glaze. Obviously, due to my many restrictions, I ventured quite a bit from the recipe, though I kept the spirit as well as I could. The cake itself was marvelous, though I will reduce the liquid slightly when I make it next, as I have listed in the recipe below. The buttercream worked in the end, but oh my. I had to work and rework it so many times that I don’t quite know WHAT was in the final version. The base was coconut milk, with some honey, and rosewater, and it was thickened with sweet rice flour, coconut flour, chestnut flour, coconut oil and cocoa butter. Many thanks to Sheltie girl at Gluten a go go for her coaching.

The cake and buttercream were sugar free, but the glaze was not due to the fact that my hot bowl of cocoa butter took an impromptu flying leap across the kitchen. (I must say, btw, cocoa butter is surprisingly hard to clean off cabinets.) So I did use decorating chips, but I have no doubt that the cocoa butter glaze would have worked just as well.

I wanted to use blanched hazelnuts, so I roasted them. However, I discovered very quickly that hazels turn to butter very quickly…and now have a jar of super yummy hazelnut butter, so no complaints here. It’s probably much easier to use raw hazel meal or you have to be extremely careful and chill the nuts before grinding.

To see more gorgeous cakes from this amazing group of bakers, check out the Daring Baker Blogroll . And, of course, thanks to this month’s hosts Lis and Ivonne,for a great challenge.

Hazelnut cake
1 cup finely ground hazelnut meal (I used half roasted, half raw)
1 ¾ cup sorghum flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
1 cup apricot nectar
1/2 cup apple sauce
1/4 cup agave nectar + 1 T honey or all agave for vegan version
1/3 cup hazel nut milk
1/4 oil
1 teaspoon rosewater
¼ teaspoon cardamom
½ teaspoon hazelnut (or vanilla) extract

Coconut milk, sweet rice flour, rosewater, coconut flour, coconut oil, cocoa butter. That’s about as much as I can tell ya.

.5 oz cocoa butter
¼ cup decorator (dairy free, but like white chocolate) chips*
A few drops of hazelnut extract
* these do have sugar, I would imagine cocoa butter with a little agave would work just as well.

Preheat oven to 350.

Line the bottoms of round 6 inch cake pans with parchment or wax paper (or for a non-opera cake, use an 8X8 square pan) Grease sides of the pans.

Combine dry ingredients and wet ingredients in separate bowls. Mix until just combined and put in preheated oven for 40 minutes or until a tooth pick comes out clean. You may need to cover the cakes if they brown too much on top.

Cool on wire rack for 5-10 minutes and turn out onto a plate. Cut the cakes in half for your layers (you will have one left over for snacking)

Make the buttercream: I can’t give great advice on this one, but allow your frosting to chill completely before figuring out if it’ll work for you. My original batch would have been fine if I was just patient…not one of my strengths.

Assemble the cake: first cake, then buttercream, then apricots, and repeat! I would not recommend putting the buttercream on top of the top layer, I did, and it ran a little.

Hazelnut glaze: Melt the cocoa butter and chips in the microwave for 30 second intervals, stirring each time. It should be melted in 1 minute or 1 and a half minutes. Add in extract of you choice. When slightly cooled, pour on the cake.


About Cheryl Harris

Life played a funny trick on me. I've studied nutrition for years, and much to my surprise, found out that I could manage many of my health issues via diet. I've been GF for years, and I've got a bunch of allergies and sensitivities. But it definitely doesn't keep me from cooking, baking and enjoying my food. Thanks for stopping by.
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29 Responses to Hazelnut Apricot Opéra Cake: A Daring Baker Challenge

  1. Natalie says:

    Aha! Cheryl is also a daring baker! This looks lovely! Way to be gluten free!

  2. Pingback: Lemon Opera Cake : Gluten Free Mommy

  3. good job making it gluten free and a two-fer with the nut butter. yeah.

  4. Vegan_Noodle says:

    Oh it turned out beautifully Cheryl!! Perfect for your birthday. Congrats on finished your first Daring Bakers Challenge! Hopefully we’ll get a chance to chat again at another bake along 🙂

  5. VeggieGirl says:

    Oh my goodness, I LOVE your take on this month’s Daring Bakers Challenge, with the hazelnuts & apricots – yum!! And congratulations for becoming a Daring Baker :0)

  6. Hannah says:

    I’m so impressed with your cake, I wouldn’t even dream of taking on this challenge gluten-free. It came out so beautiful… An excellent first challenge, if I do say so myself!

  7. Lynn says:

    Congratulations Cheryl! I am impressed that you managed to make something so yummy with all the allergies. It was loads of fun meeting you over google chat during the first session of the bake-along. The apricots sound delicious too!

  8. Wow, very impressive DB debut!

  9. Deb Schiff says:

    That’s just marvelous! Congratulations and keep up the great work!

  10. Sheltie Girl says:

    Cheryl – You did a fabulous job on your cake. It looks wonderful and so very tasty. Thank you for all the kind words. Welcome to the Daring Bakers!!

    Natalie @ Gluten a Go Go

  11. Esther says:

    wow looks great and you did wonderfully with a recipe which was quite a challenge to change that much but I do love it as it was a cake you could stay true to the spirit of even when almost everything changed about the recipe.
    Welcome to the Daring Bakers – Alternative division 🙂

  12. Christine says:

    Great job making it gluten free! Welcome to DB!

  13. Maybelle: yes, the hazelnut butter is an awesome bonus.

    Thank you ALL for your kind words! I appreciate your support and I’m delighted both to be a Daring Baker and a Daring Alternative baker. This was great fun!

  14. Samantha says:

    Wow – congratulations on what looks to be a very delicious vegan cake! 🙂

  15. Maggie says:

    I love the finished cake and all of the low sugar variations you have for the recipes. Where do you find dairy-free candy melts?

  16. Maggie–
    I found them at a kosher store, and they were dairy free. I think Allergy grocer.com sells them.

  17. Your cake is stunning and looks absolutely delicious – I love apricots…awesome job, congrats! 🙂

  18. Toni says:


    What a beautiful cake and wonderful picture, Food magazine quality, looking yummy.

    I like your description of measuring dry ingredients then resting, then chopping nuts then resting.

    Thanks for sharing.


  19. Annie says:


    That cake looks absolutely divine!! Can’t wait to try it out myself!

  20. Jan says:

    Gorgeous cake!

    My daughter has a nut allergy – any ideas for modifying for the hazelnut part?

    Would love to try making this cake –

    Many thanks, Janis

  21. Janis,
    I’m a “daring baker” and other DBs across the world, actually, made a similar cake. I used my own recipe because I was avoiding so many things, but I know some of the other DBs are nut allergic, and likely have a similar cakes. The DB blogroll is here http://daringbakersblogroll.blogspot.com/ (Scroll down to the bottom for allergies)
    If I had to try it, I’d sub a coarsely ground, high protein flour, like buckwheat or oats, maybe.

  22. Barbara says:

    congrats on your first challenge! It looks delish.

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  24. Shari says:

    Your hazelnut and apricot opera cake sounds delicious. As does your hazelnut butter.
    Shari@Whisk: a food blog

  25. Joanna says:

    I love the idea of using hazelnuts and apricots in your opera cake, I’m sure it tasted divine. The presentation of your cake is so cute, I wish I was that creative… I basically stuck to the given recipe 😛 (not that daring I guess). Congrats on completing you first DB challenge!

  26. Hazelnut Apricot Opéra Cake: A Daring Baker Challenge seems quite interesting – thanks for information R.Kraven

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