Hosting an upscale private dinner in anticipation for one of the biggest events ever staged, Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour, MD of Fresh Catering Peter McCluskey shows us the gelato opera cake, a recipe especially designed for this magical evening.

"When you have such a beautiful dish created especially for Opera Australia’s night of nights, then it’s only fair that you serve it with the country’s grand cru, numero uno, tip-top sweet wine from De Bortoli. A dish like this displays numerous flavours and textures and that’s where this wine comes into its own, because it can match that complexity blow for blow: caramel, orange blossom, ripe citrus, peach and apricot - there’s just so much going on. The acidity helps to keep the sweetness of both dish and wine in check. Sit back, enjoy the music and savour the flavour." - Dan Coward






Skill level

Average: 4.7 (3 votes)


Brandy syrup

  • 150 ml sugar
  • 150 ml water
  • 1 tbsp brandy

Opera cake

  • 1 quantity of sponge
  • 400 ml coffee ice-cream
  • 400 ml chocolate sorbet
  • 400 ml hazelnut ice-cream
  • 50 g cocoa powder

Dried strawberries

  • ½ punnet strawberries, washed, dried, sliced thinly
  • 50 g icing sugar

Sugared pistachios

  • 200 g shelled pistachios
  • 100 ml sugar syrup (half sugar, half water)

Chocolate soil

  • 150 g caster sugar
  • 150 g almond meal
  • 100 g cocoa powder
  • 5 g salt
  • 65 g unsalted butter, softened

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Drink De Bortoli Noble One Botrytis Semillon 2008, Riverina, NSW

To make the brandy syrup, place sugar and water into a small saucepan. Bring to the boil and simmer until sugar is dissolved. Add the brandy.

To make the cake, split the sponge in half horizontally, and cut to the size of the cake tin. Line a 7 cm x 32 cm cake tin with baking paper.

Place the top piece of the sponge, cut side facing up, in the bottom of the cake tin. Brush the brandy syrup over the sponge evenly.

Lay the coffee ice-cream evenly, place in the freezer and allow to set.

Repeat this process with the chocolate sorbet and then the hazelnut ice-cream.

Place the last layer of sponge, cut side facing down, on top of the ice-cream. Brush with the remaining syrup, wrap the tin with cling wrap and place in the freezer until set.

To make the dried strawberries, preheat the oven to 90°C. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Place the strawberries down and dust with icing sugar. Bake in the oven for 2½ hours. When cooled, peel off and place in an airtight container.

To make the sugared pistachios, increase the oven to 130°C. Place the pistachios in a bowl and pour the sugar syrup over. Line a baking tray with baking paper and pour the nut mix evenly over the tray. Bake in the oven, stirring from time to time, until the water from the syrup has evaporated. This will take approximately 45 minutes. Take out and allow to cool. Place in an airtight container.

To make the chocolate soil, increase the oven to 160°C. Place all the ingredients into a food processor and blitz until you have a crumble texture. Line a baking tray with baking paper and spread the crumble evenly over the tray. Bake for 20–25 minutes. Allow to cool before serving.

When ready to serve, take the cake out of the tin and dust with cocoa powder, using a fine sieve. Cut to the desired size with a warm knife. Assemble on serving plates with all elements.