Chocolate-Coffee Milkshakes

If you’re thinking that you’ve been ‘set up’ by the previous post for Chocolate Sherbet, je suis coupable. (I am guilty.) You likely know Adam Ried as the man who obsessively tests equipment and recipes on America’s Test Kitchen. He was also an editor at Cook’s Illustrated for ten years. So when I saw his new book devoted to milkshakes, because I always have a freezer full of ice creams, sherbets, and sorbets, I was delighted to have a fool-proof collection of well-tested recipes—and my blender has been begging for mercy ever since.

Because he’s super-sweet, I asked Adam if he’d like to share a recipe from Thoroughly Modern Milkshakes, his all-new collection of milkshake basics, plus everything from Malted Caramel to Mango, Chile, and Lime. I was delighted when he agreed.

So get out those blenders, and welcome Adam Ried!.. dl


Shake de l’Opéra (Chocolate-coffee Milkshakes)


Quick….. what leapt to your mind when you read that word? For the culture vultures among us, maybe it was Monteverdi. Or Mozart. Or Wagner.

For me, it would be chocolate (which, admittedly, often comes to mind no matter what words I’m reading), followed immediately by coffee, and then almond.

This winning flavor trifecta defines gâteau de l’Opéra, an ever-present stalwart of pâtisseries from one end of Paris to the other. Most gâteaux de l’Opéra hew pretty close to this alluring formula: thin layers of almond cake, soaked in coffee syrup, alternated with layers of coffee buttercream and chocolate ganache, all hidden under a cloak of glistening chocolate glaze.

So you know what you’re dealing with, the name “l’Opéra” is usually written across the top of the cake, also in chocolate. The almond is the master stroke here, because it gently underscores the myriad sweet, fruity, and nutty flavor notes in the chocolate itself while balancing some of the bitterness of the coffee.

ice cream scoops blender

Wondering why les gâteaux should have all the fun, I poached the combo in question to flavor a milkshake— to very nice effect if I may say so. And that was just the beginning. Finding myself on something of a blender bender, I raided many corners of the food world for milkshake inspirations, resulting in the 100 recipes that comprise my book, Thoroughly Modern Milkshakes.

Jokingly referred to (by me, and friends who are willing to humor me since I ply them regularly with shakes) as “the world’s preeminent treatise on the critical topic of milkshakes,” the book sets forth to do the very important work of both dusting off the old classic shakes like vanilla, chocolate, coffee, and strawberry, and sprucing them up with simple, delectable, and unexpected flavor twists.

pouring a shake

L’Opéra is a fine example. At its heart, it’s a simple chocolate shake. Add a drop of almond extract and a little espresso powder, and you’ve transformed plain chocolate into something new, surprising, and – I hope — intriguing.

The chocolate portion of the program is brought to you by chocolate sorbet rather than the usual syrup. For generations chocolate syrup has done a perfectly lovely job of flavoring chocolate shakes, but have you tasted a spoonful of the stuff straight up? Helloooooo corn syrup. Chocolate is but a distant afterthought. Chocolate sorbet, on the other hand, packs a turbocharged cocoa wallop, and that intensity comes through full throttle in a milkshake. In fact, sorbet – chocolate and otherwise — is central to my milkshake modernization program because, regardless of the flavor, sorbet blazes past syrup in terms of flavor intensity, and you can taste that in the shakes.

Instant espresso powder covers the coffee angle. Though I wouldn’t dream of using the stuff to make an actual hot coffee beverage (espresso? Methinks not. I tried it once, and there is no need to go there again), yet neither would I make a batch of basic brownies without it. Or a flourless chocolate cake. Or chocolate mousse. Or truffles. Or………

Whether you use enough to actually create a coffee flavor depends on our tastes. In baking and custards and such I use just a little to pick up and extend the bittersweet, toasty, earthiness of the chocolate, adding complexity, but not a strong coffee flavor.


Does the Shake de l’Opéra trump the original gâteau? Bien sûr, non! Without a doubt the cake will forever have a place in my heart. But for a quick, frosty, summertime fix, blending beats baking.

Chocolate-Coffee Almond Milk Shake
Print Recipe
Makes about 3 1/2 cups 2 milkshakes
Adapted from Thoroughly Modern Milkshakes (Norton) by Adam Reid Medaglia D’Oro is a popular brand of instant espresso powder that you can often find in gourmet and Italian specialty shops. Tread lightly with it, and with the almond extract, especially in dishes that don’t see any heat. Almond extract is stronger than you may expect. It’s an unmistakable flavor that’s out-loud-and-proud, unlike vanilla extract, which blends into the scenery easily.
1/2 cup (125ml) cold whole or low-fat milk
2 1/2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
4 medium scoops French vanilla ice cream (about 1 pint/340g), softened until just melty at the edges
4 medium scoops chocolate sorbet (about 1 pint/340g) or chocolate sherbet, softened until just melty at the edges
1. Place the milk, espresso powder, and almond extract in a blender and blend to mix thoroughly, about 15 seconds.
2. Add the slightly-softened ice cream and sorbet and pulse several times to begin breaking the scoops up. With the blender motor off, use a flexible spatula to mash the mixture down onto the blender blades.
3. Continue pulsing, stopping, and mashing until the mixture is well blended, thick, and moves easily in the blender jar. Pour into a chilled glasses, and serve at once.

David Notes: Merci Adam! This was amazing and tasted exactly like the famed gâteau Opéra. I wasn’t planning on drinking the whole blenderful, but sitting on my roof in the heat, after a few sips, the rest of it went down just too-easily. I was powerless to resist.

Although Adam’s recipe calls for Chocolate Sorbet, I’m sure he’d agree that it’d be fine to use Chocolate Sherbet, as I did. I also used instant coffee, because instant espresso isn’t easily available here, and tripled the quantity. Also, depending on which ice cream you use, if you find the shake too thick, feel free to add another splash of milk, or a bit of coffee or espresso to the blender.

Thoroughly Modern Milkshakes (Amazon) (Adam’s Website)


  • Marlowe
    July 2, 2009 3:20am

    Is 9:15 AM too early to try this? Hmmmmmmm ….

    I love the opéra pastries, but they seem to have become much harder to find in Paris pastry shops. I’m not sure why …. sort of like a good Tropézienne, where I only know of one place in Paris that does a delicious one.

  • July 2, 2009 3:33am

    Hi David ! Hi Marlowe !
    if you want to find a good Opera you should go to Dalloyau ! (I think they invented the Opera, by the way !)
    but if you could give us your address for the Tropézienne… it’s one of my madeleine de Proust…

  • Sarah
    July 2, 2009 3:57am

    I always enjoy seeing Adam on the equipment corner segments on America’s Test Kitchen. What a great summer read to follow up The Sweet Life in Paris.

    Best milkshake of my life happened when I was 14. The Hotel Negresco used to have a small outdoor patio with less than 30 tables all facing the Promenade Anglais. I was on a school trip and this seemed incredibly chic to us. We all got dressed up, and went there very late, around midnight, and ordered ice cream. Their raspberry shake in that lovely place where we could gaze at the stars and listen to some guy play Hotel California on a guitar by the beach rocked my teenage world. I shared it with a dreamy boy, maybe that enhanced the memory of the shake too ;-) Whatever, I never forgot Nice, that night’s walk holding the boy’s hand along the Cote d’Azur, or the delicious pretty pink raspberry milkshake. I even have pictures, I’m going to go find them now.

    Thanks for another fantastic post and all the memories they bring. Truly sweet David.

  • Marlowe
    July 2, 2009 5:43am

    Jérôme: It’s funny, when I think of an Opéra, I always think of Dalloyau!

    For the Tropézienne, I go to Stéphane Secco in the 7th: 20, rue Jean Nicot (between the rue St-Dominique and the rue de l’Université, it’s the former Poujauran bakery). There is another location in the 15th at 75, Bd de Grenelle. I’m eating my way through Secco and haven’t hit a dud yet (great bread, too).

  • Laina
    July 2, 2009 5:57am

    I love L’Opera!
    It is the best thing.
    Chocolate. Almonds. Coffee.
    What else is there in life?

  • July 2, 2009 7:26am

    I didn’t realize it until I read this post, but this is exactly what I want RIGHT NOW. Thanks for sharing, Adam. (And thanks for getting Adam to share, David).

  • July 2, 2009 8:57am

    “Opera.” For me, it was coffee first, and chocolate not too far behind. So fun to have Adam as a guest writer here. And oooh so glad he shared this recipe. Sounds delectably perfect, and impossible not to finish off an entire blender. Besides, if it’s just you, the sun and the shake – what’s to get in the way ?! I’ve got the first two already (well me, not you!), better get to work on the 3rd….

  • July 2, 2009 9:00am

    Mais bien sure, why not an Opera milkshake?
    Any combo with chocolate and good dose of Espresso would be fantastic.

  • July 2, 2009 9:01am

    Mais bien sure, why not an Opera milkshake?
    Any combo with chocolate and good dose of Espresso would be fantastic.

  • July 2, 2009 10:56am

    This sounds delicious! I made a batch of chocolate sherbet yesterday but it went fast so I might have to get the ice cream maker out again to make this.

    Adam’s segments are my favorite on America’s Test Kitchen. I love the advice and how they carefully test all the options.

  • July 2, 2009 11:43am

    Really, I MUST learn not to read your site before breakfast. All my thoughts of healthy eating, right out the window. Bye bye fruit and yogurt, and oh, helllloooo opera shake!

  • July 2, 2009 11:48am

    This is exactly what I am craving! Thank goodness I have your chocolate sherbet in the freezer.

  • July 2, 2009 12:00pm

    I just started reading your book, The Sweet Life in Paris, and I can’t put it down! In fact, I only took a few moments to find your blog and tell you how much I am enjoying it! Now, I must pull myself away from this delicious post and dive into your world again! Thank you!

  • July 2, 2009 12:53pm

    Ooh – this looks so great. I can’t wait to try, and check out the milkshake book!

  • Adrienne
    July 2, 2009 12:59pm

    currently counting down the hours until i can leave work, buy all the necessary ingredients, make this wonderful looking concoction and think of a reason to give my husband as to why i’m having a milkshake for dinner (it’s 10am in California, so 7 hrs to go!)

  • Tags
    July 2, 2009 12:59pm

    Hi Adam, thanks for this and all your great work with Cook’s Illustrated and America’s Test Kitchen.

    Are there any recipes for a layered milkshake (like a Pousse-café) in your book?

  • July 2, 2009 1:11pm

    Thanks Adam, for the recipe…sounds amazing. I’m a huge Cook’s Illustrated fan; it’s geek-cook HEAVEN.

    David, my rear end has a bone to pick with you…if you don’t quit posting these amazing recipe it’s gonna grow as big as India!

  • July 2, 2009 2:42pm

    I’m not sure if it’s sad or just amusing that the first thing I think of when I hear the word ‘Opera’ is also the lovely cake and not the music. That milkshake looks so delicious. I think I’ll have to try that soon. Maybe even this weekend…

  • Lisa W
    July 2, 2009 4:15pm

    Wow. I guess I know what I’ll be making this weekend. Looks fabulous.

  • Susan
    July 2, 2009 4:23pm

    David, thanks for hosting Adam and his new book here with a recipe! Wow..the Perfect Scoop and Modern Milkshakes, what a perfect tandem read! Now I have to get Adam’s book, too. Now maybe I can find out why (I hope) that blender milkshakes always have that curdled icy separation stuff in them (that’s so unappealing to me) and has a remedy for it. Does the book address that?

  • July 2, 2009 4:59pm

    Looks delicious!
    I got a copy of Fine Cooking because I heard you had a nice ice cream article in it. It’s perfect, just perfect.

  • Doolz
    July 2, 2009 7:03pm

    Could we please have your recipe for the Gâteau de l’Opéra. Your trucs are just the best and makes it all a breeze.

  • nick
    July 2, 2009 8:41pm

    I am on a horrible low-cal diet – so…. mixed skim milk, good cocoa powder, espresso powder, 1/2 pure tsp almond extract, 1 TBSP splenda, 1 cup of ice cubes and blended – might have been reminiscent of L’Opera – better when I added a few drops of Kahlua!! Not too ‘illegal’ – made me feel not quite so deprived!! Wish I could join you in full! I sure do miss ice cream and sherbet!!! Thanks for the Memories!!

  • Jezebel
    July 3, 2009 12:29am

    One need not use instant espresso or coffee powder, which is a horrifying aberration if ever there was, for milkshakes. Make espresso a little ahead, pour into an ice cube tray, and throw it in the freezer. Every iced espresso cube will roughly equal a shot of espresso; add a cube for every two-three scoops of ice cream.

  • July 3, 2009 12:46am

    This looks like fun. Yum!

  • Vidya
    July 3, 2009 4:06am

    Huh. Actually when I see Opera, the native Sydneysider in me immediately thinks of the Sydney Opera House. I love a good shake, but I find that most you buy nowadays are just glasses of very cold chocolate milk. Using heaps of ice cream and sorbet and very little milk like in this recipe seems to be the way to go.

  • Vidya
    July 3, 2009 4:07am

    Huh. Actually when I see Opera, the native Sydneysider in me immediately thinks of the Sydney Opera House. I love a good shake, but I find that most you buy nowadays are just glasses of very cold chocolate milk. Using heaps of ice cream and sorbet and very little milk like in this recipe seems to be the way to go.

  • July 3, 2009 8:18am

    I am salivating just looking at this – and it’s 8 am. Delicious.

  • Mariam.
    July 3, 2009 9:08am

    “I also used instant coffee, because instant espresso isn’t easily available here”

    David you might want to try Nescafe Espresso – it appeared over here in Portugal roughly half a year ago, this is the link to the actual picture in a major local supermarket: Nescafe espresso

    My point is, if it is available over here I am sure you will be able to get it easily in Paris.

  • Josephine
    July 3, 2009 2:46pm

    This looks fantastic–I can’t wait to try it.

    Also, I just received your book, David. I planned to save it for my beach reading (vacation starts in one week!) but I really want to read it now!

  • July 3, 2009 10:29pm

    Decadent. Can’t wait to try it.

  • chocolate by the sea
    July 4, 2009 1:32am

    hmmmm Medaglia D’oro ? Wow thought I saw that in my kitchen (what are the chances of that ? it is a sign!) so I jumped up to see and yes a can of Medaglia D’Oro Caffe’ espresso- just one little problem how do I know if it is instant or the kind you must cook? This brings up past dramatic memories way back decades ago as a child growing up in Napa Valley- mom asks me to make her a cup of instant coffee she is in a terrible hurry probably getting ready for a dinner for 10 or 20 people, anyway I boil the water, get a nice scoop of coffee out of the coffee can, mix it up, It looks pretty nice, smells like coffee to me. So I serve it and oh my quel horreur !….I guess it was the kind that needed to go in the coffee maker! This is why I leave the coffee making to the professional baristas ! and my husband is on a flight and I can not ask him about the product for another 6 hours. See my dilemma…
    I will now turn to my can of Pierre Marcolini chocolate chips, and can of Maison Du Chocolat poudre de cacao and make brownies to go with my vanilla ice cream until I have further instruction on the espresso .
    *Note to the health conscience – the shake is a healthy breakfast :espresso (you were having that anyway) the milk is good balance of carbs, proteins, calcium and vitamin D .Ice cream this is your calcium bonus and the chocolate=theobromine and the antioxidant effects.

  • July 4, 2009 4:02am

    chocolate by the sea: It should say on the jar ‘instant’, meaning it doesn’t get brewed (or extracted) but simply dissolved in water.

    Jezebel: I don’t use much instant coffee in my desserts, but wanted to let Adam stay true to his recipe. That said, there are decent instant coffees out there (I hear the new Starbucks VIA is good, but haven’t tried it) but I did meet someone who was a life-long Peet’s coffee addict who swore that the aforementioned Nescafe Espresso powder was almost as good as the real thing.

    I still extract my own but I realize, too, that a lot of people don’t have espresso machines and I like to offer alternatives to those who’ve not gotten on the espresso bandwagon, so to speak!

  • July 4, 2009 10:31am

    holy maloly i want an ice cream machine. and the first thing that came to mind was gateau de l’opera too. i wonder if Oprah has featured l’Opera?

  • chocolate by the sea
    July 4, 2009 11:13pm

    Bonjour/Bonsoir Mr. David and Happy 4th of July to you ! It is almost time for fireworks in California.
    Today I made your ‘Happy Accident Chocolate and Banana’ ice cream, I used Coconut rum instead of Bailey’s-inspired by my recent trip to Mexico where coconut ice cream abounds. Thank you for your inspiration -I am soon to search out (via reading your links) an ice cream maker to purchase.
    Next I will make a cabernet sorbet that i am really crazy about and apparently so is some other mystery person?… when I left to Mex last week it was in my freezer and now it is gone ! Not my imagination or a memory issue- they left the laptop, the ipod, the chocolate but stole off with the cabernet sorbet!?

  • July 5, 2009 10:42am

    I had never heard of L’Opera till I read this now….
    I am going to try making it…

  • July 5, 2009 3:07pm

    Yikes! I’m “up north” in a cabin with no blender in sight. Sadly, I have to wait to make this.

  • judah
    July 5, 2009 9:57pm

    I made two batches of this delectable shake over the weekend, and it was a hit! Thanks for the wonderful recipe…I’m looking forward to making more from Mr. Reid’s book.

  • pv
    July 6, 2009 11:29am

    Yummy. Looks delicious

  • Emily
    July 6, 2009 10:30pm


    The first batch of chocolate sherbet did not make it as far as the shake. While I was freezing David’s vanilla ice cream, I started a second batch of the chocolate sherbet using some Dagoba cocoa I had left over from the wistful days of winter cocoa. Used some Cointreau for the liquer. The vanilla ice cream was firming up right before I was about to add the second half of the milk to the sherbet when I noticed the uncanny resemblance the half-finished sherbet had to hot chocolate sauce. I dished up some of the vanilla ice cream and ladled on a dollop of the unfinished hot sherbet base. Sent me right into a swoon. Took me the rest of the afternoon to recover. The shake was my restorative.

  • July 8, 2009 6:14pm

    Hi all —

    First and foremost, DaVeed, thank you so much for inviting me to post on your site fabuleaux! (please forgive my awful Franglais). Such a treat.

    Now, a few responses —

    To Marlowe, of course 9:30 AM isn’t too early for a shake! A marvelous way to start the day. Especially if lunch and dinner are salads!

    To Marlowe and Jerome, when I lived in Paris a couple of years ago, in the 18th, I found lovely Operas at a patisserie on the corner of rue Ordener and the rue du Poteau, right by the Jules Joffrin Metro stop. There was also a nice one to be had at a patisserie on the rue Hermel, just about two blocks away. Unfortunately, I can’t recall the name of either place. Ahh, the memory… so fickle. I’m not sure I ever tasted one at Dalloyau. I must book a flight immediamente.

    To Sarah, I love your story of the raspberry shake in Nice. I think part of the reason that people love shakes so much is that they bring back fond memories for almost everyone. It’s been fascinating to me to see how emotional some people have gotten about a milkshake book! In the book I have a raspberry-rose shake, with just a drop of rosewater. Unless we could serve it on the Promenade Anglais, though, I don’t know if it will rival your Nice shake.

    To Barbra and Kerrin, I’m so happy… honored, really, to appear on the esteemed Kerrin, how are you??!

    To Sara, Tags, and KitchenWitch, thanks so much for reading Cook’s and watching ATK. I can’t believe that we’ve been on for almost ten seasons (last month we finished taping season ten). How time flies. Tags, the only layered shake in the book is a riff on New York Back & White cookies, that I call a VanBan Black & White. It’s chocolate and banana flavored shakes, layered in the glass.

    To Susan, I know exactly the slightly curdled effect in blender shakes that you describe, and I’m afraid that I didn’t find a way around it in my testing. Really warming up the ice cream seemed to help a little, but then the texture turned out thinner than I prefer. I wonder if some sort of emulsifying agent might help?? Perhaps substituting heavy cream for milk (the extra fat), or using malt powder? I’ll have to give that a try…..

    To chocolate by the sea, I LOVE your note to the health conscious. At a few of my demos people in the audience have asked “the health question,” and I wish I’d had the presence of mind to answer them like you! I could use your help… want to come to my next round of demos??

    To Judah, I’m glad the shale hit the spot I hope you like the rest of the book just as much.

    Thanks for your comments. everyone…….

  • December 26, 2009 7:16am

    Your shots are absolutely gorgeous! Almond and coffee sounds like Christmas dinner in Grandpa’s house when I was younger, almond is his favorite and so is mine! Thanks for sharing David!

  • January 5, 2010 1:37am

    Hi David. Great recipe! This looks like a delicious milkshake and I would definitely give this one a try. It has all my favorite ingredient in it, chocolate and coffee I would make this recipe in an upcoming house party and this would definitely be a hit. Thanks!

  • Poor Taste
    September 29, 2010 2:14am

    “Chocolate, espresso, and almond gang up for some whack-you-across-your-high-brow decadence.” Amazing recipe!

  • Greg Esres
    November 20, 2010 6:44pm

    “gâteau de l’Opéra”

    Anyone have a recipe for this cake?

  • Greg Esres
    November 20, 2010 7:05pm


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