Oh My Ganache! How to Make & Decorate With Chocolate Ganache

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Smooth and silky, ganache is the cake world’s most delicious workhouse. It is simply a combination of chocolate and cream, the good stuff you find in the center of a chocolate truffle.

But did you know you can use ganache inside, outside and all around your cake? It can be made with any type of chocolate — dark, semi-sweet, milk and white — to suit the flavor of your cake. Best of all, ganache is incredibly quick to make, easy to use, delicious to eat and simple to store.

In this post, we’ll talk about the best uses for ganache, how to frost a cake it in and even give you some options that go beyond just using cream.

The 3 best ways to use ganache for cake decorating

Cake filling

Ganache that has cooled and thickened makes for a decadent cake filling, like in the opera cake shown above. Just remember, ganache is much denser and richer than buttercream, so you may want to use less.

Want something a little lighter? Whip some air into your ganache with a hand or stand mixer to make a fluffy filling for cakes and pastries. You can even add it to your favorite buttercream for a super creamy chocolate frosting!

Drips and glazes

Just-made ganache can be poured on top of cakes and nudged over the side with a spoon or small spatula for drippy cakes. It also makes for a great dip for fruit, cookies or other decorations. If your ganache is too thick, change your ratio to add a bit more cream or warm it slightly.

Cake finishes

Because ganache firms up so well, it makes icing a cake with straight sides and razor-sharp edges a snap. It’s the perfect undercoat for neat and tidy fondant cakes. Ganache needs to firm up to a peanut butter consistency before it can be used as a filling or an icing, and this process can take several hours.

Choosing your ingredients

To make ganache, you simply steep chocolate in hot cream until it melts then mix to combine. The method for making ganache is the same, no matter the type of chocolate you use. The only thing that changes is the ratio of chocolate to cream.

Making ganache with different types of chocolate

Generally, the higher the content of cocoa butter in the chocolate (the darker it is), the less cream you need.

  • For dark chocolate, the ratio is 2:1 — twice as much chocolate as cream
  • For semi-sweet or milk chocolate, a 2.5:1 ratio is usually successful
  • For white chocolate, a ratio of 3:1 or even 3.5:1 is recommended.

Choosing your chocolate

Generally speaking, better-quality chocolate yields better ganache. The more cocoa butter, the better. It will give you the most stable results. igh-quality chocolate bars work great.

Skip the baking chips and buy the good stuff. Chocolate chips from the supermarket have chemicals that keep them melting, which is good for your cookies, but not your ganache.

Cream for ganache

The cream you use needs a butterfat content of at least 35 percent. In the United States, that’s heavy whipping cream. In the United Kingdom, use whipping cream.

Measuring the ingredients

For the best results, weigh both your chocolate and cream. If you don’t have a scale, an ounce of cream is about the same as a fluid ounce. Measuring your chocolate by volume is not recommended as a cup of chocolate chips is far more than a cup of broken chocolate from a bar.

How much cream and chocolate you use depends on how much ganache you want to make and the size of the cake you need to cover. To frost the outside of an 8" round cake, you'll need about a pound (450 g) of chocolate and 8 ounces (225 g) of cream — more if you're planning on filling it with ganache too, or want a thick outside layer.

How to make ganache

This tutorial is for dark chocolate ganache, but know that the process is exactly the same no matter what type of chocolate you’re using. Just remember the ratios above!

Step 1:

Break or chop your chocolate into bite-size pieces and place in a microwavable bowl.

Step 2:

Weigh half as much cream into a small saucepan. Bring the cream to a boil. Cream can scorch easily, so remove it from the heat just after it comes to a boil. 

Step 3

Pour the heated cream over the chocolate. Submerge the chocolate beneath the level of the cream and leave undisturbed for a couple of minutes.

Step 4:

After a couple of minutes, start gently stirring the melted chocolate and cream together.

After a few minutes of stirring, the cream will be fully incorporated into the chocolate, but some unmelted chocolate lumps may still be present. Continue stirring and eventually the lumps of chocolate should fully dissolve. If they don’t, microwave the mixture for 10 seconds, then continue stirring. Repeat until all the lumps disappear. 

Ganache troubleshooting

While ganache is fairly straightforward, even experienced bakers face a few common problems.

Chunky or oily ganache

If your ganache “breaks,” meaning the fat and liquids separate, the mixture will appear chunky and oily. To remedy this situation, whisk a tablespoon of cold heavy cream at a time into the ganache until it comes back together. Depending on how much cream you add, you may need to add some more chocolate once it comes back together.

Ganache sets hard

If you’re kitchen is cold and your ganache sets up before you’re done working with it, re-warm the ganache in the microwave at 20-second intervals. Or, keep your ganache over a double boiler set to low heat while you work.

Ganache is too runny

If your ganache is too tin after it's set, try re-warming it then whisking a few more pieces of chocolate into the mixture until you achieve your desired consistency.

Ganache is too thick or won't spread

Whisk in a tablespoon of warm cream at a time until you achieve your desired consistency.

Coloring your ganache

For most vibrant colors, start with white chocolate. But use milk or dark chocolate if you’re coloring to black.

Just like coloring fondant, it's best to use gel or paste colors or even oil-based candy coloring. Don’t use a watery food coloring, which could seize your chocolate and you won’t get the color you’re after. Add a few drops of concentrated color after you’ve mixed your cream and chocolate together to get your desired color.

How to store ganache

Place a piece of plastic wrap on the surface of the ganache to stop a sugar crust forming and leave at room temperature.

Ganache can be kept refrigerated for a couple of weeks and can be frozen for up to three months.

How to frost a cake with ganache

Once your ganache has cooled and set up to the thickness of peanut butter it is ready to use. If the ganache firms up past the point of being spreadable, place it in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat until the ganache is a spreadable consistency, just a minute or two.

What you need:

Step 1:

Place a large dollop of ganache on top of the cake. Use an offset spatula to spread the ganache over the surface of the cake.

Step 2:

Use a large icing spatula to spread ganache all around the sides of the cake.

Step 3:

Then use a large icing spatula or bench scraper to smooth the sides of the cake. Dip the scraper in warm water and dry it with a paper towel every so often to clean and warm the blade. The warm blade will melt the ganache just enough to correct any imperfections.

Step 4:

Once the sides are as smooth as you’d like them to be, use an offset spatula to clean up the top edges of the cake. Hold the blade of the spatula so that it’s horizontal with the top of the cake. Use the spatula to pull the excess ganache up and away over the top of the cake.

Dip the spatula in warm water to heat the spatula as needed. Be sure to dry the blade before using it on the cake. Water can cause ganache to discolor or “bloom."

Step 5:

Carefully slide an offset spatula under the cake board and use it to help lift the cake off the turntable and onto a cake stand or platter. Store the cake either in the fridge or at room temperature, depending on the kind of filling you used. Refrigerate your cake until it’s completely firm if you plan on adding a layer of fondant.

chocolate cake

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Oh My Ganache! How to Make & Decorate With Chocolate Ganache