Ganache is a basic pastry component made from a mixture of melted chocolate and cream, and used as a velvety smooth chocolate filling, sauce or frosting. It can be made to different consistencies by altering the ratio of cream to chocolate, and has a wide variety of uses, from glazing a statement cake to making chocolate truffles
What is ganache made of?
Ganache is made of a mixture of chocolate and cream, whisked together to make a rich, chocolatey emulsion. These two ingredients are all you need for a basic ganache, although sometimes a little butter is added for a creamier texture and a high shine finish, and extra flavourings can be added in the form of extracts or oils.
Ganache can be made from dark, milk or white chocolate. Milk chocolate, with its sweet, creamy and well-rounded flavour, is the classic choice for celebration cakes and indulgent truffles, while dark chocolate adds a touch of sophistication and the intensity of rich, bitter cocoa. White chocolate has a milder flavour, and is great for experimenting with added flavours and colourful natural dyes.
You can also make ganache to different consistencies, depending on what you want to make with it. Dark and milk chocolate work to the same ratios, so we will take a look at those first, and return to white chocolate ganache later.
A 2:1 ratio ganache (i.e. two parts chocolate to one part cream) makes a firm ganache that is a thick paste at room temperature and sets to a fudge-like consistency in the refrigerator. This type of ganache can be used to make chocolate truffles, or to create intricate piping work on cakes.
A 1:1 ratio ganache (i.e. equal parts cream and chocolate) will set to a pudding-like consistency, and can be used as a filling for cakes, cupcakes and pastries, as cake frosting or a thicker glaze. It can also be used to make a light, whipped frosting that tastes great on cupcakes.
A 1:2 ratio ganache (i.e. one part chocolate to two parts cream) is also known as a ‘loose’ or ‘soft’ ganache. This ganache will not set, although it will thicken on standing. It can be used as a sauce, a dipping chocolate or fondue, a thin cake glaze, or even as drinking chocolate.
White chocolate needs to be treated slightly differently. It already has a creamy texture, so you will need to add more chocolate to get the consistency you’re looking for. To create a medium-consistency white chocolate ganache, you will need to use a ratio of 3:1 (i.e. three parts chocolate to one part cream. This will give you a consistency similar to a 1:1 ratio ganache using dark or milk chocolate, and can likewise be used as a filling or frosting. It also works well as an adhesive layer to attach fondant icing to cakes.
Making ganache frosting is quick and easy. Simply add the desired ratio of chocolate and cream into a microwave-safe bowl and heat for short bursts of around 15- 20 seconds at a time, stirring with a spatula in between, until you have a smooth, silky consistency. Leave to set for a couple of hours, then repeat the process of heating and stirring until the mixture is workable.
If you are making white chocolate ganache, remember you will need to use a higher ratio of chocolate to cream for the same effect. You can also add dyes and flavourings to your ganache by simply adding them to the bowl at the beginning of the process. It is best to use gel dyes, rather than liquids, as any extra liquids can cause the ganache to split.
If you want to make whipped frosting, make your ganache as above, using a 1:1 ratio for dark or milk chocolate, or a 3:1 ratio for white chocolate, then use a whisk, or a food processor with the whisk attachment, to whip the frosting until it is light and fluffy.
If you have any leftover ganache after your baking project, there are few things that wouldn’t be improved by a spoonful of delicious creamy chocolate. Try using it as a thick chocolate sauce to pour over your favourite dessert, or adding some to a couple of ice cream scoops for an instant sundae. If you have a soft, runny ganache, you can use it as a dip for your favourite fruit, or for a thicker ganache, try rolling it into balls and dusting with cocoa powder for easy chocolate truffles.
Frosting a cake with ganache can seem like a daunting task at first, but it’s pretty simple once you know how. The only real obstacle is preventing stray crumbs from getting stuck in the ganache and spoiling the effect, but if you take a few minutes to prepare everything beforehand you’ll be making professional-looking crumb-free frosting in no time.
First of all, you will need to make sure all the layers of your cake are even by slicing off any bumps with a long serrated knife. It’s a good idea to turn the cut surfaces face down afterwards to minimise crumbs. Place strips of parchment paper under the edges of the bottom layer to protect your plate. Strips are better than a single sheet because they’re easier to pull away when you’ve finished.
Once you’ve got everything set up, lightly brush any loose crumbs away using a pastry brush. Keep the pastry brush to hand, as you may need to do this a few times throughout the frosting process. Just be careful not to brush too hard or you might end up dislodging more crumbs than you sweep away.
Now comes the important part. Before adding your final layer of frosting, you need to do a ‘crumb layer’ to seal everything in place. Take a small amount of ganache and thin it out with milk or water, then smooth it all over your cake with an icing spatula and refrigerate for about an hour until it sets. If you can still see loose crumbs, you may need to do a second crumb layer, but do make sure you have enough ganache left to frost your cake.
With all those pesky crumbs securely trapped beneath your crumb layer, it’s time to add the ganache frosting. Scoop your frosting into the centre of the cake and smooth it outwards with your icing spatula, then pull down around the sides of the cake with broad downward strokes. Finally, clean your spatula and run it around the side of the cake to smooth down the edges. Now your ganache cake is ready, you can add your favourite cake decorations, or put it in the fridge to set.
If you’re thinking of taking up baking as a hobby, there are plenty of other options for decorating a celebration cake. Buttercream is always a favourite and can be applied using much the same method as ganache. Another popular choice is fondant icing (sometimes referred to simply as ‘fondant’), which can be used to create a perfectly smooth, wedding cake style finish, or sculpted into any decoration your imagination can conjure.
For a real showstopper of a dessert, try this chef-created recipe for meringue with ganache, made from delicate meringues with passionfruit and lemon flavoured chocolate ganache, and decorated with gold leaf.
What chocolate to use for ganache
The best chocolate to use when making ganache is a semi-sweet chocolate. You will likely be pairing the ganache with other sweet ingredients so it’s best not to overdo it with sweetness. Avoid using regular chocolate bars, as these tend to have lots of added sugar.
Chocolate chips or buttons made specifically for baking are ideal, as they melt more quickly, making them easier to mix into the cream. You can use a good quality baking bar like Ghirardelli instead, but make sure you cut it up into small pieces first, otherwise, it will take forever to melt.