Chocolate ganache is the sultry vixen of frostings.
It’s so rich and luxurious you would think it takes loads of time to prepare, but it doesn’t. Ganache takes only a few minutes of hands-on time and only three ingredients. It’s not only tasty, but also versatile and so simple to make.
What is Chocolate Ganache?
Dark chocolate ganache at its most basic warm heavy cream and chocolate stirred together.
This is a basic ganache recipe made with semi-sweet chocolate chips, but you can swap this type of chocolate out for milder milk chocolate, white chocolate, or bittersweet. The type of chocolate you use is up to you.
You can alter the consistency of ganache by adding more cream for a glaze or less cream for a truffle. You can also enhance the flavor of ganache by adding salt, infusing the cream with vanilla or citrus and add a deeper fool-proof sheen by including a tablespoon of corn syrup.
How to Make Chocolate Ganache
Some folks like to go full-on pastry chef and use couverture, which is chocolate that is made with extra cocoa butter in order to achieve a high gloss finish. You can find it at some stores around the US and online, but it is more pricey than other chocolates. I have two kiddos I'm about to put through college, so couverture is too rich for my blood.
You can also chop up baking bars of chocolate, but I have better things to do with my time, so I kept it simple. Chocolate chips or wafers are convenient because they melt faster without having to break out a cutting board and knife.
If you're feeling super chef-y, by all means, chop your chocolate from a baking bar. Using high-quality chocolate for this recipe is essential, seeing as how that is the main ingredient. Guittard or Ghirardelli are two of my preferred chocolate brands to use for all my baking.
Use a heavy cream (with at least 30 percent milkfat) for this recipe. You need something with that percentage of fat to emulsify the ganache properly. Heat the cream just until steaming before adding it to the chocolate. If the cream is too hot it will split the chocolate, making it unusable.
If you have a thermometer, the sweet spot to heat the cream to is 150°F. If you don't have a thermometer, look for steam rising off the surface of the cream, but you do not want any bubbles. Instead of heating cream on the stove and hauling out a double-boiler, I heat my cream in the microwave, on high, for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Super easy.
After pouring the hot cream over the chocolate chips, let it sit for 8-10 minutes, then whisk. Add any liquors or flavorings, and you have chocolate ganache.
How to Flavor Chocolate Ganache
It's important to remember when flavoring your ganache with flavoring, liqueurs or extracts, that it could potentially affect the ganache's final consistency. I love to add anything from herbs to liquors, but it’s important to know when to add which ingredients.
For anything liquid it’s best to stir it in after you’ve combined the chocolate and cream.
To infuse dry ingredients like herbs, spices, fruits, nuts or citrus, add it to the cream while it’s warming up, remove the pot from the heat and let it sit for 20 minutes. You might have to warm it slightly again before straining and adding to the chocolate so it melts properly.
Here are some ideas:
Ingredients to add after you've combined the cream and chocolate:
- Coffee liqueur
Infuse the cream while its warming then, reheat and strain before combining with the chocolate:
- Herbs like rosemary or thyme
- Fruit, like cherries, berries, and citrus peels
- Rose petals
How to Color Chocolate Ganache
There are not many colors of the rainbow that ganache will take on.
You can make chocolate ganache black or a deeper brown, but that’s about it. You have more options with white chocolate ganache. Either way you will need to use oil-based candy colorings to tint it. Water-based (or gel) food coloring may cause the chocolate to seize up, I do not recommend using them.
Just add a few drops of your oil-based candy colorings to the warm ganache and stir with a whisk until you've achieved your desired shade.
How to Store Chocolate Ganache
Chocolate ganache can be covered and stored at room temperature for up to 3 days. You want to wait to cover and store your ganache once it has cooled completely. If you attempt to store the ganache while hot or even warm condensation may form on the lid and drip back down into the chocolate, increasing the potential for the chocolate to seize or bloom.
You can also refrigerate the ganache for up to 7 days or freeze it for up to 3 months. Just allow the ganache to thaw before using it and warm it to the proper fluidity to use as you wish. Do this by gradually warming it over a double boiler. Set a glass or metal mixing bowl of the cold ganache over a pot of simmering water and allow it to warm until you can whisk it smooth, this usually takes anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes.
Tips for Troubleshooting Chocolate Ganache
When it comes to working with ganache, there’s nothing more important to remember than water is not the friend of chocolate.
Water will cause the chocolate to seize, or become grainy, so it’s really important to take care not to get water into the ganache as you’re working with it. Here are some more tips for making the best batch of chocolate ganache.
Ganache too runny? Add more chocolate chips (1/4 cup at a time) and heat the mixture in the microwave for 30 seconds before stirring to thicken it a bit.
Ganache too firm? Add more warm cream to the ganache (1/4 cup at a time) to thin it out, until it resembles a ketchup-like consistency.
Ganache too lumpy? Microwave it for 30 seconds, then whisk until smooth. Repeat the microwaving and whisking until it reaches your desired consistency.
Ganache looks grey, separated, or grainy? If the ganache is grey or separated, the cream may have been too hot when added to the chocolate or some water got into the mixture.
- To fix a separated ganache, add a tablespoon of warm cream to the mixture a little at a time, whisking until it becomes glossy and smooth.
- To fix a grainy ganache, reheat in the microwave for 30-second intervals to melt the chocolate again. Whisk vigorously to smooth the chocolate out and achieve the proper consistency.
Chocolate Ganache 3 Ways
Most people are surprised at how versatile chocolate ganache can be, even with minimal effort on the part of the ganache-maker. In a matter of minutes your ganache can go from glaze to mousse-like in consistency. That means it’s one of the most baker-friendly icings in the kitchen.
Chocolate Ganache Glaze: Allow the ganache to cool for 15 minutes, stirring every five minutes with a whisk. Pour over your desserts or ice cream.
Chocolate Ganache Frosting: Allow the ganache to cool for 25-30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes with a whisk, until the ganache holds a stiff peak. This recipe will frost a 3-layer 8-inch cake.
Whipped Chocolate Ganache: Use an electric hand mixer to take the chocolate ganache from its stiffer frosting state to a mousse-like consistency. Just whip it at medium speed until it is a light-brown color and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
Chocolate Ganache Frosting Snapshot
Why you should make it:
- Taste: decadent, rich, flavorful
- Texture: thick, silky, versatile (can be thick, light and airy, or dense)
- Piping: chocolate ganache frosting and whipped ganache are excellent for piping borders or strings. Not so great for firm roses.
- Works best on: layered cakes, sheet cakes, cupcakes, or a glaze for ice cream, donuts or eclairs
- Make-ahead: great make-ahead recipe, chocolate ganache keeps at room temperature for 3 days
Things you should be mindful of:
- Does not play well with water
- It cannot be colored with regular gel colors
- It is not suitable for hot outdoor functions
This recipe makes enough ganache to frost an 8-inch, three tiered cake.
- 1 1/2 cups (12 ounces, 354 milliliters) heavy cream
- 2 3/4 cups (16 ounces, 453g) semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 2 tablespoons brandy, cognac, or vanilla extract
Heat the heavy cream:
Pour the heavy cream into a small saucepan set over medium heat, until steam begins to rise, 2-3 minutes. You want the cream to be hot, but do not allow the cream to boil.
If it does happen to boil, make sure you cool the cream down for 5 minutes before adding it to the chocolate.
Alternatively, use a microwave-safe measuring cup and microwave on high, until steaming, about 1 1/2 minutes.
Pour the hot cream over the chocolate chips:
Into a medium-sized mixing bowl, add the chocolate chips. Pour the warm cream over the chocolate chips and allow the cream to sit and melt the chocolate for 10 minutes. Do not stir it.
Add the liquor (or flavoring):
Add the brandy, cognac or vanilla extract to the bowl of chocolate and whisk the mixture until very smooth.
If you find that chocolate lumps remain, pop the bowl into the microwave, and heat it for 30 seconds, 15 seconds at a time. Whisk the ganache until smooth.
How to get a pourable glaze:
Allow the ganache to sit for 15 minutes (or until it reaches 90°F) stirring every 5 minutes with a whisk, for a pourable, glaze consistency.
How to get a pipeable frosting:
Allow the ganache to cool for 25-30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, for a thicker, pipeable frosting. Once the ganache has reached this stage, it will hold a peak when you lift your spatula or whisk from it.
At this point, you can also whip it with an electric hand mixer on high. It will go from a dark chocolatey-brown ganache to an airy, light brown color.
Frost a cake:
This recipe will frost a 3 tiered, 8-inch cake. If you have left over frosting stir it into warm milk for a cup of hot chocolate.