Over the years I’ve had lots and lots of emails, phone calls and questions regarding ganache. It’s my filling of choice and I use it under 99% of all my cakes because of it’s firm and durable nature. As luck (if you can call it that) would have it, the first time I used ganache on a cake many years ago, I almost missed a turn into a small lane for my delivery. Without thinking I swerved the car into the lane and my cake slid off the board and into the side door of my car. I freaked out and quickly parked the car and would you believe it when I tell you that NOTHING happened to the cake? The cake was fine and had no dents because the ganache was firm underneath! I slid it back onto the middle of the board and from then on I’d vow never to use anything but ganache under all my cakes.
I’ve learned some lessons with the making and using of the ganache and so has Nick. Most of the time, he is now the one who makes all my ganaches for me and some weeks we’d make over 20kgs of white, dark and milk chocolate ganache. So I thought it would be fun for him to be a guest poster 🙂 So this is Nick’s first blog post for you guys detailing everything you basically need to know about ganache for cakes.
Sharon thought it would be fun if I wrote some details about my experiences when dealing with ganache.
I have spent many late nights making ganache so I know more than I really should about all this. So let’s start with the very basic…
What is Ganache?
It’s basically just cream and chocolate, and we use it to cover cakes. You can think of it as a replacement for other options like whipped cream, buttercream, icing, etc. The reason Sharon uses it is that it tastes nicer (it is mostly chocolate after all), and it sets hard which helps you get sharp edges on your cakes. Also, it’s a good ‘glue’ to stick together the various offcuts when building 3D cake shapes.
There’s not much to it – just chocolate and cream. The only thing to keep in mind is the ratio, some guidelines are below but you may need to adjust this based on your local environment (temperature, humidity, altitude etc).
Make sure you use good quality chocolate – no terrible cooking chocolate! It’s a big part of the final flavour. It’s best to aim for simple ingredients, so try to get couverture chocolate (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Couverture_chocolate) instead of compound chocolate which can have all kinds of oils and other random things in it.
UPDATE: It is also possible to use compound chocolate. Generally with compound you will need a higher ratio of chocolate to cream. But because it varies across brands and may have different additives in it’s hard to promise you an exact ratio. For dark compound chocolate try a 3:1 ratio of chocolate to cream. You might have to play around with the ratios and adjust as needed. So test with a small batch first.
For the cream, just make sure it’s not low fat. Something labelled as pouring/whipping/thickened cream should be fine. Usually less additives is better but thickened cream (available in Australia) has some vegetable gum which helps it set better in some cases.
The values below are metric, you can google for ‘metric conversion’ and it’ll bring up a small tool you can use to convert the values if you need.
It’s best to use a digital scale, they are cheap and well worth it. Most support both metric and imperial too. You can’t reliably measure chocolate in ‘cups’ or other volume based amounts since it depends on how fine you chop it, everyone is different.
Ratios to use are below:
- When using dark chocolate, go for a 2:1 ratio e.g. 1200g of chocolate to 600ml of cream.
- For white chocolate, go for 3:1 e.g. 1200g chocolate to 400ml cream. This is because white chocolate has more oils in it.
- For milk chocolate, it’s in between but varies depending on the brand and oil content, you’ll need to try it out with small batches until you’re happy with the result.
UPDATE: If you want an exact ratio amount for your project, you can use our recipe calculator to help you work it out.
These numbers aren’t precise and if you have a digital scale and are lazy you can just weigh the cream. It’s a bit lighter than water but close enough, so if we’re in a hurry we often just weigh out 400g of cream instead of measuring 400ml.
First – ensure your chocolate is chopped finely (or already provided in square pieces or buttons) or it might not melt easily!
There are two ways to prepare ganache.
The easiest way is to just put everything in a container and microwave it until it melts. It’s best to stop and mix occasionally so it heats evenly, in our case we heat for 2.5 minutes, stir, 1.5 minutes, stir, 1 minute, stir, then 30 seconds and stir until combined. Using the microwave is easier but you’ll need to find a timing system that suits your machine.
The other more traditional option is to boil your cream on the stove, then pour it over the chocolate. Give it a small shake so it’s all covered and let it sit for a short time to melt. If you stir too early you’ll just cool it down. After a couple of minutes just mix it to combine. If you have any lumps you might need to finish it off in the microwave like above, but for less time.
When you start to stir, it might be mostly unmelted so you it’s easier to use a spatula or spoon. As it melts you should use a whisk or it’ll take forever. Finish with a hand mixer or stick blender if you want to make your life easier.
It already tastes good but you can add more flavour, like white chocolate and lime or milk chocolate and tea. If you’re just using essence you can stir it in at the end, but for tea or spice you should instead use the cream boil method, and after it boils, let the spice/tea sit in it with the lid on for 10-15 minutes. Then pour the cream over the chocolate as before but use a strainer to remove the chunks. Since it’s cooler you’ll probably need to finish it off in the microwave.
To really infuse the cream you can let it sit in the fridge overnight before boiling, maybe you will be able to save money and use less ingredients but we’ve never bothered with it.
*Sharon’s note: People have asked what flavouring I use for my ganaches. I use a mixture of teas, jams, wholesale gel flavourings and general flavouring (from Roberts Confectionary). I don’t use fresh fruit puree or juices as they reduce the shelf life of the ganache.
I’m no expert but basically you just need to heat it a little and stir it so it’s a paste like a peanut butter. You don’t want it so stiff it breaks the cake, and you don’t want it so melted that it runs down the side.
If it’s too stiff you can microwave it in 30s increments and if it’s too runny, pop it in the fridge for a little bit.
Keep it in an airtight container and it’s safe to leave at room temperature for some time, even a few days if your house is cool enough. For longer term storage you can put it in the fridge, or even freeze it and reheat it weeks later. Also, keep it away from dogs and children 🙂
Just ensure you check on it occasionally and don’t forget when you made batches – it does eventually go mouldy, and if you wait too long you might get a bad surprise when you cut the cake!
It splits – this is when the fat separates out from the mixture and it looks very oily. It can happen easily with white chocolate when you overheat it. Just keep mixing it and let it cool down and it will combine again eventually.
Doesn’t set (stays soft on the cake) – you might be in a hotter area, try reducing the amount of cream a little to reduce the liquid in the mixture.
It’s lumpy/ has tiny little dots (see picture above) – It might be that you didn’t heat it up enough, so you might need to cook it a bit longer.
In some cases it may mean you overheated part of the chocolate or it cooled quickly causing it to seize, you can fix this by melting down the chocolate until it is soft (not runny) and then use a hand mixer to go through it to combine the lumps.
UPDATE: Additional Tips
– If you live in a hot country and chocolate melts or goes soft when it is outside at room tempreture, than your ganache will too. Simple as that. It is not possible to have ganache sitting out in a hot room or outside without it melting or going soft.
– Sharon works in an air conditioned room and her cakes stay in an air conditioned room until it is delivered. If you don’t have air con, you can refigerate the ganached cakes even if there is fondant on it. Simply wrap the fondant cake in a large plastic bag and place it in the fridge. Then when you take it out, don’t unwrap the cake until it comes to room tempreture.
– Make the ganache a day before you need it. It needs time to set. The same rule applies for the cake. It is easier to deal with a cake that is not freshly baked and is cold (from the fridge).
And that’s about it! Hope it has helped in some way.
If you would like to learn more about the basics behind setting up, ganaching and covering a round and square cake (plus recipes!), check out my books, my online tutorial The Basics Bible or my YouTube channel. If you purchase the book, you won’t need the online tutorial as it covers the same content.