Guide to gloriously smooth ganache
Who knew that getting something smooth could make such a mess?!
I don’t know if I’m the only one insane enough to care about how smooth the ganache on my cake is, but I care, ok?! Well. I started caring once I had to make a Birthday cake recently. I blame Ro for this obsession. I’ve been working with ganache (chocolate melted together with cream to make an incredibly smooth, rich, but not overly sweet, icing..although you can also make it into square truffles) a bit lately. For my dear friend Ro’s Birthday, I made a double layer Tia Maria cake (made with Lindt), coated it in ganache with a chocolate mousse center and truffles decorating the whole thing (Ro made these thankfully!). See:
We added butter to the ganache as we were out of cream but had more chocolate (there was a lot more cake to cover than I had envisioned!). This led to a ganache that was much more solid (it didn’t help that it was quite cold that night), which spread more like frosting or icing than a liquidy ganache.
Ok, so I could have done a better job (do not try and pour a second layer of ganache on when the first hasn’t completely set yet! You’ll ruin the perfectiondom previously created by your mad skillz pouring). But you get the idea. So. If you want perfectly smooth ganache, keep reading.
1. Adequate ingredients
Make sure you have more than enough chocolate and cream. The easiest ratio to remember is 1ml:1g, so for example 250ml cream requires 250g chocolate. Do not meddle with this ratio massively, or you will need to run down to the dairy to buy exorbitantly priced Whittakers chocolate like I did. More chocolate than cream is fine if you want a harder frosting (you will need to work much faster to get it smooth though), but do not try and use less chocolate.
For an 8″ single layer cake: for a single layer of ganache, start with 150g chocolate.
For a 10″ single layer cake: for a single layer of ganache, start with 300g chocolate.
What sort of cream? If you don’t live in Australia or New Zealand, you want heavy cream. Otherwise just plain cream (don’t try the low fat stuff, PLEASE) will do.
What sort of chocolate? If you really like dark, use 70 or 60%. Otherwise go for a mixture of 70% and milk chocolate (never, ever Cadbury’s…EVER!) or plain 40% dark. Remember, the cream makes it go less cocoa-intense, but not by a lot.
2. Bring your cake layer to temperature
Let your cake come to room temperature. Let. Your. Cake. Come. To. Room. Temperature. If it’s a little warm that’s ok, but no using cold/frozen cake layers, or you won’t have enough time to make adjustments or add decorations before the ganache sets. Although if you are doing two layers of ganache you could possibly use frozen cake layers. Let me know how it goes.
3. Prepare your set up
Take the cake out of the tin if it isn’t already. Place on a cooling rack large enough to hold it. Then place a plate that is 2-3″ wider than the diameter of the cake under the cooling rack. Preferably the plate should have slightly raised edges so they catch the dribbles.
4. Make the ganache
All the fussiness over putting bowls in simmering water makes this girl roll her eyes. If you have gas, sure, fill a saucepan with water and put a heatproof bowl over it, and make your ganache in this. But if your cooktops do very low heat, that’ll be fine, just pour the cream straight into a saucepan and put it on top of that heat. Now add your chocolate. And stir. You can let it melt for a few minutes then stir, or if you’re mildly neurotic, stir constantly. The first time I made ganache I panicked, because the only chemical reaction that appeared to be occurring was coagulation, but don’t worry. Melt slowly, don’t turn that heat up, and stir until you get a smooth, glossy chocolatey mixture. Taste, and add more chocolate if you want (milk chocolate if it’s not sweet enough, dark if you want it darker). Keep in mind that it will taste more intense cold.
5. Pour some ganache on meeeeee
That’s the cake speaking. Pour a bit of ganache straight onto the centre point of the cake until ganache runs over a side. Stop pouring, and pick up the rack (not the plate) and tilt carefully and slightly to get the ganacheto spread out over the surface of the cake. Don’t let the tilting take more than 20 seconds. Now put it down, pour some more ganache straight into the middle, and tilt again. Put it down, and hopefully the top of your cake is covered. Now the edges might not be fully done, so from the edge of the cake, pour slowly to get the edges covered (you make need to use a spatula or straight knife to spread it a little). If spreading with a knife or spatula, pour over a bit of the edge, then spread. Don’t pour around the edge of the whole cake and then try and spread, or some parts will be more set when you try and spread it, and you’ll get varying levels of smoothness. Now. Whatever you do, don’t try and go back and pour into the centre again, it’ll be too late once you’ve done the sides. Unless you have an unlimited supply of ganache, stop pouring here.
If you want, you can add some extra decorations before the ganache is set. Examples: crushed nuts (see an example photo here), pre made truffles or nice boxed chocolates. Chocolate piped shapes, grated or shaved chocolate should be added after the ganache is set.
Sometimes the center of the cake will have a dent from where you skewered it to check if it was done (well…mine do). The way to ease that little imperfection is to place some sort of decoration where that dent is.
7. Let set completely
Cover your iced beauty, and let set for several hours until the surface of the ganache is no longer glossy. If you have adequate space in your fridge you can let it set in the fridge, covered, or uncovered in a clean fridge on the top shelf. Now, if you want to avoid moisture spots forming on the cake, do not put it in the fridge, just let it sit on the bench, but keep in mind ganache is made with cream, so you better eat that cake damn soon!
Doesn’t it look pro and impressive?! If you’ve mucked up a little don’t worry, practice makes perfect, and no one is going to hate you for making more cake (and ganache). Also it will still taste stunning anyway, so remember to keep it all in perspective!
9. Devour your ganached plate
Not the plate, the ganache on the plate :P See? Home made dessert has so many rewards. You can refrigerate for later use, as a spread on hot toast (topped with some sliced banana…mmmm) or as truffle mixture.
Oh, and remember to save a little ganache for the test cake if you made one!