Home » How to Ganache a Cake ~ Tutorial

How to Ganache a Cake ~ Tutorial

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Learn how to ganache a cake with perfectly straight sides and sharp edges with this step-by-step tutorial and all my tips and tricks!

How To Ganache A Cake - A Step-By-Step Tutorial ~ Sweetness & Bite

Ahh, ganache. Perfector of cakes and creator of sharp edges. And the cause of thrown spatulas and angry, frustrated curses.

When it comes to cake decorating I am most definitely a ganache girl. I do love me some buttercream, but when it comes to getting super straight sides and sharp edges, especially under fondant, ganache is my go-to.

A question I’ve been asked several times since posting some of my cake recipes is how I get my ganached cakes so straight and the edges so sharp, so I thought I would put together a little tutorial on how to ganache a cake.

Sharp-edged cakes were made popular in Australia and the finish is now used all over the world. There are several great methods of how to ganache a cake, such as the classic technique taught by Planet Cake, the recently popular ‘upside down’ frosting method (à la Jessicakes and Three Little Blackbirds), and the ‘ganache lid’ method.

The way I do it is sort of a combination of the three, using two boards to ensure perfectly straight sides, and then flipping the cake over to get a perfectly level cake with a sharp top edge. (This is almost exactly how I cover my cakes in buttercream, just with slight variations for the different mediums.) There is no right or wrong way to ganache a cake, you just need to find the way that works for you!

If you ask me (which I know you didn’t, but I figure if you’re reading my tutorial you won’t mind me pretending you did) there are two keys to successfully (and easily) ganaching a cake.

The first is to use a second cake board (or “ganache board” on top of your cake while you ganache the sides. This ensures the sides will be perfectly straight and will help you get a nice sharp top edge when you flip the cake over after ganaching the top (please don’t panic if your eyes have crossed at the thought, I’ll be explaining the whole process step-by-step in just a few moments, and it will make much more sense!)

About Acrylic Ganache Boards

“Ganache boards” are acrylic boards that should be the same size as the cake card or board that you will be using on the bottom of your cake. While it’s helpful to have these acrylic boards because they are reusable, if you are just trying out this technique you can simply use a second cardboard cake card, the same as you will be using on the bottom of the cake.

I have a set of acrylic ganache boards that I used in this tutorial, which I was kindly given by a lovely friend in Australia several years ago and I’m unsure where she bought them from.

But, anyone in New Zealand who would like to get their hands on some awesome ganache boards can check out Design @ 409, who have added ganache boards to their fantastic product line. They are really great quality, with super-smooth edges so your ganache will be super smooth too! These are the boards I use most often now, and the ones I always recommend.

Ganache boards are pretty readily available in most countries now, so a quick Google search for “acrylic ganache boards” and the country you live in should find you some near you.

When you’re buying your ganache boards, make sure to check the measurements and compare them to the cake cards/boards you will be using and make sure they match. I use boards and cards that are whole-size measurements (6″, 7″, 8″ etc.) whereas some boards and cards are 1/4″ bigger (6.25″, 7.25″, etc.) for people who don’t want to trim the crusts off their cakes (these give space around the edges of the cake for the icing). I recommend buying the whole-size boards, and trimming the cake crusts. Whichever you choose, just make sure your cake cards and acrylic boards are the same size.

Ganache Consistency for Covering a Cake

The second key is to get your ganache to the right consistency. And ‘right’ is an incredibly subjective term – some decorators prefer a firmer ganache, and some like it really soft. I’m somewhere in between (a chronic fence-sitter, am I) so I tend to leave it a bit firmer for filling and then soften it a little more when I coat the outside of the cake. Once you’ve done a few cakes you will work out what the perfect consistency is for you.

As you’ll see below, there are two consistencies I like to use, one is similar to peanut butter, and one is a little softer, like Nutella.

How To Make Ganache

If you’ve never made ganache before, then here is a quick intro on how to make it. There is no ‘recipe’ as such, there are only two vital ingredients – chocolate and cream, and a ratio of how much of each to use.

For Dark Chocolate Ganache (chocolate with 50-60% cocoa solids is ideal) you need two parts chocolate to one part cream. In very warm weather you may need to increase this to two and a half or even three parts chocolate.

For Milk Chocolate Ganache (many milk chocolates don’t state the cocoa content, but around 30% is good) you need three parts chocolate to one part cream. In cooler weather – two and a half parts chocolate may be enough, and in warmer weather, you may need to increase it to three and a half or even four.

For White Chocolate Ganache you need three parts chocolate to one part cream. As with the milk chocolate ganache, in warmer weather you may need to increase the chocolate to  3.5 – 4 parts in order to get a firm setting ganache.

White chocolate tends to be the softest and most difficult to deal with, and for this reason, many decorators will not use it in the summer or will fill a cake with it but ganache the outside of the cake with dark chocolate before fondant. If you’re new to making and using ganache, have a go with some dark chocolate ganache first, before tackling the more fickle white chocolate.

You can use any brand or kind of chocolate you like, although I recommend using the best quality chocolate you can afford to use. Some people swear by compound chocolate and that’s ok, but you simply can’t beat the flavour and texture of real, good quality chocolate.

Not familiar with ratios? Or want to know exactly how much ganache you need to cover and/or fill your cake with ganache? Pop over and download the fantastic Ganacherator spreadsheet. All you need to do it put in the size of your cake and how many layers of ganache it will have, and it tells you how much ganache you need and how much chocolate and cream you need for the basic ratios (Note, the spreadsheet uses the same ratio for dark and milk chocolate ganache, as I mentioned above with milk chocolate I prefer to use a ratio similar to white chocolate – 3:1).

There are many methods for making ganache, but this is what I do:

How to Ganache a Cake Frequently Asked Questions ~ Sweetness & Bite

Chocolate Ganache For Cake Decorating

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 2 minutes
Total Time: 12 minutes

Depending on the weather you may need to increase or decrease the amount of chocolate to get a ganache that sets correctly.

Ingredients

Dark Chocolate Ganache

  • 2 parts chocolate : 1 part cream

Milk Chocolate Ganache

  • 3 parts chocolate : 1 part cream

White Chocolate Ganache

  • 3 parts chocolate : 1 part cream

Instructions

  1. Chop the chocolate into smallish (roughly half an inch or less) pieces.
  2. Find yourself a saucepan big enough to hold all of your cream and chocolate, and weigh the cream straight into it. Place the pan over a medium-high heat and bring it just to a boil. The bubbles should cover most of the cream's surface. Make sure you watch it carefully, once it comes to the boil it can quickly boil over. Remove from the heat and leave it until the bubbles stop.
  3. Add the chopped chocolate to the pan, and gently shake the pan until the chocolate is mostly covered by the cream. Don't stir it yet, just leave it to sit and melt for a few minutes.
  4. Gently stir with a silicone spatula (or use a wire whisk for dark chocolate ganache, as it is softer). Keep stirring until the chocolate and cream fully combine and become smooth.
  5. If there are still unmelted pieces of chocolate in the ganache, place the pan back over a very low heat, and stir constantly until no lumps remain and the ganache is glossy and smooth.
  6. If you happen to own a stick mixer/hand blender, then you can use that to give the ganache a quick blitz to ensure all the chocolate is melted and that the emulsion is smooth.
  7. Pour the ganache into a microwave safe bowl, leave to cool then cover with plastic wrap and leave overnight at room temperature to set.
  8. If you don't have time to let the ganache set at room temperature then you can speed it up by putting it in the fridge - just make sure you stir it often so that it cools and sets evenly.

You can store the ganache at room temperature for a couple of days, or you can refrigerate it for a month or so, or freeze for a little longer. These time frames are an indication only and could vary depending on the ingredients used and storage temperatures, so you will need to use your discretion when storing.

Notes

What to do if your ganache splits:

  • Split (or broken) ganache is when the chocolate and cream don't emulsify properly. It will look a bit dull and slightly grainy. You may also see the oil separating from the cocoa solids. But don't panic! In most cases, you should be able to save it.
  • The first thing to try to correct it is to use a stick mixer/hand blender, just place it in the ganache and blend it until the ganache has come together and is smooth. Once it is smooth, stop blending, otherwise you will incorporate too much air.
  • If that doesn't work, there are a couple more things you can try. The first is to add a splash more cream and mix, this may bring the ganache back together. You may need to add even more cream, in which case just bear in mind that your ganache will not set as firmly.
  • You can also try popping the ganache into the fridge, stirring every 10 minutes or so, and the ganache may emulsify again.

Did you make this recipe?

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Chocolate Ganache Ratios for Cake Decorating ~ Sweetness & Bite
Once you’ve made your ganache and it has set overnight, you can move on to the fun and messy bit, ganaching your cake!

If it is your first time ganaching a cake and this all looks like it will never click, and you think you’ll never be able to get these super sharp edges, then I am here to tell you that you most definitely can. All it takes is practice.

How to Ganache A Cake

In this tutorial, I have shown how to ganache a round cake. I use the exact same method when ganaching a square cake, it just takes a little more time and effort at the corners to get them perfectly straight and square.

What you’ll need:

Your cake
Ganache
Two cake boards the same size as your cake (or one cake board and one acrylic ganaching board)
90° angled cake scraper (stainless steel or rigid plastic)
Baking paper
Pencil & scissors
Cutting board, bread knife (or whatever you like to use to split your cakes) and small serrated knife
Turntable
Two setup boards or masonite cake boards several inches larger than your cake (to keep your turntable clean) 
Non-slip mats – one piece to go between your turntable & setup board, and one piece slightly smaller than your cake board
Spatulas and a right-angled scraper
Spirit level

Trace around one of the cake boards onto a piece of baking paper, fold it into quarters and cut out the circle. Attach it to one of the cake boards using a few dabs of ganache and put this in the fridge to set the ganache. This board will be the ‘lid’ that helps to give perfectly straight sides to your cake, and the paper will make it easy to remove the board when you’re ready.

Ganaching 'lid' covered in baking paper

Use the bread knife to split your cake into layers. You can do this any way you like, I measure the cake and use toothpicks to mark where I want to cut, then go around with the bread knife, resting it on the toothpicks and slowly cutting through to the centre. If I had the money (and was a little less prone to cutting myself on sharp objects) then I’d buy an Agbay, but for now the toothpicks work for me. I generally split my cakes into four layers, and for this cake the layers were just a little under one inch thick.

Cake layers - How to Ganache a Cake ~ Sweetness & Bite

 {You might recognise these rather delicious-looking cake layers, they’re my Toasted Almond Chocolate Cake}

Use a small serrated knife to trim the edges of each layer so that the layers are 1/2” smaller than the size of your cake board. To make this faster, I have plastic templates cut out for all of my cake sizes. I just drew around cake boards onto some thin plastic cutting boards, and cut them out 1/4″ inside the lines. This will make sure you have an even 1/4” layer of ganache all around the cake, and no chance of any cake protruding through the ganache and ruining your perfect finish (and possibly compromising the stability of your cake). Trimming the cakes also removes any crusty or dark edges from your cake, making it prettier when sliced. (Of course, if you’ve used baking strips on your cake, you shouldn’t have any crusty edges!)

How to Ganache a Cake - Trimmed cake layers ~ Sweetness & Bite

Gently warm the ganache in the microwave, stirring regularly, until it softens to the consistency of peanut butter.

How To Ganache A Cake

Place a piece of non-slip mat between your turntable and setup board, and then place the cake board on top, securing with the smaller piece of grippy mat.

How To Ganache A Cake

Attach your first layer of cake to the board with a dab of ganache, then fill and stack all your layers. Obviously if you’re filling with something other than ganache and just ganaching the outside, then just do whatcha do with your chosen filling.

How to Ganache a Cake Filling cake layers

Try to keep your layers even, but don’t panic if the cake isn’t perfectly level on top when they’re all stacked, we’ll make it level later.

How to Ganache a Cake Filling cake layers

How to Ganache a Cake Filling cake layers

Add a dab of ganache to the baking paper covered cake board, then place it on top of your stacked layers, and gently press down to settle the cake. Use a right angle or scraper to make sure the board is centred and lines up with the bottom board. If you’ve chosen not to trim the edges of your cake layers, then crouch down to eye level with the cake and check that the cake doesn’t stick out any further than the boards.

How to Ganache a Cake - Ganaching 'lid'

Brush off the worst of the crumbs, then refrigerate the cake until the ganache firms slightly and the top cake board doesn’t move. It’s also a good idea when you put it in the fridge to place a bit of weight on top of the cake. This helps settle the cake layers and the filling, and can prevent the cake bulging later on. I find that using a couple of plates (dinner size for big cakes, small/side plates for small cakes) will evenly settle the cake. Just pop them onto the top cake board after you’ve put the cake into the fridge. (I say ‘after’ because there was that time I put them on first, and then they almost slid off the cake and onto the floor as I carried it to the fridge. Don’t be like me.)

Warm the ganache again if necessary, and start applying the ganache to the sides of the cake. Start at the top, holding the top board with one hand and press the ganache up against the board, then continue around the whole top edge of the cake, being careful not to let your spatula touch the cake or you may pick up crumbs.

How to Ganache a Cake - The Ganaching 'Lid'

Add more ganache so that the layer is very thick, coming out past the cake boards. Yep, really slap that good stuff all over.

How to Ganache a Cake - The Ganaching 'Lid'

(You can still see the lip of the bottom board, needs more ganache!)

How to Ganache a Cake - The Ganaching 'Lid'

How to Ganache a Cake - The Ganaching 'Lid'

Hold a scraper against the cake so that it rests on both cake boards. Scrape gently, turning the turntable with your other hand, until you’ve removed the excess ganache. Remember to just leave your hand where it is, and let the turntable do the work. Put the excess ganache back into the bowl, then rinse and dry your scraper and scrape again.

How to Ganache a Cake

There may be some little air bubble holes, so just fill them in with some more ganache and scrape again, rinsing and drying the scarper each time. Keep going until you’re happy with the sides.

How to Ganache a Cake
Once the sides are smooth, pop the cake in the fridge until the ganache is firm.

How to Ganache a Cake - Smooth, straight sides

Slide a spatula between the top cake board and the piece of baking paper. Slide the spatula all the way around the top edge of the cake until the board pops off.

How to Ganache a Cake - Removing the ganaching lid

Find a spot on the cake where the baking paper is lifted up (or flick up an edge with your finger or spatula) and peel off the circle of paper.

How to Ganache a Cake

Warm the bowl of ganache again until it is quite soft, like Nutella (y’know, like smooth peanut butter that’s been left in a hot kitchen. Kinda smooshie. Very technical, I know). The reason you want it a bit softer than before is that you want it to squish out when you flip the cake over. Spread a thick layer (at least ½”/1cm) of ganache over the top the cake, spreading it so it goes a little over the edges on the cake.

How to Ganache a Cake - Ganaching the Top For Sharp Edges

You don’t need to make it perfect, but just try for a somewhat even layer of ganache across the whole top surface.

How to Ganache a Cake - Ganaching the Top For Sharp Edges

Place a piece of baking paper over the top of the cake, starting at one edge and smoothing out as many air bubbles as you can .

How to Ganache a Cake - Ganaching the Top For Sharp Edges

Place another setup board on top, and carefully flip the cake over.

How to Ganache a Cake - Ganaching the Top For Sharp Edges

Pop a spirit level on top of the cake and gently press on the cake until the cake is level and the ganache squishes out the bottom a little. I like to take this opportunity to clean off any ganache off the bottom of the board (which is now on the top, stay with me now) This saves getting it smeared onto your display board or another tier of cake if you need to shimmy it over when you assemble the cake later.

How to Ganache a Cake - Ganaching the Top For Sharp Edges

Warm the scraper slightly under warm water, place it gently against the cake and scrape away the excess ganache. Make sure you keep the scraper straight or you will scrape away those lovely straight sides! If there are any gaps along the edge you can just dab in a bit more ganache, and scrape it again.

How to Ganache a Cake - Ganaching the Top For Sharp Edges

Check out that sharp edge we’re getting!

How to Ganache a Cake - Ganaching the Top For Sharp Edges

Refrigerate the cake again until the ganache is nice and firm.

Flip the cake back over and peel off the baking paper. Fill in any little holes on the top of the cake with more ganache and smooth with the spatula.

How to Ganache a Cake - Ganaching the Top For Sharp Edges

Warm up your scraper and scrape once more around the sides of the cake.

You may end up with a little ridge of ganache along the top edge which you can either carefully scrape off with your metal spatula, or warm up the spatula and smooth the ridge of ganache back across the top of the cake. Make sure the ganache is still cold and firm when you do this, so there is less chance of accidentally messing with the sharp edge.

Alternatively, you can let the ganache set completely, then lay a small sharp knife flat against the top of the cake and slice the ridge off.

Warm up your scraper and scrape once more around the sides of the cake.

Warm the spatula in hot water one last time and use it to smooth any imperfections. Leave the ganached cake overnight at room temperature to fully set before covering with fondant.

How To Ganache A Cake - A Step-By-Step Tutorial ~ Sweetness & Bite

Once ganached, the cake does not need to be refrigerated unless you have filled it with a perishable filling, such as fresh fruit.

If you do chill the ganached cake before applying fondant, make sure you bring the cake back to room temperature before you try to cover it, otherwise, your fondant will get sticky (and you will get sad).

How To Ganache A Cake - A Step-By-Step Tutorial ~ Sweetness & Bite

So that is how to ganache a cake and get sharp edges. Now you can go off and cover it in fondant, or simply sit back and admire your ganache handiwork!

If you’re not sure what to use to make your fondant stick to your perfect ganache, then check out this little mini tutorial, where I wrote a list of things you can use, with pros and cons of each to help you make your choice.

If you have any questions you can check out my Ganache FAQ post, where I’ve rounded up all of the questions I’ve been asked most about this technique, but if your question isn’t answered there then feel free to ask me in the comments below 🙂

~Natalie
xx

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