12 Absolute Best Ways To Elevate Ganache, According To A Professional Dessert Maker

There's little that rivals a lusciously decadent ganache-topped cake or dessert. Since it contains only two ingredients, making ganache for a silky frosting or filling for baked goods is easy. You'll only need chocolate and cream to make this tasty creation, though you could also substitute the cream for milk, water, or another complementary-flavored liquid like coffee. Ganache is also adaptable; you can pour it over desserts, make it thicker for spreading, or whip it into a frosting. As a culinary-trained professional and gourmet dessert maker, I've spent weeks of my life creating and perfecting ganache for all types of desserts.

Ganache is a great, sweet tool to have in your repertoire. As much of a crowd-pleaser as it is, though, ganache may be too simple if you're looking to make something with a bit of a wow factor. But with a little bit of pizazz and extra ingredients, you can elevate your ganache to new, sweet heights.

1. Invest in a high-quality chocolate

When you're making something like ganache with only two ingredients, there's nowhere to hide if you skimp on the quality. With ganache, it's less about the cocoa percentage in your chocolate and more about the quality., So that means you can use milk, dark, or white chocolate in your recipe. Regardless, it's unwise to cut costs by using inexpensive or lower-quality chocolate as it may have additives in it, which can sometimes hamper how the ganache sets. The chocolate can end up grainy and oily, and that's the opposite of what you want. Silky smooth is the goal, so using the best type of chocolate for your ganache can help you achieve that without trouble. 

It's always helpful to use good-quality baking chocolate, which is designed to melt better than chips, which may contain stabilizers. This addition prevents the chips from melting as smoothly as a high-quality baking bar. Lindt is usually a solid, mainstream option if you're unsure of which chocolate to use and don't know your way around the baking chocolate section.

2. Mature your ganache for the best texture

Many recipes that call for mixing herbs, spices, and sauces together will note the importance of letting the components stand so that the flavors can meld. The same logic applies to ganache, so it's essential to mature it. Maturing ganache means giving the mixture time to allow the chocolate and cream to marry together and become one harmonious entity. This will not only let the flavors become one, but it's also the best thing you can do for the texture of your ganache.

In truth, you really can't trust the consistency of your ganache while it's still warm since this will change as it sets. This is because the cocoa butter in the chocolate is liquid when warm and starts to solidify as it cools down. You need to wait to add more chocolate while the ganache is still warm because it could result in a sauce that's too thick. If this happens, don't despair; you can always add some more warm cream — though it's more convenient to let it set first. Leaving your ganache to mature overnight will allow you to see it in its final stage. If it doesn't get any harder, then you know it definitely needs more chocolate.

3. Spice it up with cayenne and chipotle pepper

There are so many flavor pairings that work well with chocolate that it's not too difficult to find something to add more complexity to your ganache. One of the things that goes amazingly well with chocolate is a hint of spiciness. Chile and chocolate are a match made in heaven for so many reasons. It balances the sweetness of the chocolate and gives the dessert a bit of a kick that will draw more attention to the cocoa. If you're still looking for more reasons try this combo, remember that both chocolate and chile can give you a dopamine boost, so why not combine the two and double the happiness?

We love adding cayenne and chipotle peppers into ganache because it pairs chipotle's smokiness with the cayenne's fruitiness. This adds instant complexity and takes your ganache to new heights. Adding the pepper couldn't be simpler. Make your ganache as usual and sprinkle in the spices right at the end. It's always good to start with a small amount and taste as you go. You can always add more, but you can't take it away after you've added it in. If you go the spicy route, allot enough time for your ganache to mature and absorb those flavors. 

4. Smoke your chocolate to deepen its flavors

This may be a little out of your comfort zone if you've never smoked food before. However, if you're someone who makes smoked meats, fish, or cheese, this is a great way to fire up the smoker for a sweeter reason. Smoked chocolate ganache is a revelation because the smoke intensifies the flavors of the cocoa while adding a striking element to it. It's sure to elevate your ganache and dessert as a whole, whether you're making cake or truffles. 

You'll want to start by smoking the chocolate before you begin making your ganache. Since you don't want the smoking process to melt your chocolate, you need to cold-smoke it. To do this, place the chocolate on a grill mat on your smoking grate. You'll then need to fill your smoking tube with pellets, light it, and then blow out the flame. Once your smoke is hazy, close the smoker to capture it. With cold smoke, you're not turning on your grill or lighting up any wood; you simply want air to move the smoke over your chocolate. This is where a grill fan can come in. After this, you can proceed as usual with making your ganache.

5. Make a chocolate ganache drip

Decorating your cake with a chocolate drip is one of the exciting ways to use chocolate ganache. It's easier to do than it looks, but there are some tricks to ensure you get it right. A common mistake people make with ganache drip is making it too runny. If it's too liquidy, it will drip right off your cake. You need to make it thicker than you might expect so that it drips slower and sets before it runs completely off.

This requires you to wait until the ganache has cooled down completely. In addition, your cake needs to be adequately chilled, too. Any residual heat in your sponge or your ganache will make it drip too quickly. If you think it's too runny once it's completely cooled, then you'll need to melt some more chocolate into it. It's always best to test your ganache on a plate or the surface of your baking dish before applying it to your cake. Add a little bit of ganache onto your dish, hold it upright, and watch gravity do its magic. If it drips down within a few seconds, it's way too runny and needs more chocolate.

6. Use coconut cream to make a luscious dairy-free ganache

Vegans, plant-based folks, or those sensitive to dairy can still have a velvety chocolate ganache. You can easily find vegan chocolate to use, and many people don't know that you can make ganache with water instead of cream and still get a glossy and thick consistency. Although using water does the trick, it does leave a little to be desired in terms of taste and richness. Don't despair, though, because there's an ingredient swap that makes a decadent vegan ganache: coconut cream. It's naturally plant-based while being incredibly rich and creamy, making it the perfect dairy substitute for ganache.

To use coconut cream, gently warm it in the microwave or the stovetop until it's hot but not boiling. Pour it over your chocolate and allow it to sit for a couple of minutes until everything has melted. After mixing, be sure to let it mature, just as you would with a dairy ganache. You can also whip your ganache with a beater to make it fluffy — all without the dairy. 

7. Use muscovado sugar for more caramel notes

Most chocolate ganache recipes don't call for sugar. This doesn't mean, though, that you can't add sugar, which can help sweeten up a dark or semi-sweet chocolate base. The sugar you use can be an opportunity to introduce a flavor element in your ganache. Muscovado sugar, for example, can add notes of toffee and caramel while not overwhelming the ganache with sweetness. If you can't find muscovado sugar, you can use brown sugar as a substitute. 

To make muscovado sugar chocolate ganache, mix the sugar and cream in a saucepan and apply gentle heat on the stove. You want your cream to get hot but not scorched, so make sure you never let it come to a boil. As your cream warms, be sure to stir often to encourage the sugar to melt. Your cream will turn a lovely golden honey color once all the sugar has melted. Then, pour your warm, sweetened cream onto your chocolate and mix.

8. Infuse your ganache with liquor

Boozy chocolates have long been a beloved treat for adults, so it would make sense to add liquor to your chocolate ganache, too. Rum is one of the best choices because although it's not sweet, it has sweet notes like caramel or molasses. Infusing rum into ganache couldn't be easier. You don't need to do anything fancy other than add a few drops into your already mixed chocolate and cream mixture. Do this before it sets so you can easily mix your ganache and give it time for the flavors to marry.

When adding booze to ganache, it's important to remember that a little goes a long way. The alcoholic flavor can overpower it and even alter the texture if you add too much. Start with just a tablespoon and taste. If you want it to be really boozy, add a little more, but be careful to taste as you go and not overdo it. Other than rum, whiskey also works really well, or you can get fancy and use some champagne to make champagne truffles.

9. Steep your cream with florals

Florals have become a trendy way to elevate sweet treats. They add a delicate flavor and sometimes even a bit of beautiful color to whatever you add them to. With chocolate, there are so many wonderful floral combinations. Think of rose milk chocolate, lavender with white chocolate, or even a tangy hibiscus flower with dark chocolate. There are so many already tried and tested combinations, and if you're not sure where to start, visit a local artisanal chocolate maker. You'll likely find some inspiration based on their chocolates or even get real-time advice on what flavors go well together.

Adding florals to your ganache requires you to steep dried flowers in your cream. You'll want to keep some petals or buds for decorating, so don't drop everything into the mixture. Work slowly to give the floral elements time to meld with the cream. You can also steep the flower buds in hot water first, then add it to your cream — but this will thin out your ganache and may require you to adjust your ratio of liquid to chocolate. You can also add floral flavor in the form of essence. Keep in mind that less is more when using flowers like rose and lavender, which can impart a soapy taste if you use too much.

10. Caffeinate your ganache with coffee or tea

It's no secret that coffee and chocolate are meant for each other. Coffee enhances the flavor of chocolate so well, which is why many bakers add a little java to chocolate cake or sauce. You can easily make a chocolate cake more decadent and exciting by adding a coffee chocolate ganache to it. Simply add some liquid coffee to your ganache before it sets, or infuse some espresso powder into the cream as it warms.

You don't have to stop at coffee, especially if you're a tea lover. Tea may not be as common to find paired with chocolate, but there are a lot of flavor possibilities to be found when mixing the two together. Green tea is already a favorite option for white chocolate, whereas black tea will add another layer of flavor to milk or dark chocolate. For example, how about a milky oolong dark chocolate ganache? Steep some tea leaves or bags in your cream as it warms, and taste the result. You'll be surprised at how well the slight bitterness from the tea's tannins complement your chocolate.

11. Add warm spices

Spices are probably one of the simplest yet most effective ways to elevate a ganache. There are so many spices and blends to choose from that both enhance the chocolate and add more complexity to it. If you're unsure which spices to use, warm spices like cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, or cloves are the safest bet. In other words, any spice you add to your pancakes or carrot cake will work great in a ganache. You can even add some masala chai spice if you have a pre-made chai blend, or if you're feeling more adventurous, try Chinese five-spice with a dark chocolate ganache for a bright, complex combination. 

Sprinkle your spice of choice into your already-mixed chocolate and cream to taste. As always, leaving your ganache to set is important for its texture and will allow the spices to infuse well with the chocolate for the best flavor.

12. Splash in some acidity with citrus

Adding some sourness or sharpness to something sweet is a wonderful way to balance flavors. The same idea applies to chocolate. Citrus fruits add some acidity to your sweet ganache, and the fruity flavors can make your entire dessert taste more sophisticated. Paring milk chocolate with orange is common, but there are other variations that work just as well. Think of adding a splash of lemon or pomelo to white chocolate. Grapefruit or blood orange paired with dark chocolate is also delicious, while tangerine will go well with any type of chocolate.

You should use both the juice and the citrus zest because the juice will bring sharpness while the zest will bring flavor. Citrus is a forgiving ingredient that can be incorporated into the cream as it warms or into the mixed ganache. For an extra bit of pizazz, sprinkle some zest or candied peels on top for some extra decoration and texture.