Should I Use Ganache or Frosting? (Their Differences and Uses)

If you’ve got a special occasion approaching and you intend to bake a cake for it, there’s a good chance that you’ll have a bit of a problem deciding on your icing. Ganache or frosting?

Both of these types of icing have similar uses – helping your cake to stay moist, and making sure that your beautiful cake tastes delicious. 

Whilst these two different types of icing are extremely similar, they also have differences. You might be wondering if one type of icing is better for certain types of cake than the other icing, or you might just want to know what they are in general!

Should I use Ganache or Frosting1

Either way, we’ll be talking about all of these points within this article. 

Read on if you’d like to discover the differences between ganache and frosting, as well as what they can be used for!

Ganache or Frosting?

So, you’re probably wondering which one is the better choice – ganache of frosting?

Ganache is quit, as it will often have more cocoa solids and, unlike frosting, you don’t whip it when making it. In contrast, frosting will have a much lighter consistency than ganache does and can appear to be quite fluffy.

This is because of the butter/sugar mixture that frosting is made from. As a result, the frosting will take up a lot more volume than ganache, as it is much airier.

This makes it much easier to slice through when applied to a cake, compared to ganache, which can dry quite hard. 

Unlike frosting, Ganache has a watery, pourable consistency, meaning that you can use it to coat your cakes super easily. Quite often, however, ganache is prone to more of a sticky texture, that is moist to the touch instead of hard like expected.

Ganache’s ability to be poured over cakes means that you have control over the thickness of the layer of icing on your cake, as ganache can be poured over multiple times. 

How is Ganache Made?

Ganache is actually really simple to make – all you need to do is heat some cream up and melt some chocolate into it. The type of chocolate that you use will massively affect the quality and outcome of your ganache, as different types of chocolate will both melt and set at different temperatures. 

For example, if you choose to use dark chocolate, your ganache is likely to become hard if it’s left to sit at room temperature, and it will become extra hard if you allow it to set in the fridge – this is because of the amount of cocoa butter in the chocolate.

In comparison, using white chocolate to make your ganache means that you don’t have to use as much cream as you would have to use for dark chocolate to obtain a harder set.

To get the best ganache, you need to pay the most attention to the proportions of chocolate and cream that you add. This is because adding more chocolate than you should will result in your ganache setting much harder than probably intended.

Sometimes, this hard set can come in handy, however – foods such as fruit and pralines taste amazing coated in this type of chocolate ganache, and have the best textures.

On the other hand, if you don’t use enough chocolate, your ganache will have an extremely watery texture, and your hopes of its setting aren’t too high – although it will almost certainly get tacky if you place it into the refrigerator. 

It’s important to remember that ganache isn’t likely to retain the shiny look that it will have initially. Whilst some will say that adding some butter can help to keep it shiny, it isn’t likely.

This is because when ganache becomes colder it can take on more of a matte appearance, whereas warm ganache will of course stay slightly shiny, since it is more liquid. 

If you really want a shiny cake, you can take your cake out of your fridge an hour before you serve it, as this will help the ganache to loosen up and regain some of its shine.

How is Frosting Made?

Making frosting is also pretty easy. To make frosting, you need to beat both unsalted butter and sugar together, until they incorporate into a fluffy, light consistency.

Frosting is usually mousse-like, so this is a good guideline to follow. As soon as it has taken on this consistency, it’s done! This type of icing can be used to make creative cake designs, as well as to sandwich each cake layer together.

Because of its airy, fluffy texture, you can smooth this type of frosting around the cake to create a satisfying, appetizing coating for your cake. 

Frosting is really good if you’d like to flavor your icing. For vanilla frosting, simply mix a small amount of vanilla essence into your mixture – to taste, of course.

To avoid over-flavoring, add your vanilla essence by the drop, tasting frequently until it has taken on the flavor that you desire.

Chocolate frosting is a little harder than vanilla frosting, as you need to start by making a ganache by mixing hot cream and chocolate together – try to make sure that this isn’t too thin or too thick.

After making your ganache, allow it to cool back down to room temperature before mixing it into your butter/sugar mixture. Try not to make your ganache too hard as this can result in a grainier icing. 

Should I use Ganache or Frosting

Differences Between Ganache and Frosting

Ganache Can Be Used As A Glaze

Due to its ability to be poured, ganache is absolutely brilliant when used to apply a glaze to cakes. Despite this, you can choose to make a very thick, pipeable ganache that can be used as decoration on your cakes, meaning that it is a very versatile type of icing.

A very popular choice is to use ganache in order to create drips down the side of your cake – to do this, you will need to allow your ganache to set a little so that it is thick, before dripping it down the sides of your cake to create the desired effect. 

One thing to look out for with ganache is that cutting into it can be difficult – because it sets hard, upon cutting the ganache can crack and ruin the aesthetic appearance of your cake. This is a particular issue when ganache is used as a coating for cakes with quite a lot of cream inside.

Unlike ganache, frosting can be used to shape the cake. This is because it doesn’t drip in the same way that ganache does, and it has a thick, creamy texture with lots of air bubbles.

This means that you can mold it into whatever shape you like – using an offset spatula can allow you to displace some of the icing to create certain designs, such as cutting stripes into the cake.

You can also use frosting to mold flowers onto your cake, or just create a simple, multicolored but smooth finish. The possibilities are endless!

Make sure not to leave a cake iced with frosting on the counter overnight, as it could spoil or ruin the icing. You can store your cake in the fridge, but keep in mind that the colder temperature will slightly harden your frosting.

This can be useful, as freezing a freshly iced cake for fifteen minutes can allow you to cut the icing edges off, neatening the cake up.

Different Bases

Each of these types of icing has a different base. This is important, as the base of each icing changes its texture, flavor, and practical use quite considerably.

This means that you will want to consider whether you like each base before deciding on your frosting, as you may prefer one over the other. 

Frosting has a base of butter and sugar, which are whipped together to trap air bubbles, creating icing with a much airier consistency than ganache.

Due to frosting’s very pale yellow-white color, you can use a drop of food coloring to change the color of your frosting quite easily, and it’s easy to separate and mix up a few different colors to decorate your cake with.

You may find that icing with a base of purely sugar and butter is unappetizing to you, which is why some prefer ganache.

Ganache is made from two ingredients – chocolate, and cream. This means that some people will find ganache to be either too rich or too creamy, so it’s not without its downsides.

One good thing about ganache, however, is that if you don’t have any cream, you can use butter as an alternative. Your ganache may set a lot harder than a typical ganache, but it can work if you’ve run out of options!

Using butter can also help your ganache to set faster, so if you’re short on time, you might choose to use butter instead. 

Both of these icings can easily be made vegan, however. Plant-based cooking sauce works as a great, vegan alternative to cream, and if you use vegan chocolate then you’re good to go!

You can also achieve the same thing with frosting, by using margarine or shortening instead of butter. If you choose to replace your butter, it’s important to note that it may not set in the same way. However, both of these can be great vegan alternatives! 

Flavor

Ganache actually has a much stronger taste of chocolate than frosting does, which might be something you want to consider if your cake is for a chocolate lover.

Whilst adding either cocoa powder or chocolate to your frosting will result in a delectable chocolate flavor, ganache brings out the chocolate flavor much more than frosting does.

If you want the chocolate flavor that comes with ganache but you don’t want your icing to be hard, you can choose to add more cream when making it in order to make your ganache softer, and have more of the consistency that you desire.

You could also choose to just add less chocolate, depending on which you have more of.

Slicing

Everyone knows how important it is that your cake still looks good after being cut – after all, the first slice isn’t the last! The problem with ganache is that the look of a cake coated with hard ganache is often ruined after it is cut. 

If presentation is important to you and you still want to use ganache, you might choose to use a hot knife to cut into your cake instead. This might not have the best results, but you may find that it is easier than using a cold knife. 

If you choose to ice your cake with frosting, you will have a much easier time. This is because frosting is a lot softer than ganache, so sliding a knife through is literally like cutting butter.

You should still be careful to clean your knife between cuts, however – excess icing picked up on the knife can be transferred back to the cake, once again, potentially ruining the aesthetic.

Using Ganache as Frosting

If you choose, you can turn your ganache into the frosting, as discussed earlier. All you need to do is make sure that your ganache takes on a medium consistency.

To do this, you will need to use slightly more cream if you are using dark chocolate, and slightly less if using white chocolate. Milk chocolate needs a one-to-one ratio, so just use equal parts chocolate and cream for this one. 

Wait for your freshly made ganache to cool to room temperature, and then stir it up as much as you can! Whipping it introduces air to the mixture, meaning that the more you whip, the fluffier it might get.

The ganache needs to be cold in order for this to work, and you can choose to add a little butter for an even better icing!

What’s Better, Ganache or Buttercream?

Whilst buttercream is a great icing all by itself, ganache is the real star if you’d like to glaze your cake or infuse it with chocolate flavor. Depending on what you are making, however, different icings will suit the job better. 

Ganache is amazing for eclairs, for example, whereas frosting is perfect for coating your cupcakes. Both can be used for cakes though, so go for your favorite! 

One thing that may sway your opinion, is the fact that ganache comes with a slightly longer shelf-life. This means that using ganache will allow your cake to last longer than it would if you chose to use frosting.

It’s also harder to see detail in ganache, meaning that if you accidentally poke the ganache whilst transporting the cake, it will be harder to see than it would be with frosting.

Can Ganache Harden?

Absolutely! One of ganache’s main attributes is its ability to harden upon setting. This happens when ganache is made with a chocolate with plenty of cocoa solids, as these help it to set hard. Using dark chocolate will result in a harder ganache than milk or white chocolate. 

If you choose to use white chocolate, whilst it will harden slightly, you won’t be able to touch it and it will never completely harden.

Similarly, white chocolate is unlikely to harden unless you add a smaller amount of cream than you would for dark chocolate, as white chocolate can get quite thin when melted. A ratio of one part cream to three parts chocolate works best here.

Jess Smith
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