Ganache vs Frosting – Top Tasty Differences

Ganache vs Frosting

Nothing makes that special recipe you’ve worked so hard to perfect stand out quite like what you choose to put on top of your finished masterpiece.

But should you use ganache or frosting and why?

The answer is that it somewhat depends on what you’re making but if you’re wondering what the differences between ganache and frosting are, you’ve come to the right place.

We’ve covered every detail and left no question unanswered to help you make the right decision for your special treat.

While there are several slight differences between ganache and frosting, the primary one is that ganache is a glaze that is designed to harden into a shell-like coating whereas frosting is nearly the opposite. It’s specially made to impart a light, sweet and buttery mouthfeel while remaining soft and fluffy.

As I mentioned, there are some other differences too and frankly, a lot of gray area between these two dessert favorites including the ingredients used in each, their respective histories, how each is made and much more.

So, let’s get right into it and uncover all the tasty morsels of truth, shall we? 

What is Ganache?

Ganache is a blend (or emulsion) of chocolate (either milk, dark or white) mixed with cream that forms a smooth mixture. To alter the texture and of ganache, bakers will vary the amount of cream or chocolate used in the mixture.

Common uses for ganache are as a glaze, to make candies like chocolate truffles, sauces or as cake and pie fillings. 

What is Frosting?

Frosting is a complex form of a glaze but as mentioned earlier, it doesn’t harden like ganache. Rather, it retains its creamy texture which makes it perfectly suited to spread easily on cakes or other baked goods. In addition to be used as a topping, frosting is also used between layers of cake and referred to as filling.

Origin Differences Between Ganache and Frosting

Ganache is French in origin.

Sometimes referred to as Crème Ganache, it’s thought that was originally consumed as a chocolate truffle. Credit for its invention dates to 1869 and is given to a man named Paul Siraudin who was a Parisian confectioner.

As an homage to his former life as a playwright, it’s said that Mr. Siraudin coined the name for ganache based on a Vaudeville comedy which was popular at the time, Les Ganache.

Frosting is also referred to as complex icing however, the origin of them is the same.

The word “icing” comes from the Old English “icen” meaning “to ice”. In Britain, where the tradition of baking has been strong since medieval times, there have always been many different types of icing which were often applied to the cake prior to being hardened in the oven.

The first recorded use of the term “frosting” as it relates to baking occurred in 1750.

In 1806, an American cookbook called Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management included recipes for making various kinds of icing. By the late 19th century, the term had become common enough to appear in dictionaries.

Ingredient Differences Between Ganache and Frosting

Most ganache recipes call for the use of cream, chocolate and sometimes butter.

Other flavorings may also be included for specialty recipes. The most common types of chocolate used in ganache are dark chocolate, milk chocolate and white chocolate.

Frosting is often made from a combination of butter, sugar (usually powdered), salt, vanilla extract and milk (or occasionally heavy cream).

Preparation Differences Between Ganache and Frosting

Ganache is prepared using a combination of cream and chocolate divided into even parts.

The process begins by warming the cream before pouring it over the chocolate, at which point it is stirred until a smooth consistency is achieved. Often, butter is added to the mix to enhance the texture of the ganache and to impart a shiny appearance.

There are some other variables which include the type of chocolate being used, the desired use for the ganache (glaze, filling, etc.), and the ratio of cream to chocolate. Varying any of these will change the consistency of the ganache once it’s prepared.

However, as mentioned above, ganache is generally one part chocolate to one part cream for things like glaze whereas for truffles, the ratio shifts to two parts chocolate to one part cream.

Making a basic frosting like buttercream is fairly simple.

The powdered sugar and butter are combined and beaten together. As the mixture smooths, the additional ingredients are added until the mixture assumes a spreadable consistency. 

If the frosting is too thin, additional powered sugar can be added to thicken it or if the mixture is too thick, small amounts of milk can be added a few drops at a time until the desired consistency is achieved. 

Taste Differences Between Ganache and Frosting

If you’ve ever tasted a chocolate truffle, chances are you have a pretty good idea of what ganache tastes like.

Of course depending on the type of chocolate you’re using, the taste can vary. Ganache made from dark chocolate will tend to be a bit more bitter while milk and white chocolate ganache will be sweeter.

Frosting can be a bit of a chameleon in terms of its taste because flavorings can be added to alter it.

However, at its most basic level, you’re likely to experience a buttery, rich flavor with a lot of sweetness thanks to the high amounts of sugar present in most frosting recipes.

What Are the Advantages of Using Ganache?

If you’re careful to use high quality chocolate and cream, it can be made in a variety of ways. Whether you’d like it in a pourable state as a delicious glaze or thickened to a fudge-like consistency for spreading, the range of uses are only limited to your imagination! While frosting is certainly delicious, the uses for it are mostly limited to a topping or filling for cakes.

Is Ganache Sweeter Than Buttercream?

No, ganache is not sweeter than buttercream or other types of frosting.

In fact, many find the taste of frosting too sweet for their liking whereas classic ganache derives its sweetness from the chocolate used in the recipe.

The sweetness level is less pronounced and is more like eating a chocolate truffle and who doesn’t want to do that?

Is Ganache More Stable Than Buttercream?

For cakes, ganache is more stable than buttercream since it surrounds it with a shell even at room temperature. Conversely, buttercream can soften easily at room temperature and as the cake continues to rest, bubbles can result which causes the frosting to expand, further reducing its stability.

Is Ganache Better Than Buttercream?

The answer to this question depends on what you’re making since both ganache and buttercream have their place and sometimes, they can share the spotlight.

For instance, if frosting a cake it’s perfectly fine to use ganache or buttercream so long as you remember that ganache will firm up whereas frosting will not. If presentation is important and you’d rather not risk the splitting the ganache, opt for buttercream. If that’s not a concern, then again either will work.

For other desserts like eclairs or donuts, ganache is a better option while for things like cupcakes, brownies or cookies, frosting generally works better.

Can You Mix Buttercream and Ganache?

Yes, it’s possible to add ganache to buttercream but with a couple of caveats. 

The first of these, according to this excellent tutorial, is to avoid using chocolate chips when making the ganache. The reason for this is that chocolate chips hold their shape when heated thanks to the inclusion of emulsifiers and stabilizers used as ingredients.

Second, it’s best to use ganache at the right temperature which is around 75 degrees Fahrenheit since that will keep the mixture thick but also pourable at the same time. If it’s overly hot, the butter will melt while if it’s too cool, it will harden.

Can You Put Ganache Under Buttercream?

Yes, you can use ganache under buttercream but it’s possible that the combination might prove to overly sweet. A good option would be to use a thinner later of buttercream which will give the person eating your dessert a chance to remove the excess frosting if they find it to be too overpowering.

Why Does Ganache Split?

There are a few reasons ganache can split. 

The first of these is letting the cream get too hot while the second is mixing prior to allowing all the ingredients to reach a close temperature. A good way to prevent this is to rotate the bowl while adding the cream so that it distributes evenly across any cold spots. By doing this slowly, the mixture can emulsify but if done too quickly, the cocoa butter will tend to separate.

Another factor to consider is the type of chocolate being used in the ganache. When using dark chocolate, opt for one that has cocoa solids of greater than 50 percent, for milk chocolate target 42 percent and when using white chocolate, aim for anything between 23 to 29 percent.

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