Friday, May 25, 2012

Sour Cream Ganache

I topped the Chocolate-Mayonnaise Cake (posted above) with Sour Cream Ganache - one of the richest and most decadent frostings you can make. Ganache is thought to have been invented in Switzerland or France more than 150 years ago, where it was always made with heavy cream. It’s really quite simple to make - chocolate, cream, a splash of vanilla - but it’s also quite simple to ruin, if you don’t melt the chocolate with care and respect. You’ll want to use the best chocolate you can afford: Some people use a slab of Callebaut, but a pastry chef recently told me he finds the far-less-expensive Lindt brand every bit as good.  
My step-daughter, Los Cabos, Mexico-based cake artist Deena Fisher (, uses bittersweet chocolate and a small quantity of Kahlua in her Ganache. I can guarantee the result is out of this world! When I looked for bittersweet chocolate in my local supermarket, there was none. Unwilling to pay for a slab of premium chocolate, I used semi-sweet chocolate chips in this recipe. 
(The Cook’s Thesaurus reports that bittersweet chocolate “is a sweetened chocolate that's heavy on the cocoa solids and light on the sugar, giving it a rich, intense chocolate flavor.  Many pastry chefs prefer bittersweet to semi-sweet or sweet chocolate, but the three can be used interchangeably in most recipes. The best bittersweet chocolates contain at least 50% cocoa solids.”
(The Thesaurus suggests: “To make semisweet chocolate more like bittersweet chocolate, add some unsweetened chocolate or cocoa powder to it.” This excellent reference has more about chocolate at
Now, for the cream! Ganache normally uses heavy or “whipping” cream, but Deena and many other pastry chefs have turned to dairy sour cream for its lower calorie hit and excellent flavor. If you’re already on the road to calorie hell (as you are with the chocolate), you may want to use heavy cream. If so, see Julia Child’s recipe for Heavy Cream Ganache, posted immediately below this one. 
As for the vanilla, use a good one. This is not the time for an imitation extract! Or do what Deena does - add a small amount of Kahlua. No matter which type of Ganache you choose, I hope you’ll enjoy this lower-calorie, lower-cost version of a superb treat! 
Sour Cream Ganache:
2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1-½ c. dairy sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla extract (or 2 tsp. Kahlua or other coffee-flavored liqueur)
Partially melt chocolate chips in heat-proof bowl over simmering - not boiling - water in saucepan, effectively making your own “double boiler.” Stir until smooth to complete melting. When chocolate has fully melted, stir in sour cream and flavoring. Frost chilled cake while Ganache is still warm. 
Note: Deena makes a very thin “crumb-coat frosting” on her cakes - a smart thing to do if you want your cake to be a show-stopper. 

In her pastry kitchen, Los Cabos cake artist Deena Fisher 
trims away cake's rough outer edge before spreading 
thin Crumb-Coat Frosting on top and sides
A “crumb-coat frosting is one that catches and seals the crumbs that might otherwise mar a picture-perfect icing. Thick and creamy, Ganache doesn’t lend itself to “crumb-coat frostings,” but the above-posted recipe for Bake-Shop Frosting or my recipe for Buttercream Frosting (posted May 4, 2012) will. As chocolate Ganache will be spread over this cake, add a little sifted cocoa powder to your remaining Bake-Shop Frosting, spreading it very, very thinly over the chilled cake’s top and sides. Chill or freeze the “crumb-coat frosted” cake until you’re able to spread it with Ganache, with no risk that the two frostings will blend or that any loose crumbs will spoil the texture of the Ganache.

The thin Crumb-Coat Frosting catches
crumbs while locking in cake's moisture

Another cake with Crumb-Coat Frosting: Deena rounds 
edges slightly before chilling for final frost and decor
Deena passes along this tip: The wooden, stabilizing dowels  
some pastry chefs use for multi-layer cakes can flavor the
cake. Instead, drive a chop stick through cake - this one has
four layers - removing it to insert plastic straws to hold layers.

A closer view: Plastic straws slide into holes left by chopstick,
firmly securing cake layers for display and cutting

Trim straws to exact height of cake before further 
chilling, final frosting, and decorating. Stabilizing 
plastic straws are invisible, yet do the job.

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