One of my favorite easy things to dress up a cake is to do a chocolate ganache drip finish. Over the years, my ability to create the drip look has definitely grown, and I get tons of questions asking what my secret is. The truth is, chocolate ganache has definitely put me through the wringer before, especially white chocolate ganache, which used to be my absolute nemesis. Don’t worry, I’ll share my secrets for white chocolate ganache another day because it deserves it’s very own post (but if you’re dying to know my white chocolate ganache recipe I’ve included it in the recipe notes below).
True chocolate ganache has tested my patience as well, but after figuring out the perfect ratio for chocolate to heavy whipping cream and learning the do’s and dont’s of drip cakes, I’ve got it down to a science these days. And now you will too!
Here’s a little video I’ve created to show you my method before you read all about it. You’ll notice I do my drips with a spoon instead of a squeeze bottle. This is what’s always worked for me and I’m sure someday I’ll figure out the latter approach, but for now this is my go-to method.
First, here’s the recipe. Read on afterwards for my tips on working with chocolate ganache!
Chocolate Ganache For Drip Cakes
The perfect chocolate ganache consistency for drip cakes using milk, semi-sweet, or dark chocolate.
- 1 cup (183g) chocolate chips (Milk, Semi-Sweet, or Dark) or a bar chopped up into bits
- 1 cup (240ml) heavy whipping cream
Place chocolate chips into a heat resistant bowl (glass or metal). If you’re starting with a chocolate bar, chop it into small pieces until they’re about the size of chocolate chips.
In a saucepan over medium-high heat, warm heavy whipping cream until it just starts to boil. I always look for small bubbles forming around the edge and a soft boil starting in the middle. When you see that it’s just starting to boil, pour it into your bowl of chocolate and let sit for one minute.
Whisk it together until it’s uniform in consistency and there are no bits of chocolate left on your whisk. Cool ganache at room temperature for about 30 minutes, or until the ganache itself is room temperature.
Make ahead tip: this ganache can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to two weeks. When you’re ready to use it as a drip, microwave it in 10 second increments, stirring after every interval until your ganache is room temperature and uniform in consistency.
If you're using white chocolate: my favorite ratio is 3:1, meaning three parts white chocolate to one part heavy whipping cream. Follow the same steps with this ratio and you're good to go!
Tips For Perfect Chocolate Ganache Drip Cakes
Tip 1: Be Patient With The Cooling Process
Once you’ve whisked the ganache together, it’s crucial to let it cool on your countertop until it’s room temperature, about 20-30 minutes depending on how cold your environment is. Trying to speed up this process by placing ganache in the refrigerator doesn’t usually end well – I’ve found that it cools unevenly, leading to thick, globby drips.
Cooling in the fridge also leads to the urge to stir it too often. Ganache (especially white chocolate!) does not like to be stirred too often, and the end result can mean that your whipping cream starts to separate from the chocolate. You’ll know that this has happened because the ganache will look grainy and dull, or even separated like oil and water. To fix situations like these, you’ll need to reheat the ganache to 92ºF to melt the fat crystals and re-whisk to bring it back together.
Tip 2: Make Sure Your Buttercream Is Chilled
There’s a science to this tip. Since molecules move more slowly at cooler temperatures (and warp speed at higher temperatures), it makes a lot of sense that you can better control how far the chocolate ganache drips when the buttercream is chilled. Make sure that after you do your final coat of buttercream, you chill the cake in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
Tip 3: Always Do A Test Drip
When your buttercream is nice and chilled, do a test drip by letting the ganache run down the side of your cake. If it travels rapidly and pools at the bottom, your ganache is too warm. Continue to cool the ganache for another 5-10 minutes and try your test drip again. If it’s globby or doesn’t travel very far down the side of the cake, it’s too cold. Reheat the ganache in the microwave for about 10 seconds, stir, and try again. Repeat the reheating process as needed until you get the perfect consistency.
The good thing about a test drip is you’re able to see how the ganache will behave. That way you don’t have to commit until you like what you’re seeing.
Tip 4: Drip The Sides Before Filling In The Top
When I first started caking, my initial thought was to just dump ganache over the top of the cake and let it run down the sides naturally. If you’ve ever tried that before, you’ll know it doesn’t end up looking good. You’ll have a lot more control over the appearance if you start by dripping the sides until they’re aesthetically pleasing before filling in the top of the cake.
Try not to add too much ganache to the top when filling it in, because if you add any more to the drips you’ve created, it will make them travel farther than you’d like. Instead, try to use just a little ganache and spread it so that it just touches where your drips begin. The ganache on the top should self-level a bit, so don’t worry too much about getting it super smooth.
Tip 5: Don’t Touch Those Drips
If you’ve ever made a drip cake with ganache before, you’ll know that it’s a little sticky to the touch when it’s room temperature. When the drips have been refrigerated, they’re a little less fragile, but try not to touch the drips at all during the decorating or boxing-up process.
I had a pretty bad time with this one when delivering a drip cake. I had it in the box and turned a corner too fast and the cake slid to the side of the box. Those drips stuck right to it and were ruined. Luckily, I had a little extra ganache and buttercream in my little cake emergency kit to fix it, but talk about a stress fest!
Is there anything else you’d like to know about drip cakes? I’m certainly not an expert per se, but if you have more questions, let me know in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer!