For me, a cake is not a cake if it doesn’t have a silky, rich cream. I have to say that buttercream is not my thing (not to say that I hate it), but it’s only a matter of personal taste, I know people who like it and that’s totally fine. But it just doesn’t work for me, it’s too rich (I am a butter fan, but not in such a large quantity). I prefer airy, light, smooth creams that have personality and butter lacks the kick that I’m after when making a cream for my cakes (as I said, it’s just a matter of personal taste though).
And since chocolate is a weakness of mine it’s only natural that I try to master chocolate creams of all sorts, from the common and simple ganache to a more complex mousse or cremeux. These are the three main chocolate creams I use and the ones we will talk about today, but chocolate is versatile and there are so many ways to include it into a cake that this article barely scratches the surface. But that will have to do for now, more to come in a future article.
Ganache is a rich chocolate cream that has many uses, from filling a cake to crumb coat it or decorate it. In addition to that, when slightly warm and runny, it makes an excellent pourable chocolate glaze that will set with a nice, shiny finish. When cooled, it can also be used to make chocolate truffles or filling other type of candies or cake pops. Moreover, you can whip it into a mousse-like cream that can be used to fill cakes, eclaires or piped into verrine glasses. It’s one of the easiest chocolate creams ever, but also one of the most versatiles.
In its simplest form, ganache is a mix of heavy cream and chocolate, plus butter in some recipes. The general rule is to use equal quantities of cream and chocolate, but I found that different types of chocolate yield different results and the cocoa content of the chocolate has a huge influence on the final consistency of the ganache.
Dark chocolate ganache:
- 100g dark chocolate (60% cocoa content)
- 100g heavy cream
- 1 pinch salt
- 10g butter
- Chop the chocolate into fine pieces.
- Pour the cream in a heavy saucepan and bring it to the boiling point. (Do not let it boil!) Remove the saucepan from heat and stir in the chocolate and a pinch of salt (salt balances the taste of the chocolate).
- Allow the mixture to rest for 5 minutes then mix well with a whisk until the ganache is smooth and creamy.
- Stir in the butter and mix until melted then let it cool to room temperature and use it to glaze a cake or refrigerate it until it’s thick and use it to crumb coat or decorate cakes or to make truffles. When chilled, you can also whip it into a mousse.
This is the most basic dark chocolate ganache that uses a chocolate with a maximum of 60% cocoa content. If your chocolate has more cocoa content, you need to add more heavy cream, but if it has less cocoa content, you may need to add more chocolate. I would say that the best solution is to experiment and once you found a combination that works for you, stick with it.
When it comes to white chocolate the rule is as follows: 1 part heavy cream, 2 parts white chocolate. The technique is the same as for the dark chocolate and the uses are exactly the same.
A great variation for these two basic recipes (dark and white chocolate ganache) is infusing the heavy cream with spices (vanilla, orange, lavender, lemon, cinnamon, star anise, cardamom and the list can go on). To obtain an infused ganache, bring the cream to the boiling point then remove from heat and add the desired spice. Cover the cream with plastic wrap on the surface and let it infuse 1 hour, up to 1 day if you have the time. To finish the ganache, remove and discard the spices you used and bring the cream back to the boiling point. Add the chopped chocolate and mix until melted. Use as stated above.
However, ganache is not just dark or white chocolate. Certain ganache recipes include fruit purees. Here is a recipe that uses raspberry puree, but feel free to replace it with other type of fruits and build your own recipe.
- 120ml raspberry puree
- 20g sugar
- 60g butter
- 120ml heavy cream
- 200g dark chocolate, chopped
Combine the cream, butter, sugar and raspberry puree in a saucepan and bring to the boiling point, mixing until well combined.
Remove from heat and stir in the dark chocolate. Let the mixture rest for 5 minutes then mix until melted and smooth.
Refrigerate and use the ganache as you like.
Chocolate mousse is one of my favorites. I prefer it due to its airy, rich consistency. Plus, it’s easy to combine with other creams and has a wide range of uses, from cakes to tarts or verrines. I have three basic mousse recipes that I normally used, depending on occasion or situation. For instance, during summer, I prefer the eggless chocolate mousse, but a chocolate mousse that begins from an egg base is richer and has a luscious consistency so in terms of taste, the egg chocolate mousse is the winner.
Chocolate Mousse I
I prefer this recipe for dessert cups because it doesn’t have gelatin and it sets into a rich, decadent, airy mousse. Butter is used to help it set up once chilled and that boosts the taste as well. This mousse uses raw egg so make sure to store it in a chilled place. It also may not be suited for kids or people who don’t tolerate raw eggs.
- 100g dark chocolate (60-70% cocoa content)
- 1 egg yolk
- 55g butter
- 2 egg whites
- 20g sugar
- Melt the chocolate over a double boiler or in the microwave. Remove from heat and stir in the butter. Mix until melted then gently stir in the egg yolk. Set aside.
- Whip the egg white with a pinch of salt until stiff then add the sugar and mix into a glossy meringue.
- Gradually fold the meringue into the chocolate mixture then spoon the mousse into serving cups and refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving.
Chocolate mousse II
This recipe has no eggs and can be used to fill cakes or in dessert cups/verrines. Its base is a basic ganache that is then mixed with gelatin and whipped cream.
- 150g dark chocolate, chopped
- 150g heavy cream
- 1 pinch salt
- 4g gelatin
- 20ml cold water
- 300ml heavy cream
- 40g powdered sugar
- Mix the gelatin and cold water and let it bloom at least 10 minutes.
- Bring 150ml heavy cream to the boiling point. Remove from heat and stir in the chopped chocolate and salt. Mix until melted then add the gelatin and mix until well incorporated and melted. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
- Whip the heavy cream with powdered sugar until stiff then fold it into the chocolate.
- Pour the mousse in your mould and refrigerate 1 hour to allow it to set.
Dark chocolate mousse III
This is the recipe I use most often. It starts from a base that’s called pate a bombe which is basically an egg and sugar mixture. The base makes the mousse rich and luscious, great for cakes or entremets.
- 4g gelatin + 20ml cold water
- 40g sugar
- 20ml water
- 3 egg yolks
- 200g dark chocolate,melted
- 400ml whipped cream
- Combine the gelatin and cold water and let it bloom at least 10 minutes.
- To make the base of the mousse – pate a bombe – mix the sugar with water in s small saucepan and bring it to a boil. Cook the syrup for 2-3 minutes until it begins to thicken.
- While the syrup is cooking, mix the egg yolks until light. Gradually pour in the hot syrup, mixing all the time. Keep mixing at least 5 minutes on high speed until fluffy and triple in volume. The hot syrup is enough to cook the egg yolks so rest assured from that point of view.
- Melt the gelatin in the microwave or a water bath just for a few seconds and stir it into the pate a bombe.
- Add the chocolate and mix well then let the pate a bombe come to room temperature.
- Fold in the whipped cream then pour the mousse into your mold and refrigerate until set.
Cremeux is richer and denser than a chocolate mousse and even than a ganache. Unlike the other two creams, a cremeux cooks the heavy cream and eggs into a custard then chocolate and gelatin is added. What you get is a thick, rich and versatile recipe.
- 180ml heavy cream
- 45ml milk
- 4 egg yolks
- 40g sugar
- 1 pinch salt
- 100 g dark chocolate, chopped
- 4g gelatin + 20ml cold water
- Mix the gelatin and water and let it bloom 10 minutes.
- Combine the cream and milk in a saucepan and bring to the boiling point.
- Mix the egg yolks, sugar and salt until creamy and light. Gradually pour in the milk hot mixture then place it back on heat in a heavy saucepan. Cook on low heat, whisking all the time, until it begins to thicken. To check if it’s done, dip a spoon into the custard. If the custard coats the back of the spoon, it’s done. If the custard is runny, keep cooking 1-2 additional minutes.
- Remove the custard from heat and sir in the dark chocolate. Let it rest 5 minutes then mix until melted.
- Melt the gelatin in the microwave or a water bath for a few seconds then stir it into the cremeux.
- Once the cremeux reaches room temperature, pour it into the desired mold and refrigerate until set.
I have done this recipe quite a few times and loved it. Variations on the recipe can include adding dark rum or coffee, but I’m also thinking that the milk can be replaced with fruit puree to flavor the cremeux or it can be infused with cinnamon, star anise, cardamom, rosemary, tonka beans and the list can go on.
Photo source: Flickr