The Real Difference Between Buttercream And Ganache

We're not pointing any fingers, but let's face it — there are many people who would happily just eat frosting straight from the bowl. The sweet, creamy concoction is basically the best part of any slice of cake. There are a wide variety of options when it comes to frosting a cake, but two of the main contenders for any dessert are buttercream and ganache. What exactly is the difference, though?

On a basic level, buttercream frosting is made by beating butter and icing sugar until they're light and fluffy (via Taste of Home). There are a few different variations, such as Swiss meringue buttercream or French buttercream, which include egg whites and yolks in the recipe, respectively (via The Spruce Eats), and the super sweet variation that most people are familiar with is simply called American buttercream.

Ganache combines cream and melted chocolate, and while the base preparation is similar, it can be used as a glaze, filling, or drizzle, or whipped until fluffy enough to frost (via Julia's Cake and Eat It!).

Both buttercream and ganache are absolutely delicious, and there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to selecting one for your cake — it all just depends on what you're looking for.

All the considerations to go on your buttercream/ganache pro-con list

One thing to consider when you're selecting the type of frosting you want is the climate where your baked goods will be served. When the temperature creeps up, the butter within a buttercream mixture can begin to melt, giving you a less-than-desirable droopy cake. Meanwhile, ganache sets quite quickly (via Fair Cake).

Your desired flavor and color are also key considerations. Given that ganache has chocolate as a base ingredient, there's only so much you can do with the flavor. Perhaps you can add some complementary notes of citrus zest or different extracts, but that chocolate taste seems pretty hard to mask. The same goes with color — while you may be able to get a bit creative with white chocolate (which isn't entirely white), regular milk or dark chocolate ganache will always be brown.

Buttercream, on the other hand, is essentially a blank canvas. The pale mixture just starts out, well, sweet and cream-colored. You can add in any food coloring or natural coloring, and any flavor that you can think of.

The last thing to consider in the buttercream vs. ganache debate is the palate of the person you'll be serving the dessert to. A classic American buttercream is about as sweet as you can get. Ganache tastes like biting into a luxurious chocolate truffle and doesn't hit with the same level of sweetness (via America's Test Kitchen).