Salted Chocolate Ganache Cake: Make It with Fewer Calories

Lori Lamothe

This simple one-layer chocolate cake is rich in flavor but comes in at only 263 calories per slice, which is about 100 fewer calories than the average serving (with some running upward of 400 calories all the way to a whopping 1,000 calories for a multi-layered slice). The flavor in Cooking Light's version is decadent but varies the usual cake and ganache ingredients to limit fats and sugars.

Ganache sounds sophisticated but it's normally a 2:1 mixture of chopped chocolate to heavy cream. Bakers sometimes add in other ingredients like liqueurs, butter, herbs and spices to enrich the flavor of the chocolate-cream base. The ratio of the base may change from 2:1 to 1:1 or 1:2 depending on its use. Or, as in this version, bakers sometimes substitute butter or even water for the cream for a healthier (not to mention vegan) version.

Ganache's uses are varied. In liquid form it can be used as a glaze for a cake, an ice cream topping or a tart filling. When it cools it will form a hard, glossy shell. At room temperature, it makes a delicious, chocolatey icing or can be used to create a mousse. Last but by no means least, Ganache is often used as a filling for truffles and as a coating for fruits.

As mentioned above, ganache can be thickened or thinned, which makes it a highly adaptable combination. It's considered closer to icing than conventional frosting, which usually calls for whipped butter and confectioner's sugar.

To keep the calories in this recipe low, the cake uses egg whites, grated chocolate and evaporated fat-free milk. While the ganache topping does include butter, you'll use only 1 tablespoon of it. The single layer also keeps the total count low. Oddly enough, I think the final product looks more elegant than two layers. And the sea salt topping highlights the intensity of the chocolate. Another benefit of Cooking Light's ganache: you use a microwave, not a double boiler.

Want to reduce the calories in your ganache topping even further? Try Cooking Light's updated ganache, in which water substitutes for heavy cream. According to the magazine, water brings out the flavor of chocolate to an even greater degree than heavy cream or butter.

The substitution gives the ganache a glossy-smooth texture and the calorie savings are phenomenal. To be honest, I wish I'd discovered this version before I made the cake:

Our version cuts 20 calories and 1.5g sat fat per serving off of the classic recipe—and if you're icing an entire cake, these are some pretty serious savings. Compared to cream ganache, that's a savings of 672 calories and 48g sat fat for an entire three-layer iced cake!" --Cooking Light

A quick history of ganache
(Maria Georgieva/Unsplash)

As is true of most baking staples, the birthplace of ganache is in dispute. Switzerland, arguably the chocolate capital of the world, claims to have invented the glossy topping but so does France.

My favorite version of the French origin story is this one, courtesy of Riva Reno Gelato:

In 1920, a culinary tragedy is about to unfold in the kitchen of the famous pastry chef Georges Auguste Escoffier. A young apprentice is intent on preparing custard and, perhaps due to the emotion of being in front of the great master, or due to inexperience, he accidentally overturns a saucepan of boiling milk into a bowl full of pieces of chocolate.
The great maître pâtissier is furious and thunders against the pupil: “Ganache!”. The boy bows his head embarrassed, but Escoffier immediately realizes that the mistake is creating a shiny, silky and very good cream destined to have enormous success.

Sadly, this version probably isn't how ganache came to be: the first mention of the glaze goes all the way back to 1850. Swiss chocolate-making skills aside, I believe the French must have had something to do with its creation. In French, "ganacher" means to slog, usually through mud or a mess. While a ganache is certainly a lot tastier than mud, it can be as dark and as thick, so there is a parallel there. The word is also a French insult that means "imbecile" or "idiot." Maybe there is some truth to the tale of the pupil who made a "mistake," after all. . .

Yet another version of the tale says that the ganache was named after a play called Les Ganaches. The playwright, Paul Siraudin, happened to be a confectioner too and his 1869 ganache was considered "a Parisian bonbon."

Salted Chocolate Ganache Cake


Cooking spray

2 teaspoons cake flour (for dusting pan)

1 1/4 cups sifted cake flour (5.3 ounces)

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar

1/4 cup butter, softened

1 large egg

3/4 cup evaporated fat-free milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 large egg whites

3 tablespoons dark brown sugar

2 1/2 ounces dark chocolate, divided

1 tablespoon butter

1/4 teaspoon sea salt


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Coat a 9-inch round cake pan with cooking spray; dust with 2 teaspoons of flour.

3. Combine flour and baking powder in a bowl. Beat 1/2 cup sugar and 1/4 cup butter in large bowl with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 5 minutes). Add egg; mix well. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Stir in vanilla.

4. Beat egg whites with a mixer at high speed until foamy using clean, dry beaters. Gradually add 3 tablespoons sugar, beating until stiff peaks form. Gently fold half of egg white mixture into flour mixture. Grate 1/2 ounce chocolate; fold grated chocolate into batter. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 23 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes. Remove from pan; cool completely on a wire rack.

5. Chop the remaining 2 ounces chocolate. combine chopped chocolate and 1 tablespoon butter in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at medium for 1 minute or until chocolate melts, stirring every 15 seconds. Spread chocolate mixture over top of cake; sprinkle evenly with sea salt. Cut into 8 wedges.

Serves 8

Calories: 263 per serving.

Cook's Notes

I flour my pan with cocoa powder so it doesn't show up against the chocolate cake.

You can use other chocolate than dark, but don't use milk chocolate because the flavor won't be as strong.

Use good quality chocolate for best results.

You can use chocolate chips in place of the chopped chocolate.

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Writer, assistant professor, former baker. I cover recipes, archaeology, cold cases, history, politics and culture. I'm interested in many topics, so I write about a lot of different things.


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