Ina Garten Has an Easy Trick for Perfect Make-Ahead Cupcakes

Ina Garten is a firm believer in planning and making food ahead of time when she can to lighten the load when she’s entertaining guests. When it comes to perfect make-ahead cupcakes, the Barefoot Contessa star recommends saving one critical step for closer to the time you want to serve dessert.

Barefoot Contessa Ina Garten smiles as she stands in front of the counter inside the "barn" on her property in East Hampton, New York.
Ina Garten | Mike Smith/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

Ina Garten says you can make cupcakes ahead of time— except for one part

Garten’s chocolate ganache cupcakes are a delicious dessert that can mostly be made in advance. When a fan asked on her Barefoot Contessa website for advice regarding “how far in advance” the cupcakes can be made, Garten offered up some words of wisdom.

“Most cakes refrigerate very well, but not the icing or ganache,” she explained. “You can make the cupcakes, wrap them tightly, and refrigerate them for a few days.”

“The day you want to serve them, bring the cupcakes to room temperature, dip them in ganache, allow them to dry, and serve,” Garten added.

How to make Ina Garten’s ganache icing

Garten demonstrated how to make her chocolate ganache cupcakes on Barefoot Contessa and gave a bit of backstory about the dessert.

“Chocolate ganache cake is such a Barefoot Contessa classic,” she noted. “We made it into wedding cakes for 600 people, we’ve made it into individual ganache cakes, but what everybody remembers most is the chocolate ganache cupcakes with a little candied violet on top.”

The cupcakes are made with butter, sugar, eggs, chocolate syrup, vanilla extract, and flour. As she mentioned on her website, these can be made in advance but topped with the ganache icing later.

The ganache icing is so easy to make, with just three ingredients: heavy cream, chocolate chips, and instant coffee granules. Garten melts the ingredients together in a bowl set over a pot of simmering water until the chocolate is shiny, then dips each cupcake into the ganache to coat the tops.

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Ina Garten found an elegant way to decorate ganache cakes

Garten uses the ganache icing when she decorates a chevron pattern on a single-layer cake as well. In her cookbook Cook Like a Pro: Recipes and Tips for Home Cooks, Garten shared how she discovered the elegant cake decorating hack out of necessity.

“When the baker didn’t show up for work one night and I had to make 50 chocolate chevron cakes, I learned the fastest and best way to bake a cake that looks impressive without a lot of extra effort,” she wrote.

Garten pours the ganache over a cake set on a wire rack over a sheet pan, allowing it to drip down the sides. She combines confectioners’ sugar and water, places the icing in a pastry bag with a small round tip, and pipes six straight lines on the cake. The Barefoot Contessa star drags the back of a knife through the lines in alternating directions to create the chevron design.