I am here to tell you how to make chocolate decorations and cake toppers the easy way. I am super intimated by tempering chocolate. I have tried it and have failed miserably. The temperature has to be just right, and if your candy thermometer is not exact (like mine), then you won’t be able to achieve a proper temper. I have since moved to a digital thermometer, so maybe next time I will finally conquer it!
So you may be wondering, how am I writing about chocolate decorations if I don’t know how to temper chocolate? Well, you can do it without tempering!! The most important thing is to use chocolate without cocoa butter. If you use chocolate that contains cocoa butter, your decorations may look ok at first, but after they sit overnight they will get white streaks. Not the look you are going for!
If you use tempered chocolate, your decorations will be more shiny and firmer. This is a good quality to have when making a cake topper or other standing chocolate, but not necessarily required. I used Guittard Extra Dark Chocolate for my most recent chocolate decorations
The first thing you will need to do is melt the chocolate. You can use a double broiler for this or the microwave. I prefer the microwave, but you have to be careful not to burn the chocolate. Place the chocolate chips into a microwave safe bowl. Microwave on 50% power, stopping every 15 seconds to stir the chocolate. Even if the chocolate is not yet melting, it can develop a hot spot. If you prefer, you can start the microwaving process by stopping every 30 seconds. When the chocolate begins to show shiny areas (as shown below), switch to stirring every 15 minutes.
When you reach the point where the chocolate is mostly melted, keep stirring it until the last few pieces are melted. If they won’t melt from the surrounding heat, pop it back in the microwave for 15 more seconds.
In the end, your chocolate should be silky smooth.
Now, put your chocolate in a pasty bag with a small round tip, like a Wilton #3 tip. If you do not have pastry bags on hand, you can also use a ziplock bag and just snip off a corner. I prefer the pastry bag because the lines are sharper. The ziploc bag will give you an oblong shape to the chocolate.
Now, it’s time to choose your design. The sky’s the limit here! You can create letters, numbers, or just about any shape you can imagine. Choose an outline for your shape that you will trace with chocolate. Print it or draw it on a piece of plain paper. Then, take a piece of parchment paper and put it over your drawing. This is like going back to my childhood years when I would get out tracing paper and trace my favorite picture!
It’s now time to start piping! Squeeze your bag slightly to get the chocolate flowing and trace your design. Be sure to stop squeezing before you lift your bag up. This will help prevent messes and spiky bumps in your chocolate where you stopping piping.
You will probably want to fill in your outline with some sort of design in order to give it more structure and support. You can create an interesting pattern, either by free hand or by tracing.
If you are putting your chocolate in the top of a cake or cupcake, be sure to give it a little spike for you to dig into the frosting. I’ve made the mistake of not adding this spike and ended up with some floppy toppers!
You can also fill in your outline. This will create some interesting texture to your chocolate.
I recommend using a cookie sheet or cutting board as your work surface. This allowed me to move my work out of the way. When dinner time calls, you don’t want your creations on the table where little hands can reach it. 🙂 This also allowed me to pop the chocolate into the freezer to harden. In 15 minutes or less, it is hard enough to pick up. If left to air dry, this can take an hour or more.
One last technique I’ll share with you… I wanted to try out making chocolate shapes from cookie cutters. If you have metal cookie cutters, you can warm them up and press into hardened chocolate. This melts the chocolate in the area of the cookie cutter and allows you to punch out a shape. However, I had plastic cookie cutters. To do this, I started by greasing my cookie cutters. I spread the cutting edges with butter, taking care to butter every surface and crevice.
Then, I used soft chocolate fresh out of the microwave. If your chocolate is in a piping bag, you can re-melt the chocolate by putting the entire bag in the microwave. Be sure to take off any metal tips first! I piped a wide row of chocolate, and then spread it with a pallet knife, making a thin swath of chocolate. I then pushed the cookie cutter into the melted chocolate. Leave the cookie cutter in place until the chocolate has hardened.
I then popped the cookie sheet, with the cookie cutter and chocolate, in the freezer for 15 minutes. Once completely hardened, I removed it from the freezer and gently popped out the chocolate. You will have to do this gently as to not break the chocolate. Any unused chocolate pieces may be melted down again to be re-used.
To add the chocolate decorations to your cake, push them gently into your cake while the frosting is soft.
Have fun with it! My daughter helped me with these cake toppers. She was delighted to see her work on display!