Chocolate decorations are elegant and delicious compared to other decorations for cakes, so it's now widely used in modern cake decorations.
Some may thought chocolates are really hard to handle-- it's true in some way, but once you know the principle, you only need some experience and you can create any design you like.
This instructable will tell you how to temper chocolate, and how to make chocolate figures with mold, how to make chocolate feathers etc.
Step 1: Difference Between Chocolate
In general, there are two types of chocolate: couverture and compound. Couverture chocolate is made with cocoa mass and cocoa butter, while in compound chocolate, the cocoa butter is substituted with vegetable oil.
Compound chocolates are cheap and don't need tempering, however it doesn't taste good, and the vegetable oil inside is also not good for your body, so it's also known as the "fake chocolate", some cheap bakery shops will use them as they will lower the expense for the shop.
Couverture chocolates are the real chocolates with cocoa butter, they taste really nice and melt in the mouth. However cocoa butter is very sensitive to temperature, if you handled it wrongly it might not set, and will probably melt too fast in room temperature.
Step 2: Why Do We Need to Temper Chocolate?
Well it's a bit hard to understand for people without any experience.
We all know that chocolate will melt at a high temperature and will set at a low temperature. But some chocolate have white oil stripes on it, or taste grainy, or melt so fast that you cannot even touch it with bare hands, or don't shine well, while other good quality chocolates will have a snap when break it, and touch dry to the finger, hold shape better, have perfect shine and melt in the mouth perfectly.
That's the difference between non-tempered chocolate and tempered chocolate.
We temper chocolate for cake decorations to have a better shape, better taste, better look and longer shelf life.
Step 3: How to Temper Chocolate
For dark chocolate, milk chocolate and white chocolate, the temperature requirement is different. In general, the higher the milk content, the lower temperature it needs for tempering.
There are also a few ways to do it, in commercial kitchen we always use tabling method-- to spread melted chocolate on the marble surface or bench to cool it down.
However for home bakers, it's quite messy and needs more tools, so at home I always use seeding method, which is to add cold chocolate bits into melted chocolate.
So I have some white cooking chocolates, I'll put some in a glass bowl, and the others I'll chop them into pieces for later use.
1. First melt the chocolate in the glass bowl. You can use a double boiler, but microwave will do the job just fine. Heat for 20 seconds, stir, another 10 seconds, stir, and repeat until it's completely melted. DO NOT OVERHEAT THE CHOCOLATE! It will burn very easily in the microwave and you won't be able to use a burnt chocolate.
2. Add chopped chocolate pieces into the melted chocolate gradually, stir everytime until it melts. Check the temperature of the chocolate and keep adding cold chocolate pieces until the temperature drops to 28-29 Celsius Degree (about 83°F).
3. Now your chocolate is tempered and ready to use! Make sure you work fast, if the chocolates sets before you finish your work, you can reheat it on a double boiler and make sure the temperature doesn't go above 83°F, otherwise you'll have to temper it again.
For milk chocolate, the temperature to work is about 29-30°C (84-85°F), and for dark chocolate, it's 30-31°C (86-87°F).
Step 4: Have Fun With Chocolate Part 1: Chocolate Molds
This is the easiest way to work with tempered chocolate. Just simply fill the tempered chocolate in any mold you like, scrap the excess and once it's set, you can just use it.
There are a lot of cute molds available online and in store, so use your imagination and find your favorite! I used a sea shell mold. You can use plastic mold or silicon mold, they both works for tempered chocolate.
Step 5: Have Fun With Chocolate Part 2: Chocolate Piping and Painting
You can fill a small piping bag or a paper piping bag with tempered chocolate, and paint whatever you like on a silicon paper or silicon mat. Once the chocolate is set, you can take out the pattern you just painted.
Here I showed how to make some snowflakes which will look perfect on a Christmas cupcake. You can definitely pipe anything you like! If you pipe letters, make sure they connects to each other, or it will be impossible to take out the whole design without break apart.
Step 6: Have Fun With Chocolate Part 3: Chocolate Feather
This is another technique that you need to work with chocolate when it's half dry. Most of the fancy decorations are made this way. Here I'm using a chocolate feather as an example.
1. Pipe the basic shape of the decoration you want to make on a piece of silicon paper (or acetate).
2. Use another sheet of silicon paper to put on top, shape it with thumb and take the top sheet away to make it thin and even (you can also use small spatula).
3. Wait till the surface is touch dry but not completely set yet. This step is crucial as if you didn't wait enough time, the chocolate is still wet, and it will be very messy if you start to work with it. However if the chocolate is completely set, it will crack easily and will be impossible to work with any more.
4. Make some cuts and lines with the tip of a toothpick.
5. Pipe a line in the middle as the "bone" of the feather.
Step 7: Some Other Ideas of Making Chocolate Decoration
Here are some more ideas of chocolate decorations with half dry method.
For the first cake with three hoops, I applied tempered chocolate on a rectangular shape silicon paper, and make the both ends connect to each other when it's half dry. Then I use chocolate to stick all three circles together to make the design.
For the second cake with molded chocolate, I also made a chocolate "coconut shell" by applying two layers of chocolate: dark chocolate on the bottom, and white chocolate on top with coconut flakes.
For the third cake, I used chocolate cigarette and used round cutter to make the design. Just apply tempered chocolate on a piece of silicon paper, and use cookie cutters (or round cutters) to cut out the shape you like.
You can also use a comb to scrap half the chocolate off, and you will get chocolate strips afterwards.
Sky is the limit, and use your imagination!
Hope you will find this instructable useful! If you like it, please vote for me in the "cake decoration" contest, thanks a lot!