Friday, September 2, 2011

Revealing the mystery of "Painted Chocolate"

How was your summer?  Ours was fantastic.  Busy, but in a really good way…exploring lots of new places and things and making lots of great memories to boot.  We could have done without an earthquake and hurricane (and several downed trees), but our health and house are intact, so thank God for that.

I also managed to keep the business moving forward, without being overwhelmed and taking time away from the litter.  But something has been weighing heavy on my mind.  Due to several questions and confused inquiries, I feel as if I have not done a very good job of explaining some of the techniques that I use in my work.  Some of them are not commonly used, so I am not sure that folks completely understand what they are seeing in my portfolio or, in some cases, even ordering.  Time to clear that up because I think that these techniques are really special!
I am speaking mainly of the painted chocolate technique that you see topping many of my cakes and cupcakes.  I think it may be the term “painted chocolate” that is confusing.  In truth, it’s not painting on chocolate…it’s actually painting WITH chocolate.  The other thing that might be confusing is the word “paint”.  It might lead some to believe that paint is not typically edible, so the toppers must just be decoration.  All the colors are chocolate that has been tinted with food coloring.  The chocolate is melted and “painted” into the images that you see on my cakes.  It’s building a piece of edible art! 
I discovered this technique when I first started researching for CREO’s launch.  I LOVED the vibrancy of the colors and the fact that it was not a widely used method.  My wheels started instantly turning with all the designs that I could create.  I’m not gonna lie, it is labor intensive and the chocolate is very temperamental, but the theme options are virtually endless and it offers a client a truly one-of-kind treat that is 100% edible!  Most fondant or gumpaste embellishments are not edible, not to mention that fact that they would not taste very good if you did try to eat them. 
With all that in mind, I thought it would be fun to show you a quick step by step so you can see what goes into this technique. 
During initial consultation with a client, I will get an idea of the theme they want portrayed and how many servings will be required.  I then go to work developing a blueprint of the cake and researching what kind of images I can either draw myself or find elsewhere.  Alot of thought goes into figuring out what images will translate well into chocolate so that the final product is completely recognizable.
Once I decide the images, I begin painting.  The image is inserted under parchment paper and an outline is drawn, typically using a dark color chocolate.  It’s very difficult to get a thin or stable line using a piping bag, so I often use a toothpick for this step.  This is probably my least favorite part of the process as it is extremely time consuming, but it’s necessary to get a clean line.

When the outlines are done, I begin melting additional chocolate shades and adding the details of the image.  The trickiest part is figuring out in what order to lay the colors, since I have to build the image from front to back.  Finally, I fill with the most dominant colors, making sure to build the chocolate to a sufficient thickness so that it will not break. 

When the pieces are hardened, I peel the image off of the parchment and turn it over to reveal the front.  Where possible, I make extras…just in case! 

These precious reptile toppers were made for a close friend’s son’s 6th birthday party.  Nature experts are actually bringing a reptile petting zoo - snakes, lizards, spiders, turtles and a baby alligator - to their house for the kids to learn about and interact with!  Such a cool idea – but let’s hope that the cages are sealed tight! 

I hope this helps clear up the mystery around this method.  I’m sure it has been keeping all of you up at night.  If anyone has any ideas for better terminology for this technique, I am all ears!
 Happy Fall!

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