Modeling chocolate is one of the most versatile and easy to use products in a cake decorator’s or sweet maker’s arsenal. It is rigid enough to hold its shape when cutting out intricate details yet pliable enough to mold into beautifully sculptured pieces. But modeling chocolate can be frustrating to make, yielding a lumpy or broken final product for no apparent reason. In this post I hope to demystify some of the problems common with modeling chocolate and give you the tools to create a perfect product every time.
In order to provide you with the most in-depth understanding I made 19 batches of varying types of modeling chocolate. Along the way I learned how to ruin and fix modeling chocolate by multiple methods. I also examined how varying the ratio of chocolate to corn syrup affects the consistency of the final product.
Let’s start by looking at modeling chocolate making basics.
1. Weigh. Measure out the amount of candy melts or chocolate you wish to use in a microwave safe bowl that will allow enough room for stirring. I weigh my chocolate on a food scale to allow the most predictable and desirable result.
2. Melt. Heat your melts or chocolate on high heat in the microwave for 1-2 minutes depending on your microwave strength and the volume of chocolate you are using. Stir and then heat again for 20-30 seconds and then stir to melt. If you still have lumps heat in 15 second intervals until you it is lump free. Be careful not to overheat. If you see chunky golden bits in the chocolate throw it out and start over or you will be sorry.
3. Add. Now is the time to add your corn syrup. The ratio of chocolate to corn syrup depends on your desired outcome. I will discuss this shortly and provide a chart of measurements. Some people like to heat their corn syrup briefly to warm it. I find it is unnecessary and squirt it straight from my bottle into the bowl of melted chocolate. I also weigh the corn syrup. It is less messy and more accurate that way.
4. Fold. Begin gently folding the corn syrup into the chocolate. I sweep the outside edges of the bowl and then swipe across the middle. You will see streaks of corn syrup intermixed with the chocolate that will grow more and more fine until it is all incorporated.
5. Watch. This is the time where you have to be cautious. Too little stirring and you will get chocolate chunks in the final product, too much stirring and your modeling chocolate will break and leach out liquid fat. Both extremes lead to lumpy modeling chocolate. Never fear! Either can be fixed (I will get to that!) but starting with the right consistency will make your life easier. Perfectly seized chocolate will loose its shininess and start to get chunky and firm but will not be extremely curdled or greasy looking. If you are going to err one way or the other it is better to over stir than under stir.
6. Remove. Scoop your modeling chocolate out onto a piece of plastic wrap. Try to avoid much manipulation at this point to preserve the state of the modeling chocolate.
7. Wrap. Seal up the modeling chocolate in plastic wrap to avoid drying on the surface as it cools. Allow the modeling chocolate to solidify or “cure” for a period of time. For candy melts, I like to leave it until the edges look a bit dull (an indicator the fats have become solid) but the middle is still a bit soft. This takes an hour or so at room temperature. For real chocolate, this takes much longer. If you mess with it too early it gets persnickety and will be sticky and clumpy. Let it sit at room temperature for several hours or overnight.
8. Knead. When you unwrap your modeling chocolate it will be firm and chunky looking. In order to smooth it to a useful product you will need to knead it for a couple of minutes. If the modeling chocolate was ideally seized you should eventually be able to pinch it between two fingers and not feel any chunks. You can use your modeling chocolate now or wrap it well in plastic wrap for a later time.
9. Fix. If your modeling chocolate is lumpy, now is the time to repair it.
- If you feel you under stirred and you have very firm, opaque chunks that do not melt in the heat of your hand you will need to partially remelt the modeling chocolate. Spread the modeling chocolate out in the bottom of a bowl and heat in the microwave for 10-15 seconds. It should remain solid but have a slightly molten core (see above). Knead the product until smooth. If it starts to break, let it cool slightly and then knead again. Wrap the kneaded modeling chocolate in plastic wrap and cool to room temperature before using.
- If you over stirred and the modeling chocolate broke emulsion, you will likely see an opaque border of fat around the edges when cooled. When kneaded the fat will often remain in solid chunks throughout. To reincorporate them you will need to briefly warm the modeling chocolate on high in the microwave for 4-6 seconds. You just want to soften the fat but not melt it. Then knead until the product is smooth. You can also use the heat of your hands to warm the fats and knead extensively but it takes much longer. Wrap the modeling chocolate and cool to room temperature before using.
Choosing How Much Corn Syrup to Use
Most modeling chocolate recipes give a set ratio of chocolate to corn syrup to use, but I like to vary the amount of corn syrup based on my project needs. These are some factors to consider.
- Using less corn syrup yields modeling chocolate that is more firm and less elastic.
- Conversely, more corn syrup yields a softer, more pliable and elastic product.
- The type of candy melts or chocolate you choose will alter the amount of corn syrup needed. White chocolate is more firm than candy melts and dark chocolate is more firm than white chocolate. You will need more corn syrup in white chocolate than candy melts for a similar final product.
- The ratio of melts or chocolate to corn syrup typically varies by weight from 5:1 (very firm) to 2:1 (quite soft).
Here is a chart of modeling chocolate ingredient quantities to make varying consistencies of modeling chocolate. Below is a recipe for medium-firm modeling chocolate.
- 8 ounces (227 grams) candy melts or white chocolate
- 2 ounces (by weight) (57 grams) corn syrup (use 2.5 ounces [71 grams] if using white chocolate)
- Place candy melts or chocolate in a microwave safe bowl with enough room to stir easily. Heat melts on high in microwave for 1-2 minutes then stir. Heat an additional 25-35 seconds on high and stir to melts. If unmelted product remains, heat in 15 second intervals followed by stirring to melt.
- Add corn syrup and fold gently until the melts lose their sheen and becomes firm and slightly chunky. Scoop the modeling chocolate onto a piece of plastic wrap and wrap to seal. Let cool until firm on the edges for candy melts or solid throughout for chocolate. Remove the plastic wrap and knead until smooth. Rewrap and let cool to room temperature. Use immediately or wrap well for later use.
I hope this has helped you gain some understanding of modeling chocolate. In my next post I will discuss the differences in modeling chocolate made with candy melts versus real chocolate and how to select the right product for you. Best of luck!