How Can I Make and Use Chocolate Clay? | CoachSweetTooth

How Can I Make and Use Chocolate Clay?   

Chocolate clay or modeling chocolate is a relatively new medium in the chocolate/cake decorating industry. It is similar to fondant in that it is used to make shapes and forms as an edible decoration and it occasionally covers a cake. Most taste-testers will report that it has a better flavor than fondant. It does not have the “stretchiness” of fondant.  It can be purchased in ready-to-use tubs or conveniently made in any kitchen.

Most people have everything they need in their cupboard to make a batch of modeling chocolate. The only equipment needed is a couple of microwave safe bowls, a measuring cup, a heatproof spatula, and some plastic wrap. There are two major ingredients needed: chocolate melts/wafers, which is sometimes called crafting chocolate, and light corn syrup. If you intend to color and flavor your chocolate, you will need food coloring and an extract.

In this article, we will look at the equipment and ingredients you need to make modeling chocolate at home, the techniques that are deemed to be most successful, and uses for your chocolate.

I first discovered modeling chocolate, or clay at an International Cake Show. Many cake artists were shoulder to shoulder to get a glimpse of the “magic” clay. Of particular interest, was the distributer’s use of a hairdryer to demonstrate that cracks and wrinkles could disappear from the clay with a little heat. I tried a sample, which tasted much like a “Tootsie” roll and then proceeded to purchase one tub of every color.  Since then, I have taken classes from experts from all over the country to see how I could best make and utilize modeling chocolate in my sugar arts.

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What Ingredients and Equipment Are Needed to Make Modeling Chocolate?

Modeling chocolate can be made with few ingredients and little equipment. Made primarily from chocolate and corn syrup, it is a favorite for those with a sweet tooth. However, time is needed for the chocolate to “set” before usage, so planning is key in successful usage. Also, the process can be a little “cranky” so it takes a little practice to learn how to get the right consistency. It can be colored to the exact shade that you are looking for and it can be made ahead of time.  It is a great alternative to using traditional edible molding materials such as fondant or gumpaste, though it behaves better for some projects than others. Anyone can make modeling chocolate from home to use in cake and cookie decorating, or as part of an edible display.

First a word about the chocolate melts. These melts are chocolate “flavored” and are often referred to as “crafting” chocolates because they are used in food crafting such as cakepops and novelty chocolate pops on a stick. The melts do not need to be tempered as pure chocolate does. They are formulated primarily for dipping and coating. They can be found in hobby/craft stores as well as most Walmart stores. The great thing about these candy melts is that they behave well, and are fairly tasty. They particularly perform well in chocolate clay. Another advantage to using them is that they come in a variety of colors. Unless you want a very specific color, such as periwinkle, you can most likely buy the wafers in the color that you want. Secondly, they are very affordable, usually about $3 for a package. And lastly, some of the varieties come in a flavor other than vanilla and chocolate. For instance, I have purchased lime, raspberry, coconut, and even gingerbread flavored melts. Although it is possible to make chocolate clay from a higher quality chocolate, it is a little trickier to work with and thus not suggested for the majority of uses.

How Do I Make Chocolate Clay?

The formula or recipe is simple. Add light corn syrup to melted chocolate wafers. Various chefs will suggest slightly different proportions of each ingredient. For our benefit, we will use the following proportions, and then discuss when a variance might be needed:

Candy melts*: 16 oz.  and 1/3 c (2.67 oz.) or 104g light corn syrup OR

12 oz.  candy melts and  ¼ cup (2 oz) or 78g light corn syrup

*Please note that packaged candy melts come in various sizes, depending on the brand.

Melt the chocolate candy in the microwave using a heatproof  dish. Chocolate is not fond of high heat or prolonged heating, so melt in short intervals of 20-30 seconds bursts and stir completely after each interval. Your chocolate should be as cool as possible while still being completely melted with no lumps. (See this article on melting chocolate).

Measure or weigh your corn syrup in a small microwave safe bowl or measuring cup. Heat for 15-20 seconds in the microwave just to warm the syrup slightly, making it easier to scrape the entire amount out of the bowl.

Using a rubber spatula, combine the syrup with the melted chocolate and stir the ingredients together by scraping the bottom of the bowl and bringing the contents to the top (this is called folding).

Continue until there are no streaks in your clay. This is the tricky part. If you stir too long, your chocolate clay will begin to break apart and the oils will separate from the clay. Yet, if you do not stir, or fold enough, then you will have streaky and gritty clay.  Unfortunately, the exact number of folds is dependent upon the quality of your ingredients, the temperature of your ingredients, and how much power is in your stroke. Luckily, the ingredients are inexpensive should you have to take a second go at it.

Once your chocolate and syrup are combined, place on a large piece of plastic wrap, or inside a large plastic bag and flatten it like a pancake and then……walk away.

You can return to your clay in an hour or two and gently knead it to remove any minor lumps. About fifteen seconds should be enough. Your clay will be quite soft. Rewrap your clay and let it sit for several hours or overnight.

How Do I Color or Flavor Chocolate Clay?

Generally chocolate does not like to mix with liquids such as water and food coloring. In this case, it is already being combined with what is considered a large amount of liquid (the corn syrup) and so it will tolerate a little more in the form of food coloring. That said, food grade coloring gels and powders will work as well and generally come in a wider variety of colors than the typical water based colors purchased in the grocery store. Assuming that you are starting with white, or vanilla chocolate wafers, the time to add your coloring is at the same time as your corn syrup. Remember that a little bit of color goes a long way. If you are looking for a particularly dark or bright color, you might want to start with pre-colored chocolate melts and add additional color to obtain the hue you are looking for. If you only need small amounts of various colored clay, make the recipe as directed. You can then divide the clay into small quantities and add a small amount of color to each section while kneading the clay to distribute the color. Your clay will have to rest again before using it.

The timing is the same for flavoring your clay. Usually when flavoring chocolate, it is recommended to use a flavoring oil. Oils integrate well with the fat in the chocolate for a smooth result. Again, because our formula already has a large amount of liquid, a water or alcohol based extract can be used. Both oils and extracts are very concentrated. Start with ¼  teaspoon of flavoring and determine if it meets your needs by taste-testing a bit of clay.

When Can I Use My Modeling Chocolate?

Most experts will advise letting your chocolate sit overnight before using, but really it’s not the nighttime that does magic, but the process of hardening over time that you are looking for. This is generally a minimum of several hours but is dependent upon the temperature in your kitchen. There is no time ticking on using your chocolate. It will not “go bad” if it sits on the counter for an additional day, or week for that matter. The first thing that you will notice about your modeling chocolate is that it is not as pliable as it was when you gave it that gentle knead hours ago. With a little encouragement, it will become pliable again as it warms in your hands. If you are making flowers or small figurines, break off a chunk of clay and gently knead it. If you have a larger amount, you can get the process started by placing the entire modeling chocolate in the microwave for no more than 10 seconds. Remember, chocolate will melt when exposed to heat-even the heat from your hands. If at any time, your clay becomes too soft or difficult to work with, set it aside. Some sugar artists have warm kitchens and warm hands and find it necessary to wipe their hands on a cool cloth to keep from overheating the clay.

Modeling chocolate does not dry out as fast as typical fondant or gumpaste. However, you will want to cover unused portions and store it in a cool, dry place, wrapped in plastic film. It will keep for several months.

How Can I Use Modeling Chocolate?

Your modeling chocolate can be used in unlimited ways. It can be rolled out like Play Dough and a cookie cutter or smaller fondant cutter can be used to make a 2-dimensional object. Likewise, a 3-D object can be made by using a silicone mold. Not only are food crafting molds sold in hobby shops and online, but there is a good selection of molds in the traditional clay section of art aisles. However, you do not need a mold to make a 3-D object as you can mold or sculpt it by hand. Be careful to not overwork the clay as it can get soft from the heat of your hands. Again, if this happens, just let the clay rest for a few minutes.

For making more delicate flower petals or abstract designs, modeling chocolate can be rolled through a pasta machine until the desired thinness is achieved. Otherwise, a rolling pin will suffice for most projects.

Since modeling chocolate is pliable, but not as stretchy as fondant, it is a bit tricky to cover an entire cake with it. Some artists measure and cut panels of clay to adhere to a pre-frosted cake. If you are determined to cover a cake with it, you might want to use a hairdryer to smooth the seams together.

Modeling chocolate or chocolate clay is a tasty option when making and decorating cakes and other confections. The ingredients are reasonably priced and there is great satisfaction in producing it at home and acquiring the particular color and flavor desired. Don’t be discouraged as it may take a trial or two before you obtain the exact consistency you are seeking. You may have to tweak the recipe based on the brand of your ingredients but the benefits of making your own chocolate clay, far outweigh the risks involved. Happy creating!  


Lori Gilmore

Lori Gilmore

Lori has been a Culinary Arts instructor for twenty years. She has taught in the public school setting, at the collegiate level and through adult continuing education as well as running several cooking and baking camps for children. She has participated in several cooking, cake & chocolate contests and has been well recognized. She has raised thousands of dollars for charities using the byline “Saving the World one Cupcake at a Time”. Additionally, she has had several articles regarding food published in various magazines.

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