The Beginner's Guide to Decorating with Chocolate

Chocolate decorations are one of the simplest ways to elevate your baked goods by lending an air of professionalism and elegance. Many beginning bakers are turned off of decorating with chocolate because of the tempering process, which can be finicky.

There’s no doubt tempered chocolate makes for great decorations: It retains its firmness well enough to be used in a variety of ways and boasts a beautiful glossy shine. The trouble is that tempering chocolate isn’t exactly beginner-friendly.

Luckily, there are plenty of other options for adding extra panache to your baked goods. Case in point? The following six ideas for decorating with chocolate can be accomplished by even the greenest of chefs.

Dust baked goods with chocolate.

This is an exceptionally easy way to elevate cakes and cupcakes. Once your baked good is complete, simply hand-grate part of a hard chocolate bar directly onto the baked good. For best results, hold the chocolate with a paper towel so the heat of your hands doesn’t cause it to soften, which can make grating more difficult. The layer of chocolate shavings can be as thick or as minimal as you’d like.

Create some chocolate curls.

This elegant look can be achieved in a number of ways. One option is to melt some chocolate, spread it onto an overhead projector sheet, and then roll up the sheet and stash it in a round object (such as a drinking glass) until the chocolate sets in that rounded shape. Another option is to drag a vegetable peeler across the top of a room-temperature chocolate bar. In either case, the final step is to gently sprinkle the curls on top of cakes, cupcakes, and so on.

Add texture with chocolate shards.

For a less delicate approach to decorating with chocolate, consider utilizing chocolate shards. To make them, melt some chocolate, spread it onto a tin-foil-covered cutting board or cookie tray, and wait for the chocolate to set. Once it’s firm, use your fingers or a knife to crack it into shards. (The shards can be large or small depending on your preference.) Then use the shards as toppers on cakes or other baked goods.

Create chocolate shapes.

This will make you look way more talented than you actually have to be in order to create these garnishes. Get rid of the guesswork by tracing an image (or several) onto parchment paper and then piping melted chocolate on top of those lines, or pipe freehand if you’re more confident in your artistic abilities. Allow the chocolate to firm up for at least several hours. Then gently place the garnishes on top of a cake, cupcake, or other baked good. (Get more detailed instructions here.)

Get funky with chocolate bubbles.

This unique idea looks great and is surprisingly simple to create. Start by rinsing and drying a 10-inch piece of bubble wrap and laying it out on a cutting board or tray. Then melt your chocolate and pour a thick layer of it onto the bubble wrap in a rectangular shape. Carefully tap the board or tray on the counter to encourage the chocolate to fill in the creases of the bubble wrap. Wait for the chocolate to set, then peel away the bubble wrap. Voila: You’ve got chocolatey bubbles that can be used to top all manner of baked goods!

Try a chocolate drizzle.

You’ve probably encountered chocolate drizzles at bakeries or restaurants, where it’s common practice to add this decoration to ice cream, baked goods, and other desserts. But it’s easy enough to create in your own kitchen. Simply melt chocolate, dip a fork into it, and move the fork over your baked good in the pattern of your choosing. (The zig zag is a classic option.)

Decorating with chocolate doesn’t have to be intimidating. Mastering these simple approaches is all you need to take your baked goods to the next level.