Troubleshooting Common Problems With Using Modeling Chocolate

Posted by on Dec 12, 2013 in Cake Decorating | Comments


Modeling chocolate is an incredibly versatile medium for cake decorating. It is stronger than fondant and tastier than gum paste, and you can use it to cover a cake or form it into any shape you desire. It works beautifully when sculpting figures and does not need long drying times. It mimics fondant and gum paste in what it can do, but the ingredients and how it behaves are very different. But it can be hard to handle at first and may take some getting used to. Here are some helpful tips to follow when using modeling chocolate.

Mixing Modeling Chocolate

So what is modeling chocolate?

Modeling chocolate is made up of two ingredients: chocolate and corn syrup. It can be made using Candy Melts, real chocolate or even chocolate chips. When the corn syrup comes into contact with melted chocolate, the chocolate seizes and turns into a workable dough. Once it is cooled and has had time to rest, this dough is considered modeling chocolate.

Ghiradelli Chocolate Bars

In her Craftsy class, Into to Modeling Chocolate, Lauren Kitchens recommends using Guittard gourmet white chocolate chips. You can also use white chocolate chips found at your local grocery store or white Candy Melts, which can be found at your local craft store.

Good quality modeling chocolate can be easier to create than you might think. Lauren Kitchens’ modeling chocolate recipe  (and her accompanying video tutorial) walks you through achieving the ideal consistency with modeling chocolate. 

Here are some common problems that can arise when working with modeling chocolate and their solutions:

Breaking White Chocolate into Chunks

Problem: Your modeling chocolate is as hard as a brick.

Modeling chocolate is made of chocolate, which is a solid at room temperature. Once you make your modeling chocolate, you need to let it rest, cool and solidify. The next day when you go to work with it, you will find it is hard as a brick. This is completely normal, especially if you made your modeling chocolate with Candy Melts.

I tried making modeling chocolate with five different types of chocolate, Ghirardelli chocolate chips, a Ghirardelli white chocolate bar, a Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate bar, white Wilton Candy Melts, and light cocoa Wilton Candy Melts. After letting them rest and cool overnight, the chocolate chips made the softest modeling chocolate. It was the quickest to soften, but then hardened again as it should. The white Candy Melts were the hardest to break and soften, but worked beautifully once softened.

Modeling chocolate that is more than 6 months old can also turn hard as a brick and crumble when you try to work with it. It is often difficult or impossible to get it softened and workable again.

Molding White Modeling Chocolate

Problem: Your modeling chocolate is dry and crumbly

While making your modeling chocolate, you may find that it’s looking dry. This could mean that you have not added enough corn syrup. While the chocolate is still warm, add a small amount of corn syrup and mix it in again. Be very careful to not mix too much though, or you will release the oils in the chocolate, which is an entirely different problem that we’ll discuss in a moment.

After your modeling chocolate has cooled overnight and you first try to soften it, it will be hard, dry and crumbly, but do not give up. Keep softening and smashing it until the warmth of your hands works it into soft dough.

Crisco Vegetable Shortening
If your modeling chocolate is still dry or if you have stored it for a while, simply add a small amount of shortening to the modeling chocolate to bring it back.

Greasy Modeling Chocolate

Problem: Your modeling chocolate is oily and greasy.

The most important thing to remember about making and using modeling chocolate is not to mix it too long or work with it in your hands for too long. When making modeling chocolate you only want to mix it about 20-25 times. If you mix it longer, the oils in the chocolate will begin to separate, you will get very greasy fingers and the oils will pool in the modeling chocolate. If you see this start to happen, STOP stirring! If you continue to work with it, it will only get worse. If you stop as soon as you see oil, it’s possible to save the modeling chocolate, but it will take a little extra vigilance.

White Modeling Chocolate on Countertop
To fix it, pour the oily modeling chocolate onto a clean countertop or pan and let it cool. Oil will continue to seep out, but do not touch it. The oil will solidify as well as the chocolate — this is normal. Let it cool for 2 or 3 hours before touching it.

Kneaded Modeling Chocolate
Then, make sure your hands are cool by running cold water over them, and then begin to slowly knead the modeling chocolate. The solid oils should soften and mix in with the modeling chocolate. Knead until the oils are just incorporated, then wrap tightly in plastic wrap and let it rest overnight. You do want the oils to stay in the modeling chocolate. Do not soak up the oil with paper towels. The oil is what will keep the modeling chocolate workable.

Sometimes if your modeling chocolate is too over-mixed, no amount of kneading and waiting will work. It simply must be thrown out.

While working with modeling chocolate, remember that the warmth of your hands is enough to draw the oils out in the chocolate. If you find that your modeling chocolate is getting softer and greasier, stop working with it, set it down and let it cool, then after 10-15 minutes you can pick it up and start where you left off.

Milk Chocolate Modeling Chocolate

Problem: You have tiny pieces of chocolate throughout your modeling chocolate

This frustrating problem can be caused by two separate issues. The first is that your chocolate was not melted completely and there were small pieces in the chocolate when the corn syrup was added. The other problem happens when the chocolate works its way up the spoon and then is wiped into the mixture before it is cooled. It can also happen if the chocolate and corn syrup was not mixed completely, as in the photo above. (Note the light colored streaks of light brown chocolate.) I am sorry to say that there is no fix for this problem other than to go through and pick out every piece. It may be easier to just make a new batch.

When using modeling chocolate, it’s important to remember that heat is the enemy, not air.

You can leave modeling chocolate out overnight without it being covered and it will be ready for you in the morning, but warming it too much even in your hands can release the oils making it soft and unworkable.

For step-by-step instruction on how to make a perfect batch of modeling chocolate, check out Into to Modeling Chocolate: Cityscape Cakes with Lauren Kitchens.

Come back to the Craftsy blog tomorrow to learn how to make a sweet gingerbread girl from fondant.

Have you worked with modeling chocolate before? What issues have you had?

Comments

  1. Hi Wendy, thank you for this very informative article. I just want to give you a tip regarding over-mixing the modeling chocolate. I know that Lauren also says in her class that you will have to throw it away if you over-mix it and a lot of fat starts to seep out, but I have found that if you then continue to mix it and actually squeeze out all the fats with your hands as well as dab the excess with kitchen towel you get a wonderful firm toffee-like modeling chocolate which is easier to work with in summer since it does not release fat so easily in your hands since the fats has then been removed. This way you can save your modeling chocolate and do not have to throw it out.

  2. Sarajeanne says:

    Hey there! I have been doing cakes for a few years now, and I have yet to try using modeling chocolate! I am completely self taught with all of my other cake skills. My son wants a Mario themed birthday cake at the end of the month. I didn’t want to use MMF or gum paste this time….so I’m researching everything I can about modeling chocolate. Thank you for all your wonderful tips!!! Hoping I will be able to master this! I also hope that it’s easier to work with too! I could never really get gum paste and MMF super smooth. There was always a line somewhere! lol

    1. Wendy says:

      Thank you Sarajeane! Good luck with modeling chocolate, you are going to love it! I was nervous at first too, but fell in love the moment I started working with it. Let me know how it goes:)