Making chocolate curls can be a really important step in the process of making your cake look as delicious as it possibly can. If there’s one thing that’s for sure about baking chocolate cakes, it’s that a little bit of extra chocolate on top certainly doesn’t hurt!
There are 3 ways you can use to make chocolate curls for cake decorating which is using the traditional knife method, vegetable peeler method, or using a grater.
There are a number of other ways that you can make really great chocolate curls, though, and they are surprisingly dissimilar to the method above. Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about making the perfect chocolate curls!
What’s The Easiest Way To Shave Chocolate
The best way to make chocolate curls for decorating a cake or any other type of dessert is, quite simply, to shave down a block of chocolate.
Holding the block with your non-dominant hand, you can drag the blade of a knife down the side of it, and gently shave beautiful curls off the main block.
When doing this, make sure to use the tip of the knife blade, and regularly rotate the block of chocolate. These two things combined will help to ensure that you get the best curls possible! There is a knack to this method, though, so don’t be daunted if it takes you a while to get things perfectly right – you’ll get there in the end!
What Is The Best Way To Shave Chocolate?
The traditional knife method is similar to the method that we described above but quite different in the preparation phase.
In the traditional knife method, the chocolate is melted and mixed with some type of fat which is solid at room temperature. Typically, vegetable shortening is used, but you could also use butter. Solid fats are used so that the chocolate shavings you’ll be making do not melt when they reach room temperature.
Once melted and mixed with shortening, you can pour out the melted chocolate mixture onto a baking sheet lined with baking paper – this is to ensure that the melted chocolate doesn’t stick to anything important, which would make cleanup a nightmare!
How Do You Temper Chocolate For Cake Decorations?
The chocolate mixture will harden as it cools, to form a solid mass that is fairly non-sticky and will be very solid at room temperature.
Using the tip of a knife, you can gently drag shavings off the main block, leaving you with a rapidly growing mountain of perfect shavings. These shavings can be used however you’d like to decorate your bakes!
Again, this method is quite similar to the first one that we described, only the tool that you’re using is different. In the method we described at the start of the article, we suggested that you use a knife to pull fine chocolate shavings from a larger block.
This is a great way to do things, but it does mean that you would be leaving yourself open to shavings of various sizes.
How Do You Shave Chocolate For A Garnish
The great thing about using an alternative piece of equipment in the form of a vegetable peeler is that you can, essentially, ensure a more uniform size for your shavings.
Just as when you’re peeling veggies, the thickness of the shavings will be controlled by the width of the gap in your peeler. Whether you’re using a speed peeler or a y-peeler, the same concept applies.
Therefore, if the continuity of the toppings that you’re using is particularly important to you, then you ought to consider using a vegetable peeler to get great chocolate shavings!
For this method and for any of the other methods which involve physically shaving down a larger block of chocolate, bear the temperature of the chocolate itself in mind.
If the block is too warm, then your knife will simply slide through it and you won’t be able to effectively control the size of your shavings.
If the block is too cool, then you’ll be tremendously more likely to chip small pieces of chocolate off the block rather than shaving small curls from them. Therefore, try to make sure your chocolate is, roughly, at room temperature.
Using a box grater to create chocolate shavings is, surely, one of the most reliable ways of making them. Not only do you have the capability to make a number of different sizes of shavings, but you can also use cold chocolate on a warm grater.
Using cool chocolate is desirable for your hands as it will mean that the chocolate won’t melt while you’re working with it. This is handy for obvious reasons, the biggest of which being that it will massively reduce the amount of cleanup that you’ll find yourself doing.
The problem of using cold chocolate, though, is that it won’t effectively fall into shavings, instead, it will likely chip rather than curling up. The solution to this problem is to use a box grater which is slightly warm. This will mean that the cold chocolate you’re working with will not melt in your hands, but it will melt just enough to grate well on the grater.
A good way to achieve this goal is simply to have your grater on or near a radiator while you’re doing other things – try to point the side that you’ll be using closest to the radiator, as it will become warm. When it’s warm, you’ll have the best chance of grating properly shaped curls.
The other advantage of using a box grater to create chocolate curls to decorate your bakes with is that you can create a number of different shapes easily. Of course, you can create different shapes with a knife, but it will be much more difficult.
Because a grater is already shaped into a number of different shapes, you can not only create different curls, but you can switch between them easily.
For example, a great choice to get started making chocolate curls could be to use the same side of your grater that you might use for parmesan – the holes are similar to standard grater holes, just much smaller.
This side will allow you to create extremely small flakes of chocolate, ones which would be ideal for use on cookies, or perhaps lighter desserts like cheesecakes.
To make larger curls that would be ideal for something more hefty, like a sponge cake, you could use the side of your grater that’s designed for grating cheddar cheese or root vegetables. The holes on this side will create curls which are roughly half a centimeter in diameter, ideal for creating very straightforward curls, the type that you might buy in a supermarket.
Finally, we come to the side of the grater with wider slits. This side is, technically speaking, designed to be used to create large slices of cheese. However, coming at these holes with a room-temperature block of chocolate will mean that you’re able to create large curls, ones that are approximately two to three centimeters in diameter.
These will be very large indeed and may be oversized for some desserts. However, they would be ideal for exceptionally large desserts such as traybakes, or for serving alongside dessert served in a bowl, such as ice cream.
How To Make Chocolate Curls For Cake Decoration Without Shortening
Chocolate curls are one of the most elegant ways that you can decorate a cake. They’re simple, easy to make, and really pretty.
The best way to make chocolate curls is to shave chocolate off the bar that you’re using. Hold the bar in your hand, and slowly drag a knife towards you down the edge of a given bar. Make sure to keep rotating the bar so that no one spot gets too melted, and you can keep making great shavings and curls.
There are some alternative ways to do it, though, which might be easier for you or result in tastier, simpler curls. Keep reading to find out more!
Melting And Using A Knife
This is the classic method, where you would typically blend your chocolate with shortening to make the texture easier to make curls from. However, there are a number of disadvantages to using shortening!
The main disadvantage is that shortening just doesn’t taste that great. There are a huge number of differing fats out there used for baking, and while shortening can be useful to achieve a good consistency, it doesn’t taste as good as butter or neutral oil.
The truth of the matter is that you don’t really need to use any fat at all. Fat would be used to raise the melting point, which would mean that your curls won’t melt at room temperature. If your cakes will be eaten very soon, then you don’t need to worry about that!
To melt chocolate well, we’d recommend using a double-boiler. Add water to the base and allow it to heat slowly while you add your chocolate to the top. As the water gathers heat, it will be transferred to the chocolate, allowing it to melt quickly and easily.
Whenever you’re using water near chocolate, always make sure not to mix the two. Even a single drop of water in the chocolate will completely ruin the texture, meaning that you’d have to start again! However, there is some wiggle room. If you’re going to be using the chocolate as a mixed-in ingredient then you don’t need to worry about the texture, as it will be altered by the batter anyway. If you’re using it as a decoration, though, you do need to be concerned about the texture.
After your chocolate has completely melted, you can spread it over some baking paper on a baking sheet. Spread it into a fairly thin layer – roughly a centimeter thick. This will allow you to shave off some curls and still have a little chocolate left, allowing for another chance at making the curls if need be.
Once the chocolate has cooled and solidified on the sheet, you can use a knife to shave varying sizes and thicknesses of curls. The best way to go about this is to pull the knife towards you and cut with only the tip of the blade. It takes a little practice to get perfect – but the skill is easy to get started with.
Using A Rolling Pin
This is a good way to go about things if you want to create chocolate pieces with more defined edges.
Begin by melting your chocolate and wrapping a rolling pin in baking paper. We’d recommend using tape or rubber bands to ensure that the baking paper stays on the pin – otherwise you may end up with curls of very peculiar shapes indeed.
Once your chocolate is melted, you can pipe it onto the prepared rolling pin into whatever pattern you’d prefer. We’d recommend piping the chocolate onto the pin in a rough zig-zag shape, this gives you a lot of surface area to work with.
Alternatively, you could pipe the chocolate into a lattice pattern. Then, when removed from the pin, you would have extremely eye-catching pieces of chocolate that would surely set off any cake out there.
Once the chocolate that you’ve piped onto the rolling pin has fully cooled and hardened, you can pull it off with your fingers. Because of the shape of the pin, the chocolate will naturally snap off, creating a sharp end that is visually appealing and makes your job a lot easier.
If you want to further reduce the chocolate so that you can have smaller pieces, for example, if you were making cupcakes, then you would be best off crushing the larger pieces of chocolate into appropriately-sized pieces. It may take you a few rounds of crushing to ensure that all the pieces are uniformly sized.
Using A Vegetable Peeler
Using a vegetable peeler is a great and easy twist on the way that chocolate curls are classically made. Traditionally, a knife may have been pulled along the surface of a block of chocolate so that curls will form and fall away from the main block.
With the advent of peelers, a knife was created which, essentially, has the exact purpose that you would need to use it for here. This is convenient as you are, in a lot of ways, simply peeling the chocolate to create small curls.
The best way to use a vegetable peeler on a bar of chocolate is to pick up the bar or block that you’re using and hold it in your non-dominant hand. Then, using your dominant hand, pick up the peeler and slowly drag it down the length of the chocolate bar until you have peeled small shavings off the bar.
There is a technique to this, and it may be a little while before you can master it. Remember, though, that practice makes progress!
When shaving curls off a chocolate bar in this way, you may want to hold the chocolate in paper towels or some similar barrier so that you can prevent the chocolate from simply melting all over your hands. You could even wedge the chocolate bar on the work surface that you’re using such that you can easily shave the bar without worrying about holding it incorrectly.
Alternatives To Chocolate Curls
There are plenty of alternatives to chocolate curls out there, and we’d completely suggest that you give them a go if the process of making chocolate curls sounds a little daunting!
Shards are one of the easiest things that you can do to top a cake, and they’re really visually striking too!
To make shards, simply melt whatever chocolate you hope to be using, and then place it on a baking-paper-lined baking tray. We’d recommend using a blend of chocolates for this, as it will allow you to create a marbled effect that looks beautiful! A good choice would be to use milk chocolate and white chocolate – those two colors contrast well, allowing you to make a great effect overall.
Once you’ve placed the chocolate on the tray, place the entire tray into the freezer so that you can flash-freeze the chocolate. Once it is completely solid, it will be quite brittle due to its cold temperature. Therefore, you can remove the chocolate from the tray in one piece, and hit it firmly in the center with the back of a metal spoon.
The chocolate will shatter, and you can use the shards to decorate to your heart’s content!
Piping and chilling shapes in chocolate is a great way to do it! Simply melt down the chocolate that you’re using, and fill a piping bag. Some chocolatiers have a preferred blend that they like to use, so maybe check out a few blends to see if there’s one that you’d like to try.
Pipe the shapes that you’re going for onto a baking paper-lined baking sheet, and then freeze the entire sheet. The chocolate will cool, harden, and become brittle, allowing you to use the shapes you’ve made to decorate to a certain theme that’s ideal for you.