Skip straight to the recipe or read this introduction to modeling chocolate.
Modeling chocolate, also known as plastic chocolate, chocolate leather, or candy clay, is a soft, pliable confection made from chocolate and sugar syrup. It can be used in place of fondant for nearly every existing decorating technique. Although it requires more patience and finesse than fondant, it is far superior in flavor and versatility. Sweet and creamy, it melts on the tongue like soft, candy bar nougat. Slow to dry, it is the ideal substance for modeling shapes and figurines.
Rolled modeling chocolate is the term for modeling chocolate that has been rolled by hand or through a machine until thin. Rolled modeling chocolate is an excellent medium for rendering flower petals, leaves, ribbons, bows, and fabric effects. It can be used to wrap cakes as an upscale alternative to fondant. It can be marbled or patterned with any design.
From scratch, modeling chocolate has only two ingredients: chocolate + sugar syrup. There is no tempering of chocolate involved; however, the technique and handling requires a similar level of care and understanding of chocolate. Note that the quality of modeling chocolate is only as delicious as the chocolate used to make it. Additionally, the proportion of sugar syrup to chocolate in the modeling chocolate formulas may require adjustments depending on the brand/quality of chocolate used.
(Follow this link to the Wicked Goodies tutorial, All About Chocolate for advice on buying chocolate)
The Classifications of Chocolate and How They Pertain to Modeling Chocolate
Bittersweet or Extra Dark Chocolate has the lowest percentage of sugar and therefore, the edgiest flavor. It is often denoted by the percentage of cocoa materials present, which can range anywhere from 35–100 percent. The higher the percentage of cocoa, the lower the percentage of sugar and the more bitter the taste. Bittersweet chocolate, rich in both color and taste, makes an excellent, not-too-sweet modeling chocolate.
Semisweet Chocolate or Dark Chocolate is typically intended for baking purposes and commonly found in chip form. It is essentially dark chocolate that has been sweetened at 1:2 ratio of sugar to cocoa. It works well for modeling chocolate.
Sweet Chocolate is a term used only by U.S. standards to represent a lower quality sweetened chocolate containing no more than 15 percent real chocolate liquor. It works fine for modeling chocolate but has a diminished quality of taste.
Milk Chocolate is dark chocolate with a milk product added. Although it can be used for modeling chocolate, its softness is not optimal for ease of handing or stability.
Compound Chocolate is the technical term for imitation chocolate that is made with some or all hydrogenated fats in place of real cocoa butter. Compound chocolate can be used for modeling chocolate, but it may be less stable and less tasty. The formula requires 10–20 percent less sugar syrup.
White Chocolate, a confection composed of sugar, milk and fat(s), is the basis of all colors of modeling chocolate except brown and black. True white chocolate contains cocoa butter, which lends an ivory tint to the hue. Imitation brands like Nestlé’s (U.S.) Premium White Morsels and Merkens Super White Confectionery Coating substitute hydrogenated fats for cocoa butter.
Resulting Modeling Chocolate Hues
Resulting Modeling Chocolate Properties
Corn Syrup, or light corn syrup, is the optimal sugar syrup for modeling chocolate because of its pliability and resistance to crystallization. In the U.S., it is cheap and readily available. Outside the U.S., it is harder to find and may be prohibitively expensive. Unfortunately, its manufacturing process cannot be replicated in an ordinary home kitchen. Those who do not have access to corn syrup may opt to use liquid glucose instead.
Liquid Glucose, a slightly more dense sugar syrup, may be substituted for corn syrup. It is too complex to produce in the average home kitchen but it is obtainable worldwide. It tends to be costly.
Note: Corn syrup and liquid glucose are the most suitable sugar syrups for modeling chocolate. Golden syrup may be used but it will yellow the tone of white modeling chocolate significantly. Dark corn syrup may also be used but due to its brownish tone is only recommended for use with dark chocolates.