I don’t like cake decorating. It’s not that I don’t like decorated cakes it’s just that I find all the tips and techniques necessary to master cake decorating to be tedious (or perhaps simply beyond my skill level). Still there are times in your life that call for cake. I’ve tried birthday pies and anniversary Rice Krispies Treats and have noted the crestfallen faces around the table. I get it. Cookies with candles are a no-go. So to keep the birthday boys and girls in my life happy – and to avoid tedium in my own – I’ve learned how to make chocolate curls. They’re all the decoration this Orange-Scented White Chocolate Cake with Strawberries needs.
How to Make Chocolate Curls
Chocolate curls are easy to make. They dress up a cake in a simple yet sophisticated manner. They look sensational pressed into the sides of a frosted cake. There’s some tedium involved with this direction, so I typically prefer a big luscious mound of chocolate curls piled onto the center of the cake. The more curls you pile on the more festive the occasion.
There are several methods I’ve discovered to make chocolate curls. The most professional chocolate curls are made by tempering chocolate, or purchasing specialized modeling chocolate and pouring it onto the back of a sheet pan. Knives or specialized tools are used to form big, soft curls. The result is impressive, but the process is (guess what?) tedious.
For me the best (least tedious) way to make chocolate curls is to use a stainless steel vegetable peeler and a big brick of chocolate.
There is a learning curve, but it’s in no way tedious. First find a peeler with a swivel blade. It really makes a difference in just how curly your chocolate curls turn out.
Really good curls are made with a good-sized block of chocolate, so you’ll need to get yourself a good hunk from a gourmet shop or baking supply store. Choose something between 8 and 10 ounces. This is way more chocolate than you’ll need for the curls in this white Chocolate Cake, but the large size will give you a lot more grip and a lot more control. The chocolate doesn’t have to be thick, but if you want big curly curls, thicker is better. An inch to an inch and a half will give you respectable looking curls.
After you’ve chosen an appropriately sized piece of chocolate the only real trick you need to know concerns temperature. To check the temperature, try making a few curls. If the chocolate is too cold and hard the chocolate will flake rather than curl. If the chocolate is to warm and soft, the chocolate will clump and get stuck between the blades of the peeler. When the chocolate is just the right temperature well-formed curls easily roll off the block. Keep in mind that white and milk chocolate are softer than dark chocolate, they should be ready to make chocolate curls practically at room temperature. If not hold the chocolate between the palms of your (gloved) hands for 2 or 3 minutes. Darker chocolate or curls made on chilly days may require some heat to get the block to just the right temperature. I find that a 3 to 4‑inch chunk of chocolate will lightly soften in the microwave on low (30% power) in 5‑second intervals until it’s barely warm.
When you’ve gotten the chocolate temperature just right and you’re ready to make chocolate curls hold the block of chocolate in one (gloved) hand. Moving the peeler away from yourself scrape the curls from the block in a single layer, using a long, slow stroke of 1 1/2 to 2 inches. Let the curls fall onto a parchment-lined tray. After a while you’ll find that you begin to form a divot in the chocolate that may make additional curls more difficult. When this happens simple turn the block to a fresh side and continue. When the block of chocolate becomes to small or oddly shaped to make chocolate curls, save the remaining chocolate for another use.
The curls will vary in shape and size. I find that a slight shake of the pan will allow the small unattractive bits and pieces settle to the bottom of the pile leaving the bigger more well-formed curls more visible. At this point put the tray into the freezer for about 30 minutes. When you’re ready to decorate use a slightly chilled spoon to place the curls onto the top (or sides if you’re very patient) of your frosted cake. If you’re particularly anal (and who isn’t) you can save the nicest looking specimens for last. I like to use a long wooden skewer to place the last few crowning curls in just the right place. Remember your body heat will melt a chocolate curl almost instantly.
That’s how you make chocolate curls! GREG