It’s no wonder cake decorators love modeling chocolate: it’s a delicious, pliable material that makes for great molding or sculpting. It holds its shape instantly, which means you can quickly create colorful toppers, beautiful flowers and captivating characters without lengthy drying times.
Even though it’s just two ingredients — melted chocolate mixed with corn syrup — making your own modeling chocolate can be a bit tricky. We’re here to help you diagnose the most common modeling chocolate issues and share ideas on how to fix them.
6 common modeling chocolate problems you may run into — and how to fix them!
Problem #1: Crumbly modeling chocolate
Two issues could be at play here.
The culprit: The modeling chocolate is too cold.
Your modeling chocolate will be stiff and crumble as you try to knead it if your kitchen is particularly chilly or you’ve stored it in the fridge.
The fix: Let it warm up.
Leave the chocolate out at room temperature for a few hours and then knead it. The warmth of your hands will help to make it soft and smooth. Whatever you do, don’t heat it up by force (in the oven or microwave, on the radiator). This could melt your chocolate quickly — or even burn it.
The culprit: Too much chocolate.
Still crumbly? Too much chocolate can lead to a stiffer, more crumbly modeling chocolate.
The fix: Try again.
Unfortunately, it can be difficult to re-adjust your proportions once you’ve mixed the melted chocolate and corn syrup together. Make a note and adjust your recipe next time, perhaps adding an extra tablespoon of corn syrup.
Problem #2: Dry modeling chocolate
The culprit: Again, too much chocolate.
Unlike modeling chocolate that is crumbly from too much chocolate, modeling chocolate that is stiff and just feels a little dry can still be used.
The fix: Vegetable shortening.
Knead in a little vegetable shortening (like Crisco). Work a small amount into your kneaded mixture and test it out.
Problem #3: The modeling chocolate is very stiff.
There are three main culprits and a fix for each one.
The culprit: Too much chocolate.
Just like dry and crumbling, stiff modeling chocolate can be a result of too much chocolate.
Adjust your recipe slightly next time, adding a tablespoon more of corn syrup. But don’t throw this away! Firm modeling chocolate is perfect for figure modeling.
The culprit: Using unpredictable candy melts.
Some recipes call for candy melts but using them can lead to more varied results, including stiffer modeling chocolate.
Stick to high-quality tempered chocolate — white or dark — and save the candy melts for cake pops or drippy cakes.
The culprit: It’s old.Homemade modeling chocolate doesn’t last forever, only about 5-6 months.
FIX IT: Toss it and begin again.
Problem #4: Lumpy, bumpy modeling chocolate
There are two possible causes for modeling chocolate that’s not smooth. Luckily, both issues have the same solution, so once you notice lumps, there’s no need to diagnose the cause.
The culprit: Undermixing.
When the corn syrup and melted chocolate haven’t incorporated fully together, the unincorporated chocolate will as chocolate pebbles in your modeling chocolate.
The culprit: The chocolate wasn’t fully melted.
When making modeling chocolate, you need to take extra care to make sure every last bit of chocolate has melted down before adding your corn syrup. Any unmelted bits will remain as you mix in the corn syrup.
The fix: Knead it.
Knead your modeling chocolate after it has set. The action of kneading along with the warmth of your hands will slowly melt the bits of chocolate, helping to incorporate them into the mixture. Large chunks may need to be picked out.
Problem #5: The modeling chocolate is too soft
This is a common problem that can be a real headache. There are three things that could cause your mushy chocolate.
The culprit: Modeling chocolate is too warm.
You could be heating up your modeling chocolate without realizing, like if it’s near a stove or hot oven or sitting in the sun. Your hands may also have warmed it up too much if you’ve been working with it for a while.
The fix: Refrigerate it.
Set your modeling chocolate aside to cool down (10-15 minutes) and cool down your hands a cold pack or cold water. (Make sure to dry your hands completely before starting again.)
The culprit: Too much corn syrup.
Corn syrup makes the chocolate pliable and easy to work with — but too much of it leads to squishy modeling chocolate that’s too pliable.
The fix: Adjust your recipe.
Adjust your recipe. Next time, decrease the amount of corn syrup by one tablespoon. Save this softer stuff for ruffles or knead it together it with a firmer batch to create a new medium-firm modeling chocolate.
The culprit: It hasn’t set for long enough.Finally, the chocolate may just need more time to set up.
The fix: Patience!
Leave it to set a little longer, 2-3 hours or even overnight.
Problem #6: Oily modeling chocolate
If the modeling chocolate feels greasy in your hands, look to two common causes.
The culprit: You’ve overworked it.
The heat from your hands and from kneading could melt the fat in the chocolate and it will make the modeling chocolate oily. Unlike fondant or gum paste, heat is the enemy of modeling chocolate, not air.
The fix: Let it rest.
Just like with modeling chocolate that is too soft, let your chocolate rest somewhere cool, like on a marble plate or slab. Try to cool down your hands, too. A general rule of thumb is to work quickly so you’re not handling your work for too long.
The culprit: Overmixing.
When making modeling chocolate you want to stir your chocolate and corn syrup together only about 20-25 times; any more and the oils in the chocolate will begin to separate. A milky coating will start to pool in the bottom of your bowl. If you see this start to happen, stop stirring! Continuing to stir will make it worse.
The fix: Let it cool and reincorporate the oils
Pour the oily modeling chocolate into a shallow pan lined with plastic wrap. Oil will continue to seep out but do not touch it.
As it cools, the oil will solidify as will the modeling chocolate. After 2 or 3 hours, slowly knead the modeling chocolate. Make sure your hands are cool when you do this — run them under cold water if you need to. Knead until the oils are just incorporated with the chocolate, then wrap tightly in plastic wrap and let it rest overnight. Do not soak up any of the oil with paper towels. The oil is what will keep the modeling chocolate workable.
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