After having made both a chocolate flower with cone-shaped petals

**[1]: Chocolate Flower with Cone-Shaped Petals**

and a chocolate bow,

**[2]: White Chocolate Bow**

I decided to try to combine the two concepts, using tiered cones to come up with something like this:

**[3]: Rhododendron**

The first step was to test of the idea using paper. To make the chocolate flower with cone shaped petals (pictured in [1] above), I started with 3” circles, curled over the opposite sides to form a cone, then taped the sides into place.

**[4]: 3” Paper Circle and Cone**

Then I placed the cones side-by-side on top of a 9” cake circle and discovered that I needed about 14 cones to make a ring around the outer edge of cake.

To continue on with the current plan, I put a second ring of cones inside the first. Here’s what I had so far:

**[5]: Two Tiers of 3” Cones**

When I made the chocolate bow (in picture [2] above), (a) I used large loops; (b) due to the shape of the loops – rectangular rather than conic -- the loops didn’t fit together around the circles with the sides touching; and (c) because the loops were large and there was space between the sides of the loops, I needed relatively few loops to make the bow: I ended up with three tiers: 6 bows on the bottom tier, 6 bows on the middle tier, and 1 bow on the top tier, for a total of 13 loops.

They way the current structure was turning out, I figured I would have four tiers of cones, with 14 cones on the bottom layer, roughly 10 cones on the second layer, maybe 5 cones on the third layer, and 1 cones in the center.

Actually, given the regularity of the cones, I could calculate how many I needed.

I assume the diameter of the first tier is the same as that of the cake, 9”. For the remaining tiers, I figure that the layers will shift inward about 1.5” from the edge of the previous tier in each round. That would make the diameter of the first tier 9”, the diameter of the second tier 6”, the diameter of the third tier 3”, and the diameter of the center tier roughly 1”. Sometimes you have to make the math fit the situation. (We’ll see if I end up regretting this fudging later...)

Each petal is made from a 3” circle. When I form the cone, the measurement of the widest part at the mouth of the cone is about 1.5”.

By dividing the circumference of the tier by the length of a petal, I find that I need 19 cones for the first tier, 13 cones for the second tier, 6 cones for the third tier, and 2 cones for the fourth tier, for a grand total of 40 cones. (See upper half of picture [6].)

Shoot. That’s a whole lotta cones.

What if I increase the size of the circle from 3” to 5”? How many cones will I need then?

When I redoing the calculations with a size 5” circle for the petal instead of 3” for the petal, and 2.5” for the width of the mouth of the cone instead of 1.5”, I get a total of 24 cones. (See lower half of picture [6].) That’s definitely more doable than 40.

**[6]: Calculation of Number of Cones Needed**

A short digression on the shape of the cones.

Based on my experiences with the flower made with cone-shaped petals in [1] and a subsequent “flower” made with cylindrical shaped petals (I’ve never seen anything like that in nature, perhaps a good thing) shown in picture [7],

**[7] Spiky Flower with Cylindrical-Shaped Petals**

I discovered that cones fit much more gracefully into a circle than cylinders do. Having learned this lesson, I realized the following. When starting with a circle, I can make anywhere from a cylinder (cannoli ), to a wide-ended cone, to a pointy-ended cone (see picture [8]).

**[8] Cylinder to Cone Made from a Circle**

But if I want the petals to fit gracefully on the cake, it matters what shape I use. In particular, I want a cone that is relatively strongly flared, that is as wide at the top and narrow at the tip as possible.

From these same experiences, I also discovered that if I use plastic to make a chocolate shape, I cannot overlap the plastic, because when I peel the plastic off the chocolate, the top layer of chocolate will break off. I’ll repeat this point later after I’ve introduced the plastic and it will make more sense. Just take my word for it at this point.

So what I’m left with is that I want to make the cones as flared as possible, but not overlap the flaps where the sides of the cones are taped together.

So now I’m ready to get my hands in the chocolate!

First I get my tools ready.

I have a marble board that I bought to do my chocolate work on. However, all you really need is a flat, hard, smooth surface that you can scrape off easily.

I need plastic spatulas to mix and scoop the chocolate and offset spatulas to smooth the chocolate. Here are my spatulas (one of the plastic spatulas is in the bowl of dark chocolate) on my marble board:

**[9] Spatulas**

I need tape to tape the circles into cones and hold the shapes until the chocolate sets. I cut off a bunch of pieces of tape and attached them to the cabinet near where I was working so they would be handy:

**[10] Pieces of Scotch Tape**

Next, I need plastic (acetate) circles to form the chocolate cones. The thickness of the plastic I need to shape chocolate depends on the type of work I’m doing. At one extreme, if I don’t need the plastic to have any structure, I can use Saran wrap. At the other extreme, if I need a lot of structure, I can buy pads of heavier sheets of plastic (acetate) from art stores. Here’s a pad I bought that’s 0.005 mils (5 thousandths of an inch) thick:

**[11] Pad of Plastic Sheets**

The 0.005 mil plastic is too thick to make the cones. While this plastic has a lot of structure, and it bends well, it resists staying in place and tends to spring back easily to being flat. To make the cones, what I want is a plastic with enough structure to hold the cone shape (i.e., thicker than Saran wrap), and stay in that shape when taped. What I’m using for this project is 0.003 mil plastic that I bought by the yard off a roll at a plastic store.

I cut five circles that are 5” in diameter.

A problem I have with the marble surface, is that the clear plastic is difficult to see when it’s laying flat on the marble. I put a paper circle under the plastic circle in picture [12]; otherwise, you would only see a bit of reflection as the plastic disappeared into the marble.

**[12] Plastic Circles**

Finally, there’s the chocolate. I tempered enough semi-sweet chocolate to fit in a medium-sized bowl, and I melted a small amount of white chocolate to use for marbling. Tempering the chocolate involves heating it up to a certain level, cooling it down to a certain level, then heating it back up to a certain level. This forces the chocolate molecules to form a specific structure which gives you a nice shiny look, it gives you a nice snap when you break it, and it prevents chocolate bloom, which is that whitish powdery look that chocolate gets after a while.

Actually, the picture doesn’t show that I put my bowl of melted dark chocolate on top of a pot of heated water. If I don’t keep the chocolate heated, it will harden before I finish using it. Since I didn’t temper the white chocolate, I can throw it in the microwave and give it some short blasts of heat if it starts to harden, so I don’t need to keep the white chocolate on top of a pot of heated water.

**[13] Melted Semisweet and White Chocolate**

FINALLY I’m ready for action!!!

First, I place a plastic circle on one side of my marble board. I use a plastic spatula to put a blob of melted dark chocolate onto the plastic circle:

**[14] Plastic Circle with Blob of Chocolate**

Then I use an offset spatula to smooth the chocolate over the plastic, making sure to cover the plastic entirely. To get full coverage, I need to smooth the chocolate past the edge of the plastic circle. For what I’m doing, the chocolate doesn’t need to be perfectly smoothed and uniform, which, of course, makes it a lot easier.

**[15] Melted Chocolate Smoothed onto Plastic Circle**

Next I use a fingernail (you can use the tip of the offset spatula if you haven’t been blessed with long fingernails) to pull up an edge of the circle, pick it up and move it to a clean spot on my work surface.

**[16] Clean, Smoothed Chocolate Circle**

I then use the offset spatula to scrape (clean) the excess chocolate off my work surface.

Next, I use the spatula in the white chocolate to plop some white chocolate onto the smoothed dark chocolate. I want a couple of nice-sized blobs.

**[17] Blobs of White Chocolate on Smooth Dark Chocolate Circle**

Then I take the offset spatula dedicated to the white chocolate and use the tip to marble the white chocolate into the dark chocolate. When I marble the chocolate, I only want to take a few swipes, because if I keep mixing, I’m going to quickly lose the marble effect and end up with just milk-chocolate looking chocolate. After the chocolate has been marbled, the surface will probably not be smooth, but rather, will have some nice texture.

**[18] Marbled Chocolate Circle**

Again, I use my fingernail to pull up an edge of the circle, then I slide my hand under the circle and pick it up.

**[19] Chocolate Circle in Hand**

As delicately as possible, I squeeze the circle into the shape of a cone and slip a piece of tape (conveniently pre-cut and waiting to be used) on to hold it in place.

**[20] Taped Chocolate Cone**

The good thing about the marbling is if one side of the circle ends up touching the inside of the circle while I’m trying to get the circle into a cone shape, the blemish just looks like part of the marbling. If I get chocolate on the backside of the plastic circle, I have to try to wipe it off; otherwise the tape won’t stick.

Now that we see what the taped cone looks like, let me return to the comment I made earlier about overlapping the plastic. Look at picture [20], focusing on where the flaps of the circle meet and the plastic is holding them in place. After the chocolate has set and I peel off the plastic, how am I going to get the bit of plastic off that’s underneath the top flap on the cone? When I try to pull that piece off, it’s going to take the top layer that’s covering it with it, and I’ll end up with a little bit of broken edge. So now it makes more sense when I say that you can’t overlap the plastic when trying to hold the shape in place and expect the chocolate on the top layers to remain intact after the plastic is removed.

Now I put the cone into the freezer to set. I have a metal cookie sheet in the freezer that I put my chocolate shapes on. It will only take a couple (less than five) minutes for the chocolate to set in the freezer. You can also put it in the refrigerator to set, but it will take a bit longer.

**This Wasn’t in My Plan (1)**: When I made the small cones for the flower in picture [1], the cones held their shape well and came out nice and round. However, with the larger cones, there is more space between the sides. When I set the cones on the cookie sheet in the freezer, they spread out into ovals. This warping of the shape my cause problems when I try to arrange them on the cake circle…

When the chocolate has set, I remove the cone from the freezer, and gently untape the plastic. The plastic comes off really easily – just pry up a piece of plastic at the edge of the cone and gently peel it off.

**[21] Set Chocolate Cone with Plastic**

**[22] Finished Chocolate Cone**

I kept making cones until the chocolate ran out. I ended up with 13 cones and 1 taco (upper right hand side of picture), where the cone collapsed in the freezer when I wasn’t looking.

** [23] Finished Chocolate Cones**

According to my calculations (see picture [6]), I still needed another 10 cones. I decided I would take stock of the situation before I went through the hassle of tempering more chocolate and then making more cones. I took out my cake plate and arranged some of the cones to form the first tier.

**This Wasn’t in My Plan (2)**: When I try to arrange the cones on my cake plate, they didn’t fit. The cones were too long for the pan. After playing around with them for a bit and finally accepting the fact that they just wouldn’t fit, I tried cutting off the tips (I dipped a knife in hot water and let it melt through the chocolate). However, even with shortened tips, the cones didn’t fit into the circle like they did in picture [1]. The main problem was that they were not flared enough.

**[24] Chocolate Cones Don’t Fit on Cake**

I tried playing around with the positioning of the cones. Unfortunately, the cones don’t lend themselves well to being touched. First, they’re fragile – the edges break easily -- and second, the heat in my fingers melts the chocolate. After delicately moving the cones around a bit, what I ended up with for the first tier was the same basic pattern I used to make the bow in picture [2]:

**[25] First Tier of Chocolate Cones**

Next, after hitting upon this positioning for the first tier, I tried playing with more cones to come up with a decent second tier. Unfortunately, in addition to the cones being fragile and melting when touched, the cones in the first tier also slid around when I tired placing cones in the second tier.

Finally, I decided to just commit to the first tier. The good news is that with this new arrangement in place of the planned one, I would need fewer cones than I had originally thought.

I cleared the cut cones from the cake plate. I took one of the plastic circles, spread some melted chocolate on it (I melted down some broken pieces to use as glue), and put it in the center of the cake plate.

**[26] Plastic Circle with Chocolate Glue**

Then I put the cones from picture [25] back in place on top of the melted chocolate (glue).

**[27] First Tier of Chocolate Cones Glued into Place**

Finally, I put the cake plate in the freezer until the melted chocolate set and the first tier was glued in place.

After the first tier was set, I tried to place cones into position for the second tier. However, neither the full length cones, nor the cut cones would fit nicely. Finally I hit upon the idea of using some of the small cones that I had made for the flower in picture [1]. The small cones were made exactly like the big cones, except instead of using 5” circles of plastic, I used 3” circles. Here’s what the small cones I made before look like next to the big ones I just made:

**[28] Small and Large Chocolate Cones**

For the second tier, I glued small cones standing up inside the ring formed in the center of the large cones in the first tier. After I glued each cone in place, I put the whole plate into the freezer so the new addition would set into place. Here’s a picture of the second tier in progress:

**[29] Second Tier in Progress**

I ended up using six small cones to form the second tier.

When I finished the second tier, there was just enough room in the center to place one small cone in the very center. Here’s what the flower looks like with the last cone being glued in place:

**[30] Third Tier in Progress**

And here’s what the final flower looks like:

**[31] Finished Flower from Above**

**[32] Finished Flower from the Side**

**[33] Finished Flower**