I love bows. They always make me smile and feel happy, and they seem appeal to everyone, men, women, kids, and adults alike.
Other People’s Bows
The elaborate bows I’ve seen on cakes inspired me to try making my own chocolate bows.
Figures 1 and 2 show two beautiful, elaborate bows from Sedona Wedding Cakes:
The first bow is not explicitly described; my guess is that it’s made from fondant. Sedona wedding cakes describes the second bow as “handmade Chocolate Pastillage sugar bow.”
A bow from Art of Chocolate in Figure 3 shows a relatively simple bow made from pure white chocolate; the link provides a tutorial on how to make the bow.
A bow from Quietfire-the-raver in Figure 4 shows a more elaborate bow described as “solid white chocolate with coco butter press on hearts.” I love the little red hearts, the mixture of plain loops with decorated loops adds a dimension of complexity, and the ends of the bows are beautifully rippled and tapered.
A bow from Delightful Dessert in Figure 5 is made from pure dark chocolate and probably decorated with transfer paper. The loops are placed to create a bow that is relatively symmetric.
The bow in igure 6 is from Keller Sugar Craft Guild: "Twez Shewmake demonstrated how to make this chocolate bow using transfers at a Keller Sugar Craft Guild meeting. Twez is known for her exquisite artistry using chocolate." I love how the loops are stacked here. Note the loops are placed less “perfectly” than the loops in the previous bow, that is, the loops are not completely symmetric, and they are tilted at different angles.
Finally, Katreece, The Chocolate Addict made a bow shown in Figure 7. It is another chocolate bow with transfer paper, but using two different patterns on the loops. The coiled ends of the bows provide a lovely finishing touch.
The bows shown here are typical of the bows I've seen. Most bows are made from fondant or sugar paste, while the bows that are made with pure chocolate tend to be decorated using transfer paper.
When I set out to try to make chocolate bows, I wanted to keep to my general baking philosophy, which is to make decorations that taste as good as they look. That meant using pure chocolate, not modeling chocolate (which has corn syrup added to make the chocolate more pliable; also known as chocolate clay or chocolate plastic), fondant, or sugar paste, all of which enable users to craft beautiful decorations, but that inevitably look much better than they taste.
The first chocolate bow I made that came out well enough to actually use was a large white chocolate bow. The bow was made from pure white chocolate and sprinkled with sugar to give it a nice sparkly look (see Figure 8). I put the bow on a red velvet cake for a Christmas party.
Because there is a lot of space in the loops of the big bow, the loops are very fragile -- they crack and break easily.
After working with the plain white chocolate, I decided to try using dark chocolate as well as using a combination of dark and white chocolate. These experiments led to some really cute, small bows, pictured in Figure 9 on top of coffee mugs, that would fit nicely on cupcakes.
The next bow I made was a large bow for a guy’s birthday cake. I found that, due to its greater fat content, white chocolate has more body than dark chocolate and tends to hold up better, especially for large bows. Because of its greater durability, then, I was led to use white, as opposed to dark, chocolate as the basis for the bow. However, I wanted something that would be masculine, since it was for a guy, and, for whatever reason, I feel that white chocolate tends to be more feminine, while dark chocolate is more masculine. What I ended up using was white chocolate as a base, but marbling the white chocolate with dark chocolate to lend it more masculinity. The bow came out looking very dramatic (see Figure 10).
Polka Dot Bows
The next bows I made were for a wedding cake. The bride requested three tiered cakes with polka dot bows. The largest and smallest cake tiers were to be covered with dark chocolate frosting and the middle tier was to be covered with white cream cheese frosting. I thought contrasting bows-against-frosting would look best, so I used white chocolate as the base for the large and small bows, to contrast with the dark frosting, and dark chocolate as the base for the medium bow to contrast with the white frosting.
The polka dot bows turned out to be more difficult to make that I had anticipated because the chocolate dots smeared when I tried to cover them with the base chocolate. After many re-dos, I finally got them looking decent.
Marbled and Painted Bows
The next experiments I did entailed making bows using white chocolate marbled with colored white chocolate and painted with food coloring. I thought these bows came out really well. I haven’t seen anyone else do marbled bows -- mostly, as I said earlier, they tend to use transfer paper to pattern the chocolate.
The first marbled bow I made went on top of a cake I made for a friend who requested a white-violet-black color combination (see Figure 14).
Since the marbled violet bow turned out so well, when Halloween rolled along, I decided to make Halloween bows (see Figure 15).
After getting the hang of the marbling, I decided to try making tie-dye bows for a friend’s tie-dye birthday party. Getting the white bands that separate the colors done right was a bit of a challenge, but I thought the bows (Figures 16-19) came out really well, and I used them to decorate small cheesecakes.
As Christmas approached, I tried making a red-green-white bow in Christmas colors (see Figure 20). What I learned from this was that painted red food coloring looks a lot like splattered blood. Not so appetizing…
After the red-green-white bow fiasco, I decided to make a Christmas bow in green and white and use cranberries as the source of red. That turned out decidedly better (see Figure 21).
Recently, after much prodding by my sister, I decided to try to figure out if I could sell my chocolate bows online. Since the smaller bows are more durable than the larger bows, I figured I’d have the best chance of figuring out how to pack and ship small bows so they don’t melt or break in transit. As a test set, I made three pairs of 2 ½” bows to be used as cupcake toppers (Figures 22-24).
After handling the small bows and looking at boxes, I decided that I could almost certainly package the bows so they won’t break in transit. However, considering the relatively low value of the bows, I would need a relatively large amount of packaging: plastic around bow (either less expensive baggie or more expensive plastic box), bubble wrap around plastic, packing material (tissue, peanuts, etc.), shipping box. I’m not sure it’s worth it.
My sister suggested I relax my standards regarding using pure chocolate to get the best taste, so as to be able to make a bow that’s more shipping-friendly. As I stated at the beginning of this post, my basic principle is to make goodies that taste as good as they look, down to the decorations. I’m extremely reluctant to reduce my standards for taste. However, if I can come up with a very shipping-friendly product, it might be worth it. In this vein, I decided to try using chocolate clay (also called chocolate plastic or modeling chocolate) – chocolate mixed with corn syrup – to make chocolate bows and see how they turned out. Chocolate clay is more pliable and durable than pure chocolate, so it might work.
In the next to figures (Figures 25-26), the bow on the left is made from chocolate clay, while the bow on the right is made from pure chocolate.
The bow made from chocolate clay is definitely heftier and more durable than the bow made from pure chocolate. However, by switching from the pure chocolate to the chocolate clay, I lose the shiny daintiness I get with pure chocolate, and instead get a hearty matte look. I don't think I'll settle for the chocolate clay.