I’m excited to put this post together because it’s the intersection of two of my greatest hobbies – pastry and typography. Yes, typography – the art and science of letter forms. Here’s an awesome blog on the subject. Anyway, I’m a type fiend, and the chance to craft letters in chocolate let’s me live that type addiction from time to time in my kitchen.
I hold solid chocolate writing technique to be a staple of a seasoned pastry-er and ironically (and sadly) a dying art form. There are as many styles as there are chefs of course, and no hard and fast rules about what your chocolate writing should look like, other than legible. Much of my personal style in cursive chocolate is taken from tattoo script and pinstriping, because most tattoo script has beautiful lines and a modern, clean look. I’m going to give you my thoughts and style of writing, and I invite you to take what you like and leave what you don’t. For those who are all about the details (high five!) I’m using Guittard 61% Lever du Soleil for my chocolate script.
Chef Scott’s (not hard or fast) Rules of Chocolate Writing:
- Above all, make it legible.
- Don’t write on plates. Because it’s tacky and outdated, that’s why.
- In general, inscriptions for Adults should be in cursive.
- In general, inscriptions for Children should be in block lettering.
- Feel free to break rule #3 and/or #4. But not #2.
- Don’t finish your letters with a spiral. See rule #2 as to why.
The holy trinity of inscriptions is “Happy Birthday,” “Happy Anniversary,” and “Congratulations.” If you practice these three thoroughly, you’ll be well armed to write anything out, because these three not only represent most everything you’ll write on a cake or dessert, they also contain all of the basic letter forms you’ll have to recreate (if not the actual letters themselves).
Obviously writing in chocolate is tough if you don’t know how to temper it or make a paper cone. If you don’t feel confident in those two things, check out my posts on them! If you’re good to go on that stuff, let’s move on.
In terms of technique, most important is practice, practice, practice. Still, there are a few things you can do to help your cause. It’s very important to have two hands on your piping bag, although many people don’t do it. A second hand greatly stabilizes your dominant, writing hand and keeps lines smooth and steady.
The most important thing I can tell you about chocolate writing is that the slower your hand moves when writing your letters, the thicker the flow of chocolate and the wavier the lines. Not exactly a recipe for awesome lettering. It will feel counter intuitive when gaining the muscle memory of your writing style, but the faster you can write (within reason) the better your writing will look.
The best position for the tip of your piping bag is hovering just above your writing surface. You’ll almost drag the chocolate over the writing surface, with the tip of the bag just slightly ahead of the line you’re creating.
Here’s my alphabet. I’m focusing on the capital letters as they have the most complexity and flair. The remaining lowercase letters are a basic script.
I’ll say this once more because it’s so important, the best thing you can do to improve your chocolate writing is PRACTICE. Pull out some parchment paper (or a non-stick baking mat) and write away. It will also give you the opportunity to practice your tempering and cone making. The muscle memory you develop will translate into speed which will further translate into smooth, fluid lines. Get writing!