Including how to make big, beautiful chocolate curls.

By Heath Goldman
Darling Kindersley/Getty Images

Whether you’re looking to top cupcakes, dress up a cake, decorate cookies, or add some pizzazz to brownies, these easy tricks will give you a bakery-quality finish. Depending on which garnish you’re creating, feel free to use baker’s bars, artisanal bars, or even chocolate chips or chopped chocolate. And any type of chocolate will do, whether it’s dark, milk, or white. If the garnish requires melted chocolate, feel free to melt it over a double boiler or in the microwave (just be sure to stir every 15 seconds to ensure it doesn't burn). Otherwise, happy decorating—and remember, slow and steady wins the race!

1.Grate any bar of chocolate on the medium round holes of a box grater to create small curls. This technique is ideal for quickly and elegantly covering the sides of any cake.

2. Curl chocolate by dragging a vegetable peeler along a slightly softened bar of chocolate (microwave it for 10 seconds in the microwave first so it’s soft, but hasn’t started melting). For a larger, fuller shape, microwave 3 ounces of chocolate with 1 tablespoon of Crisco until melted. Mix until combined, then pour onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Spread chocolate into a paper-thin layer with a knife or offset spatula, and freeze until hardened (about 3 minutes). Finally, hold a metal spatula at a 45-degree angle and push it straight through the chocolate with gentle, steady pressure, creating large curls.

3. Write “Happy Birthday” on any cake by filling a parchment paper cone with melted chocolate. Though you may come across a recipe that has you fill a resealable plastic bag and snip off the corner, we find that wax paper is easier to work with because it’s slightly stiffer and makes for a steadier line. Forming the cone is a quick origami project; you can find detailed instructions here. A pastry bag fitted with a very fine tip will do the trick, too. One more tip: Trace your letters onto the frosted cake using a toothpick first. If you mess up, you can always erase the letter with some fresh frosting.

4. Draw chocolate hearts or stars (or whatever your heart desires!) using the paper cone method described in the technique above. For transportable shapes, pipe onto the back of baking sheet that’s covered in parchment paper. Freeze shapes until they’re solid and stick upright into cupcakes for the cutest toppers you can imagine. 

5. Mold melted chocolate by brushing it onto textured, bendable materials like bubble wrap (be sure to wash first) or mint leaves. If you don’t want the shape to lay flat, drape it over a rolling pin. Freeze until hardened, and then carefully peel away the material (or, if you want the minty flavor, feel free to keep the chocolate on the leaf). The chocolate will pick up detailed texture.

6. Pour chocolate glaze onto cakes, cupcakes, or cookies to quickly dress them up. Make sure the chocolate is at room temperature; it should stream off a spoon back into the bowl leaving a visible line on the surface before smoothing out. Place whatever you’re glazing on a wire rack. If you want full coverage for a cake, transfer the glaze to a measuring cup and pour it onto the center of the cake, and it will spread out. Alternatively, dip the tines of a fork into the glaze and quickly flick back and forth to create neat lines (great for cookies).