Cocoa painting is widely documented in books and dates back to the early 1900s, though it became more popular after World War II. However, it is very time consuming and requires expert hand skills, and today transfer sheets and silk screening are more widely used for decorating confections. Nonetheless, colored cocoa painting is still a valuable skill for chocolatiers to learn.
In past years, it was popular to use a mixture of cocoa powder, oil, and a little cocoa butter for painting. Today, regular water-soluble food coloring is generally used instead to make the process easier. The disadvantage of using food coloring is that once it is painted on, it becomes permanent, whereas the older method was more forgiving, as mistakes could be corrected by simply adding warm oil to thin the “paint” and absorb the color. White paint can be created by mixing cocoa butter and titanium dioxide, which is available in any store that sells wedding cake supplies. The food color can be painted onto marzipan or pastillage, though the white color of pastillage causes more contrast and can make the finished painting look harsh. Because chocolate contains a lot of fat, it will not absorb water color well and should not be used as a surface for cocoa painting. After the painting is completed, food lacquer may be used to seal the painting and give an extra shine to the design.
  1. Select a picture you would like to replicate. The complexity of the picture should depend on your hand skills; if you do not have a great deal of experience in cocoa painting, it is best to start with a simple image.
  2. Place your picture flat on the work surface and cover with a layer of transfer or parchment paper. Using a soft-lead pencil, trace the image onto the transfer or parchment paper. Lift the paper with the traced design off the original picture and flip it over, then retrace the image on the opposite side of the parchment or transfer paper.
  3. Roll out a piece of marzipan or pastillage to the desired thickness. Immediately place the parchment or transfer paper with the penciled design on top of the marzipan, and use your hand or a ballpoint tool to press down gently over the lines and transfer the image onto the marzipan. The design will adhere better if freshly rolled marzipan is used because of the higher moisture content of the marzipan.
  4. Remove the transfer sheet from the marzipan to reveal the traced design.
  5. Using a paintbrush thick enough to hold a good amount of paint, begin to color in the design by outlining the outside first with the desired colors of food coloring. Then continue to fill in the image with the desired colors, working inward toward the center of the design.
  6. Let set until the painting is completely dry. This will happen almost immediately if no titanic dioxide was used in the paint, but it can take up to an hour if a large amount of titanic dioxide was used.
  7. If desired, spray the painting with food lacquer to seal it. Store at room temperature until ready to use.
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