Thursday, February 14, 2019

Stencil on Food: Piped Chocolate Giant Cookie Topper

Aloha stencil fans. It's Jill McDowell here with you today. Did you know that the official Hawaii state fish is the Humuhumunukunukuapua? (Try saying that just once, never mind three time fast.) The fish is actually a trigger fish but the Hawaiian word translates into “nose like a pig’s". Although the translation may roll more smoothly off of my tongue, it's surely not nearly as fun to say. 

I’ve just returned from a once in a lifetime trip to Hawaii that’s left me flying high in a tropical mood. So this month, I thought that I would build on my tropical vibe and spend a little "Shaka" time learning a new skill that I can use to honor the Humuhumunukunukuapua.  If piping warm chocolate into a yummy, brightly colored Boho Fish Topper that crowns a Giant Brownie Cookie sounds good to you, then you're reading the right post.
But before we start, I want to take a moment to talk a little about safety. Materials and supplies that are used in your art studio should never come in contact with anything food related.  However, in this post, you'll see me use stencils, pencils, and markers from my art studio.  Be assured that this project is designed in such a manner to ensure that any surface that comes on contact with my studio supplies will never come in contact with the piped chocolate. 

Step 1: Create the Design

To start I made a carrier sheet out of parchment paper on which I penciled in a few guidelines, two to show me where to pipe a scalloped border and one so that I will know where the edge of the cookie will be. Eventually, I will be piping the melted chocolate on the back side of this carrier sheet. For now, I put the Carrier sheet aside.
Next, I began creating a design template on Kraft paper. I picked StencilGirl®'s Boho Fish stencil by Gwen Lafleur as the focal points, tracing the outlines with a pencil. Kraft paper works well for this project since it has enough contrast to be seen through the parchment paper carrier sheet made in step 1.
The fish get treated to an inking with a black magic marker. This thickens and darkens the lines so that you can use them as guides when you pipe the chocolate.
I picked the Random Circles Stencil from StencilGirl® by Mary Beth Shaw to use as a background.
The circles reminded me of bubbles and will give me places to doodle later on.
After inking the background, I cut out the kraft paper template and taped it to a sturdy piece of cardboard with masking tape. I made sure that cardboard was slightly bigger than my carrier sheet but small enough to lay flat on my refrigerator shelf. 
Then I taped the parchment paper carrier sheet upside down over the kraft paper template. I double checked to be sure that the carrier sheet was upside down so that I would be sure not to pipe the chocolate over the actual pencil marks.  

Step 2: Melt the Chocolate

Unfortunately, I forgot to take pics of melting the chocolate but there are lots of videos on YouTube that detail how to do this. I'll just give you a quick recap of my takeaways.
  1. Chocolate: Use good chocolate and melt it slowly over medium heat in a double boiler: I used Ghirardelli semi-sweet and white chocolate baking bars. It took about 15 minutes to get it fully melted and smooth.
  2. Temperature: The chocolate needs to be kept warm for piping. Once the chocolate melted, I turned the burners off and on intermittently to control the heat. Just like in Goldilocks and the Three Bears, the chocolate should be piped at a temperature that is not too hot, nor too cold, but just right...
  3. Colors: You can mix some really bright colors in separate metal bowls with the melted white chocolate and Candy Coloring. Just be sure to use real Candy Colors, since regular food coloring contains alcohol which will seize up the chocolate. Also add the color slowly, (drop, mix, drop, mix) as it can get intense really fast. The colors in my background came out much darker than I had anticipated. If I had had more white chocolate I would have used it to lighten them up a bit.

Step 3: Pipe the Chocolate

The process for piping the chocolate was actually not very difficult once I got the hang of it. It sounds much more intimidating than it really is. Again, there are many YouTube videos online that you can reference but for me the keys were:
  1. Volume: Fill the disposable piping bags with only what you need to use in the next 5 to 10 minutes and never fill the bag more than 1/2 full.  This keeps the mess to a minimum and the temperature of the chocolate consistent. 
  2. Size Matters: Make a teeny-tiny, pinprick sized hole with kitchen scissors in the corner of the piping bag after it is filled with the melted chocolate. If you find that the hole is too small you can always make it bigger, but if it is too big, you will never be able to make it smaller;
  3. Practice, Practice, Practice: I practiced piping lines off to the side on a silicone mat first before I started working on my real design. I’m right handed, and found that I had the most control if I squeezed the bag with my right hand, stabilized it with my left index finger, and pulled the bag towards me without letting the tip of the bag touch the carrier sheet.  To end a line, I touched the tip of the piping bag down onto the carrier sheet and then pulled up.  Although it took some practice, I think I was able to learn how to pipe a line fairly quickly.
  4. Perfection is not required: Since the design is worked on the back of the topper, from the top layer down though to the bottom layer, you can get away with being a little messy. (For you accountants, this technique is similar to the FIFO, (or First in, First Out) inventory method). The first layer of piping will end up on the top of the topper and the colorized layers that are piped over it will end up underneath the first layer. (Just the opposite of painting...  This will make more sense to you later, I promise.) I took advantage of this when I doodled with white chocolate knowing that I could fully cover up the doodle with the colorized chocolate in the background without worrying about staying in the lines.
I piped the semi-sweet chocolate over the carrier sheet first, following all of the stencil lines.
Then I added a wonky scalloped border using the guidelines I'd penciled in to keep the edges in line.

After each layer of piping, I laid the cardboard and topper flat in the refrigerator for a few minutes, just long enough for the chocolate to begin to set up. This cooling off lets you pipe another layer of chocolate on top without melting and mixing the colors of the layer below it.
Then I started layering in the background colors.  

The doodling commenced with piped white chocolate.  
I may have gotten just a little carried away with the doodles!
Then I covered the all of doodles up with piped colored chocolate.

Once I'd filled in all the blank spaces and all of the parchment paper was covered in chocolate, I put the topper in the refrigerator one last time for about 15 minutes to make sure that all of the chocolate was fully firmed up.  Then I took it out of the refrigerator, flipped it over so that the piping layers sat firmly in the palm of my hand, and carefully peeled the parchment carrier sheet off of the top.
Now you can see the layers of color over the white chocolate doodles.
I stored the Topper overnight in the refrigerator sandwiched between parchment paper and sealed in an airtight Tupperware container. Then I baked a store bought brownie mix in a giant cookie pan according to the directions on the box.  

When the cookie was cool, I removed it from the pan, added a thin layer of canned cream cheese frosting on top to act as a glue, placed the Boho Fish Topper on top, and here's the result...

Here are a few close-ups of the BoHo Fish and the doodles:

Final Thoughts: (or what would I do differently next time)

I had a lot of fun making this Topper, finding new ways to use my stencils, and exploring the world of cake decorating. Overall I'm really happy with the result given that I've never worked with chocolate before. And it sure did taste good. However, I do think though that the background is too dark and overly complex. Since I believe that it's important to learn from my experiences, I decided to manipulate a picture of the Topper in ProCreate to see what changes I might make in the future.  

This is the edited ProCreate version of the design.  Next time I'd think about isolating the colors and allowing for more white chocolate space to peek through the background.  Better yet, I might take it a step even further and eliminate the doodles entirely, (although they were really a fun experiment) to simplify the design and put the focus on those really cool BoHo Fish.

If you have any experience piping chocolate, I'd love to compare notes with you. I'm also happy to answer any questions that you may have. Mahalo for taking the time to read my post.  


StencilGirl® Stencils used in this project:

BoHo Fish designed by Gwen Lafleur

Random Circles designed by Mary Beth Shaw


  1. Jill, you are so creative! What an amazing and delicious creation

  2. Wow - amazing project! Imaginiative and beautiful!

  3. This was both fascinating and fun and I bet delicious!


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