OMG!! MYOG: Make your own gelt.

As many of you know, sometimes we bloggers here at King Arthur Flour get requests and suggestions from our fearless Web leader, Halley. Sometimes they’re subtle: “I’d love to see something chocolate in January.” Sometimes they’re a bit more um, er, direct. “Someone needs to blog this recipe for March 3.” And sometimes, they’re just plain…

…wistful. As we began to talk about the winter holidays, Halley suggested we find a way to make Hanukkah gelt from some of our high quality chocolates. I explained that to make molded chocolates, you needed some kind of mold, and we just didn’t have anything like that right now.

A few days later, Halley mentioned the gelt again. She really wished we could find a way to make it work.  Sweet Halley, I could tell that she’d been thinking about the gelt for awhile. By the third time she longingly mentioned gelt, I decided I really needed to find a way to make this gelt for Halley. It simply meant a lot to her and that’s what friends do.

By happy coincidence, I had borrowed a book from test kitchen maven Sue Gray.  “The Whimsical Bakehouse,” by Kaye and Liv Hansen, features some of the most amazing cakes I’ve ever seen. The most fantastic part was that many of Liv’s decorations for her cakes are made from melted chocolate, piped from pastry bags onto parchment paper in the most attractive and, yes, whimsical designs. I was starting to get an idea…

What if I put some gourmet chocolate into a piping bag and piped my own gelt? I was off to the kitchen to give it a try.

Here’s what I learned:

Lesser quality chocolates like the discs you can purchase at the party store do work quite well for this technique, but if you’re using higher quality chocolate, you may need some cocoa butter to thin it a bit for better flow.

The cocoa butter is particularly helpful when using white chocolate. Just 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon added to the warm chocolate frees it up to pipe smoothly.

I can’t tell you exactly how much you’ll need to use, if any. It will depend on the chocolate you have and you’ll need to add it bit by bit, until the chocolate flows easily, but isn’t runny.

While it’s very tempting to add gel pastes to color this chocolate, PLEASE DON’T DO IT!  Adding a water based food coloring to chocolate will cause it to seize into a solid clump. Not good. There are special coloring agents for chocolate available on the great wide Web if you need to go that route, but I like the contrast of the original brown and white of the chocolates.

Once your chocolates are melted and thinned with cocoa butter if needed, you’ll want to keep them warm as you work. A heating pad covered with a sheet of parchment works like a charm.

Choose a setting that will keep the chocolate warm and flowing, but not too hot that it scorches or separates.

Our disposable plastic decorating bags are da bomb for this application. No special tips needed, just snip off the end.

Now, I do love to pipe and swirl icing on cookies. But for this gelt, a template made sense to me. I wanted to be sure the symbols were correct, so I printed them off, including the dreidel template.

If you’re quicker thinker than I am, you may have realized that designs piped onto parchment paper and then removed and flipped over will actually be in reverse. SO, if orientation is important be sure to either print your design as a mirror image, or go old-school and trace it backwards on the back of your paper.

Place your design under a clean, smooth piece of parchment paper. If it seems too wiggly, you can tape the edges down for stability.

Slowly pipe the melted chocolate onto the design.

It’s OK if the back looks a little blobby. It’s the back and will be partially covered in more chocolate later.

By moving the parchment paper over the design, you can easily pipe multiples.  Be sure to leave a little space for the rest of the chocolate and some drying space in between.

Set the first “color” of the design aside to dry. Drying time will vary, depending on the chocolate, thickness of the design, etc.

By making several different copy sizes, you can customize to your heart’s content.

Once the first color is  mostly dry, you can return to the parchment to pipe the rest of the design.  You do want to keep the first color a bit soft, so that it can re-melt when the new warm chocolate touches it.

Tempting, but no licking!

Several different designs will fit on one piece of parchment. I did find if you crowd too many on one sheet, though, you run the risk of putting a finger, thumb, or elbow into a previous design.

Set your chocolate goodies aside to firm up completely.

Once they’re very firm to the touch, just peel them off the parchment with the help of a butter knife or nylon spatula, turn them over, and …

OMG, it’s HMG – Home Made Gelt!

Tucked into the icing on a cupcake, these make a wonderful treat for any night of Hanukkah.

Be careful that you don’t make your designs too big, or leave them in a warm place for too long.  It’s not pretty.

Looking for other ideas using Liv Hansen’s great technique? Check out this rose that my 15-year-old daughter Shannon made. No, she’d never tried this before, just used a really nice image from a book, and piped away.  (The green chocolate is from the party store, left over from another project).

I’m a fan of classic black and white, so these butterflies and stars in several sizes were right up my alley. Placed on top of a bright pink cake, they made a nice surprise for Shannon’s Spanish teacher’s birthday.

I just know you’ll find so many new ways to use this technique. As for these beauties, I say “gimmel”!

MaryJane Robbins

MaryJane Robbins grew up in Massachusetts and moved to Vermont 20 years ago. After teaching young children for 15 years, she changed careers and joined King Arthur Flour in 2005. MaryJane began working on King Arthur Flour's baker’s hotline in 2006, and the blog team ...


  1. biobaker

    MaryJane, I am uber-super-impressed by the precision and beauty of both your’s and your daughter’s designs. I read about this technique back when I was in high school and started ambitiously covering all the countertops with piped chocolate. Chocolate butterflies covered my mother’s birthday cake, my friends received their names piped in chocolate at Christmas time, and I made a royal mess (and ate the mistakes, of course!)

    A question: did your designs set up nicely at room temperature, or did you need to refrigerate or freeze them? Perhaps your test kitchen is very cool? Or perhaps adding extra cocoa butter causes the chocolate to set up firmer and glossier without tempering? Would you recommend tempering here?

    Finally, combining this idea with the gingerbread post a week or two ago, gingerbread dreidels immediately come to mind. Have you tried making some 3-D gingerbread dreidels, like the gingerbread box you constructed but pointy at the bottom and with something (maybe a peppermint stick?) as a handle? Just a thought!
    HI Bio,
    The chocolate did set well at room temperature, but I did as recommended in the book and put them in the freezer for about 10 minutes before moving them to the cupcakes, just for added insurance. It takes a little practice to move them without adding too many fingerprints, but you soon get the hang of it.
    As for tempering, I don’t temper for this. I do melt low and slow to keep the chocolate in temper as best I can though.

    So, a 3-D gingerbread driedel? I think that’s going to have to go on the list for next year! ~ MaryJane

  2. Margaret

    Those of us who write in Hebrew every day don’t write letters like that–those are used for printed and special hand scribed works only. Day to day, we use this script, which people might find easier to pipe and could do free form. The letters you want to use are one each of shin, hei, gimmel and nun. (Indicated by the numbers 300, 5, 3 and 50. The numbrs indicate the numerological values of the letters in Kabbalistic thought.)

    See the second column on this chart for Hebrew script.
    Wonderful! Thanks very much Margaret, I’m sure this will be very helpful to many people. ~ MaryJane

  3. Hester

    Wow! And the cupcakes themselves look gorgeous – which recipe to follow for that amazing frosting?
    It’s the Guaranteed Chocolate Cake and the Fluffy White Buttercream. They are my go-to recipes for birthday and special occasion cakes ~ MaryJane

  4. laurie

    For the butterflies and flower, which color did you pipe first? For the chocolate gelt, did you pipe the white and then pipe chocolate on top?

    Can you name names on the better chocolate? I’d like the chocolate to taste as good as it looks.
    Great question Laurie. I piped the dark first, then the white. I found it works best to pipe the outline or details first, then fill in the background. Hope this helps! ~ MaryJane

    Callebaut, Guittard, Valrohna, and Mercken’s are all really wonderful chocolates. How about treating yourself to a taste test with a few different kinds? After all, you deserve it! 😉 ~ MJ

  5. jami19020

    Do you need to temper the chocolate? I made some homemade peanut butter cups last week, and the chocolate bloomed, which was so disappointing…
    HI Jami,
    I haven’t used tempered chocolate for this, I just melt my chocolate very low and slow to keep it in good shape. Hope this helps. ~ MaryJane

  6. puddinggal

    OMG indeed. Both mother and daughter are talented. And even if like louanne23 I really, really will never do this, I adore seeing you do it! Happy Hanukkah to all…….

  7. GCAMom

    I’m making the word AET1 for my husband and a few of his co-workers who are making 1st class this week (military)….putting on cupcakes….I wanted to make them out of choc and this was perfect timing…I was about to search for a recipe or how to when I saw this on FB…..wonderful thanks.
    One question can I make them a few days before (2-3) then store them in the fridge? or should I make them the night before?
    First of all, please thank your husband and his co-workers for all that they do for us, we are deeply grateful.

    For making them ahead of time, you absolutely can. These cupcakes actually spent a day or two in the freezer with their toppers until “school picture day”, or at least until they could make it to our photo studio. So, go ahead and pipe away.
    ~ MaryJane

  8. milkwithknives

    Oh, wow, these are really beautiful. My favorite part is that you made them for your friend when you realized how important it was to her. Bravo, for finding the way.
    Thanks, I was happy that I could work this out, and now I have a great new technique in my pocket!
    ~ MaryJane

  9. Rockycat

    My daughter’s last birthday cake came from Riviera Bakery (owned by the Hansens) and the chocolate work was marvelous. They are one of a very few retail bakeries whose cakes taste as good as they look. I’ve had their book for years now and have made a few of the cakes in it but have been too timid to try the chocolate work. I’ve actually been considering asking a neighbor to do the chocolate work on a cake after I’ve baked it, but I may now have the guts to give it a try myself.

    And Margaret, I’ve yet to see a dreidel that has script on it, only print and usually in the Siddur or Stam fonts that look pretty much like what Mary Jane used. Many people who can read Hebrew print cannot read Hebrew script so I’m not sure if that would be helpful.

  10. pleasespammenow

    So awesome! Thank you for having the perseverance to make these. Chanukah is the forgotten holiday this time of year, and it’s so nice to see something special for it! And I’m sure it beats the waxy yucky gelt we’re all used to seeing 🙂
    When I was teaching pre-school, I always loved this time of year for sharing traditions. We would put on puppet shows about Hannukah and Judah, and the lamp. I especially loved reading Heshel and the Hannukah Goblins with the kids. Then we got to share about Kwanzaa, and our communities and families. It was truly touching. ~ MaryJane

  11. halleys

    Thanks so much, MaryJane. I sure wish these were still around yesterday, or that I had the time to make them… I had to drive to six stores before I could find any gelt in the little mesh bags. Can’t wait to do them with my kids this weekend.


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