Melting Chocolate To Make Cake Pops, Chocolate Pretzels, Chocolate Covered Marshmallows And More

One of the topics I see come up the most often in my comments has to do with melting chocolate.

Chocolate that’s too thick.  Chocolate that’s too runny.   Chocolate challenges.   Why is my chocolate so thick?  How do I think out my chocolate?  Why isn’t my chocolate setting up?   These are very common questions.

I am NOT an expert and do not claim to be, but since this seems to be a challenge that so many people share, I thought I would address it and at least share what I have learned in my baking.   My disclaimer is that these are my opinions and experiences, and may not hold true for everyone.

What type of chocolate do you use for dipping?

The first thing that comes to mind is what kind of chocolate I do not use, and that would be chocolate chips.

Don’t get me wrong, I love chocolate chips and use a lot of them, but not for items I’m dipping in chocolate.

So what chocolate do I use?   I use a variety of chocolate coating products.  Chocolate coatings, also referred to as candy melts, confectionery coating,  almond bark, chocolate melts, candy coating, are similar to “real” chocolate but have slightly different ingredients.  Chocolate coatings usually contain vegetable fats, which have a higher melting temperature and allow for easier and more forgiving chocolate melting.   They melt fairly easily and harden up nicely.   True chocolate is much more fickle when it comes to melting and must be tempered.   It certainly tastes better, but can present some challenges which is why it’s not the most common choice for home baking.

1.  Merckens Chocolate

I usually buy this chocolate from my local baking supply store, ABC Cake Decorating where they have a variety of colors and flavors.  

2.  Candiquik

My favorite chocolate to pick up at the grocery store is Candiquik.  I find that it melts smoothly, quickly and easily, and you can melt it right in the container it comes in, which is great for clean up.   I find it’s consistent to work with and has a great taste.   If you haven’t, check out Miss Candiquik’s blog -(aka Sarah) where you’ll find lots of great ideas and recipes as well as tips and tricks.  Sarah and I have similar dessert tastes, so if you enjoy my recipes, you really should check out her site.

3. Plymouth Pantry Almond Bark

This is what I pick up if I’m at Walmart.   I’m not crazy about the chocolate, but the vanilla is fine.

There are some other varieties of chocolate that I don’t use as often, but I do use.

Make N’ Mold

This is one that I believe Hobby Lobby (at least mine) carries.

Wilton Chocolate Melts

These are probably one of the most readily available chocolate melting products.   Michael’s carries them as do most Walmarts.   In my opinion it’s one of the thicker chocolates, which can make it a bit harder to work with.   Again, that’s just my little opinion.

What is different about these chocolates?

Well – a lot.   The ingredients.   The quality.  How they melt.  The heating times.  Personal preferences.   Pretty much everything.   The time and heat setting you use to melt one chocolate may scorch another chocolate and not begin to melt yet another.   The flavors vary.  All melting chocolate is not the same.    Here are two great links discussing different chocolates…

Pint Sized Baker –  A comparison of three different types of chocolates

Cake Pop Gallery – Candy Melts – Wilton vs Merckens vs ???

Hungry Happenings – Chocolate Making Tips (this is a must read)

Why is my chocolate so thick and how can I thin it out???

Often this is a result of overheating your chocolate.   Two words of advice to remember when heating chocolate… low and slow.   I almost always heat all of my chocolate, no matter what brand, at 50% power in my microwave and in very short bursts – usually starting with 30 seconds and then going 10-15 seconds at a time after that.   Chocolate will often hold it’s shape and appear to not be melted, but if you start to really stir, it melts down. Once you overheat chocolate, which can be done much more quickly than many people realize, it will become very difficult to work with.

There are ways to thin out your chocolate.  My go to product is Paramount Crystals.  What are Paramount Crystals?  Paramount Crystals are made of vegetable oils and are used to help thin out your chocolate.

I always have these on hand, and often add a teaspoon or so to my chocolate – my theory is always start with a tiny bit, as it’s easy to add more, but once you add too much of anything – that’s a whole other problem.    If you dip anything in chocolate more than a few times a year, I highly recommend ordering a bag.

Other things can be added to chocolate to help thin it out – I know some people use shortening such as Crisco or even vegetable oil.   Again, start with a tiny bit and add as needed.

Can I add colors and flavors to my chocolate?

Yes, you can, but I will say that I personally do not.   Given the challenges of chocolates, I really prefer not to throw anything else in to the mix (literally and figuratively).  Chocolate melts come in so many colors, check out the Merckens color chart of the colors they have, as well as what you can mix the colors to create…

The overwhelming majority of the time I simply use a white chocolate and add my color through sprinkles….

Sprinkles = Color!

If I want my chocolate a particular color, I buy that color, but I find that sticking with white chocolate and adding my color through sprinkles is easy and probably more economical.  White chocolate can become any color once I cover it in some sanding sugar.  That said, if you want to color your chocolate, make sure that you use an oil-based color and not a water based.   Water and chocolate do not mix – it’s like a law, and probably illegal in some states.

As far as flavors – I don’t love flavored chocolate coatings, but if I do want to use them. I buy the chocolate already flavored.    ABC has Guittard Chocolate available in flavors such as mint, lemon, strawberry and orange.  You can purchase oil based flavors if you would like to flavor your chocolate.

My sprinkles and chocolate fall off of my pretzels, cake pops, etc…

It’s important to have patience when you are dipping items in chocolate.   If the chocolate is too hot and runny, then it is likely that your sprinkles will fall off, and take gobs of chocolate with them.    If the chocolate sets up too much, the sprinkles won’t stick.   There’s sort of a middle ground you have to find, and for me it’s a combination of patience and tapping off excess chocolate.   You can see a video of me making chocolate pretzels here, which shows how I tap, tap, tap the excess chocolate off prior to covering my pretzel in sprinkles.

When I make cake pops, I find that I do a lot of twirling of my cake pop prior to putting the sprinkles on.   I sort of tap and slowly twirl over my chocolate bowl until the drip drops stop and I can add my sprinkles, at which point I usually still continue to twirl the cake pop a bit.   If I immediately put the cake pop down, I will often have some sprinkles slide off, compared to spending an extra minute holding and keeping the cake pop moving, allowing the chocolate to set.

Another factor is the weight of the sprinkles.   Great big sprinkles weigh more, and thus are a bit more likely to fall off or slide around on your cake pop.  I really prefer sanding and crystal sugars, as they are fairly light, I like the taste and they are easy to work with.

A chocolate covered Peeps pop with sanding sugar sprinkles.

One other bit of advice I find helpful is to chill my cake pops, Peeps, marshmallows, whatever I’m using prior to dipping it in the chocolate.  This helps the chocolate set up a bit quicker.  You don’t want to freeze anything for too long, or you can experience some cracking when your chocolate dries, and the cake pop expands slightly.

And remember never mix your chocolate and water or you are likely to have the chocolate police show up and take away your chocolate.  And microwave.   Okay, maybe not, but it won’t be a great chocolate experience.

Do you have any more advice?

Here are some great resources that you can check out for more advice…

Simply Designing – How To Melt Chocolate For Dipping

Sugarcraft – How To Melt Merckens Rainbow Wafer Coatings

Wilton – Melting Candy

Martha Stewart – Cupcake Pops & Bites – make sure to check out the video of Bakerella

Happy dipping!

Comments

    • Elisabeth says

      This post was great. I wish I still had abc near me. Lived in Gilbert for 5 years and drive there at least monthly. In Cali we have a few stores with half as much at twice the price. Hobby lobby is about the only really close option. Thanks for the info

  1. Jen says

    Thanks for all of the info! I have had trouble with the wilton candy melts being so thick, no matter what I do, it make it hard to dip cake pops in it. I have had good luck with the vanilla almond bark, it melts so easily. I will definitely try some of the other brands you listed above. Thanks again!

  2. says

    I tried using a bag of Nestle White Chocolate chips to dip pretzels, in a Wilton Chocolate Pro melter, but I have to turn it off and let it cool and re-harden after a while as the chocolate starts seizing up and won’t dip nicely anymore. If I had had the extra $30, I would have bought the 5lb bar of Ghirardelli chocolate that was at TJ Maxx or Marshalls a few weekends ago.

    • says

      I found Ghiradeli dipping wafers at Sam’s Club recently. They had white and dark chocolate. A big bag was a little more than $7. I used it to make truffles and they are really delicious.

  3. says

    It has taken me some time but I’ve finally gotten the hang of melting chocolate. When I want to use colors, I always turn to Wilton candy melts and to thin those I add just a dab of shortening. For real chocolate flavor, I love the Ghirardelli Milk Chocolate chips but not the white, those never melt very well for me. I prefer to do the double boiler method (just a pyrex glass bowl over a pot of simmering water), I’ve had too many screw ups with the microwave to bother with it anymore.

  4. says

    Great tutorial and tips! I seem to always come across these chocolate problems and just try to avoid dipping things in chocolate. Not anymore!

  5. Kathy says

    Thank you so much for all the info. I am guilty of using chocolate chips (they were on sale!) and did not have much luck with the Wilton’s either. Will definitely try out some of the others you listed if I can find them locally. My son’s 4th birthday is next week; this will be a perfect reason to try cake pops again. I saw your daughters are adopted; this little guy is too, international adoption brought him to our family.

  6. Lauren A. says

    Hey, I love that you did this article! I just got a cake pop maker for Christmas and I picked up the skill for making them look pretty immediately, but my friends have all kinds of problems! I use the same tap and swirl method then I’m doing pops, but because I make 50 at a time, I go ahead and stand them in my styrofoam and move on to the next one and when I notice one just start to go dull in color, that’s when I hit it with the sprinkles. Haven’t ever had a problem with that method, no slipping sprinkles and no problems sticking. Thanks for your blog, I love it!

  7. Fems says

    Hey I want to make angry birds cake pops please please help me out for this as soon as possible because i have to make it for my nephew on his birthday the day after tomorrow i will be very thankful of you.
    Thanks :)

    Fems.

    • says

      Fems, I’m afraid that’s not one I can be of much help on. I am probably one of the only people who has never played (or even seen) Angry Birds, and sprinkles are about as decorative as I get with cake pops. Have you checked Bakerella’s site?

  8. says

    thanks so much for this post – very informative! Can I ask, why do you not use morsels? Do they not set as well once you’ve coated your “main” part of the treat? I don’t always have bark on hand and like to use morsels in a pinch as I most always have those on hand – thanks so much for your input!

  9. says

    I have a problem with my cake pops cracking any time I try to add details to my pop. I can get a perfect cake pop, but when I try to add a face or hair or anything like that it cracks around the addition. I can’t find any tips on this particular problem. Any tips??

  10. Lujain says

    Hi , I just want to know if you have any store in USA or any contact with you to buy something >> i just saw your page when I was looking for cake pops >>

  11. Yoyo says

    Can I ask you something?
    I am trying to make chocolate leaves, I used chocolate chip and melted them but they didn’t melt too well if I keep melting them more longer they will bern, and I used them to make chocolate leaves as the website have is paint them on the leaves then put in the frige, but mine after it set I took them out in roomtemperature they just melted up soooooo fast , I was so upset with that, could you tell me what should I do? Or what kind of chocolate I should use so they don’t melt in roomtemperature ? Please…… Help

    • says

      Yoyo, personally I never use chocolate chips for melting (which is why I put that big red X on them :) ) I find they don’t melt well and they don’t stay as solid at room temperature. I’d recommend any of the brands I mentioned in this post. Good luck.

  12. Diane says

    I thought all of this seemed helpful…until I realized you referred to every dipping / candy product as “chocolate”. I doubt that any of the Wilton melts have actual chocolate in them. So why not use water to thin it, or use water based coloring to color it?
    I am actually more confused now than before I read this.

    • says

      Diane, can’t say for sure on the contents of the Wilton Melts as I don’t have any to check, but from my experience washing out my dishes after melting them, adding water will not thin it, but turn it into more of a cement like substance. :)

  13. Janice salinas says

    Can you tell me how to stop your pretzle from getting soft after you dip in Carmel , I love making them and I like them but would like for them to stay crisp. Any help would be great

  14. Hidayah says

    Love,love,love your tips! Just last week, I made my first cake pops using my little cupcake mold….
    Can I use compound chocolate for coating?

  15. Jodi says

    Thank you so much for having this super helpful site! I am about to make cake pops for the first time and was stumped when it called for “Chocolate bark coating” I looked at my supermarket and couldn’t find anything lol. I have bookmarked your page for future reference! Thank you again! :)

    Jodi

  16. Lilie says

    - This is valuable information, but I was wondering can you also dip the Cake Pops in canned frosting once you’ve gotten the right dipping consistency ?

  17. says

    I know you linked to me like a year ago, but this week I just got a bunch of hits popping up from you linking to me here! Anyway, I just wanted to stop by and say THANK YOU for the link!

    And what a great post! You have some fabulous tips here!

    Have a lovely holiday season.

    Ashley

  18. GAshley says

    If only I had seen this a week ago! I tried making my first bach of cake pops at my future inlaws for Christmas. I had a difficult time picking my chocolate – and of course went with the nestle chips – the ones you say no on! Needless to say after dipping 5 very messy cake pops the chocolate turned into paste. I couldn’t get it to melt again and wasn’t sure what to do. My fiancé jumped in to help by saying we could use the rest of the icing as the coating instead. Needless to say I was slightly mortified and everyone had messy fingers by the end of it :)) At least everyone liked them better than uncle Bob’s attempt at cheesecake ;)

  19. Meredith says

    Do you just melt the chocolate in a deep bowl and dip? or do you use a fondue set? I can melt the chocolate but the ‘dipping’ process is more like a swipe across the bowl? AND :) do you melt a lot of chocolate so there is always a ‘pool’ of chocolate to dip up until the last one? If so, what do you do with any left over chocolate once it is hard? or before it is hard. Sorry…my brain is going faster than I can type :)

    • says

      Meredith – I usually use a 2 cup wide mouth glass measuring cup and then reheat it if it starts to harden up before I’m done. Once the chocolate “pool” starts to run down, I usually spoon the chocolate on or over whatever I’m dipping. I always think I’m going to save/keep any leftover chocolate but usually end up just throwing it out. :) Hope that helps!

  20. P.N. says

    Hello Christi,
    Melting chocolate is a delicate balance of patience and very careful of slow heating of the block chocolate… And you look like a very intelligent and educated woman, and you seem to enjoy doing all this sweet candy stuff. I am in shock though that you are using poisonous chemicals such as food coloring and these melting ‘chocolates’ (hydrogenated Palm oil is known for being one of the worst trans fats), which has nothing to do with chocolate anymore. This stuff is made out of pure chemicals. The Peeps are one of the worst ‘sweets’ you can consume! Here are some articles about the poison you use: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504763_162-20009228-10391704.html
    and http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/02/24/are-you-or-your-family-eating-toxic-food-dyes.aspx
    and http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090502084827.htm
    It is up to the consumer to be smarter than the producer of this unhealthy and dangerous stuff, who know very well that these chemicals are cancer causing and use them anyways just out of greed!
    Consider your health and your children’s health…!
    Food can be safely colored with certain fruits and vegetables like beets for a beautiful pink color etc.
    P.

  21. Jo says

    I have tried the candy melts but find it sets so quickly that I only have time to dip a couple od the cake pops before it goes hard. What can I do about this?

  22. Angie Huckleby says

    What a great article & so well written! Thank you so much for writing this..it gives me more confidence when working with chocolate. It scares me sometimes lol.

  23. Kitti says

    I have found that Guittard chocolate melting wafers work fabulously. Lindt milk chocolate bars also melt well for dipping. I use an electric fondue pot for my dipping needs and it is amazing! I keep it on 2 to melt and maintain the chocolate and I can dip and dip and dip. No reheating required!

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  1. […] through dipping in chocolate.   After they cool, it’s just dip and decorate (here’s info on how I dip things in chocolate).    Your final outcome will just depend on how you decorate these.  The possibilities are […]

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