How To Completely Fail at Making Chocolate Cups

No good deed goes unpunished; or, in my case, no attempt to craft a timely, seasonal post–this one for Valentine’s Day–goes un-disastrously.

I’m not usually that kind of blogger, but this time around I thought, “Well, why not have a beautiful, chocolatey Valentine’s Day-oriented dessert on my blog for Monday morning? What harm could that cause?” Clearly: lots of harm.

The good news is that I still have a post to share. The bad news is that my original post went so hilariously wrong, you won’t get the full experience I was aiming for. That full experience was supposed to be chocolate mousse in chocolate cups with a crunchy chocolate topping. You’re still going to get the chocolate mousse and the crunchy chocolate topping, you’re just not going to get the chocolate cups.

Here’s why.

The recipe I was using, which comes from one of my favorite chefs, Michel Richard, made so much sense to me I couldn’t wait to try it. You take a mug, fill it with water, put plastic wrap on top, pop a straw or a stick in the center and freeze it.


Then, when it’s time to make chocolate cups, you chop up good bittersweet chocolate (I used Ghiardelli, about 3 full bars; $12 worth) and melt it. Chef Richard says do it in a microwave. I don’t have a microwave, so I used a double boiler and then transferred the chocolate to a smaller bowl for the next step.


Here’s the next step: you pull the frozen mug-shaped ice out by the straw.


You wipe off any extra moisture and you plunge it into the hot chocolate:


You’re supposed to pull it out immediately and peel off a lovely chocolate cup.

Now this first time around, my failure was entirely YOUR fault. Because I felt like I had to have a picture for you, I stopped when the frozen mugsicle went into the chocolate and took that picture. The result is that the chocolate practically seized up, the ice came out without any chocolate on it, and I’d wasted $12. I’m sending you a bill.

Convinced that if I hadn’t taken that picture, it would’ve been successful, I chopped up another $12 worth of chocolate and tried the whole thing again. This time, I dipped the ice into the hot chocolate and immediately pulled it out. Nothing stuck. The chocolate got cold and wet. I made a few more half-hearted attempts, but nothing.

I’d wasted $24 and, more importantly, lots of delicious chocolate (don’t worry: I did a lot of licking up of wet, icy chocolate, but still). Then, like salt on a wound, Smitten Kitchen comes along the next morning and posts the most fabulous, decadent, oozy salted caramel HEART-SHAPED brownies on her site.

I buried my head in my hands and almost considered breaking out that old law degree, giving up my career as a professional food blogger. But yesterday I mustered up the energy to make the recipe without the chocolate cups. You’re about to see the results in the next post. But as for making chocolate cups? Unless you’ve got a better technique, my advice is: skip ’em.

24 thoughts on “How To Completely Fail at Making Chocolate Cups”

  1. Why not just use small water balloons ala Jacques Torres? Blow up, dip (in tempered chocolate) let harden and then pop the balloons.

  2. It’s not your fault; that technique seems ill-fated from the start. I concur with the previous comment re:balloons (although when they pop, don’t they shatter the bowls??), but you would have to use either candy melts (ew) or tempered chocolate which would require special couveture chocolate and lots and LOTS of patience.

  3. Ditto the balloons. We did this in a baking class at my local technical college. Blow up the balloon, put a small amount of oil on it, and dip into warm chocolate. Let the chocolate harden and then cut a small hole in the balloon to slowly let the air out.

  4. I love that you posted this, even though it was a failure. Sometimes I think people are a little intimidated by cooking but acknowledging the goofs helps us all improve.

  5. BALLOONS. i did it for christmas and they were stunning. the chocolate has to be tempered, though, i think. can’t imagine how this would ever work…chocolate + water = disaster.

  6. I’m *SO GOOD* at failing. As much as I hate to hear about your disaster, it’s so comforting to know that I’m not the only one who ends up in a ball of tears on the floor upset not only because I failed but because I’m wasting perfectly good food (and money) :) Better luck next time… but that cocoa puff mousse… that’s going to be haunting my dreams…

  7. I’m *SO GOOD* at failing. As much as I hate to hear about your disaster, it’s so comforting to know that I’m not the only one who ends up in a ball of tears on the floor upset not only because I failed but because I’m wasting perfectly good food (and money) :) Better luck next time… but that cocoa puff mousse… that’s going to be haunting my dreams…

  8. I’ve had luck brushing melted chocolate inside cupcake/muffin liners (usually foil works better, although both have been successful). Easy to remove the outside and no fear of silicone aftertaste!

  9. What I was going to say was that the water from the ice would make the chocolate seize up. Chocolate doesn’t like having little bits of water mixed in to it, and so it’s likely that the melting water from the ice cup ended up making the chocolate unhappy, and hence these less-than-perfect results. Whoever mentioned putting cellophane over the cup mold, that’s probably your best bet if you want to stick with this technique.

  10. Of course you could’ve added milk to it and made hot chocolate or melted it w butter for your own brownies. Or used it in any number of ways. Why would u waste it? It was seized up because it had a small amount of water in it. That’s what a small amount of water does. Totally usable in any recipe that calls for melted chocolate.

  11. I love the crime scene photo that begins your saga on making a chocolate cup. Such a delight to read… even though it was a failure… Your chocolate mousse still looks fantastic sans choco-cup…

  12. Hi Adam, this is my first time commenting since subscribing to your newsletter a month ago. As a new food blogger, oftentimes I get intimated by pro bloggers who always post perfect looking dishes faster than fast food chains can dish out .99C burgers. I just want to thank you for sharing ‘failed recipe episode’, this gives me the courage to write my own ‘semi-failed chocolate port wine sauce tenderloin steak’ recipe :) I like your ‘learn as you go, pro-mateur outlook on food! thanks!

  13. I was at the Powerhouse Arena in Brooklyn yesterday and heard you speak. It was such a treat! And I don’t just mean the cookies.

    Previously, I hadn’t seen your blog before, so I came right on over today to check it out (and to see what you meant about the chocolate cups – you really weren’t kidding, those look exasperating). I’m so glad it is in my life now. Happy Valentine’s Day!

  14. Adam! The other thing you can do is:

    1) Pour tempered chocolate into clean, dry muffin tins, filling as many cups as you’d like to have.

    2) Bang the tins on the table rightside up to remove air bubbles, then let sit for a few seconds

    3) Invert the muffin tins (over a piece of parchment to collect and save the excess), then bang the heck out of the bottoms of the tins to ensure that only a nice thin-but-sturdy layer remains. It’s fun. You’ll love it. Your neighbors won’t.

    4) Leave the tins upside down and slightly elevated over the parchment until the chocolate starts to set up. Remove any excess drips over the sides of the cups, as you would with a tart or pie shell.

    5) Throw the tins in the fridge for a few minutes. The chocolate cups will contract and pop out easily. And by “will” I mean “should.”

    The downside of this approach is that you need to start with enough chocolate to *fill* the cups, not just line them. But all of the “excess” chocolate will be 100% dry and usable for any other purpose you choose.

    <3 Rachel

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