Cake with chocolate shavings

Chocolate shavings and curls are the simplest way to finish a show-stopping cake or other special occasion dessert. To create chocolate shavings and curls, you need a good-sized block of chocolate at room temperature. You can use dark chocolate, milk chocolate, or white chocolate for your curls. Look for larger blocks of chocolate at baking supply stores or specialty grocery stores, often displayed near the fresh bakery department.

1. Setting up

Block of chocolate with knife

Choose or cut a piece of room-temperature chocolate that is at least 1 inch thick. Set the chocolate on a piece of parchment or waxed paper on a baking sheet. Stabilize the baking sheet by placing a very lightly moistened towel under it and brace the sheet against a wall or other sturdy backing.

2. Making Shavings

Using knife to shave chocolate block

Hold a chef’s knife or a vegetable peeler so the blade is at a 45-degree angle to the surface of the chocolate, then scrape the blade across the surface without digging into the block or gouging it. To make short shavings, use a short stroke. Longer strokes will produce longer shavings; they may curl slightly. If the chocolate block is cold, the shavings will be powdery.

3. Handling Chocolate Shavings

Chocolate shavings ready for storage

Chocolate shavings are quite thin and should not be touched with bare hands. The heat of your hands could easily melt them. Instead, use a spatula, preferably offset, to lift the shavings and scatter or pile them on top of a dessert. If you make shavings in advance, use the spatula to transfer them to a parchment paper–lined container or baking pan. Make relatively thin layers so the shavings don’t fall apart from their own weight.