Cocoa Painting; Harrogate Sugarcraft Guild Demonstration by Ann Kent


Cocoa Painting is an attractive medium, used similarly to oil painting, resulting in several shades of brown. It can be executed directly onto the cake or onto a plaque, which could be removed and kept as a memento.

This form of decorating enables one to re-produce pictures in sepia tones. Any picture requiring a monotone effect such as cameos, family photos and old scenes are ideal for this medium.


This method works well on tones of cream/yellow /apricot, so lightly colour the sugar paste before rolling out, for cakes or plaques. (White can prove too stark a contrast).

White fat is cheaper than cocoa butter. (Oil mediums are un-suitable, as they do not set and could result in easily smudged work). Melt over a low heat.

Cocoa powder or chocolate buttons.

Cocoa powder: Requires little explanation. It is a reliable material, is available in various colours and has the power to impart splendid flavour to confectionery, and should never be omitted from chocolate cakes.

The materials need to be kept in a liquid consistency. (Cocoa powder needs to be dissolved, and could be grainy, where as chocolate buttons result in a smoother deeper finish, which can be built up more readily. This is not essential, but could speed up the painting process).


Use a variety, which are of various sizes and shapes. Short sable haired brushes can be useful. Harder brushes give an oil painting effect.


Melt the fat over water in a bain-marie. The hotter the fat the more cocoa it absorbs. Try and work with an artist’s palette, thus achieving various tonal values. Adding more fat lightens the mix and vice a versa. Work from light to dark, building up the design as one progresses. A paste consistency gives darker areas.


Draw the design as necessary, either freehand or tracing, using a minimum of lines. (Some people use a brown lip liner to trace a design).  Some times, people find it difficult to paint, due to the grittiness of the sugar surface but ensuring that the mixture is kept warm results in a smoother finish.

Practice makes perfect!!

Commence from the background and work forwards, progressing from light to medium tones and then to the darker shades.

Once the painting is dry/set, a scalpel can be utilized to take out high-lights such as eyes, or texture as in grasses.


The use of more fat in the mixture ensures a smoother finish, which is especially useful for skies and backgrounds.

Brushes often retain a residue of fat, even after cleaning, which can be used to advantage to soften areas. Ensure you clean them thoroughly before using other media.

Additional effects can be achieved by colour dusting the background scene/s.

Allow the painting to dry thoroughly in a cool place.

Ann Kent,  September 13 Meeting 2010

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Harrogate and District Sugarcraft Guiild