Holiday, Dairy Free, Gluten Free, Dessert

White Chocolate

My mother will likely excommunicate me for this post, but what’s happened in the kitchen cannot stay in the kitchen. I made white chocolate at home, and I don’t hate it.

*Bracing for Mom impact in 3…2…1…*

She tasted a morsel in my kitchen and declared, “It isn’t bad, it’s just not chocolate.”

Thanksgiving is always a time of sweet stress for me, with so many desserts coming to the table I never quite know what to make. This year our table was promised the following:

Pecan Pie
Apple Cranberry Pie
Pumpkin Pie
Pumpkin Bread
Cranberry Bread
Fresh Cronuts

Surveying the sugary landscape I tried to find a weak spot, something missing, something needed. And so, I decided to make a Thanksgiving cake. Wholly untraditional, in a tryptopanic I riffed on my Christmas yule log and adapted the flavors to fit the Fall palate.

A sheet cake spiced with ginger and cinnamon, rolled around a cranberry mousse, and slathered in a white chocolate frosting. I considered proper chocolate at first, but some gremlin in the back of my mind clamored for the sweeter, paler cousin. I have since locked that gremlin away, though I do give credit to it for pushing me to try new techniques.

Making white chocolate at home is not difficult, in fact, it is flat-line easy. Buy a brick of food grade cocoa butter, melt it over a double boiler, whisk in sugar and possibly some milk powder, then temper it.

I’m likely to be on the whipping block for this next note, but here it is: tempering chocolate is not hard. Yes, traditionally you need a candy thermometer, but your sense of touch is nearly as good, trust me, trust yourself. Chocolate must be heated, then quickly cooled, then heated and quickly cooled again in order to align the structural crystals and make a shiny, snappy, treat. I did it without my thermometer (not because I don’t own one, but because I wanted to see if I could gauge the temperature with my finger). Success is not beyond your grasp.

Though I doubt I’ll make white chocolate again in the near future (I’m deeply in love with the bitterest of dark chocolates), it was refreshing to learn something new in the kitchen. Use whole vanilla beans in this recipe, white chocolate has little flavor on its own and the beans are so much more expressive than extract. Happy holidays, make some chocolate, share the sweets and have a good smile.


  • 7 ounces Cocoa Butter

  • 1 ¼ cup Powdered Sugar

  • 2 Vanilla Beans


Get Busy

  1. Chop the cocoa butter into shards. This is the hardest part of the process, cocoa butter makes a slippery brick. Start big, cutting large chunks, then slowly cut those over and over again.

  2. Heat an inch or two of water in the bottom of a saucepan until it is simmering, drop the heat to low. Place a bowl or double boiler on top, and add the cocoa butter. It will melt rather quickly, it is just a brick of fat. Set a bowl of ice water aside for tempering.

  3. Once the cocoa butter is liquified, stir in powdered sugar, making sure to break up any and all clumps.

  4. Scrape the innards out of two vanilla beans and add them to the mixture. Stir aggressively until the liquid is smooth and creamy.

  5. Take the bowl of hot chocolate and place it over the ice bath. Stir with confidence until it is lukewarm to the touch.

  6. Place the bowl of chocolate back over the simmering water and continue stirring until it is hot and thin once again.

  7. Once more place the bowl of hot chocolate over the ice bath and stir heartily until it is cool to the touch. Pour the chocolate into molds, lined muffin tins, or onto a lined tray and place it in the fridge or on the counter to cool and set.