Aztec Cocoa Bean Showpiece: Philippe Vancayseele

Aztec Cocoa Bean Showpiece: Philippe Vancayseele

Belgian pastry chef Philippe Vancayseele shares the secrets of his exquisite Aztec showpiece.

While visiting Australia in November I demonstrated how to make a chocolate showpiece as part of Callebaut’s 100-year anniversary celebrations. The showpiece highlights the origin of cocoa and included a cocoapod, an Aztec vase, and tropical items such as bamboo, mushrooms, wood from the Amazon and bark from cocoa trees. In the centre of the piece is a big ball of callets. The old logo of Callebaut, which looks like stirred chocolate or a half-cut cocoa, makes the showpiece complete.

Finishing the showpiece are two white chocolate plaques, one detailing the Callebaut 100-year logo and the other based on a photograph of the original Callebaut Chocolate Factory.



The chocolate showpiece is not eaten, so the chocolate ‘taste’ quality being used is almost not important. However, it is important to use a high-quality chocolate that is easy to work with and manipulate to perform as you want it to. For the chocolate, I have used Callebaut 58% Dark. This chocolate has a high fat content that allows for more power in joining the pieces. The milk is Callebaut Milk select and for white is the Callebaut ‘Velvet’ white.

For colours, I used coloured cocoa butter and white chocolate. Creating the various shapes is only limited by your imagination!


Step 1

Temper the chocolate.

Step 2

Prepare the main body of the showpiece. For the main base, I used shapes created from a gelatine mould and hand-carved them. I used plumbing pipe insulation tubes for the three long curved poles. The cocoa pod is created from a gelatine mould of a real cocoa pod.

The bamboo is created by filling a foiled cylinder with white chocolate and then hand crafting the appearance.

For the other shapes, use moulds and manipulate the chocolate to hand-create desired shapes. The picture plaque of the original Callebaut factory was created by a customised chocolate transfer of an original photo. Spread the melted white chocolate onto the transfer sheet and manipulate into desired shape prior to it setting.

Step 3

For the large round ball I used dark chocolate callets (chocolate chips) mixed with liquid cocoa butter at 30°C. The amount of cocoa butter you use depends on the quantity of callets. You just have to check all callets are covered with just enough cocoa butter. Put into a half sphere and cool. After cooling, de-mould and stick the two parts together. Brush with silver powder.

Step 4

Begin work on the other aspects of the showpiece decorations, including the bark Bamboo, tree and branchs.


Mix dark callets into a blender/mixer until a dough. Roll out between paper, covered with a little cocoa powder. Directly roll with a bark shaped roll to get the effect.


Make a plastic tube and mould one or two layers white chocolate. De-mould and with a shaped plastic comb, modulate the irregularities of the bamboo. Let set, and paint with a brush, yellow color mixed with cocoa butter. Afterwards, use the green colour. Let it crystallise and spray with Choco-lacquer to get a coated layer.

Let it dry and afterwards brush the surface with cocoa powder.

Old tree (pedestal)

Silicone mould in a shape of an old tree, moulded with dark chocolate.

De-mould after cooling and coloring with bronze and scarlet colors.

Exotic branch

Mix dark chocolate with cocoa powder until piped texture. Pipe the mixture in a desirable shape with a fine nozzle and on irregular foam tubes. Cool in the fridge .

Step 5

Attach the pieces to the showpiece using melted chocolate as the glue and spray with IBC cool spray to set instantly hard. Be careful not to use too much as this will make the chocolate brittle, using too little will mean the join is too soft.

Step 6

Voila! Present the showpiece to a deserving audience.

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