These chocolate decorations are equally impressive and easy to make, thanks to chocolate transfer paper. With a few simple tips and tricks, you'll have a beautiful garnish for an assortment of baked goods and treats.
an instant-read thermometer; an assortment of 1 1/2- to 2-inch cookie cutters
To temper the chocolate, bring a few inches of water to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Fill a large bowl with cold water and add a few ice cubes; set aside. Combine three-fourths of the chocolate and all of the shortening in a medium heatproof bowl and set it over the saucepan, making sure the bowl doesn't touch the water.
Turn off the heat under the double boiler. Let the chocolate sit over the hot water and melt, stirring it occasionally, until it reaches 100 degrees F. Transfer the bowl to the prepared bowl of cold water; stir in the remaining chocolate until melted and the chocolate drops to 82 degrees F. Place the medium bowl back over the simmering water until the chocolate reaches 90 degrees F. Remove from the heat.
Lay the chocolate transfer sheets on a cool work surface with the design-side facing up (plastic-side facing down). Spread the chocolate into a thin and smooth layer on the chocolate transfer sheets with a small offset spatula. Set aside at room temperature until the chocolate is just set (the chocolate shouldn't stick to your fingers when touched), 10 to 15 minutes.
Stamp shapes—without removing them yet—in the chocolate with an assortment of 1 1/2- to 2-inch cookie cutters, firmly pressing through the chocolate but not through the plastic. Place up to 2 sheets on the back of a baking sheet and freeze until firm, about 10 minutes.
Place the transfer sheets chocolate-side down on a cool work surface. Peel off the plastic backing to reveal the pattern on the chocolate. Gently remove the chocolate shapes you stamped, then decorate the cupcakes with the shapes, as desired. Alternatively, wrap the chocolate decorations in plastic and freeze until ready to use.
Instead of tempering chocolate, you can substitute candy melts. Simply melt 1 cup of candy melts (any color) in the microwave, stirring occasionally, until smooth. Spread onto the chocolate transfer sheets as you would with the tempered chocolate.