Skip to Content
Food & Drink

Cocoa Flake’s Hand-Painted Chocolates Are *Almost* Too Pretty to Eat

'There’s so many small details. I love what I do, but sometimes, it’s like, why didn’t I stick with cupcakes?'

Fishnet Photography

It’s no exaggeration to say that Cocoa Flake bonbons are edible works of art. Founder and chocolatier Daniela “Denny” Rain decorates each one by hand with vivid swirls and splatters of color, and once set, the surface of each chocolate is glossy enough to reflect light. The insides are just as lovely—thanks to Rain’s background as a pastry chef, you'll enjoy vibrant flavors like lemon curd, cherry cheesecake, or passion fruit.

Rain was born and raised in Italy and moved to Minnesota over a decade ago (the snow was a major selling point). She speaks four languages and has a degree in languages and translation, but since childhood, she’s been drawn to cooking and baking. Her aunt was a major inspiration: “She used to make fantastic desserts, especially with fruit—I always wanted to be like her.”

In Minnesota, Rain attended culinary school. “I didn’t know that I was going to end up in pastry, even though I always loved desserts. The first chef that hired me decided I was going to be his pastry chef at the restaurant so I thought, 'OK, let’s give this a try,' and I loved it.”  

Her introduction to chocolate had a similar serendipitous quality: when she found some chocolate molds at work, the head chef encouraged her to learn how to work with them. Eventually, she attended a three-day intensive chocolate training course at New York’s L’école Valrhona in 2021. 

Fishnet Photography

“I loved it,” she says. “It was just perfect. I wanted to know more and more.”

She bought molds and ingredients and started practicing at home, giving the results away to friends. Their positive feedback inspired her to launch Cocoa Flake in May 2023.

Rain’s bonbons pair her love of color and flavor with her skill as a pastry chef. “Most of the things I do are inspired by Italy, the flavors I’ve known my entire life, and I try to recreate them in my own way,” she says. The strong, bold flavor o her coffee-flavored bonbons evokes Italian coffee; the passion fruit and milk chocolate bonbon is simply a flavor combination she loves. She wasn’t sure that a lemon curd bonbon would work, but it was a hit with her fiancé during the taste-testing process, and then with customers as well.  

“There are a lot of people, when I say that I do chocolate, they think about the truffles that you find at regular stores—they’re just covered with chocolate and filled with chocolate,” Rain explains. “Bonbons give me a lot more chances to give people different flavors, something they don’t expect to find in something that pretty. I was even asked if they were supposed to unwrap them!” (Definitely not—those beautiful colors are completely edible.)

Making each bonbon is a three-day process. First, Rain adds colorful cocoa butter to molds, either by hand painting, spraying, or splashing. This needs to set for about three hours, and then she adds a very thin layer of chocolate to form a shell. She carefully drips out the excess chocolate and lets the shell sit for about a day to crystallize and detach from the mold. 

Cocoa Flake ProductionFishnet Photography

Then it’s time to fill each bonbon, carefully piping in scratch-made fillings. After letting the filling set for a couple of hours, she caps off the chocolates and allows them to harden for another day before finally removing them from the molds. There’s no rushing the process—if the bonbons are taken out of the molds too soon, they’ll crack and break, wasting days of effort.

“This kind of chocolate, you do it for passion,” says Rain. “I don’t think most people understand how much time it takes.” 

Not only is the process time-consuming, it’s also highly susceptible to factors outside of Rain’s control, like temperature and humidity.  

“Last summer was a nightmare… The color was sticking to the mold, the chocolate was coming out dull,” she says. “It was very frustrating.”

She reached out to a fellow chocolatier in Sweden who helped her troubleshoot. “After chatting with him, and following the steps he suggested, all of a sudden my chocolate started coming out again, no more issues,” she says. “The temperature of the mold can influence the chocolate, the cocoa butter needs to be a certain temperature, the room needs to be at a certain temperature—there are so many small details. I love what I do, but sometimes, it’s like, why didn’t I stick with cupcakes?” 

Fortunately for Twin Cities chocolate lovers, Rain continues to apply her talents to chocolate. In addition to her signature bonbons, she makes colorful chocolate bars in flavors including white dream crunch, salted caramel, and passion fruit, as well as special themed bars and bonbons for various holidays. Currently, Cocoa Flake products are available for purchase at Golden Fig Fine Foods in St. Paul and via the Cocoa Flake website. Rain also does in-person pop ups—follow Cocoa Flake on Instagram or check out her website to stay in the loop.

Rain isn’t interested in opening up a brick-and-mortar chocolate shop, and instead plans to expand by increasing her retail distribution and website sales. She’d love to get to the point where she can quit her part-time job and work on Cocoa Flake full-time.

“I would like for this business to stick and last, that’s my five-year goal. As stressful as it can be, I love it, and I don’t want to do anything else. I cannot see myself anywhere else, honestly.”

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Racket

Workers at Daniel del Prado’s Colita, Cafe Ceres Are Unionizing

Plus FBI investigates autism centers, a prison labor lawsuit, two soon-to-open restaurants, and cars pulled from the water in today's Flyover news roundup.

Summer Guide 2024: Hiking and Camping

Big warning this year for pretty much every campsite: There will be mud.

June 18, 2024

Jazz and Music That Is Not Jazz in This Week’s Complete Concert Calendar: June 18-24

Pretty much all the music you can catch in the Twin Cities this week.

June 18, 2024

Linda Tirado, Journalist Who Was Half-Blinded in Minneapolis Protests, Enters Hospice Care

Plus early regulatory rideshare remembrances, Arby's hat nostalgia, and tipping our cap to a Strib scribe in today's Flyover news roundup.

June 17, 2024