North West Wales

Armed Forces Day: Making a chocolate Spitfire in a heatwave

Spitfire chocolate Spitfire

A spectacular sculpture marking Armed Forces Day for a special gala dinner - not a problem. Making it out of chocolate - in a heatwave - a phenomenal challenge.

And it is the challenge that has occupied Emma Baravelli night and day for over a week.

"I'm exhausted," confessed the artisan chocolatier, as she put the finishing touches to her piece.

"This commission has been something completely different."

The UK's National Armed Forces Day to recognise and celebrate Britain's forces is being held at Llandudno in Conwy county this year, with over 100,000 people expected to attend on Saturday for parades and displays.

Ahead of the big day is the charity gala dinner in the town, hosted by Conwy council and the forces' charity SSAFA.

Image caption Emma Baravelli has been working night and day to finish the sculpture

Emma and husband Mark have run their specialist chocolate shop a stones throw away in the walled castle town of Conwy for the last three years, and were a natural choice when the gala hosts were looking for that 'something' just a little bit different to become a centre-piece at the lavish event.

The commission was specific - it had to reflect all the British armed forces - and it had to have impact.

"It's not my usual theme, I have to be honest. I'm quite a girly girl," admitted Emma.

"It's usually flowers and animals, and things like elephants - more magical things, really.

"It was such an honour to be asked to celebrate the men and women who go above and beyond on our behalf - it's nice to give something back."

Her design includes a navy frigate, a tank, a submarine, and topping it all - an iconic World War Two RAF Spitfire.

It is all chocolate and all edible.

Emma estimates the 2ft structure contains about 22lb (10kg) of chocolate - mostly dark chocolate for its structural qualities, and white chocolate for decoration.

"But it was quite a challenge - particularly in this weather."

Parts of north Wales have recorded the hottest temperatures in the entire UK this week - hitting just over 32C (91F) in Porthmadog, just 40 miles away.

And it has been sweltering in the chocolate kitchen above the shop - with just a single air-conditioning unit running around the clock in a bid to cool things down.

It poses particular problems when it comes to making chocolate, as temperature is key. The gala dinner wants a sculpture - not a chocolate fountain.

"I don't remember it ever being this hot, and days of high humidity don't help when you are making chocolate," she added.

"We don't want a collapse in this heat.

"It's about understanding the structure of the chocolate. You have to use physics and chemistry to understand what is going on - it's not just case of melting it and putting it into a fancy shape.

"You have got to understand what is going on inside it, structure-wise."

Emma described the art of sculpting chocolate like stacking chairs - some are made to go together and give a strong and stable piece - but stack different types of chairs, and it could all topple over.

It is all difficult enough under normal circumstances - but the heatwave makes it a whole lot harder.

"It makes it really, really difficult - it's something else you have to worry about," said Emma.

"If it's a nice 15-degree day, then you're okay - but this is just unheard of for us.

"But hey - we like a challenge."

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