Small Business Saturday: San Francisco Maker Favorites

cadence chocolates gelt

Holiday shopping isn't easy. Primarily, there's balancing budget with thoughtfulness, and from there, you can go down a whole rabbit hole of considerations. If there's only one more layer to add, I offer up the following criteria:

"Is it local?"

Why local? As makers ourselves, we can't help but promote our brothers and sisters in creative arms, and San Francisco to Oakland is bursting with talent, skill, and wildly imaginative minds. Plus, you're developing and supporting your community and! Often getting something handmade, imbued with love, and quite possibly one of a kind.

We're sharing some of our non-food* local business favorites, just in case Google wasn't doing it for you. These are people we know and greatly appreciate for sharing their gifts with us. 

Amos Scattergood | Certified Massage Therapist | Favorite: 90 minute session

Camille Villanueva | Versatile Design Maven | Favorites: Constellation pins and graphic design

Heit Ceramics | Favorites: serving platters and vases

Little Green Bee | Medicated Topicals | Favorites: Lip balm, with or without cannabis

Pamela Palma | Photographer | Favorites: Portrait sessions and event candids

We realize massage doesn't fall under the typical "maker" classification, but I'd like to add in the subcategory of "makes you feel good". We also realize we could make a list five times this size, but kept it short and sweet because, you know, the internet is already vast and deep. Comment with shoutouts to your favorites, we're dying to know. Or, if you want a specific recommendation, email us at - we'd love to help!

Pro-tip: Need budget-friendly gifts for maker friends? Rate, review, and subscribe. Really! A Yelp or Google review brightens every maker's cold, grinchy heart during the holiday crush. If you subscribe to their emails, reply and tell them why you appreciate them. You can also apply this to all your friends by writing them heartfelt cards.

Now go forth and make merry!


*Okay, if you're dying for some local, edible favorites:

Dandelion Chocolate & all the 2017 Advent Calendar collaborators ● Garden Creamery - best vegan ice cream and plenty of dairy, too ● Soulva - when you're hosted-out and need a hearty salad ● B Patisserie - a kouign amann after my own heart  SF Lady Chefs - fantastic resource for amazing private chefs and caterers


Photo by Kate Romano

Vegan Chocolates

Replacing the dairy in ganache with organic coconut cream, nut butters, and fruit makes bonbons vegan.

Replacing the dairy in ganache with organic coconut cream, nut butters, and fruit makes bonbons vegan.

Making vegan bonbons accessible has always been a top priority at Cadence Chocolates. Here is the 5 W's rundown on the big deal about vegan treats.

WHO eats vegan chocolates?

Everyone. It's the whole "squares are rectangles, but rectangles aren't squares" thing. Vegan food is 100% edible for omnivores whereas omnivorous fare doesn't always work (and rarely accounts) for vegans. We've moved toward making around 90% of our products vegan so everyone can enjoy.

WHAT makes them vegan?

PB&J bonbon, vegan. Made with organic peanut butter and strawberry puree.

PB&J bonbon, vegan. Made with organic peanut butter and strawberry puree.

Ganache (the luscious chocolate fillings in bonbons) is primarily comprised of chocolate and cream. When we're not using organic cream from California cows, we use organic coconut cream, nut butters, or fruit juices and purees et voilà! Vegan bonbons.

WHERE can I get them?

Order from us! We offer bike delivery around SF and Oakland, and ship in the US when the weather's safe. We're excited to contribute to the Dandelion Chocolate 2017 Advent Calendar, which includes a couple of our favorite vegan flavors for winter. Occasionally we have holiday chocolates at the De Young Cafe and tastings at the JCCSF (next: November 16 before Smitten Kitchen's Deb Perelman).

WHY vegan chocolates?

It's a challenge our chocolatier faced regularly while working pastry in fine dining kitchens. Usually restaurants request allergy and aversion information when you make a reservation, but it was sometimes a "they're here" surprise. Given her training on making accommodating desserts on the fly, Chocolatier Melissa Santos figured life would be better if she emphasized vegan options from the start.

WHEN do you make vegan chocolates?

Vegan samples: Banana Walnut Caramel, Mint Chip, Sundae Topper, and Fresh Lavender.

Vegan samples: Banana Walnut Caramel, Mint Chip, Sundae Topper, and Fresh Lavender.

All the time! When we're not making bonbons for public sales during the holidays, we get a lot of custom orders for specifically vegan chocolates. Every wedding we've done has included some vegan chocolates and half of them request vegan only bonbons.

Custom vegan chocolates for an East Coast baby shower.

Custom vegan chocolates for an East Coast baby shower.

Questions? We've got answers at .

How Cadence Chocolates Bonbons Are Made

Making bonbons is a multistep process that takes patience, time, and skill. The short of it is:

  1. Polish
  2. Paint
  3. Temper
  4. Shell
  5. Fill
  6. Cap
  7. Unmold
  8. Repeat

Read on to learn more and feel free to ask questions in the comments.


Making bonbons (molded, filled chocolates) at Cadence Chocolates starts with polishing the polycarbonate molds. My old pastry chef at Commis liked to use glass polishing cloths, the same sort used by front of house to polish the myriad of wine glasses patrons used, because they don't damage the plastic or leave any fibers behind. Other pastry chefs I've worked with use cotton balls/squares and I've heard of some using a spritz of vodka to ensure 100% cleanliness, though I haven't tried the alcohol technique myself. It's a tedious task, livened up by Netflix if I'm all by myself.


This is one of my favorite things to do. Colored cocoa butter, like tempered chocolate, must be maintained at a specific working temperature, otherwise you run the risk of dull looking chocolates or cocoa butter that sticks to the molds instead of your hard-won thin chocolate shell. I work with a heat gun in between bouts of painting to keep my temperature more or less constant. There's a bunch of techniques that can be employed; many chocolate brands use an airbrush to achieve an even coating, patterns, or a gradient, but I currently finger paint or utilize various manual brush techniques to create my designs. Paint brushes, makeup brushes, toothbrushes, offset spatulas, and gloved hands apply colored cocoa butter to each individual bonbon form.


Quite possibly the most crucial step in making molded chocolates is properly tempering the chocolate. Tempering involves taking chocolate through various specific temperature phases to introduce and maintain the desired cocoa butter crystals. Proper tempering ensures shiny chocolate that has just the right snap. I use the seeding method with dark chocolate, which essentially means bringing about 2/3 of my chocolate to 50C, adding my reserved 1/3 of fresh chocolate (purchased tempered, which means it has the right crystals already), and stirring until they melt and my temperature is 32-34C. At that point, I remove any excess unmelted chocolate, stir occasionally until it's 28.5-29C, then I gently start bringing the temperature back up to 32C, my working temperature. Once it's at 32C, I'll take tests of the chocolate (throw chocolate lines on a spatula) to see how it sets and ensure it's ready to go. After that, it's all about maintaining the temperature at 31.2-32.8C, working clean, and avoiding solidified chocolate buildup on my equipment. I'll also use powdered cocoa butter to temper for smaller projects and capping.


Shelling is filling the molds with tempered chocolate, vibrating them to remove air bubbles from the surface of the molds, and dumping out any excess so that only a thin chocolate coat remains. This step takes a lot of care, not only to maintain the temper of the chocolate, but to get the shell to be thick enough to contract properly from the mold but thin enough to have a pleasant bite. Too thick shells are clunky, too thin shells are brittle. I prefer a medium-thin shell, so it's clearly recognizable with a little "snap" when you bite into the chocolate, but it's not disruptive or difficult to get through. The chocolate shell must fully set (harden) before it can be filled.


At their most basic, my fillings are made with cream, chocolate, and sugars. They're often flavored with herbs and spices, teas, fruits, or alcohol. Occasionally, we'll add a jelly, marshmallow, or other inclusion, but for the most part, it's a flavored ganache. Ganaches are an emulsion, wherein cream acts as the water component and is emulsified into the fat component, chocolate. Traditionally, cream is scalded (brought to just boiling), poured over chocolate pieces (which are tempered and solid), and blended together with a good amount of stirring. I like to have my chocolate partially melted and layer solid chocolate on top, then add my warmed liquid about a third at at time with a hand blender and rubber spatula. People use all sorts of tools to bring together ganaches, from whisks to regular blenders. Here, it's also important to keep your temperatures controlled; too cold or too hot and your emulsion simply won't come together right. Once my finished ganache is at 32-33C, I pour it into a piping bag and pipe it into my shelled molds, leaving about 2mm of space at the top.


To cap the bonbons, you need to temper more chocolate to add on top of the ganache to create a seal. This is why leaving a little space in your shell is important, but too much space leads to a clunky bottom that's not pleasant to bite through. Once your chocolate is tempered, gently warm your mold and nearly finished bonbons with a heat gun to allow for a good seal and to give you a little more time to work with your liquid chocolate. I ladle a small amount of tempered onto one end of my mold, drag a scraper at about a 45 degree angle across to cleanly pull chocolate into the molds, clean up the sides of the molds, vibrate them again to remove air bubbles, and then scrape once more at a 90 degree angle to clear away excess chocolate (and clean once last time).



Unmolding is delightful (or frustrating, if the previous steps didn't go quite right). Once the cap is set, you can crack it like an ice cube tray and invert the mold, tapping or smacking the edges of the mold to release the finished bonbons. If there are any stubborn chocolates, you can place the mold in a freezer for a couple minutes at a time to coax the shell to contract enough for easy removal. Unmolded chocolates can be packaged or wrapped up airtight for future use.


Once your chocolates are all released, you can gently clean your molds and start all over again with Netflix and polish.

People Say Nice Things About Us (& So Can You!)

We're a small business that gets super excited when people say nice things about us. You can read more about folks who've made our day below, but we'd love for you to do the same. It means a lot to us! 

Flex your voice via Yelp, Instagram @cadencechocolates, and Twitter @cadencechocolat. For interviews or inquiries, drop us a line at - thanks!

Chocolate Connoisseur Magazine

Who: Editor-in-Chief Eric Battersby reached out shortly after we tabled at the San Francisco International Chocolate Salon. 

Made Our Day: He wrote an in-depth article on our chocolatier, Melissa Santos. Read about everything from her sweet-tooth childhood to Cadence Chocolates today.

Dan Lyons

Dan Lyons talking about the tech industry. Photo:

Dan Lyons talking about the tech industry. Photo:

Who: Writer from HBO's Silcon Valley and NYT Bestseller. We met him on his Disrupted book tour in Mountain View, CA and brought him surprise chocolates.

Made Our Day: He was gracious, personable, and shared our chocolates on his Facebook and Twitter.

Karen Cobb

The ever stylish and brilliant Karen of Karen Cobb Style. Photo:

The ever stylish and brilliant Karen of Karen Cobb Style. Photo:

Who: We worked together at Commis. These days, she's hitting the wardrobe styling beat.

Made Our Day: Gave our chocolatier Melissa Santos her first interview.

Drunk Ex-Pastors a.k.a. DXP

Podcasters Jason and Christian of Drunk Ex-Pastors, as depicted by the Man Men Yourself tool from AMC. Photo:

Podcasters Jason and Christian of Drunk Ex-Pastors, as depicted by the Man Men Yourself tool from AMC. Photo:

Who: Best friend podcasters that talk about everything from the secular to the religious while having drinks. We listen to them while making chocolates.

Made Our Day: Gave us a shoutout in episode #82 at 17:48 and ate our chocolates to celebrate their FB shares at 20:05. We legit squealed in the kitchen.

Watermelon Lime Pate De Fruit


Pate de fruit is essentially a jelly candy made from fruit, sugars, and pectin. Like many things in the pastry and confectionary world, it is magic that is attainable in your own kitchen*.

This recipe is an adaptation from pastry chef Luis Ayala. I had the good fortune to meet him at a brunch at Naked Kitchen years ago and we've been trading treats and ideas ever since. I got to test drive his recipe while prepping him out for a trip to France (a restaurant needs mignardises while the pastry chef is on vacation). We used blackberry puree and madeira, and it was absolutely delicious.


Watermelon Lime Pate De Fruit

1000g watermelon puree (highly substitutable)**

100g sucrose (white granulated sugar)

36g pectin jaune (yellow pectin)

1000g sucrose

150g glucose syrup

150g trimoline

26g citric acid

3g salt

This makes a lot of pate de fruit. If you don't have a big party to bring this to, consider cutting it in half or a third and even then, you should be sharing.

  1. Prepare your final vessel. I use a half sheet pan lightly coated in a neutral oil (grape seed, canola, etc.) and topped with parchment paper. You can use any oven-safe vessel with a flat bottom and lip on it to contain the very hot cooked product. That 13x9" pyrex dish will do just fine.
  2. Start warming your puree in a 5-6 liter (6 quart) heavy-bottom pot on medium-high.
  3. Mix 100g sucrose and pectin together, then use an immersion blender to incorporate it into the puree. Bring to a full boil and use a whisk to stir often enough so nothing burns.
  4. Add the second set of sugars (sucrose, trimoline, glucose syrup). Continue stirring as above and boil.
  5. Add citric acid and salt. Stir vigorously for 20 seconds. Remove from heat and quickly cast into your prepared vessel.
  6. Allow to cool to room temperature. Cut (optionally toss in sugar with a little cornstarch) and enjoy.
  7. Store covered in plastic wrap at room temperature, cutting (and sugaring) when it's serving time. It should keep well for months, depending on the environment. Weeping may happen, which is just some sugar syrup coming out, not a big deal. As always, it's at it's best if you savor promptly.


*Aspiring home chefs: Ingredient access may hold you up. The recipe is written for working chefs, people with access to a professional kitchen and the sorts of ingredients they stock in the quantities they use. You can surely find most of the ingredients on the internet, however, they might only come in large quantities. Solution: Batch up ingredients for your friends so they, too, can make kitchen magic like the pros.


Watermelon Lime Puree**

1000g watermelon chunks (about half a medium watermelon)

100g sucrose

1g citric acid

pinch salt

zest of 1 lime

Blend equal parts of the puree ingredients in 3-4 batches. Strain. Consider spooning off the pulpy foam that forms at the top of the strained puree.

You'll have extra puree that isn't necessary for the pate de fruit. I highly recommend adding some vodka for a well deserved cocktail after all that blending.

If you're feeling more TV cooking show-y (or just don't want to bother), you can order puree online here or here.

Tastings: We're Back at the JCCSF!

Our first tasting at the JCCSF in March 2016. Four different ganaches to try, chocolates to take home, and raffles to enter.

Our first tasting at the JCCSF in March 2016. Four different ganaches to try, chocolates to take home, and raffles to enter.

WHEN: { SEP 28 } + { OCT 13 } + { NOV 15 }

WHERE: The Jewish Community Center of San Francisco @ 3200 California St.

WHO: { Jonathan Safran Foer } + { Mark Bittman } + {Stephanie Danler w/Nancy Silverton }

WHAT: Taste our ganaches for free, enter raffles, and buy some chocolates at a special price before the who above take stage.

WHY: We don't have a store front or retail partners that we're going steady with, so we figured people that like Foer, Bittman, Danler, and Silverton might enjoy us coming to them.

For those of you that missed our pre-show tasting for the Call Your Girlfriend live recording in March, we're thrilled to be back at the JCCSF. If you're interested in a tasting at your public event, say hello at ! We'd be even more delighted to cater your wedding, corporate party, quinceañera, or wherever you need delicious, handmade chocolates.

Charity, Caring, & Chocolate

While we love making beautiful chocolates and interesting flavors, we also want to make sure we give back. When you support Cadence Chocolates, you also support causes dear to us, like keeping young women in school and fighting hate. You'll also enjoy that the chocolate we use is Forest Alliance and Fair Trade Certified, as well as a local company.

Short and sweet: You can feel good about eating our chocolate.

  • ZanaAfrica - "Supports adolescent girls in Kenya to stay in school by delivering reproductive health education and sanitary pads."
  • Southern Poverty Law Center - "Dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of our society."
  • Guittard Chocolate - "A five generation family company that is committed to delivering products with the highest degree of sustainability."

Are your chocolates organic and sustainable?

Organic nectarines from the Ferry Building farmers market.

Organic nectarines from the Ferry Building farmers market.

We work with chocolate from Guittard Chocolate Company, which is has some really great practices like sourcing fairly traded beans from farms with a commitment to sustainability and prohibiting slavery and other awful stuff in their operations. 

We incorporate organic ingredients into our ganaches (peanut butter, nectarines, strawberries, and black sesame tahini, to name a few), but we do not produce a wholly organic product. As a small company, we try to walk the line between doing right and staying in business, and our goal is to continually increase the organic products in our ingredient list.

Some of our ingredients, such as lavender and rosemary, are locally foraged. We recognize that foraging can be harmful and unsustainable if not done mindfully, which is why we only collect from sites that are plentiful and allow them to recover between visits.

One of our favorite sustainable practices is biking deliveries around San Francisco whenever possible.

UPDATE: Tell Us a Story >> Win FREE Chocolate! Ends August 8th



First Prize: Chef Anthony - 9 piece box

Runners Up: Karen Sprinkel and Steve - five piece box

Thank you to Jesikah, Ron, and BC for your nominations! Your nominees certainly deserve chocolate for their hard work this summer. We'll be following up on delivery details for next week shortly.

For anyone that missed out, keep following us. We'll have more contest opportunities, promise. If you just can't wait, we're happy to talk to you about orders.

Updated Sunday, August 9th

Hey grownups: Remember when you were a kid and summer was full of sprinklers, chasing ice cream trucks, and so much fun you didn't even notice the life vest or SPF 10000 after a while? Even if childhood wasn't that idyllic, your life these days is probably more work than play.

With summer in San Francisco is teetering on the edge of trading in the sun for months of fog, we want to brighten your week with a do good, feel good contest. Here's the deal:

  1. Tell us a story. You know someone working hard in the Bay - your office manager, your wedding planner, your oncologist neighbor - that deserves some chocolates. Tell us why in the comments*.
  2. We'll read them and three nominees win free chocolates and we'll deliver next week. One nine piece box for first prize and two five piece boxes for the runner ups!
  3. The catch: They must be deliverable in San Francisco, Oakland, or you can meet us in SF and deliver them for us.

Tell us! We're all ears*.

*If you don't see the comments section, click the "Tell Us a Story" post title :)

How to Care for Your Chocolates

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The chocolates above have suffered through a smacking during removal from the molds. Yours will not look like this, unless you subject them to blunt force trauma or a child eagerly shaking the box to decipher what's inside. Here's what we recommend:

  1. Savor promptly. We don't say this (just) because it's cute, but because it's the best way to enjoy them. While our chocolates have a shelf life of 2-3 weeks, they will be the most flavorful and beautiful they'll ever be during their first week in your possession.
  2. Store in a cool, dry place away from light. This could be your desk drawer, a kitchen cabinet, under your bed, or next to the fake book in your library that opens a secret door.
  3. If you desperately want to keep them longer, place them in an air-tight container or wrap it in plastic wrap for safe keeping in the fridge. Allow at least 6 hours (24 hours is best) at room temperature before unwrapping or removing from the air-tight container. This will extend the shelf life to 1-2 months.

In summary: Savor promptly. Keep them dry and cool. Wrap them up to store longer in the fridge.

Big Decisions: Why We Don't Have a Storefront


We don't have a storefront and don't intend on having one. We want to make chocolates in San Francisco and get them to you rather than have a storefront and have you come to us. Since we don't have to spend our time and energy on everything that goes into a physical retail location, we can stay focused on the important things, namely our chocolates and you.


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Do you ship? 

Yes in the US! But only when it's safe to do so. This means summer is off limits and any other part of the year when your chocolates might spend time in a hot delivery truck. If you're planning on visiting San Francisco and would like to place an order, please do and we'd be happy to deliver them to your accommodations. If you want to fly us to you to guarantee safe passage for your chocolates, we're all ears and love to travel.

Flavor Brainstorm: Make It Rain

Sometimes early morning R&D ingredient questing gets funny looks at the checkout stand.

Sometimes early morning R&D ingredient questing gets funny looks at the checkout stand.

We draw on our experiences and taste memories from all over the world. Our chocolatier, Melissa Santos, has lived in the Pacific Northwest, Singapore, Australia, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Thailand, and northern California. These places come through in flavors like St. George Terroir Gin and Thai tea, but she also draws on a wealth of experiences that are not bound by geographical origin. Themes arise like Nuts & Seeds, Cocktail Hour, and Summer Sessions, but we like to let the flavors develop without being beholden to anything and allow box sets coalesce over time.

We also like talking to people about flavors they love and memories that are tied to them. We don't drink a lot of mojitos, but found that people that eat our chocolates like them and associate the refreshing beverage with summer time. They spoke, we listened, and Mojito founds its way into our Summer Sessions set.

Keep your eyes and ears peeled for flavor profiles here on the blog.

So Shiny, Narcissus Might Fall In

Turkish tea and cookies bonbons, with Turkish tea milk chocolate ganache and a shortbread cookie inside.

Turkish tea and cookies bonbons, with Turkish tea milk chocolate ganache and a shortbread cookie inside.

People often ask us how we get our chocolates so shiny.

Step one: Cut a hole in the box. Step two: We’re just joking with you. Really, step one is polishing the polycarbonate (hard plastic) molds with microfiber polishing cloths. This is the first thing you do to get chocolate super shiny. Next, we melt and keep colored cocoa butter at the right working temperature and paint the molds. Lost of folks use airbrushes, and we’re not poo-pooing that technique, but we prefer to work without them. We fingerpaint, use brushes, and blow cocoa butter off of spatulas or around in the molds using a handheld air pump. Sometimes we use a little luster dust, with or without alcohol, to make designs. Then we temper chocolate and line the molds with it, creating a thin chocolate shell.

How to Get Cadence Chocolates at Your Soirée

Our chocolates are made and sold as special orders, which means we consult with you on quantity, flavor, and packaging, to make sure your personal needs are met. As such, every order is different and priced accordingly. Think of us like wedding cake makers, but for chocolate.

Our minimum order starts at twenty-four pieces of chocolate per flavor, and we're happy to work with you on customizing packaging, colors, and flavors. You can even commission a flavor if it's not in our library.

We don't regularly sell individual boxes. Occasionally, we have special events where we put a limited number of boxes up for sale to celebrate holidays or new flavors. If you don't have a specific event that would allow you to meet the minimum order requirements, send us an order inquiry anyway and we can slate you to tag onto another production run.

If you want chocolates, let us know what you're thinking about here. If you need some food for thought, read stories from people who have had our chocolates.

Why Cadence Chocolates?


Why should I eat yours instead of picking up a rock, throwing it, and eating some other chocolate company it hits in San Francisco?

We would advise against throwing rocks and proximity as a way of discerning which chocolate to eat in the Bay Area. While you are spoiled for choice, we encourage you to choose our chocolates because we’re awesome (the humble brag is lost on us). We are awesome because we strive to make chocolates to order, which means fresh, handcrafted chocolates made specifically for you. Our chocolates are made by hand, from painting with colored cocoa butter to packaging and delivering. Plus, they’re awfully pretty and tasty. Why, some say they’re too pretty to eat, but that’s ridiculous. Trust us when we quote Pee-Wee, “Why don’t you take a picture? It’ll last longer!”