The delectable process of dipping tasty food items under a cascading waterfall of melted chocolate is seen by some as one of the greatest inventions for chocolate lovers. For others, it's a rather messy dessert option.
Melting fountains used for chocolate fondue became a popular trend for reception centers, caterers, and chocolate vendors at wedding receptions, parties, and showers during the last 10 years.
Because it was a new and unique concept, chocolate fountains were a big hit for chocolate lovers. Some vendors and caterers still see a lot of demand for the trend, while others are noticing a decline.
As the only chocolate vendor based in the Top of Utah to feature nine different chocolate fountains, ranging in size from 19 inches up to 44 inches, Belgian Springs Chocolate in North Salt Lake has seen a steady demand in their business.
Ashley Medina, one of the owners, said their chocolate fountains have remained popular for a variety of reasons.
"I think the big reason is that they are beautiful to look at and make nice centerpieces," said Medina. "It can also be all the food you need for a reception or party since we have lots of different choices."
For the company, the most popular items to dip in chocolate are strawberries, creme puffs, pineapple, marshmallows and Rice Krispie treats.
The Castle reception center in Layton has noticed a slight decline in the use of their two chocolate fountains as brides have begun leaning toward small appetizer-type foods or pastry items, according to Kristal Blessett, The Castle's events manager.
"We have a lot of people that want to give more of a meal and something tastier than just a dipped chocolate," said Blessett.
The Eldredge Manor in Bountiful purchased two large chocolate fountains seven years ago, and saw a lot of use at first, but has seen a slowing in recent years. They don't plan to get rid of them any time soon, though.
"They were popular at first because they were unique, but these things go in trends; we continue to love them because we still have chocolate lovers that come in and want to use them," said Jonan Williams, co-owner of the reception center with her husband, Steve Williams.
At first only expensive, high-end version fountains were available, but as they increased in popularity, several companies came out with smaller, inexpensive versions.
Medina cautions that some of the cheaper models are difficult to work with.
"Those don't run real well because their motor isn't powerful enough and you just end up with dripping chocolate," said Medina. "We've tried a couple of them and they don't work real well, unless you add a lot of oil to make it smoother, but that changes the taste."
Chocolate is often temperamental and finicky, requiring a bit of skill from the chocolatiers operating the fountains. It's not as easy as it looks, says Medina. Their fountains require just the right amount of heat, otherwise the chocolate can get too thick, or not melt enough, both detrimental to operating in the fountain.
Medina said they use premium chocolate, with a trace amount of oil added to help the chocolate move smoothly over the fountain tiers. Different types of chocolate also have different consistencies. Milk chocolate is the thickest, requiring a little more oil than white chocolate, which naturally comes out a little runnier.
The basin at the bottom of the fountain melts the chocolate, which is then pulled up through the fountain to the top with the help of a corkscrew-like auger. Sometimes air bubbles get into the chocolate, and holes will appear where chocolate should be flowing continuously. At that point, a tricky process of elimination begins for the fountain operators.
"They are a lot more difficult to run than one might expect," said Medina.
Regardless, for those loving all things chocolate, the chocolate fountain trend doesn't seem to be going away any time soon.