Custom cloud and star bonbons by Maravilla Cacao.
Acenette “Ace” Gonzalez of Maravilla Cacao
Takashi Murakami-style bonbons by Maravilla Cacao.
Maravilla Cacao bonbons are also sold at the Saturday farmers’ market in Richardson.
Custom truffles inspired by the night sky, by Maravilla Cacao.
Cacao guava and coconut bonbons by Maravilla Cacao.
There are chocolates hand-painted to resemble a nighttime sky, with passing clouds and golden stars. Others are covered in bright Pop Art dots, Takashi Murakami style, or have a surface as translucent as blown glass. Pick one up — a shiny, delicate object, about the size of a Champagne cork — and take a bite. The bonbon’s shell snaps and shatters, releasing a velvety ganache, or perhaps a rich liquid caramel or crisp cookie filling, tinged with passion fruit, chilies, or mezcal.
Maravilla Cacao is making some of the most exquisite chocolates in the city, in a tiny, under-the-radar operation in East Dallas. It is, to be specific, the work of a single talented chocolatier, Acenette (“Call me Ace!”) Gonzalez. Before starting Maravilla two years ago, Gonzalez made chocolates at The Joule hotel and for Mirador restaurant; worked with Keith Cedotal at Uchi and Matt McCallister at FT33; and polished her skills with Dallas’ star chocolate maker, Kate Weiser.
“I wanted to be a chef when I first started,” says Gonzalez, who at 27 also has a degree from the Culinary Institute of America. “But I find it fascinating that you can make something that’s so pretty and also edible. And chocolate lets me translate the culture I know into food. I grew up on the East Side, with Latin people and Latin cooking, and I worked at FT33 and Uchi, and why can’t all of that live in my chocolates?”
And, indeed, it does. Her experience in fine dining shows in her flawless technique and top-tier ingredients, such as chocolate from the French brands Cacao Barry and Valrhona, seasonal local fruit, and Bonton Farms goat’s milk (used in the fascinating and vaguely animal cajeta-and-cookie-butter bonbon). This summer, she plans to travel to Costa Rica and arrange a direct supply line of single-origin chocolate.
But the flavors are where Gonzalez’s artistry truly expresses itself. “My dad was a cook,” she says. “We grew up sipping chocolate abuelita, drinking tea de canela, eating cajeta with our toast in the morning. So I try really hard to transfer my experiences into my chocolates.”
A crescent-shaped bonbon is filled with blood-orange caramel and mezcal white-chocolate ganache, and an amazingly intense café de olla with Kahlúa caramel. Her most popular flavor, Mexican hot chocolate with a dark ganache spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, and ancho and pasilla chilies, is encased in a shell painted to look like the blue-enameled mug her grandmother served it in. She’s creating special Valentine’s Day flavors, too.
Even more compelling: tell her about the person the chocolates are for, and Gonzalez will invent one specifically to match. The night-sky truffle, for example, was created for a baby shower. At the moment, she’s dreaming up bonbons for a Topgolf tournament, perhaps with “dad flavors” such as beer with peanut butter and pretzels shaped like golf balls.
All her chocolates are freshly made to order (priced at $4.50 for two pieces to $35 for 20—custom chocolates are $2.25 each). Choose what you like from a seasonal assortment posted on the Maravilla Cacao Instagram page, and they will be delivered in 10 days — by Gonzalez herself, only in the city of Dallas — in a beautiful gold stamped box. Or head to the Saturday farmers’ market in Richardson, where, starting this week, you’ll find Gonzalez and her bonbons at a new stand.
This article appears in the February issue of PaperCity Dallas.