It is thanks to the 1828 invention of Dutchman Koenraad Van Houten’s hydraulic press, which first separated cocoa mass into cocoa butter and its solids, that we can make good chocolate today. Until that time, cocoa was diluted in hot water, mixed with sugar and other ingredients to make a drink.
Van Houten’s press reduced most of the cocoa butter from the processed cocoa to create a sort of solid ‘cake’, which could also be pulverised into the powder we know today as ‘cocoa’. It also meant that cocoa butter, separated from the mass, could be produced in large quantities and added to all types of preparations.
Cocoa butter retracts a little when it solidifies, so when it is part of a preparation that is poured into a mould, the preparation can be easily taken out of the mould after it solidifies.
Today, thanks to Van Houten, chocolate can be moulded into all kinds of shapes, but crucially, it can be easily unmoulded.