Alpena chocolatier Danielle Mulvena keeps winter in the Northern hinterland lively by dreaming up confections: Absinthe truffles; Medjool dates stuffed with sherry caramelized almonds and then coated in dark chocolate and smoked sea salt; tangy sweet strawberry balsamic caramels. Find her Speechless Chocolates online and in gourmet shops across the North.


Began experimenting with chocolate at the age of 17 with old-fashioned, hand-rolled truffles, attended

New England Culinary Institute and worked as a chocolatier at Laughing Moon Chocolates in Vermont before returning to Alpena to start her own chocolate company.

Milk or dark?

The majority of my chocolates are dark—that is what I like! But I make an apricot-and-saffron-infused honey caramel with milk chocolate that is really good.

Your favorite of the chocolates you make?

Sesame Squared—a combination of milk and dark. The layer of dark chocolate sesame croquant [sesame seeds caramelized to delicately crisp in sugar] has a nice roasty flavor with a crunch, and, layered on top of that, milk chocolate meltaway with tahini. I was going on the American favorite—milk chocolate and peanut butter—but with a worldly edge.

Where do you get your creative spark?

I can spend hours in great grocery stores. I was just at Holiday Market in Royal Oak getting inspired. My favorite class in culinary school was called History, Flavor, Culture. I love the culture of cuisine, different countries’ eating habits.

What is a delicious chocolate inspired by ethnic flavors?

A milk chocolate with mango, coconut and red curry. The hint of spice blends so well with the sweetness of the mango and the creamy coconut.

Classic chocolates for a more traditional palate?

Peanut butter bombs, and I have one I call hot chocolate, which is a homemade cinnamon marshmallow dipped in dark chocolate. So many people say, I didn’t know you can make marshmallows. 

Photo(s) by Todd Zawistowski