While you’re melting in the muggy heat of summer, spare a thought for Cumbria’s chocolate-makers.

Their products are literally at risk of melting.

‘Tempering’ chocolate - to stabilise the cocoa butter and sugar in it and give it that gorgeous, tempting shine - is tricky at the best of times, but in 25 degree heat…

But chocolate maker Michelle Menhams of Xocolate[CORR!] has lots of orders to fulfil, so you’ll find her most days at her unit at Carlisle Enterprise Centre. Whatever the weather.

As well as bars and lollipops, Xocolate’s big seller is The Ambassador’s Collection, mouthwatering chocolate domes, hand decorated with gold leaf, in pastel hues, with flavours such as lemon curd - the most popular - and raspberry curd (both in white chocolate), salted caramel, whipped coffee, orange, and passion fruit caramel - made with fresh passion fruit puree.

She’s currently developing The Diplomat range of dark chocolates, testing out different flavours: “In my head I’ve got 29 collections, all with six to eight chocolates - it’s quite a lot of work.”

As a businesswoman, she’s got to stay ahead of demand. “You do have to keep things fresh, and keep your ear to the ground. I think pastel colours and ombré are going to be big, as well as vegan and no sugar - people are already asking at markets.”

As well as selling chocolates at farmers’ markets and select shops - including Food Glorious Food on Crosby Street in Carlisle and Chocolat[CORR!] in Kirkby Lonsdale - her products are in demand as wedding favours, special occasions throughout the year and as corporate gifts.

Michelle, who is originally from Maryport but now lives in Carlisle with partner Stuart, started out making cakes, running her successful Little Bird Bakery from home. “I always really wanted to be a pastry chef,” says Michelle. “So I decided to get a qualification from Kendal College, which is the only place in Cumbria that does it. I did chocolate work as part of that and I really loved it. That gave me the initiative. When I tried tempering at college it just clicked into place. Working with pastry sort of helps with the fillings and fondant work, they help me make better collections.”

As well as the support of Stuart, children Sophie and Ryan are “invaluable” helping her out - selling at markets while she makes the chocolates, for example. Although she doesn’t have time to make cakes anymore she still does fondant work - making icing flowers, cupcake tops and the like - at Sooz[CORR!] in the Shed, at Atlas Works in Denton Holme, Carlisle. She’s hopeful that she’ll be able to teach six-week course in it at some point in the future.

She says of fondant work: “People say it’s like playing with Play-Doh[CORR!] - I call it Play-Doh for adults! - it brings out the kid in them, I really enjoy it.”

So what’s an artisan chocolatier eat when she fancies a treat? Michelle admits to being a fan of all chocolate, from Twirls to Godiva: “I like any! Sometimes I want to savour it but if someone’s going to the shop I’ll have any bar!

“I’ve always loved chocolate, there isn’t a chocolate bar I won’t try. I’ve broken many a diet!”

You can order Michelle’s chocolates at www.xocolate.co.uk. There’s also a page on Facebook.