Thursday, December 9, 2010

Suck My (Cake) Balls!

I've been tooling around with the idea of making these cake balls I saw on Bakerella's site. She even went a step further to make them into Cake Pops and launched herself and her gorgeous creations into stardom!

But I never really had an occasion to try them... until now. Instead of making boring cookies (I'm not skilled enough for anything beyond using a mix or refrigerated dough) I decided to make cake balls for the holiday cookie exchanges for my various moms groups! I didn't want to tempt fate (and failure) by trying to use lollipop sticks or decorating them at this juncture. Plus I'm cutting it pretty close to the exchange dates, so I wouldn't have time to make more should I mess them up.

The recipe is fairly simple.
Box of cake mix (prepared) [or equivalent from scratch]
Can of frosting [or 16 ounces/2 cups of home-made]
24-oz chocolate bark or candy melts

Step 1: Bake cake according to recipe or package directions. Allow to cool completely.
I used a white cake mix but didn't bother separating and discarding the yolks, so my cake turned out a little yellow. No idea if yellow cake mix is any different, other than the instructions to leave out the yolks for the white.

Step 2: Come back to discover toddler has cadged hunks of cake while it was cooling... I mean...
Crumble cake into large bowl. The tops, bottom and sides were harder to crumble, and I ended up leaving the sides. After getting all the big chunks crumbled, I rubbed my fingers around to loosen as many crumbs as I could. I threw out any weird rubbery strips of cake that came off from the bottom.
"Nibble, nibble, little rake
Who's been nibbling at my cake?"
Step 3: Add frosting and stir. You won't need quite the whole can, so add a little at a time and mix until all the crumbs are sticking together, but not so the mixture is too gooey. It's hard to explain. You want it to still be a little crumbly, and not too wet and sticky. Easiest to mix with hands, but super messy and hard to add more frosting without getting crumbs and frosting all over everything (unless you have an assistant.)

Step 4: Roll into quarter-sized balls and place on a wax or parchment paper-covered baking sheet. You can try a melon-baller to make them more even, but I just used mine to measure some for each ball then hand-rolled. It was easier to use fingers to roll in the other palm, rather than the 2-palms method. If they split open, just squish back together and roll again. May be easier to handle if mixture is chilled first, but you can do it right after combining frosting and cake crumbs too.

The leftover mixture. I'll have to think of something fun...
Step 5: Chill in refrigerator for at least 3 hours. You can freeze them to make it go faster, but be sure they don't have any ice or frost on them.

Step 6: Melt chocolate according to package instructions. It's easier if you do a little at a time, since you'll have to re-melt it anyway as you go whenever it starts to harden.
I used a combination of Wilton Dark chocolate melts with some Dove Dark and Milk Chocolate Promises tossed in, roughly a 3 parts Wilton to 1 part each Dark and Milk Dove (or 2 Promises each.) I was afraid that with the white cake I was using, the dark chocolate alone might be too strong, and I didn't know how the melts would taste, so I wanted some quality chocolate in there with them. Plus I've seen my sister worked with melted Dove Promises before and have been happy with the results and taste.
I microwaved on high for 1 minute, stirred, then in 30-second intervals, stirring between. The white vanilla melts needed a total of 2.5 minutes (broken up as mentioned) to melt, but the chocolate only needed 2. The white melts were also MUCH thicker, so I would have tried adding a little shortening to stretch it further, had we had any in the house. I don't know if the chocolate melts would have had a similar issue or if the Dove made it easier to work with. The white melts were technically all melted after 2 minutes total in the microwave and the final stir, but I gave them an extra 30 seconds anyway, to make them easier to work with.

Step 7: Use spoon to dip and roll each ball in chocolate until completely coated then place back onto paper-covered baking sheet. I had a hard time getting excess chocolate to come off. The method that worked least badly for me was to use the spoon to roll the ball up the side and let the excess drip a little off the ball and the spoon while keeping the ball out of the rest of the chocolate.
I was able to easily do 8-11 balls before needing to melt more chocolate, but once I was able to bang out 15.  As the chocolate hardens, it gets thicker, so you use more per ball. So it's a trade off. Risk running out of chocolate or spend more time melting. You could try melting and dipping in a fondue pot or double boiler, but you risk getting burnt!
When done, you may refrigerate to harden to make them easier to handle and peel off of paper, but not required. Store in airtight container in a room temperature or cool area.
Place ball in chocolate and roll and cover with spoon.
Plop onto tray.
Halfway done... Just the white chocolate left! 
"77 balls of cake on the tray, 77 balls of cake...
Take one down, pass it around, 76 balls of cake on the tray!"
"Chokklit Balls" are a big hit!
Helpful tips:

Children can help mix and bake the cake, and crumble the cake (if you can trust them not to just shove it all in their gobs.) They can also scoop frosting into the crumbs bowl, and combine it (again, if you can trust them.) They might be able to roll out some lumpy masses balls, depending on age and dexterity, and can add sprinkles after you've rolled them in chocolate, if desired.

I used microwave-safe bowls with lids to melt my chocolate, so I could just pop the lid on and save the leftovers to use again another time.

My chocolate melts suggested adding some shortening to make the chocolate thinner if you're having problems. That should work with all kinds of chocolate too.

You can add food coloring, flavors and/or sprinkles to the cake mix, but only use oil-based coloring or flavorings to the chocolate.

Do not allow water anywhere near your chocolate or it's all ruined (that includes water-based food coloring or flavors.) If you froze the balls to cool them and later have chocolate cracking issues, it may be that the balls got ice on them that melted. Let the frost thaw off before coating to see if that helps.

You can put sprinkles, chocolate shavings, shredded coconut, crushed candy canes or other hard candies, or chopped nuts over the finished balls right after rolling them in chocolate, while it's still wet, or you could try rolling them in something, but that seems like too much work and too messy for me!

Avoid freezing the chocolate, since that leads to chocolate bloom (when the chocolate separates from the cocoa butter and starts to look crusty.) Refrigeration is okay, but only in sealed containers. Chocolate (and dairy products) absorb funky odors and flavors from your fridge very easily.

Even if your cake balls are feeling too moist, don't worry. The coating will keep them together.

If the spoon leaves a big naked patch when you drop the coated ball onto the tray, just use the chocolate on the spoon to smooth over the bald spot.

Some fun flavor combinations:
White (or yellow) cake with vanilla or white frosting. White, milk or dark chocolate coating.
Chocolate cake with Chocolate frosting. (Any kind. Double chocolate, fudge, whatever you like.) White, milk or dark chocolate coating.
Red Velvet cake with Cream Cheese frosting. Milk or dark chocolate coating.
German Chocolate cake with Coconut Pecan frosting. Milk or dark chocolate coating.
Strawberry cake and frosting. White, milk or dark chocolate coating.
Coconut cake and Cream Cheese or White frosting. White, milk or dark chocolate coating.
Carrot cake and Cream Cheese frosting. White chocolate coating. (I'd be very stingy with the frosting at first, since carrot cakes tend to be oilier and moister, so don't add too much frosting.)

Bakerella says she gets around 50 balls, but I stopped at 77 and still had some mix left over. She must have bigger balls than I do...

1 comment:

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