Friday, July 6, 2012

Red, White, and Cake

I hope everyone had a nice 4th, if you celebrate it!

We barbequed pretty much every meat possible, and pigged out on raw veggies, corn on the cob, homemade mac n cheese, and of course, sweets and BBQ!

We played with sparklers and watched fireworks, which here are lit off a hill, and pretty much visible anywhere in the city. It was really nice.

I wanted to make something fun and different, so I tried my hand (for the second time) at cake balls. I would like to start by saying that I'm not a baker. I am so far from a baker, but I so desperately love baking, that I usually stick to boxed mixes... which is fine. I get to crack eggs and mix things, but my dessert still comes out edible. Perfect.

Pinterest has been wonderful, too... people are creative. So creative that I've learned how to make ridiculously easy truffles out of Oreos, really easy Nutella cookies, and omg this a chocolate chip cookie, in a mug, out of the microwave. Pinterest is wonderful, and the landslide of holiday-themed treats, crafts, and projects in the weeks leading up to an occasion is equally exciting.

But, yeah. Not a baker.

However, though, I wanted to make something a bit more special than a standard pan of brownies. So, I decided to take a stab at cake balls. Like I said, this was my second attempt, after a not-so-yummy first... mine came out like lopsided, grainy piles of soggy cake.

This time I hit it out of the park, and my balls (teee hee heeee) were a smash.

The chocolate cake balls I made- some covered in white, some in semisweet, all decorated with bitchin' patriotic sprinkles. Ironically, I have maybe half an ounce of American pride in me.

Now, I am by no means all of a sudden a baker. Nor am I a cake ball pro. But I feel like cake balls, or, more accurately, cake pops, are so super trendy now, you can't just find a simple "recipe" or list of tips on how to make them. 

It's all a whole lot of "temper this" and "mold that" and don't forget to dip your stick in coating BEFORE you dip it into the ball! 

That's nice. Really. But I've got better things to do with my time than go to all that trouble, just for something that tastes so ridiculously yummy it's literally all gone within 7.328 seconds of revealing it. 

So, I've decided to compile a few helpful hints for making cake balls!

Cake Ball Tips

1. Don't use too much frosting. Remember my grainy, soggy first attempt? Too much frosting. Start small, maybe half a can, and add more as you mix, at your own discretion.

2. The texture of the mixture should be like dense dough. Remember when you were little (or yesterday, if you're like my boyfriend) and you loved to smash your bread slices into little balls? Okay, that dense little ball of obliterated bread dough is exactly how you want your pre-dipped cake balls to look and feel like. Trust me. I was worried mine was too dense- til I began snacking on the mixture as I was rolling. It ends up almost fudgey, it's so deliciously perfect.

3. There is no need to use a food processor or anything else but your fingers to crumble your cake. Unless you want to make the process go faster (if pulling out the ol' food processor, putting it together, pulling the cake into batches to process, and then cleaning up is really any faster than just using your hands). 

4. Let the cake cool completely before crumbling and/or adding frosting. I cooled mine a bit before crumbling (although it was still warm while I did this) and then let the crumbs cool completely before making the mixture.

5. Don't be afraid of leaving the mixture in the fridge for too long. I left mine in overnight, and it ended up super easy to work with. Also don't be afraid to keep putting it back in to cool off, as it warms up. I also made the balls and then put them in the fridge to get cold again prior to dipping.

6. Be creative!

7. I searched high and low for an easy chocolate coating recipe I could make out of chocolate chips or chocolate bars, because- let's face it- while easy to use, chocolate almond bark is disgusting. I found a couple that are pretty much just melted chocolate and either oil or shortening, but then I read that that was to make it glossy, not hard. I got fed up and ended up using semisweet baker's chocolate. This works fine and stays hard as long as you keep the balls refrigerated. The white is almond bark- I'll admit it!

8. Don't fall for those little novelty cake ball makers they sell at Kohl's (I'm sure they sell them elsewhere, but I see them all the time at Kohl's right with the Babycakes machines and mini donut makers). It's not the same!

So, there you have it. I have to give all the credit of my perfect balls (again, teeee hehehehe) to Amanda K Jones, who made cake balls a little less trendy and a little more science-y and graspable. Her play by play, complete with trial and error, is perfect. 
Happy baking! 

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