Sunday, 3 January 2010

The Cookie Buffet: Spice Cake Balls

Cake balls. Have you heard about these things? Up until a year ago, I hadn't. And then I spied this post on (where else?) Bakerella's site. And folks, these things are easy. Ridiculously easy. And they taste good. Ridiculously good. So good that people have trouble believing that they are so easy, in fact. But I promise, they are. 

Aren't these pretty in their fall colors?

I had already made these a few times before, so making them for the shower was a no-brainer. Are you ready for how easy this is? Okay, here we go. But you've been warned.

  1. Bake a cake from a mix. Any cake. For the shower, I baked a spice cake, but it literally can be any cake you want. I baked it in a 9x13" pan for the convenience, but you can use any pan if you really want to. But I highly recommend a 9x13", and I think you'll see why splitting the batter and fooling with 2 cake pans is unnecessary once you read step number 2...
  2. Once the cake cools (same day, next day, a week later, doesn't matter, just store the cake, preferably in the freezer if you are going to wait longer than a day or two), take a tub of icing, any flavor you think pairs well with the cake you made, and mash the cake together with the icing until well combined. For my spice cake, I used cream cheese frosting.
  3. Form into balls. I find that a #60 scoop gives balls that are a nice medium size. Then chill until firm, roughly 15-30 minutes.
  4. Dip in your choice of chocolate or candy coating wafers. Drizzle a garnish if you so desire.
This may look like a lot of work, but it goes quickly

Because my shower was fall-themed, I used the Wilton colored candy wafers in red, yellow, and orange. I always use candy wafers when dipping, because then I don't have to worry about melting fussy chocolate. I either use the vanilla candy coating in white or colors, or the dark chocolate flavored coating. I'm not a fan of the milk chocolate flavored coating, so I normally avoid it. To thin out the coating for dipping, I normally mix in about 2 cap-fulls of crisco oil per bag of wafers.

I'm not the best dipper. Obviously. But I've found that drizzling on a contrasting color normally camouflages an imperfections in the dipping because eyes focus on the stripes and not the background. To fit my theme, I used dark chocolate candy coating for the drizzle. The easiest way to accomplish this is to melt the wafers, put them in a small ziplock bag, and snip a tiny bit off of the corner, maybe 1/8". Then you can apply the drizzle with a side-to-side motion of the hand.

The great thing about these balls (other than the fact that they are a huge hit wherever they are brought) is that they are so versatile. There are so many possible flavor combinations, and so many possible decorating combinations. The possibilities may not be literally endless, but they are pretty impressive nonetheless. One batch also yields about 5 dozen cake balls, which makes them a perfect bring-along item, especially for holidays where you have multiple destinations. I highly recommend Bakerella's site for some absolutely incredible decorating ideas and inspiration.

As far as flavor combinations go, anything that works as a cake will work great for cake balls. The balls I made for my shower were spice cake and cream cheese frosting. I've also made:

Carrot cake with cream cheese frosting dipped in vanilla wafers
Red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting dipped in vanilla wafers
German chocolate cake with caramel pecan frosting dipped in chocolate wafers
Chocolate cake with chocolate frosting dipped in chocolate wafers
Lemon cake with vanilla frosting dipped in vanilla wafers
White cake with white frosting dipped in chocolate wafers
Yellow cake with chocolate frosting dipped in chocolate wafers

You can also get creative with some additional mix-ins. This past Christmas, I made white cake with vanilla frosting and a package of shredded coconut, dipped in chocolate. They were amazing. I've gotten raves and recipe requests for all the above flavors, but my faves so far are the carrot and coconut cakes. Next on my list of flavors to try is a devil's food cake with homemade peanut butter frosting. Making homemade frosting slightly defeats the purpose of this easy-to-assemble recipe, but I think the taste will be well worth it. In the spring, I'd also like to experiment with banana cake (although I can't decide whether I should use chocolate, caramel, coconut pecan, or cream cheese frosting). Like I said, a lot of possibilities. And they can't go wrong. I mean, let's face it: they're cake. And icing. Even on their worst day, they'd be worth eating (so says the girl on a diet while she simultaneously cringes at that philosophy).

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