Cake balls. Do you know about these? Back home, they were all the rage. They don’t seem to be that popular out here – maybe Baton Rouge was ahead of the game? More than likely, the cake ball craze already passed here and BR was just behind the times. But never mind. One of my husband’s favorite desserts – one of the few he will ever request – are cake balls. So, for the third year in a row, that’s what he gets for his bring-to-work birthday treat.
Cake balls are simple in theory, but tedious and messy in execution. After years of making them, however, I’ve finally developed a system that works. And I think this was my best. batch. ever.
You start with a box cake. You can make a real cake – and normally my super snobby baking self would insist upon it – but there’s really just no need in this case. You’re mixing the cake with a can of frosting, for crying out loud. It’s going to be good no matter what. So yeah, bake the cake and let it cool. After it’s cooled, break it up in a big bowl and scoop a can of icing in there. Yes, again, you can make your own icing, but honestly – don’t do that to yourself. Just buy a can. I won’t tell anyone. Mush it all together real good. You can use a cooking implement if you want, but it’s faster and easier if you just stick your hands in it and get dirty. Come on, it’s fun! And not as cold as making meatloaf. And more fun when you lick your fingers.
After it’s all mixed together and gross looking – funfetti looks the worst, by the way, which happens to be Lyle’s favorite flavor (is it really a flavor?…), but don’t be discouraged. All will be okay. Shape them into little balls. I like to use a cookie dough scooper to make them uniform. A 9×13 cake will make approximately 50 cake balls. Stick them in the fridge to firm them up, an hour or two, or overnight. Or longer, your call. I’m not here to make rules.
When you’re ready to dip them, here’s what you’ll need: chocolate of your choice to melt, some kind of long, sharp object (I like to use a bamboo skewer), a big fork (like a serving fork, something that has a wide space between the tines), sprinkles if you want ‘em, wax paper, wet paper towel.
Melt your chocolate – this was the first time I tried to temper it, and I think it might have actually worked. I used this guide, but winged it without the thermometer. I need to get one of those. Anyway, the chocolate is pretty and set pretty quickly, so I’m going to choose to believe I did it right. Woohoo!
So melt or temper your chocolate in a deepish bowl – I used two 12 oz bags of white chocolate chips (cut with some shortening to thin it up a bit), and that was more than enough for a batch. Skewer a ball, dunk it, and gently tap off the excess. This is the tedious part. It takes a lot of patience to gently tap-tap-tap away all the excess chocolate. Once you’re satisfied/bored, use your large fork to gently pry the cake ball off the skewer and carefully slip it onto the wax paper. This part is the biggest pain and where you’ll mess them up the most. But you know what? You get to eat the ugly ones, so don’t cry about it too much. It has taken me a long, long time to perfect this technique, and I’m proud to say that I didn’t have any unusable cake balls this batch.
Once you’ve set the ball on the wax paper, quickly sprinkle them with sprinkles before the chocolate sets. Another option is to let them dry, then drizzle them with another chocolate; that always looks fancy. Do that about 50 more times and you’re done! Put them in mini-cupcake liners and impress your friends and family.
Here are a few more tips:
- Keep that wet paper towel around to wipe off your skewer and fork after each ball, otherwise the drippy chocolate will dry on it and make it more and more difficult to keep them pretty.
- You’re going to make a mess; just accept it. Chocolate will get everywhere.
- When you set the ball down and the chocolate starts to pool around the bottom, I like to use a toothpick to draw a line around it. You can just break it off when it dries – and you’ll have to do that with some of them anyway – but if there’s a big drip, you run the risk of breaking the chocolate around the ball too. So it’s easier to do it this way.
- Don’t forget to reheat the chocolate while you’re working. The dipping process will seriously take you about an hour to complete, so the chocolate will cool while you’re working. I watched 1.5 episodes of Alias on Netflix while I was doing it tonight, and that’s probably the fastest I’ve ever been able to complete it.
- Don’t be afraid to mix and match cake and frosting flavors. Chocolate and chocolate, red velvet and cream cheese, lemon and vanilla. The possibilities are deliciously limitless.
- If I can, I like to break the process up into three days – bake the cake, mush and roll, dip. It makes it a bit easier to handle, I think.
Finally, if you have leftover chocolate, which you probably will, don’t just throw it away. Find fun things around the kitchen to dip into it, like old pretzels you bought for Christmas Crack but will never eat because you don’t actually like pretzels not covered in chocolate or yogurt or something. Fun!