RSS Feed

Monthly Archives: January 2013

Cake Bawls

Posted on

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.

See? Pretty…

IMG_1639

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!

IMG_1640

King cakes – redux

Posted on

Not a super exciting post, but last week I made king cakes again. This time, brilliant baker that I am, I split the original recipe which I’ve only used in the past to make ginormous king cakes into three mini king cakes. The results were pretty good. I might never make a super giant cake again. I think two is probably the right number from that recipe. Amazing it only took me a year to figure it out.

I also made only cinnamon this time instead of filled. A few lessons learned – cinnamon was significantly lacking where the ends were brought around to make a circle, so I need to make sure to spread it all the way to the edge next time. I also put way too much filling because it oozed out all over the pan. But that just meant I got to eat a lot of gooey cinnamon filling without digging into the cake. Finally, the bottoms were still a little overdone, so I need to watch that.

IMG_1611

Yummy balls of cinnamon filling.

IMG_1613

Circles of dough

IMG_1616

Ooey gooey cinnamon filling

IMG_1619

Three little king cakes, all in a row.
(Ignore all the crap in the background. I don’t have a lot of space to work with.)

IMG_1633Baby Jesus, holding on for dear life.

I had big plans for today, but they all got thrown out the window when I had a teensy, tiny post-vacation meltdown. Oh well. My officemate will have to wait for her birthday treats, and my commemoration of being at my job for a year isn’t really worth commemorating anyway. Some other time.

Next up: funfetti cake balls for husband’s birthday. That’s always fun to do on a weekday night…

Twelfth Night

Posted on

Twelfth Night is the night that precedes Epiphany Day, which is the day the three Wise Men visited baby Jesus. King Cakes are associated with the celebration of the Epiphany, which kicks off the Mardi Gras season, which ends Ash Wednesday, which kicks off Lent. I love Lent. It’s like a manageable New Year’s resolution time frame. I already know what I’m giving up this year, but that’s for another post on another blog.

Anyway, it’s always fun to look forward to King Cake season and Mardi Gras after the stress of Thanksgiving and Christmas. Moving so far away, I had to get creative to get my king cake fix since shipping them out here can be pretty pricey. So last year I found a recipe and tried my hand at making a few. I learned some good lessons (King Cakes, 2011), and I was pretty psyched to get going this year.

Here are my first two of the season:

king cakes

Look pretty good, right? Don’t be fooled. The bottoms are burned. Sigh. I blame the parchment paper I was using, which was not my usual parchment paper because last time I went to the store they were all out so all I could buy was Martha Stewart Foil + Parchment Paper in One. Even though it says on the box you can use it for baking, please don’t. It doesn’t lay flat in the oven, it will curl into and over your baked goodies, and apparently it will make you burn the shit out of the bottom of your king cakes. Ugh. So. Frustrated. It takes all freaking day to make those things. Arrgh.

We just taste-tested them, and they’re pretty much spot-on, except for the crunchy bottoms. I say there’s enough icing on top and cream cheese in the middle to distract you from that, so we’ll see. I hate sharing less than perfect treats, but I think my husband would kill me if I threw these away. So off to work these go. Ever try lugging around a king cake plus a gym bag to and from the gym on not one but two buses? Yeah, I’ll let you know how that goes.

New Year, New Blog

Posted on

Shall we dive right in?

IMG_1597

This is the first thing I baked in 2013. My husband got me a brand new Kitchen Aid mixer for Christmas, and so I thought it only fair that the first thing I bake be for him. The original plan was to make Boston Cream Pie cupcakes, but I was missing the heavy cream for the ganache. The second thing on his list of requests was a pound cake. Easy enough! Not only did it let me get right to using the mixer, but I would also get to use my bundt cake pan for the first time ever! (Never mind the fact it was a wedding gift and we’ve been married three and a half years. Oops! But thank goodness I had one today.)

I turned to the trusty internet to find a recipe and settled on Mama’s Pound Cake, a Paula Deen recipe. Who am I to question the queen of butter when it comes to something as buttery as pound cake? I fired up my shiny red mixer and was immediately astounded by the ease with which it creamed the butter and shortening. My goodness. My Sunbeam was a fine mixer, but this Kitchen Aid is something else. I am in love.

I continued on with the cake, forgetting to add any sugar. I finished mixing it up and had a taste. I thought maybe it tasted so bland because I hadn’t added in the vanilla yet? No, Helen. No. It’s because you’re missing THREE CUPS OF SUGAR. Right.

I added in the sugar at the end, which didn’t make a difference as far as I could tell. (In terms of texture or density, I mean. It sure as hell made a difference in taste, going from floury and glue-y to proper cake in no time.)

I greased the bundt pan, floured up those crevices as best I could and poured it in, only getting a small amount in the hole in the middle. It was inevitable.

I baked it up alongside some lemon squares, and after about an hour and ten minutes it was ready. Or, as ready as I could tell considering it’s about twice as deep as a regular toothpick will reach. I always thought these cake testers were silly, but now I get it. Plus, you don’t need a million toothpicks. I’m sold.

I turned it out and was quite pleased that my flouring technique left only one small part unprotected. I cut it up and set it out for my dear husband to take to work the next morning, and….yup. He forgot it. Oh well. Day old bundt cake for his coworkers tomorrow!

I’ll keep the recipe. It’s a tasty, sweet, moist cake. Next time I’ll maybe do a lemon or orange glaze to spice it up a bit.

Also baked yesterday were these lemon squares for a coworker’s birthday.

IMG_1599

Now, she asked for lemon squares, but I was going to make her lemon brownies instead. Lemon brownies are far superior to lemon squares, plus they’re easier to make and I suck at making lemon squares. Something about the crust and the filling always confounds me. However, I was also out of one damn ingredient for the brownies, so I had no choice but to go with the squares. Good thing, though, because I think I made a breakthrough. I turned to the trusty Joy of Baking website for this recipe. Whipped up the crust in no time in my awesome mixer (all ingredients made it in this time) and cooked it up alongside the bundt cake. Made the custard, popped the whole thing back in the oven and promptly let it overcook because I thought I could hear the timer downstairs. No. You can’t. At all.

I was afraid I had overcooked it, but honestly, these were the best lemon bars I’ve ever made. Soft filling, quite lemony, and a not soggy crust. There’s still no place for lemon squares as long as lemon brownies can be made, but it’s nice to know I’ve overcome my incompetency.

This weekend? King Cakes!