I've been mildly intrigued for some time by the concept of cake balls, two-bite desserts I'd seen on several food blogs. Cake balls are a simple combination of cake and icing formed into balls and dipped in chocolate or vanilla confectionary/candy coating. They're also known as cake bon bons or truffles.
Cake balls require no utensils for serving or eating, which makes them easier and neater to eat than cupcakes.
Before I had a chance to experiment with cake ball production myself, a co-worker who'd heard me talking about them brought in some German chocolate cake balls she'd sampled at a wedding shower. Wow. These little nuggets were divinely rich and decadently delicious.
I had to try them myself. I researched instructions, tips and cake/icing combinations, but settled on the German chocolate recipe I'd already sampled. In my book, it's tough to beat the combination of chocolate, pecans, icing and caramel.
Cake balls aren't complicated. The basic ingredients include a cake mix and the ingredients called for on the box, icing (canned or homemade), candy coating and decorations. You could make the cake and icing from scratch, but why bother when you're just going to mash the finished products together to form an unrecognizable mix?
The melting chocolate is available at Michael's or candy supply stores in wafer form, or at the grocery story in blocks. It's sometimes labeled as "candy bark."
The basic directions:
BAKE cake as directed.
ALLOW it to cool.
CRUMBLE the cake with two forks in a large bowl to form fine cake crumbs.
MIX in icing.
SCOOP out bite-sized blobs with a melon baller or cookie dough scoop and form them by hand into compressed balls.
PLACE on waxed paper-lined baking sheet.
FREEZE for about an hour.
MELT chocolate or vanilla candy coating as directed.
DIP frozen balls in candy coating.
PLACE on waxed paper and decorate if desired.
Reassured by the straightforward instructions, I baked a chocolate cake. After it cooled, I broke the cake approximately into quarters, then crumbled it, one section at a time, in a large mixing bowl into very fine crumbs.
I cracked open a can of Betty Crocker's coconut pecan frosting and gently mixed it into the crumbs with a fork. I used a whole can, but would probably use only 3/4 of a can in the future. A whole can made the mix a bit too mushy. I also tossed in about a quarter cup each of finely chopped pecans and shredded coconut on the general "more is better" theory.
I scooped out somewhat equal portions with a small cookie scooper, then rolled the blobs in my hands to form compact balls. My hands became coated with the mixture, so I had to scrap and wash them frequently.
After the balls sat in the freezer on waxed paper-lined cookie sheets for about an hour, I pulled them out about five at a time to dip in melted chocolate. If you take the entire batch out of the freezer at one time, the balls start to warm and will drop crumbs into the melted chocolate, forming an unsightly coating.
Speaking of unsightly, most of my cake balls could be described that way. I've never mastered the art of smoothly and uniformly coating balls, cake or peanut butter. Mine are usually lumpy or skimpy. Sometimes sections go uncovered, revealing their interiors.
A bit of shortening mixed into the melted chocolate is supposed to thin the mixture so it's easier to apply. I'll try that next time. It also helps to reheat the chocolate as the repeated dipping of cold balls cools the mixture.