Friday, September 28, 2012

Cubicle kitchen: Nutty Cake Balls

Cake balls are so deceptive.  The are composed of some very simple steps, but each of those steps adds up to total a process that I would hesitate to call easy.  I started off so innocently on Saturday morning after breakfast with my box of cake mix, but I ended up working on these on and off almost through dinner.  It's the fridge time that you just can't rush.  Could certainly divide some of the steps among a few evenings after work if you had an office potluck on Friday, and you felt your co-workers deserved it.

And then another layer of deception, because after spending a day baking, mixing, chilling, rolling, chilling, dipping, sprinkling, and chilling some more, I took a look at my cake balls and thought they looked kind of ugly.

Okay, so they don't look so bad in the photo.  But they're a little big, and surrounded by the dirty bowls and with my hands covered in batter and chocolate, they looked a little more sloppy than perhaps I had imagined in the beginning.  But then, I have a tendency to imagine cookbook-type photo shoots.  And that rarely happens.

And, of course, no one really cares whether it looks like a truffle in a Parisian chocolatier's window or a truffle in the dirt waiting to be sniffed out by an intrepid pig.  They just see chocolate, frosting, and cake goodness.  I ended up with enough 'inventory' for three separate deliveries of cake balls this week.  On Monday, 16 cake balls disappeared within two hours of being left out.  That may well be a record.  And today, the third and final day, they disappeared at almost the same rate.  Plus, I also had several in-person visits to my desk to berate/thank/congratulate me on such a tempting treat.

There are lots of possible combinations, between the cake, frosting, and chocolate coating.  But I think I'll give myself a little break from this 'easy' treat for at least a week or two.  Besides, my co-workers would probably prefer something at least pretending to be healthier next week.

Nutty Cake Balls

(Adapted from Bakerella)

Makes about 50-60 cake balls

  • 1 box of Butter Pecan cake mix
  • 1 can of diet root beer
  • 1 can of cream cheese frosting
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts (this is approximate, and of course you can use a different nut, like pecans)
  • various chocolate for melting, I used white chocolate, dark chocolate, and butterscotch chips, and milk chocolate Candy Melts, not sure how much, but at least a bag of each to be safe
  1. Bake the cake according to the directions on the box, but substitute the can of soda for the oil, eggs, or any other add-ins.  
  2. Allow the cake to cool completely.  You can utilize the fridge for this, but don't cheat and wait until it's just warm, it should be completely cool.  This helps with the texture, so the cake doesn't disintegrate into the frosting.
  3. Take your beautiful and cooled cake, and rip it to pieces in a large bowl.  Mix in the frosting, and half of the nuts, saving enough to sprinkle on the cake balls later.  You can use a spatula, or your hands, just try to make sure everything is well incorporated.  At this point you might like to place the bowl into the fridge to chill a little more to help make the next steps a little less messy.
  4. Take the cake/frosting mixture and roll into balls, using about a tablespoon for each one.  Place balls on a cookie sheet or other tray, lined with parchment paper.  As you fill a tray, again, place in the fridge to keep them cold.
  5. In a bowl, melt your first round of chocolate.  You can do this with a double boiler or in the microwave, but be careful in the microwave.  Use 50% power and stop frequently to stir.  White chocolate in particular will seize up very quickly, and often chocolate will continue to melt after heating as you stir, reaching the perfect consistency.
  6. Take out one tray of balls.  With a fork or spoon, dip one ball at a time in the melted chocolate, making sure to coat completely, then replace on the tray.  Sprinkle with chopped walnuts and place back into the fridge or freezer.  This is best done in small batches at a time, both for the sake of keeping the chocolate warm and the cake balls cold.  I found that after about 6 the process devolved into a bit of a mess.
  7. Repeat the previous steps as many times as it takes to get every ball coated and delicious.

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