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Nicole Franz is a copy editor and paginator at The News-Herald in Willoughby. She takes all those sweet recipes, grueling workouts, cleaning tips, money-saving tricks, do-it-yourself projects and looks that seem so cool on Pinterest and writes about how they really turn out.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Cake bites, cake balls, cake pops or whatever you call 'em are recipe for popular treat, if you have the time



I discovered the wonder of cake bites (also known as cake balls or cake pops when they’re plopped on a stick) on Christmas two years ago. My sister-in-law Karen (still my brother’s girlfriend at the time) had been bringing them to family gatherings for a while, but I’d refrained from eating any in an attempt to moderate my dessert intake (a vain attempt when you’ve got a sweet tooth like I do). 
Dark chocolate-covered German chocolate-coconut pecan cake bites
and white chocolate-covered pumpkin spice-cream cheese frosting cake bites

Long-story short, after all the Christmas parties are over, Karen realizes she forgot to bring the cake bites to some of the parties she attended. As a result she brings a bunch of these chocolate-covered confections over to a little post-Christmas get-together. And I tried one. And then two. And then somewhere between six and 26 of these delightful sugary confections. 

Since I started this blog, I’ve been wanting to do a post about cake bites, but I never saw any pins for cake bites that linked to an actual recipe or list of tips (a lot of the cake bite-related posts just link to pictures, which are absolutely useless for my blogging purposes). So after months on Pinterest I took matters into my own hands and searched out cake bites in the search bar. After a few variations, (cake bites, cake pops, cake balls, cakepop, cakebite, etc.) I happened upon a very helpful pin that linked me to a post about cake balls on The Pioneer Woman’s website. I had never heard of The Pioneer Woman, a.k.a. Ree Drummond, before, but she’s a best-selling author, award-winning blogger, and she has a TV show that airs at 10:30 a.m. Saturdays on the Food Network. 


The post actually uses tips and techniques from Bakerella, a blogger who focuses on her baking and decorating attempts. She has made a ton of gorgeous cake bites and pops and offers a whole range of helpful suggestions with The Pioneer Woman in the blog post I used as instructions.

Because I was planning on bringing them into work to share with my co-workers, I opted to make two types of cake bites: Spice cake with cream cheese frosting covered in white chocolate and German chocolate cake with coconut pecan frosting covered in dark chocolate. If those are crowd-pleasers then I don’t know what would be.
Crumbled German chocolate cake

Ingredients

For cake balls, you need:
* 1 box cake mix of your choice. Red Velvet is always pretty (here is Bakerella’s tutorial on her site), and Devil’s Food is my favorite.
* 1 container of ready-made icing. Any color will do, but Bakerella loves Cream Cheese.
* Candy Melts or Chocolate Bark (see notes below)

* Waxed paper

What I used (Dark chocolate-covered German chocolate-coconut pecan frosting cake bites a.k.a. “That thing was crazy” cake bites)
1 box German chocolate cake mix
1 can packed pumpkin
1 container coconut pecan frosting
1 ½ bags Hershey’s Special Dark Chocolate chips
Wax paper
Plastic baggy (for decorating)

What I used (White chocolate-covered pumpkin spice-cream cheese frosting cake bites a.k.a. “Don’t change anything” cake bites)
1 box spice cake mix
1 can packed pumpkin
1 container cream cheese frosting
2 bags Nestle Premier White morsels
Wax paper

Instructions

I would usually list the whole instructions, but there’s a lot of them, and they can all be found here so I’ll just tell you how it went and highlight the instructions that didn’t seem intuitive or got lost in translation. 

How it went

German chocolate cake with coconut pecan frosting
I didn’t bake the cake to the instructions. I cheated to make it healthier by using packed pumpkin instead of oil and eggs (which I posted about here).  

So after baking up the Betty Crocker’s Super Moist German chocolate cake and Duncan Hines Signature spice cake mixes with packed pumpkin and letting them completely cool overnight. I started up on Day Two of cake bites.

I took the German chocolate cake and started by scooping it into my largest mixing bowl and stirring it around with a spoon until it was all crumbs. I then added the Betty Crocker Rich & Creamy coconut pecan frosting. Using my best judgment, I ended up using the whole tub, because the thicker icing with its coconut flakes seemed to need those extra spoonfuls to get the mix to a uniform consistency. 
German chocolate-coconut pecan balls pre-coating



I aimed for cake balls about an inch in diameter and rolled out several dozen by hand (made about 50), putting them on wax paper I’d laid out on cookie sheets. The German chocolate cake bites had a pretty stiff consistency while I was rolling them out. I put them in the fridge and let them sit for about an hour and half. Before I started the melted chocolate phase.

After I washed and dried my large mixing bowl I dumped the spice cake into it and repeated the process of crumbling up the cake. I added a little more than four-fifths of the Betty Crocker Rich & Creamy cream cheese frosting and mixed it up until I got a smooth consistency. While I rolled these up (somehow managing to make a wide variety of sizes, I blame distractions) I noticed the consistency was much softer than the German chocolate/coconut pecan ones. Maybe I used too much icing, but seriously the instructions for how much icing to use is “a little less than the full tub, actually.” Not exactly specific. The cake bites held their rounded shape before going in the fridge, but they seemed much less crumbly than the mixture pictured in The Pioneer Woman’s post, and they were way more moist than the German chocolate ones. I left them in the fridge for about two hours.
Crumbled pumpkin spice cake

Pumpkin spice cake mixed with cream cheese icing
Dark chocolate melted and ready for dipping
On to the melting: I used Hershey’s dark chocolate chips for the German chocolate ones and Nestle white chocolate chips for the spice cake ones. 

Fun fact: Giant Eagle doesn’t carry bark chocolate (like the handy-dandy Kroger store brand ones that I grew up using featured in the pin) anywhere that I could find in their Willoughby store. I’m fairly certain this made my experience way more difficult than necessary. I miss Kroger more than any other regional thing being up here in Northeast Ohio. The combination of excellent prices, great store brands and wide variety of inventory is completely unmatched in my grocery shopping experience.

My first cake bite looked so perfect

They got messier as I went on
Back to the cake bites: I followed the melting instructions for dark chocolate chips on the back of the bag to great success. It was a lot of melting in the microwave for small increments at lower power and then stirring until the chocolate was at the desired consistency. I just used a cereal bowl and started by dropping the balls one at a time in the mixture.

I didn’t really follow the whole “drizzle chocolate over the top with a spoon” because it seemed too time-consuming. I attempted Bakerella’s “tap the spoon on the side of the bowl” trade secret to some success. It seemed to make my cake bites look better, but really made a total mess of the side of the bowl. The sides were caked in chocolate and after a while I was just sloshing around more chocolate kind of defeating the purpose.

But when I was done I had some pretty nice looking cake bites ready to go back in the fridge to set up. You can leave them out to set up, but I had another batch to make so it seemed easier to just let the candy coating solidify in the fridge. I set aside the leftover chocolate coating to use to spruce them up later. 

Here they are finished. Messy but delicious
And here’s where things got really off-track. I pulled out the pumpkin spice-cream cheese frosting cake bites and tossed a bag of the white chocolate chips in a cereal bowl. I swear I followed the melting instructions on the bag to the letter, but I definitely had some problems here. I managed to overcook the white chocolate a bit to the point where it started to harden, so I added in water (I remember reading somewhere that a bit of hot water can help rescue overcooked chocolate). 

Long-story short, I ended up throwing out a whole lot of white chocolate coating. On my second (and final) attempt at melting the white chocolate I did much better, but the coating ended up a lot thicker than the dark chocolate and was much harder to work with.  

Ready for fancification
It was a rather frustrating experience, and I failed to take pictures of it, probably because I was covered in white chocolate and ended up making a huge mess. Oh well. They ended up looking a lot less pleasant than the dark chocolate covered ones, but they were still delicious. I put them in the fridge to solidify the coating.

Then I pulled out the dark chocolate-covered German chocolate-coconut pecan frosting cake bites and got fancy. I had seen a pin somewhere (but for the life of me can’t track it down) telling me an easy way to drizzle icing or glaze or whatever over items was to put the mixture into a plastic baggy and then cut off a tiny piece of the corner. I drizzled white chocolate over about half the dark chocolate cake bites, then I reheated the dark chocolate and repeated the process over the rest of them. 

The Pioneer Woman post says Bakerella used a squeeze bottle (a nifty way of doing it if you have one lying about) and suggests using a spoon if you don’t have a spare bottle, but the baggy trick worked like a charm and had no cleanup time.
Oh you fancy, huh

Results

I’m not going to sugarcoat it — this was a lot work. I spent close to two hours working on these the second day what with the melting, dipping the cake bites, drizzling, transferring in and out of the refrigerator, dishes, etc. 

Baking the cakes and making the cake bites is pretty easy. The covering in chocolate part is where this gets time-consuming.

But my co-workers couldn’t stop raving about these little confections. 

“Oh my God. Don’t change anything,” said reporter Max Reinhart biting into the spice cake bite.

And shortly after walking off with one (I think a dark chocolate one), Entertainment Editor Mark Meszoros messaged me: “That thing was crazy. Don't let me eat another one on the way out. (Which is to say thanks again.)”
Not too shabby looking

And I'm pretty sure the photographers were plotting a way to walk off with the whole plate.

And then I took the leftovers to my family’s Thanksgiving celebration, where I got similar positive feedback.

Heck when I got back from vacation, a full two weeks after initially making the cake bites, my co-workers were still talking about the cake bites. 

Shout outs

Find The Pioneer Woman on Pinterest and Twitter.

Find Bakerella on Pinterest and Twitter.

— Nicole Franz | NiFranz@News-Herald.com | @FranzOrFoe
Follow my Mission: Pinpossible board on Pinterest.

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