Cake balls and pops are a treat that I love to eat. They are little balls of moist cake and icing wrapped up in a hard chocolate shell. They’re like little, happy surprises. In this recipe, the surprise is red velvet cake. The coating is white chocolate decorated with food coloring to look like eyeballs. These were very fun to make and I can’t wait to try different recipes. Let me save you some potential trouble with these two tips. DON’T use Nestle white chocolate. In the chocolate aisle just blow right on by that baby. White chocolate is a pain to melt on the best of days, and Nestle didn’t make it any easier. Skip forward after a frantic run to the grocery and enter Baker’s white chocolate. It melted beautifully and the smoke from my ears drifted away. I’ve also heard white candy melts work very well too and are easier to melt. If you don’t care whether or not the balls look like eye balls, feel free to use dark chocolate. I made a few of those to see what they would taste like, and they were excellent. My hubby liked the dark chocolate (as I usually do), but I really liked the white chocolate eye balls. Secondly, the cake calls for liquid food coloring, but as for painting irises on the coating, gel coloring worked MUCH better. Too bad I didn’t realize this sooner, because I only had orange and pink gel, which looked very similar once painted on. I plan to go all out next year with greens, browns, blues, reds and oranges! For the brush- any small, pointed brush will work. I used a small eyeliner brush.
adapted from: Food & Wine Annual Cookbook 2013
makes: approximately 40 cake balls
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for greasing the pan
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pan
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 large egg
¼ cup vegetable oil
½ teaspoon cider vinegar
¼ cup buttermilk
¼ cup sour cream
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon liquid red food coloring
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ cups confectioner’s sugar
2 teaspoons milk
¾ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
9 ounces white chocolate, chopped* (see below)
assorted gel food coloring (or M&Ms) for decorating** (see below)
Make the cake
Preheat the oven to 350. Prepare a parchment circle for a 9 inch round cake pan. Butter the pan, place the parchment circle in the bottom, butter the parchment, and flour the pan.
In a large bowl, whisk the 1 ¼ cups flour with the granulated sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. In another bowl, whisk the egg with the 4 tablespoons of melted butter and the vegetable oil, cider vinegar, buttermilk, sour cream, vanilla and red food coloring. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry until just moistened.
Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake in the center of the oven for 28-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then invert it onto a rack and let cool completely. Remove the parchment.
Make the binding and coating
Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper. In a large bowl, using a handheld electric mixer, beat the softened butter with the confectioner’s sugar, milk and vanilla until smooth. Finely crumble the cake into the bowl and stir until combined.
Using your hands, briefly knead the mixture until the coating has been evenly absorbed into the cake crumbs. Using a 1-tablespoon cookie scoop, scoop mounds onto the prepared baking sheet. Using your hands, press and roll the mounds into tight balls. (I found the best way to do this is to roll the ball vigorously and tight between your hands at first, then more gently, lessening the pressure until you have a nice dense ball.) Refrigerate the cake balls until they are nice and firm, about 1 hour, or freeze for 15 minutes.
Line another baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a double boiler (or in a heat-proof bowl that nestles over a small saucepan), melt the white chocolate over low heat (the water should not be simmering), stirring constantly. Remove the bowl when there are only a few small chunks of white chocolate and continue stirring off of the heat until completely melted.
Using a small spoon, dip the cake balls into the white chocolate, rolling with the spoon and allowing the excess chocolate to drip back into the bowl. Transfer the coated cake balls to the prepared baking sheet. If a lot of chocolate pools around the balls on the baking sheet, draw a line around the base of the ball with a toothpick before the chocolate has set, this will allow the extra chocolate to break off easily later.
Place the coated cake balls back in the refrigerator until the coating has set.
Using a clean, fine-tipped paintbrush, decorate the cake balls with the gel food coloring to look like eyeballs, or press an M&M or similar candy onto each cake ball before the coating has set.
The finished cake balls can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
*I recommend using Bakers white chocolate or white chocolate candy melts. Nestle white chocolate was a disaster for me. It does not melt well.
** For decorating the cake balls, gel food coloring worked the best. Liquid just looked too thin and never really dried. For the pupils I used a black decorating pen from Williams Sonoma.