Dubious, doubtful, hesitant, unclear and let's not forget reluctant. These are all words I would have used to describe my feelings towards cake balls when they and their siblings cake pops came on to the food scene.
Truly, wasn't mashing together your store bought cake and icing something you were supposed to have stopped doing after second grade? Like rolling little pellets from your squishy white bread, or sucking the ice cream out through the bottom of the cone, it was strictly kid stuff.
I held my stand-offish attitude for a few years, bypassing all recipes flitting by on my computer screen. I did love and admire the whimsical pops created by Bakerella and her compatriots. What incredible creativity and decorating!
And then I attended a demo here with author and baker Dede Wilson. Dede (day-day) showed us how to skip the cans of chemical laden icings and use fresh, homemade ingredients to elevate the cake ball to superior status. Her book Cake Balls is terrific and full of amazing recipes and ideas. I bought 3 copies that night!
I'm lucky enough to have access to the best mixes and ingredients on the market, so using Dede's book as inspiration, set out to create a cake ball that could become a part of my holiday cookie tray. Gingerbread was my first stop, pastry cream and soft diced ginger came along for the ride, and some outstanding semi sweet chocolate literally wrapped it all up.
Let's get started on a batch of Gingerbread Cake Balls.
Step one will be to choose your favorite gingerbread cake mix or recipe. I've adored our mix for years now, so it was my go-to cake. Mix and bake as directed , and allow to cool completely. You can even do this part the day before if you're prepping ahead of time. You'll need one 9" layer for approximately 40 cake balls.
In a large bowl, use your fingers to break the cake into moist even crumbs. If needed you can trim off the edges and corners if they don't break up easily. They make delightful little baker's treats while you are working.
The amount of filling or binder you will need will vary slightly depending on the moistness of the cake you are using. Gingerbread is very moist and you hardly need any binder but consider how much flavor and creaminess a bit of pastry cream will bring to the party.
Begin with about 1/2 cup of prepared pastry cream (either from your favorite recipe or our mix) and blend it into the cake crumbs. Don't be fancy, do dig in and mix with your fingers. Use a light touch rather than squashing and mashing.
Occasionally stop mixing and test the mix for cohesiveness. You want the mixture to stick together without being soggy, nor dry. Remember rolling those balls of squishy white bread? That's a pretty good goal to shoot for.
Use a teaspoon or tablespoon scoop or your fingers to scoop up balls about the size of small walnuts or large gumballs. Roll smooth with your palms and place on a parchment sheet about 1" apart. Place the tray in the freezer for 20 minutes at least to freeze solid. If wrapped airtight , you can freeze the balls for up to 3 months like this. Truly handy if you're prepping for the holidays.
I did one half of the batch in a very dark chocolate and one half in a lighter, semi sweet. It's an easy way to please more people in the crowd.
One at a time dip the chilled balls in the melted chocolate. Tap on the edge of your bowl to encourage any drips of chocolate back into the bowl.
Place the balls on parchment paper to firm up. With the cold cake, this usually only takes 5 or 10 minutes. You can place the balls back in the fridge to firm up faster, but they will also melt faster during serving if they go from cold to warm. If you don't mind chocolate fingerprints all over, it's all good.
The perfect afternoon or evening treat. Crisp chocolate shell, soft moist cake, bright studs of ginger. The recipe makes about 40 cake balls so there will be plenty for snacking, sharing, gift giving and well, more snacking.
I'm glad I got over my reluctance and started down the cake ball path. I see many, many flavor combinations in our future here on Flourish!
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