I have the worst apology in the world to make: I made these adorable cake balls, perhaps my best-looking ever, and they went out the door so fast I never got the chance to take pictures.
I’ve not had much success with dipping balls (as opposed to pops. Somehow the stick makes things so much easier), and I decided that my coworkers should be guinea pigs in my ball-dipping adventure. Years ago I got one of those dipping spoons and I have tried several times since to make it work. Since these spice balls turned out quite firm and the frosting-cake mixture easy to work with, I figured this was the batch to try it for real.
Here are a few tips to make cute cake balls that may or may not work for you:
1. Small balls. The ideal size for sticking on a pop is a solid 1″ size, so that I usually get 48-50 pops out of 1 cake mix. Not so with the dipping balls. Smaller is better, approximately 3/4″ size. When I made the balls too big, the cake mix would sink right onto the spoon and get stuck, leaving spoon-marks on the ball. I also like how this changes the proportions of sprinkles and toppings: there’s more flavored sugar per bite on a smaller ball.
2. Make sure they don’t have too much frosting in the mix. I’m terrible about adding a little too much frosting because of how good they taste. But balls and pops don’t dip easily when the centers are too soft. They sink through the dipping spoon.
3. Bake the cake early. The last three batches of cake pops/balls I’ve made, I crumbed the cake and froze it until I was ready to make the pops, often weeks in advance. The cake crumbs end up a little drier for it, which isn’t a bad thing: that frosting will perk up your mix in no time and make a mixture that’s very easy to work with.
4. Mix frosting with fully-cooled/chilled crumbs. I discovered this by accident, trying to make cake balls with crumbs that were still partially frozen. Mixing cold crumbs to frosting gives you a better idea just how firm your chilled mixture will be. It’s a bit harder to mix in and does take longer, but it’s so much easier to see when the mixture will be ready to roll. No guessing how much it will firm up in the fridge; it’s already firm. As a bonus, the balls are easier to roll right away and a quick return to the fridge while the chocolate is melting is all you need, so there’s a bit less waiting between rolling and dipping stages.
5. Fridge, not the freezer. Cake pops crack less than cake balls because the coat ends up uniform. Cake balls have a structural weakness on the bottom, and too-cold cake pushes out that little hole where the chocolate is the thinnest/non-existent. So start with cold cake mix, keep it in the fridge, and work in small batches.
6. Thin the candy. In my experience, it takes quite a bit more shortening to thin out candy melts than almond bark. But either way, if the chocolate is too thick it weighs down the ball and makes it more likely the ball will get stuck to the dipper. I got mine thin enough that three taps of the spoon was enough to get most the excess candy off the ball. Any more than three taps and it was too hard to get the ball off the spoon. Also, thinned candy is softer once at room temperature. I dislike it when a cake pop collapses on the first bite because the rock-hard candy outer layer collapses and the soft inner layer gushes out, making a mess. Bite-size candies should be easy to eat, yes?
7. Keep the ball on the very tip of the spoon. It slides off better that way. I couldn’t figure out how to get the ball to roll of the tool like Bakerella does it in her awesome videos, so I ended up turning mine upside down and easing them onto the wax paper. Then to cover up the shape left by the dipper I fix it up with the spoon. Of course, since these aren’t very smooth, a generous sprinkling of cinnamon and raw sugar is required. I didn’t measure my cinnamon and sugar mixture but it ended up being reddish-gold, a perfect color for fall, and looked quite lovely on the white coating.
The Recipe – Spice Cake Balls
1 box Spice Cake Mix, prepared
3/4 can Cream Cheese Frosting
1-1/2 lbs Vanilla Almond Bark
My inspiration for spice cake came from the delightful fall weather we began having a few weeks ago. After the heat wave and drought we had this summer, the sudden transition to chilly made me way too excited for autumn. Normally I lean towards my favorite cake pop flavors, the tried and true as it were, but I’m so glad I branched out and experimented. These were so good, cool and warm, sweet and spicy, soft and a bit crunchy. Cake pops are fine plain but a bit of topping works wonders to make them look special and fun to eat.
My next cake ball experiment: using a fork to dip. I want to see if this technique is really as easy as it looks on those online videos! (Youtube: cake balls).