Thursday, January 20, 2011

These are a few of my favorite things...part I

The holidays are over.  The hustle and bustle has calmed.  Refreshed after a vacation.  Life is back to normal. 

I took a vacation from the photography business, but not from photography.  What was so nice about 3 weeks away from clients, editing, and scheduling was I could turn my attention more to my family.  On our beach vacation I could shoot away and not think about the upcoming sessions, when I'm available to start scheduling sessions again, plans of updating my blog and website (which are still left undone) or planning my editing schedule for the rest of the month.  Business is slow this time of year.  And I like that.

Here are a few of my favorite things from those 3 weeks.

Cake Balls!  I was inspired to attempt this confectionery creation after watching The Scoop with Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb one winter morning.  Angie Dudley, the woman who started the cake-pop craze was a guest speaker on the show.  She showed step by step how to make cake pops/balls.  The difference is cake pops are made with a lollipop stick inserted...cake balls are the same sugary treat minus the stick!  If you watched the segment you thought it would be a SNAP to whip up these delicious treats!! 

As with anything new you attempt, the first time isn't a SNAP...and it took me 3 days to complete my masterpieces...working around my 9 month old's nap schedule, Christmas shopping and wrapping packages.  :)  Tis the season!  I thoroughly researched the art of creating cake balls...just as I do anything (seriously, just ask my mom about my research on rabbits...and my husband could tell you how many hours I surfed the net soaking up cloth diapering info and tips). 

In a nutshell, here is what you'll need:
1 box of cake mix (or a homemade recipe)
1 tub of frosting (or homemade recipe)
2 bags of candy melts
2 plastic forks
waxed paper
Double boiler or microwave or Lil dipper crock pot
sprinkles/decorations (optional)

Here's how you'll create:
1.  Bake cake according to directions on the box.  Any cake mix will do.  Get creative.  The first time I used red/green confetti cake mix.  Think german velvet...strawberry...

2.  After cake has cooled, crumble it into pieces.  Yes, I know this seems SO counter-productive and destructive...but this is when the fun starts.  I found the top, edges and bottom of the cake were 'chunkier' so I sifted out the larger pieces.  Discard as you please...the scraps went in my belly!

3.  Add frosting to crumbled cake.  BE CAREFUL!  This when Angie made it seem so simple.  She simply dumped an entire tub of frosting into the cake crumbs.  I did this for my first round of cake balls.  First of all I used a super moist cake mix and the entire tub of frosting made the 'dough' too doughy.  It more or less felt like a super sticky cookie dough or really thick, raw cake batter (and hubby wouldn't touch CARES?!).  With my second round of cake balls I added HALF the tub of frosting and achieved perfect consistency.  So my advice is to start with half a tub, and add more if the 'dough' seems too dry and still crumbly.  The 'dough' should not be too sticky.  You should be able to roll 'dough' into balls without it sticking to your hands.  A pointer I read during my cake ball research was to put the 'dough' into the freezer before rolling it into balls.  The colder dough is easier to work with when rolling.  You will definitely to need to freeze the dough if you added too much frosting. 
4.  Roll into balls.  Place into a freezer-safe container, separating layers with waxed paper.

5.  Freeze rolled cake balls for about 30 minutes or longer.  Even freezing them for days is perfectly fine!

6.  Prepare your candy melts.  Follow the directions on the bag for double boiler or microwave use.  I thought I'd take a risk and use my Lil Dipper crock pot (typically used for warm cheese dips).  I had read another person used this method.  I didn't have a double boiler.  Also, on the bag of candy melts, the directions say to melt the entire bag at once...and I wasn't sure if I would be fast enough to dip cake balls before the bowl of melted candy would cool and harden.  The Lil Dipper worked so complaints!!  And one bag of candies fits into the mini crock pot.  :)  If using the Lil Dipper, candies should melt in about 15 minutes, stay near by to stir and mix to evenly melt all wafers.

7.  Spread waxed paper on counter top/table.

8.  Prepare one fork...break off the two center tines.  A tip I read online from another cake ball maker.  You will use the fully intact fork to roll the ball around in the melted candy, and use the modified fork to lift the ball from the melted candy.

9.  Remove 6-7 frozen cake balls from the freezer at a time.  Dip one at a time in the melted candy.  If you choose to decorate with sprinkles, you will need to sprinkle immediately after dipping; before the candy hardens.  The reason to pull only a few cake balls out of the freezer is because when they 'warm up' pieces of cake will come off in the melted candy.  It will leave your candy coating clumpy and bumpy.  I found the 'prettiest' cake balls are the first batch...after that the candy coating slowly gets lumpier. 

10.  After coating and decorating, place ball on wax paper to cool. 

11.  Cake balls are ready to eat as soon as candy coating has cooled and hardened. 

12.  Coated and decorated cake balls can be kept at room temperature, in the fridge or in the freezer.  A tip I read online was that if the cake balls are decorated and you choose to refrigerate or freeze them, the colors from the sprinkles will run or 'bleed' when warming up to room temperature.  And really, let's be honest...the cake balls won't last long enough to store them.  :) 

The red and green cake balls were my first batch.  The 'dough' had too much frosting, but they still tasted phenomenal.

'Snowballs' were my second batch and they turned out PUUUUURFECT.  Not too dry, crumbly or sticky.
Well, I was going to add more pictures from the holidays...but I think I'll do that tomorrow.  Stay tuned for 'A few of my favorite things...part II.'

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