I am so behind on the times.
Cake pops were all the rage like, two seasons ago. I admit, sometimes I’m not really with the times but this one was on purpose. When cake pops came out, I was so over it. They were EVERYWHERE. I wasn’t about that because I just thought like, what’s the big deal with mushed cake and frosting?
Obviously, something was lost on me.
I wasn’t really game for the idea until my friend Monica became obsessed with the cake pops from Starbucks. Like OBSESSED. She’d keep telling me about them, which I knew about because of the trend, and because I had already tried one and thought it wasn’t worth the hype. Her obsession influenced me to try them again, and I became more partial to them. “I can make these… But better,” I thought to myself. Luckily, her birthday was right around the corner. What better gift than the gift of cake?! None, really.
So, technically these are cake balls or truffles because I went without the sticks. I just think that saying cake balls aloud is kinda awkward. Cake balls. Cake. Balls. Hm. It’s all the same, as they’d still work with the sticks in them.
Anyway, cake balls are the easiest thing in the whole wide world to make. Maybe not totally the easiest thing, depending on how much effort you want to put into this, but it is so simple. You bake the cake, then destroy the cake, mix in frosting, form, freeze, and coat. That’s it. Sounds a lot more stressful than it is, trust.
First, bake the cake. Monica, my dear friend, is a self proclaimed basic bitch. She likes the simple things in life. I don’t blame her! So for these cake balls, I went with vanilla, vanilla, vanilla. Triple vanilla. Vanilla cubed.
Except not because these are anything but basic. I chose this recipe from one of my favorite bakers in all the internet, Sweetapolita. I actually did the entire recipe, buttercream included, because why fix what’s not broken?
Bake the cake. Make the buttercream.
I baked the cake in a 9×13″ pan, instead of 3 8″ rounds for two reasons. One: I wasn’t making a tiered cake, and two because I don’t own 3 8″ rounds. Granted, the cake was a little more browned than I would’ve hoped, but I didn’t care because it was gonna become crumbs anyway.
Speaking of which, crumble the crap out of the cake once completely cool. Like, really get in there with your hands. Turn it into pre mush. Great stress reliever, and will confuse others around you who don’t know what cake balls are about. You can actually cut off the crusts/brown parts if you want a pure white cake. I chose not to because I feel like that’s too much cake waste for something that’s going to be crumbled anyway. I mean, technically, it wouldn’t be wasted but you know what I mean.
Now that the cake is pure crumbs, mix in the buttercream. I did it in stages because I didn’t want to put all of it in and have cake balls that are too wet. Honestly, that’s what turns me off from the Starbucks ones; too moist. Never thought it’d be an issue but alas. I ended up with a little bit leftover buttercream, which is okay. I added enough buttercream to have a moldable dough. You may notice that after mixed, none of the crumbs were stuck to the bowl but instead it became a large mass of cake ball dough.
Now that it’s a large, moistened mass, it’s time to make the balls. At this point, there are at least four ways to go about it. Balls can be formed using a cake ball mold, a tablespoon, freehand, or with a small scoop. If you have a cake ball/pop mold, I think you may benefit from having a super moist dough. The molds work best when the dough resembles play doh. I don’t own one of these things, so the next option was a tablespoon. A good option, but not my pick. I didn’t opt to freehand them either because I’m a stickler for accuracy. I’d probably end up with random sized cake balls, and I’m not about that life at all.
So, the logical way to form these was using my #50 disher. I love my scoop. Best purchase since my spatulas, and that’s saying a lot. Since I wasn’t using sticks, I scooped a ball of dough and left it with a flat side. I wanted them to sit still on a pan, so I left them like that. Feel free to make them into perfect little spheres.
Using the same 9×13 pan I baked the cake in, I lined it with wax paper and lined up all my cake ball soldiers in there. This batch makes quite a lot of balls, so I put another layer of wax paper on the first layer of balls, and carefully placed the next layer. I continued doing that until I was out of cake dough. My pan came with a lid, so I covered it and into the freezer it went for a few hours.
Let’s talk coating. There are lots of coating options out there in the candy making world. Anywhere from chocolate, to almond bark, to candy tabs. For this batch, I went for the candy tabs. I bought two bags of Wilton Candy Melts the other day on a whim. I had no clue what I was going to do with them but I was happy I had them! This was my first time using these things, which is a no no when you’re baking for someone.
Do as I say, not as I do.
I melted my candy melts over a double boiler, for insurance purposes. I don’t trust the microwave for important tasks as these. I melted them in batches because this stuff hardens pretty quickly. Another caveat is that it’s super thick. I put two teaspoons per bag of melts of vegetable oil but even then, it was too thick. I’ve heard of using shortening or Paramount Crystals but using shortening is one of my short fears; another story for another time.
I went ahead and coated my cake balls in this stuff anyway, and hoped for the best. I went from using spoons, to forks, to one fork and one spoon. By the end, I had one spoon and my mini spatula to coat the thawing balls. I got to coat about 32 balls with the two bags of melts. I actually have naked cake balls in my freezer (they taste awesome out of the freezer, by the way). Like I said, it dries pretty quickly, which was great because I got to refrigerate them immediately after I was done without any casualties.
Let’s just say that Monica and her family basically love me. She absolutely adored the cake balls! I think she squealed while screaming when I handed them to her. I love how good she is at emoting. The cake balls were actually better than I expected. They weren’t painfully sweet, which was a big deal, and they actually tasted like cake. The one thing the Starbucks pops don’t do is taste like cake. Strange, but true. I thought the candy melts were going to overwhelm the cake and buttercream, but it actually complemented it pretty nicely. Even though it was way too thick, it worked okay. They were so good, I’m contemplating making them again with a different flavor combo. They had to have been good if I’m thinking about a repeat, considering how things usually go in my kitchen.
I’m glad I finally decided to make them. Seeing Monica’s reaction to the cake balls was enough to call this one a success. It helps that they’re delicious, too.
For the Classic Vanilla Butter Birthday Cake + matching buttercream recipe, please visit the lovely Rosie at Sweetapolita!
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