One Saturday I got it into my head that I was going to make cupcakes, darn it! This happens every so often. I'm not a cake person, generally speaking, but every so often I am compelled to make cupcakes. I think it's something about how cute and little and happy they are. Perhaps it's the increased frosting to cake ratio. Regardless, I got it into my head. I had these visions of making two dozen cupcakes and then handing them out to friends around town. Of course, nothing is ever that easy.
I started with a recipe from Joy the Baker for vanilla cupcakes. I mixed, I poured, I felt very pleased with myself. I did notice that what should have been two dozen cupcakes was only 18. And then I made my first mistake. I figured it was no big deal. I was using my cupcake scoop so it must be right and Joy was wrong. You would think I would have known by then that Joy is never wrong.
But I didn't. Which I why I was rather surprised to find that my cupcakes, those which were destined to be beautiful and amazing and perfect...were overflowing in my oven. And burning. It was decidedly not perfect.
But I persevered. Faced with 18 very flat, overflowing, merged together cupcakes I did what any reasonable baker would do--I decided to try something new. I have been hearing for years about "cake balls" which are essentially cake, crumbled up and mixed with frosting, and covered in chocolate. And what better cake to crumble than ugly cupcakes?
This took a bit longer than I would have expected, since every single cupcake had to be individally dug out and shredded, but we got there.
It was around this point I decided to actually go looking for some recipes, thus violating one of the most basic rules of baking--always read your recipe before starting. But hey, I was a rebel. A rebel with an oven full of leaked cupcake batter and a bowlful of shredded cake.
The recipes all basically said the same thing--mix with some frosting, form balls, cover in melted chocolate. Sounds easy right?
While the cupcakes had been
I tossed the cake into the frosting, mixed it all up, and used my handy cookie scoop to apportion out the balls.
This was mistake number two. Apparently when recipes say "roll into marble sized balls" that is not the same thing as "scoop into balls the size of ping pong balls". But scooping was so much faster (and neater) than rolling, and I was so taken with my brilliance of swapping to cake balls that I wasn't really considering these things.
So I popped my orange ping pong balls of vanilla and sweetness into the freezer to set.
Once the balls had set up, I melted some chocolate to try and dip them. This was mistake three. Melted chocolate does not stay melted for long (especially when you insist on dunking frozen balls of dough into it). What it does do, really well, is clump up and solidify.
Mistake number four was attempting to roll the dough balls in the chocolate with spoons. Yes, it seems like that would give you a nice smooth finish. But it doesn't. What it does give you is lumpy cake balls with lots of, uh, character .
At this point, my quick little morning cupcakes had become an all day adventure. So I stashed the remaining (ie: most) of the cake balls back in the freezer and packaged up what we had finished for a friend.
Not pretty, but they were tasty and very appreciated. : )
Day two dawned and I recruited my husband to help with tackling the balance. We hit up the grocery store for some quick melt candy chocolate and then, armed with that and a couple of wooden bar-b-eque skewers, we attacked the remaining cake balls.
Still nothing like the smooth, perfect finish Bakerella has made famous.
In fact, out of the nearly two dozen cake balls
we got ONE, almost perfect, beauty.
In retrospect, it was using the scoop that doomed me the most. Scooping instead of rolling left ridges that the chocolate wanted to cling to instead of laying smoothly. I had figured that the chocolate would even itself out, but the ridges were too large. Also, since they were so large, they were difficult to dip. Smaller, more marble sized balls, would have been easier to handle and to cover in one dip, making an even coating more likely.
After all that, would I make them again? Maybe. I would certainly have a better shot at success. But it's an awful lot of fuss for something that could be considered complete at the cake + frosting stage. One final note though? If I ever do try my hand at them again? I'm going to pick a cake recipe that is darker, richer, and less sweet. The combo of cake + frosting was so sweet that the dark chocolate was actually necessary to offset it. Delicious, but a bit overpowering.