Balls for Easter bunnies & a baby’s birthday

Cover of Real Simple magazine.  Just kidding. Vin’s just really good @ this photography thing <3

I have to warn you; there are “TWSS” situations coming up.  =D

I’m sorry for the lack of new posts.  I’ve been out of commission for the past month+ due to medical issues. I’m pissed @ myself for missing out on two wonderful opportunities (cupcakes for a gallery show and for an off-Broadway play… my sincere apologies to Mogan and Sunflower!) b/c I was physically incapable of baking and decorating.  Lifting a 6-quart metal mixing bowl filled with cake batter or frosting, slaving over cake pans and bending over to decorate cupcakes were not feats I could do less than 2 weeks after being discharged from the hospital.  I mean, forcing myself to go to work less than a week after surgery was tough enough.  Ugh.  I had to bide my non-baking time by wandering Michael’s, HomeGoods and Costco like a listless zombie spending $$$ on cake decorating supplies and butter and sugar.  But almost 6 weeks later, I’m doing MUCH better (I can walk @ my normal “get the F out of my way, tourists!” pace and do a few crunches, thanks to Aleve), and my foray back to the oven was for Easter/little Patrick’s birthday. With cake pops.  Which I THOUGHT would be an easy stepping stone to get back into real baking…

Please stop reading here if you’re a diehard fan of cake pops b/c I’m probably the only person in the world who doesn’t really care for them and yet, I will attempt to bake anything and make it look and taste damn good.  Still, I’m not in the mood to argue over sugar and feel that, as levelheaded human beings, we’re all entitled to our opinions… but note that this IS my blog  =P

Vin’s sister mentioned she saw these a while back and I figured I might as well give them a shot for her son’s birthday since I don’t have enough energy to construct a statue of Woodyor Buzz out of cake for Patrick.  I’ve been trying to avoid making these cake pops for several reasons.  I’ve never made them before and usually I’m all for trying new things, but I’m just not a huge fan.  I mean, don’t get me wrong; they solicit “ohhh, that’s so cute!” reactions and they look nice and I’m fascinated by the cake pops book my aunt got me for Christmas and think all the designs are really neat, and if you love them, that’s great, fantastic, bully for you, who am I to stop you, I will never stand in the way of anyone’s specific sugar craving, etc. etc., but they’re just not my bag, baby.  First and foremost… I really don’t need to be purchasing more supplies that aren’t already part of my frosting/real cake arsenal. I feel like this is a bit of a cutesy fad, and cakes… well, call me old-fashioned, but I feel cakes are more timeless.  My mom gave me her cake decorating supplies, and many items are older than me and are probably of better quality than the tools I’m buying for myself now.   Second, I’m not a big fan of the mushy consistency and taste… not that I really eat these anyway.  Basically, a cake ball is mashed up cake (already sweet) mixed with frosting (sweeter) and doused with candy coating (reeeeally sickeningly sweet) with more sugar sprinkles or candies (omg cavities!) on top.   If you like sugar, then by all means, go for it, but personally, it took a lot to find a good balance with what cake and frosting creations I’ve made to make them NOT too sweet.  If my customers and taste testers say “they’re grrrrreat”, I don’t need to go around and f*ck up perfection.  =D  And the most important reason… these things are tiny.  One-bite, look-at-what-I-can-fit-in-my-mouth tiny, but in a way that is NOT the same as mini-cupcake tiny.  Allow me to explain: I love decorating with buttercream frosting.  I’m quite proud of having taught myself what little I’ve learned with frosting and concoct the flavors and designs that I’ve made. With a cake ball, the frosting is hidden and smushed à la Jersey Shore with cake.  You can still decorate with frosting on the outside, but the design area is very, very small and very, very not flat and stable.  Cake pops also come with more steps and time constraints, and with more processes come more clean-up (as Vin knows all too well) and with rushing comes stress.  I already make a huuuuuge mess when I bake, and for pops, you have to bake the cake, crumble up the whole damn thing, make the frosting, mix together the cake and frosting, shape tons of messy balls and put them on sticks, get all these containers out to melt the chocolate coatings, melt the candy JUST so, skillfully dip the ball in the mixture, quickly and carefully put those sprinkles and candies on before the coating completely dries, buy some Styrofoam or drill pegs into a board so the pops can set, and wash, rinse and repeat for each pop, the individual little divas that they are.  And you kind of have to do this all @ once or the candy coating dries up on the ball.  With cakes, I can bake one day, make frosting another day, and take my damn sweet time decorating and making flowers the next day, and the best part is if I mess up with the buttercream, I can fix it before it hardens. Of course, this is in an ideal world and things rarely ever happen that way, but I will say anything to defend my cakes.  haha

I need to confess that since I was pressed for time and not really into this thing…  I used a box of Betty Crocker’s cake mix and ready made frosting.  *gasp*  Not one of my proudest moments, but it saved some time instead of making everything from scratch and I guess it’s actually recommended to use store-bought cake mix for these pops.  I baked the “vanilla” factory-processed cake concoction, but I wasn’t thinking properly b/c I had to take time to cut off the baked browned edges to not contaminate the white cake pieces.  While that was cooling, I tried to lighten the flavor/texture by whipping more cream into the frosting to tame the sweetness.  I also used less of the frosting since the candy coating was already sweet.  Next step: mashing together the crumbled cake and frosting to make 39 little balls.  While those chilled in the fridge, I prepped the Styrofoam and poked 25 holes for the pops, covered the counter in wax paper, and set up the candy coating.

I made a mess with the white stuff

Being that it’s Easter and such, I bought pastel candy melt colors in green and blue.  Yep, blue coating.  Which means yes, I made blue balls.  I wasn’t used to working with this melty, sticky stuff and it took a while to coat one. ball. at. a. time.  And then rap it against the container so the excess drips off and deftly swirl it so the candy doesn’t dry in a huge glob on one side and hold it in the freezer for a bit to chill faster and constantly reheating the candy melts and… this took much longer than anticipated.  I think it was b/c 1) I was a noob @ this cake pop thing; 2) I’m a perfectionist and my balls look better than the ones from the book; and also 3) obviously I’m biased and I prefer my cakes.  haha  But, the chocolate was interesting to work with; it took a little time for me to get used to it and what temperature it needed to be for ideal dipping and decorating.  Because of that learning curve, the white chocolate designs on a few of the pops look like… a mess.  Well, OK I’m being a little hard on myself; Vin said they look awesome but a couple pops look a little sloppy to me.  The white chocolate cooled down much faster than I expected in the piping bag and just spurted out all over the place so a couple of the pops had slightly blobular stripes on them. Decorating the balls was a much easier process once I learned I had to pipe out the stripes within a couple minutes of heating the chocolate and those actually look professional  =D

I fit 25 pops in an Easter basket and we weaved yellow “grass” around the pops to make it look like a nest.  The leftover balls were arranged on my glass cake stand “nest” with some jellybeans.  I think that Vin’s family thought these were just part of the Easter decorations on the table and weren’t edible.  Once it was pointed out that these were “cake + frosting + chocolate,” they were a hit.  (I kind of hope not TOO much of a hit b/c I’m not exactly looking forward to doing this again…  haha) The biggest fans of the pops: the babies!  There were little toddlers double-fisting the pops; a green one in one hand and a blue one in the other.  I think I was happiest to see that those little guys loved them, especially the birthday boy.  Happy 2nd birthday, Patrick!

This looks like it belongs in Martha Stewart Living or something, doesn’t it? Yeah, I thought so, too.

This first experience with cake balls was a pain in the ass.  Next time, as I’m sure there will be, hopefully I’ll be more adept with the entire process.  I now can legitimately say I’ve made them and I’m still not terribly fond of them.  Anyway, I will make cake pops for orders and I will guarantee their awesomeness, but don’t expect me to really make these “for fun” again.  For me, “fun,” “cake,” and “balls” don’t belong in the same sentence.  hahaha

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