Friday, December 10, 2010


It's that wonderful time of year again!  Yes, Holiday Cookie exchange - where you sacrifice just a few nights of sanity and your kitchen and come home with more cookies than you can eat for the rest of the year.

I love my job, for many reasons, but the fact that I work with a ton of talented bakers who enjoy these kinds of mass production as much as I do really is amazing.

This will be my 5th year participating with these wonderful ladies (and I think we have a gentleman baker this year too!) and I can't wait to see what they all have in store. For my contribution this year I decided to go with my Mom's cake ball recipe that I nearly OD'ed on last Christmas.
The base recipe was simple enough, so I added my own twist and went balls to the wall with my confectionery treats.

All in all I made 1200 cake balls this year, the majority of which got packaged in little tins for tonight's great exchange @ Z'Tejas (which I am crazy excited about too) There's something magical about trading cookies and recipes over margaritas :) Always puts me in the holiday mood.

I decided to go with 3 cake ball variations for the trade.
Red velvet, dark chocolate, peppermint schnapps ball
Spice cake, white bark, cinnamon schnapps ball
Dark Chocolate Cake, ghiradelli, caramel and salt ball
(and an amaretto version of the dark chocolate cake for the non salty chocolate lovers)

I couldn't pick just one, so each participant tonight will receive a cute little sampler box of cake balls.
The base recipe called for box cake, baked according to directions and canned icing- well everyone knows I don't follow directions so here's my recipe

2 cups boiling water
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
2 1/4 cups white sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Ingredients for frosting:
1 stick butter
2 squares (1 oz. each) unsweetened chocolate
1 1/2 c. light brown sugar (packed)
1/2 c. milk
1 1/2 c. sifted confectioners' sugar

Caramel - I used a jar of milk caramel I picked up at Junior League Ole Marketplace
Ghiradelli 60% chocolate chips (melted until smooth - for coating)
Maldon Sea Salt - a pinch for the top of each ball

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Grease 13x-9 inch round cake pan.
In medium bowl, pour boiling water over cocoa, and whisk until smooth. Let mixture cool. Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt; set aside.
In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at time, then stir in vanilla. Add the flour mixture alternately with the cocoa mixture. Pour batter into pan.
Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes.
Remove from oven, while still warm crumble into large bowl and mix with chocolate icing and caramel.(see recipe for frosting below)

Form mixture with hands into 1" balls. Using spoons, cover balls with ghiradelli chocolate (melted)  and place on parchment paper. Sprinkle the top of each ball with Maldon Sea Salt.
Cool in fridge for at least 1 hour

Can be packaged in air tight container and stored at room temperature.

Melt together butter and chocolate. Blend into this the brown sugar and milk. Cook and stir to boil, simmer 4 minutes stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; beat in sugar. Cool, beating occasionally until thick.

The red velvet cake balls are red velvet cake (family recipe), cream cheese frosting (Wilton cake yearbook recipe), covered in the same Ghiradelli 60% dark chocolate and the I used peppermint sprinkles I found pre crushed at the local grocery store - These are simply amazing and yummy too! I added a bit of peppermint schnapps to the mix as well.

The spice cake balls were spice cake (family recipe), vanilla butter cream (family recipe), with Hot Damn cinnamon schnapps added. I coated them in white bark and placed a red hot on the top of each one. The spice cake for some reason was a little more difficult to work with than the chocolate and red velvet, so I didn't make as many of these. I might reattempt another batch and modify the cake recipe to go for a denser cake to hold up to the ball shape.
And last but not least, all the balls got a little mini cupcake wrapper spot in these cute tins I picked up at a local craft store.

Cake balls are super easy and fun. Whether you make your cake from scratch (recommended) or go for easy and use a mix, the end result is a little bite of heaven. Made even more heavenly when you start spiking them and decorating them with assorted toppings.

The possibilities are endless! And the jokes have been rolling all week. Thanks for all the funny commentary - it helped me get through 12 hours of baking and balling :)

*and yes, I know that cake balls are technically a petit four, but they are so freaking delicious and pretty I couldn't resist sharing them with the group this year

Happy holidays everyone!

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