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Friday, April 13, 2012

Sweet Leftovers




Though it may be hard for some to believe, I ended up with an "extra" cake this week. Some changed plans for a dessert potluck meant that I had an unfrosted, plain from the box mix white cake, with no immediate purpose for it. Thinking it would make a good basis for a trifle, I cubed and dried it. However, I needed a different kind of dessert for a meal I was making today, and I had a little time to experiment, so I decided to try my hand at those frosting and cake balls that have been making the rounds on the internet for some time. 

Almost every recipe I found used purchased frosting, and I had a canister of vanilla frosting I was ready to use up. I've never been a fan of these prepared frostings but this was part of a buy-the-cake-mix-get-the-frosting-free offer, and how can you pass up something that's free?!?

Since I was working with white cake and white frosting, I decided to punch up the flavor with some almond flavoring and ground almonds. I would guess that anyone with Amaretto in the pantry would probably find that add an even better addition, but that is for one of you to try since I didn't have any on hand.

None of the recipes for these lollipop cake-candy confections use dried crumbs nor ground nuts, so I knew mine would need to have added moisture.  I decided to use some maraschino cherry juice for more almond-y flavor and color as well. And if I was going to use the juices, I might as well go the next step and put a cherry in each, for a bit of a surprise center.  I ended up using only pieces of cherry, as the whole ones kept the balls from holding together well. I also abandoned the idea of lollipop serving, since this dough did not adhere to the sticks long enough even to dip.  As it turned out, I think their bonbon appearance was just fine without the sticks--and might be easier to eat anyway. 

I also used chocolate chips since I had some really good semisweet ones and didn't have "dipping chocolate" available. Though many of the recipes using chips add in solid vegetable shortening, that is something I have never had in my kitchen, so I just went without. The coating might be just a tad thicker than it would have been with the Crisco, but I doubt anyone will resent the extra chocolate.
  • Are these fast? Not particularly, though they were a lot easier to work with than I might have thought. Are they frugal? Not particularly either, though I had gotten the cake mix and frosting at a very good price, and I watch for sales at our Fleet Farm store to get their very good chocolate chips and ground almonds as inexpensively as possible. (I've mentioned it before and I'll say it again--I love living in a small city in the Midwest where I can go to a farm supply store to get the best buys on good quality nuts, dried fruits, and chocolate chips.) 
  • Are they fun? As mentioned in the method, the dough in the processor reaches PlayDo-like consistency, so this could be something that would be fun for kids to help with. 
  • Are they healthy? Not at all. Still, for an occasional birthday party or something similar, they are a nice change of pace treat.

Chocolate Covered Cake Candies 
(aka Cake Truffles)

Unfrosted, white or yellow cake, cubed and dried
16 oz container vanilla frosting
1/2 t almond extract
1 c ground almonds
2 to 3 T maraschino cherry juice
9 to 10 maraschino cherries, cut in quarters or fifths, drained
12 oz semisweet chocolate chips

1.  Working in batches, process the cake cubes to the texture of coarse cornmeal or oatmeal.
2.  Return about three cups of the crumbs to the processor bowl and whirl once or twice with the almonds. (See NOTE below for uses for extra crumbs)
3.  Add the frosting, almond extract and maraschino cherry juice. Process until the mixture begins to form a ball and is about the texture of PlayDo. Add more of the crumbs, a tablespoon or so at a time, if the mixture remains too sticky.










4.  Take pieces of the dough about the size of a ping pong ball, and shape each around one of the maraschino cherry pieces. Place the balls on a waxed paper lined tray, keeping them from touching each other. Chill for 30 to 60 minutes.









5.  When ready to dip the centers, place all but about a quarter cup of the chocolate chips in a deep microwave safe bowl (I used a 4 cup measuring pitcher)*. Be very sure the bowl and any utensils are completely dry and do not cover the chocolate.
6.  Begin heating the chips at power level 5 (MEDIUM) for a minute. Stir and then continue heating on power level 5 another couple of minutes, stirring EVERY 30 seconds. When the chips are completely melted, stir in the last quarter cup of the chips and heat another 30 seconds, just until the mixture is thoroughly melted and somewhat thinned. DO NOT OVERHEAT.
7.  Using two forks, roll the centers, one by one, in the chocolate. Return to the waxed paper sheet (OR, place each one in a miniature cupcake paper), again not allowing the balls to touch. I found that a wooden pop stick worked well to scrape excess chocolate back into the bowl and to give a little swirl at the top.

8.  Work quickly. If the chocolate becomes a little thick, return to the microwave at power level 5 for perhaps 15 seconds, just enough to return it to dipping thickness.
9.   Allow at least an hour for the chocolate to set, either at room temperature or in the refrigerator.

Makes about 32. I had enough coating for that many, though I did have another three or four centers that ended up without chocolate. Part of that I blame on my own failure to wipe the excess chocolate off the early balls, so they were really very chocolate-y. I moistened the extra centers with a tiny bit of cherry juice and then rolled them in plain cocoa powder for a real chocolate kick. Not as pretty but good nonetheless.

Variations:  A chocolate cake with either chocolate or white frosting would be good, with or without the almond flavoring.
The 16 oz frosting canister held about 1 1/2 cups of frosting, so I would like to try this another time with the same amount of a plain powdered sugar icing made to about the same consistency.

*  I learned this little trick from a "Chocolates Made Easy" website. Apparently, this addition late in the process will keep the surface much glossier than without the extra step. Since these ended up with a lovely sheen, I'll take their word for it. (This site also encourages the medium setting on the microwave, since it allows the chocolate to "rest" when the microwave cycles down periodically, also best for getting the best texture.)

NOTE:  Store the remaining crumbs (probably about a third of the total amount) in a tightly covered jar in the refrigerator. Then use them as a substitute in your favorite graham cracker crust recipe. They are especially good as a crust for a simple chocolate pie made with instant chocolate pie filling.  

If you do a search, you will find a lot of ways to decorate these beyond the plain chocolate coating I have included. However, that will add time and cost, and these chocolate bonbon-looking cakes seem fine to me just as is.



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