Cake truffles (aka cake balls, aka cake pops without sticks)

November 6, 2011 § 1 Comment

Cake truffles:  cake mixed with frosting, rolled into balls, dipped in chocolate.  Yum!  Also called cake balls and cake pops (when put on a lollipop stick).

So, it began with the tea party.  No, not the crazy political movement, but rather the weekly event that takes place in my department at work.  Every week, someone is tapped by the administrator to bake (or buy) cookies/cakes/sweet things to bring to the tea party, and then everyone gathers and eats and drinks tea and is merry.  Well, this past Tuesday I was asked to be a last minute replacement for someone who had to bail.  So, seems easy enough, right?  Make some cookies and everyone is happy. Right?

No.   This is no amateur hour.  These people are serious.  Last week, for Halloween, someone made a chocolate chocolate tart with a cobweb decoration.  And cupcakes that looked like tarantulas.  And cookies shaped like bats with hand-piped decorations.  Talk about pressure.

But I was ready for a challenge.  Clearly I wasn’t going to tackle any British desserts, as I knew everyone’s grandma probably makes the best victoria sponge or bakewell tart.  So I decided to go full American – but, cupcakes were last week and cookies seemed too simple.  Enter: the cake pop.

I first had one of these at Elizabeth’s baby shower, and it was so good.  So I thought, I can do that!  I can do anything good!

The end result (photographed at 11pm, when I finished – having started the process at 6pm):

As the British would say, this recipe requires a lot of fiddling about: melting, dipping, sprinkling ad infinitum.  But they’re pretty, they impress people, and they taste pretty good (they’re REALLY sweet due to the candy coating you dip them in).

Ingredients:

  • Box of cake mix, and the stuff the cake mix calls for (like, egg, oil, etc).  Flavor of cake is up to you.  I did chocolate.
  • HALF a can of frosting (I used half of a 450g (16 oz) can).  Again, flavor up to you. I did, surprise, chocolate.
  • Candy coating/candy melts/almond bark/chocolate buttons — these are synonyms for candy coating, which is a special product that is used to put a hard shell on things (melting chocolate chips would NOT be the same, as it is not as stable (aka artificial)).  Here in London, the product was sold at Waitrose (the Lunds equivealent) and was called ‘candy melts’ and ‘chocolate buttons’.  Apparently in the U.S. they’re easy to find, and are even sold in craft stores like Michael’s.  These come in many colors/flavors: I got chocolate and strawberry.
  • Sprinkles

You could make the cake and frosting from scratch, but that would be WAY too much work!

Instructions:

  1. Bake the cake in a 9×13 pan, as directed on the box.  Let it cool completely.
  2. Destroy the cake.  That is, crumble it up into fine crumbs.  I used my hands, some people use food processors.
  3. Add half the can of frosting to the cake crumbs.  This, apparently, is a point of contention on the internet.  Some people use the whole can, some half, some inbetween.  I think frosting cans probably come in different sizes, so I used 8 oz.  I read reviews online where people said using the whole can made the cake balls really pasty and gross feeling to eat.  So I dialed it back to half a can.  It made the balls a little bit difficult to form (see next step), but they tasted really nice this way.  The Pioneer Woman uses 3/4 of a can.  You be the judge.
  4. Put the cake/frosting mix in the freezer for 15 minutes to firm up so the balls are easier to form.  If, like me, you don’t have a freezer because you live in a London rental, put in the fridge for an hour (apparently this step isn’t totally critical, but I wanted everything to be perfect so I did it).
  5. Form the cake/frosting mix into balls about 1.5 inch in diameter.  Place them on a cookie sheet (or something big and flat you can put in your fridge in one layer).
  6. Put the cake balls into the fridge for 2 hours, or the freezer for an hour — you don’t want them to freeze, just to be cool when they get dipped in warm candy coating.
  7. Melt the candy melts according to instructions.  Now, here’s the hard part: try not to get really angry as you dip these suckers into the candy coating.  Some people use forks to submerge and then let drip, some just spoon it, some dunk…  The thing is, this coating cools quickly, so you don’t have much time.  And you must get the balls completely covered, or else bad things will happen (the internet says that cake could bust out any gap in the coating and that looks ugly). I ended up sticking a toothpick in each ball, then dunking and rotating as the coating dripped back in to the dish.
  8. Now, with lightning speed, you need to push the dipped cake ball off of the dipping toothpick onto a cookie sheet lined with wax paper.  I used another toothpick to do this.  This method leaves you with a non-candy-coated hole where the toothpick originally went into the ball.  I sealed this up quickly with a drop of candy coat from a spoon.
  9. Immediately add sprinkles.  If you don’t act fast, the coating will harden and the sprinkles will bounce off.
  10. Repeat a billion times and get really tired of it.
  11. Reward yourself with a cake truffle and remark on how sweet they are.  Then eat another one (because it’s ugly, and you couldn’t possibly give that to a co-worker).
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Almond curry

February 27, 2011 § Leave a comment

This curry is delicious.  It is mild, creamy and nutty.  Don’t be fooled – just because it’s not burn-your-tastebuds hot doesn’t mean it isn’t packed full of flavor.  You really have to use the whole spices to get the effect (and make sure you fish them all out before you serve, lest you spoil your appetite with a soapy surprise by chomping on a cardamom pod masquerading as a raisin).

From: Madhur Jaffrey’s Indian Cooking

Ingredients

1 inch ginger, chopped

8-9 cloves garlic, chopped

6 T blanched, slivered almonds

4 T water

7 T vegetable oil

3 lbs chicken, cubed

10 cardamom pods

1 inch cinnamon stick

2 bay leaves

5 cloves

7 oz (200 g) onions, finely chopped

2 t cumin

¼ t cayenne

7 T plain yogurt

10 oz. (300 ml) cream

1.5 t salt

1-2 T sultanas (this is British-speak for golden raisins.  they like to use fancy french-sounding words for simple things to make them seem cooler than they really are.  to wit: not eggplant, but aubergine.  not zucchini, but courgette.  not napkin, but serviette.)

¼ t garam masala

Methods

1.  Blend the ginger, garlic four tablespoons of almonds and the water into a paste.  I don’t have a blender or a food processor, but do have weird immersion blender thingy and it KIND of worked.

2.  Lightly toast the remaining almonds in the oven under the broiler on a baking sheet to use for garnishing later.  Toss them often, they burn quickly.  Like, instantly.

3.  Brown the chicken pieces in the oil on medium high heat.  Remove and set aside.

4.  Put the cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, bay leaves and cloves into the same oil and fry for a few seconds.  Add the onions and fry a few minutes until golden (3-4 minutes).  Add the almond paste, cumin and cayenne and fry 2-3 minutes or until the oil seems to separate from the spice mixture.  Add 1 T yogurt.  Stir and fry 30 seconds.  Add the rest of the yogurt, 1 T at a time, in this manner.

5.  Add back the chicken pieces (and any juices), and also add the cream and salt.  Cover, turn the heat low and simmer for 20 minutes.

6.  Add the sultanas and turn the chicken pieces.  Cook covered for 10 more minutes.

7.  Add garam masala and stir to incorporate.

8.  Serve with rice and sprinkle toasted almonds on top.

NOTE: do not eat the whole spices (i.e., cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, cloves, bay leaves).

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