Thursday, December 16, 2010

Tale of the Cake Balls

Today's entry: The Tale of the Cake Balls

Sometimes I forget just how competitive I am by nature. So much so that it becomes frightening - not really but it sounds dramatic so let's go with it. I am happy that Mr. Max happened to be out of town for this saga or else I'm not sure he would love me as much. Again, not really but going for the dramatic entry.

The past twelve days my office put on a friendly cookie/confection contest. I slated my name in for the last day so that I could spend these 2 weeks sizing up the competition and plotting my perfect finale. The problem being, as I've said in previous posts, I am not a baker. Very unskilled at it, easily frustrated by it and all around, not a fun activity for me. So, I signed up for this contest out of my need to compete, but then reality sunk in. Beginning day one there were creative displays, incredibly tasty treats, people really brought their A game. This was not a friendly competition anymore, this meant war.

I changed my mind about 4 times until I discovered a recipe for cake balls. Then, I thought of my theme (I always have themes for things, it's like my calling card). Twelfth day of the 12 Days of Christmas contest, my mind sang "on the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to meeeee, 12 drummers drumming!" - cake balls, on sticks, drum sticks, drummer, drum. Eurekia!!

I got a big red and green drum basket, stuffed it with natural colored crinkle paper, snagged some holly jolly cupcake cups for them to sit in, secured a drummer nutcracker from my mom, this was looking great in my mind. Missing something.... a poem of explanation. Deal maker. Cranked that sucker out in 10 minutes. Ok, well a prior 10 minutes were spent actually trying to make it iambic pentameter, but that crashed and burned to no avail.

I give to you the poem I masterfully created - it was possibly one of my most corny publishings.

On the 12th Day of Christmas....
An ode to 12 Drummers Drumming
a poem my English teacher would be ashamed of

I chose day twelve for a reason;

To check out the competition of the season!

The many creative treats have certainly made this hard,

As I have consumed them, it has left me feeling like a tub of lard.

I have spent many hours planning the perfect treat,

The opposition, I hope I can beat! (as in a drum, get it?)

Twelve drummers drumming is my theme,

With bites of red velvet and mint chocolate, a winter dream.

I give you homemade cake ball pops and ask that you cast a vote,

I asked Santa for the win, and that’s all she wrote…

Yes, pulling out all the stops on this one. My journey began on Tuesday this week when I bought all of my materials. I decided on red velvet filling dipped in white chocolate and mint chocolate filling dipped in milk chocolate. I started the process that night, baking each respective cake according to the box, then ruining it by dumping it in a bowl and combining with a tub of icing. Quick, painless, easy - superb. I followed my directions and put them in the fridge for 24 hours. I had my brother's birthday dinner Wednesday night and returned home at 11 PM thinking I could whip the next step together no problem, get a good night sleep because I had an early morning. With a mellon ball scooper, double boiler and bamboo skewers, I was ready to roll.

Let's hone in on something real quick, I said bamboo skewers. If my experience 6 years ago at Texas A&M's Big Event should have taught me anything it was that bamboo is one tough stick to crack, literally. At the Big Event (an all campus service day for students and organizations) my group's task was to help a family with their yard work, but I think it was really taking advantage when the very middle class family in 5 bedroom tudor home in College Station, TX used us sorority GIRLS to rip up a bamboo bush in their yard. I couldn't move my arms for 4 days. All of this to say, I thought - oh, I can't find lollipop sticks as quickly as I need them so I'll just cut these skewers to work, perfect!! No, it was not perfect, they did not want to cut. I broke a pair of scissors in the process and even my knife block shears were too wimpy for these things. Cutting them down to size, both berating them to just cut, just do it already, just, ahhhhh, and chopping them in half. This task began the frustration. It took probably 40 minutes to get those taken care of.

Next, the rolling of the dough to create the ball of cake. I quickly found I didn't think the suggested melon ball scooper that I bought was large enough for the size I was hoping for, so I used it but more as an ice cream scoop and rolled larger globs of the cake/icing mixture to mold. Once rolled, I put the sticks in them and heated the chocolate in the double boiler. Thinking it was smooth sailing from this point, I went into dipping mode. With the white chocolate all nice and silky, I went in for the perfect dip, only for the ball to slide off the stick immediately, plop into the bowl and begin to get mushy in the hot, melted chocolate. Obscenities followed.

Scooped it out, looked at the lines of balled dough in front of me. Re-read my directions, tried again. Another fail, this time the red velvet cake was running into the white chocolate - so NOT part of my plan. More obscenities. These were not my proudest moments.

At this point, I cleared out my freezer, and shoved the cookie sheet of cake ball sticks in it. For ten minutes I sulked and thought about throwing in the towel, forfeiting my triumphant holiday vision but then the spirit of competition whacked me upside the head and I was back in the game. Perhaps it was Mariah Carey's All I want for Christmas is You that came on and my Grinch-like spirits were lifted. Luckily, a good timeout in the freezer is just what the cake balls needed, they had firmed up and were ready to go! While they looked anything but professionally done, I decided to embrace a sloppy homemade look, part of their charm right? Like that wonky frame of golf tees and popsickle sticks you would make your parents as gifts - no they aren't perfect but that's why it's so great! I convince myself of these things sometimes... I would make a quick initial dip then use a spoon to slather it on. Once covered in chocolate, I stuck the cake ball back on the cookie sheet in the freezer to harden.

The next hour of dipping was a blur. I had it in my mind that I would then drizzle the white chocolate with milk chocolate and vise versa. No ma'am, that went out the window when I looked at the clock that read 1:45 am and I knew 6 am was going to come waaaaay too soon. A total of 40 cake balls made, barely put a dent in the batter I had, I was done for the night.

I woke up praying it was only 3:00 am and I could sleep for a few more hours, this was not the case. When I got into the office at 7:15, I arranged my themed-scene on the counter of the break room, gathering a few event supply items from my storage area (bonus!) to complete the staged look. Last touch was the poem in the 8x10 plexi frame and we were open for business.

Shortly thereafter, I left for an event at the hospital and when I returned at 12:30, only 4 of my 40 cake ball pops remained. Therefore, it was all worth it.

Recipe with pictures will follow, I needed this post for therapy.

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