Yo ho, I know you may be thinking, “Is that some sort of shoehorned David Lynch reference that Rachael stuck in there in order to keep the Nerdist vibe going?” But don’t be mistaken. These balls are definitely blue (hurrrr):
So these came about because our fearless leader, Chris, tweeted about some cake balls that he received from Austin Cake Ball, and kindly asked if I would make some for him to stare at. He suggested red velvet, but red velvet cake always unnerved me in that way I couldn’t describe until people started ordering those “witty” groom’s cakes in the shapes of like, armadillos and cats and shit made out of red velvet cake so that it looked like your cake was roadkill when you cut it open. I had some blue gel food coloring laying around from my agar agar cups, so I though I’d make some blue velvet cake balls instead!
Cake balls sound hard, like you’d need some sort of special equipment, but they’re actually pretty easy. It’s just crumbled cake that’s bound together with frosting, rolled into balls and then coated with frosting or chocolate on the outside.
I thought I’d give my cake balls a delicious Lynchian twist and make some cream cheese frosting with the flavors of cinnamon and chili to complement the chocolate of the blue velvet cake to give it a bit of a Mexican hot chocolate vibe. Though I guess an actual Lynchian twist would be to put like, a dead hooker in the middle of each cake ball, but that’s neither here nor there. The full recipe (and more yummy pictures) is after the jump. +10 charisma points to the person who makes the best blue balls pun in the comments.
All right, y’all, I don’t make too much homemade cake around these parts. This may actually be the 2nd from-scratch cake I’ve ever made. But honestly, this is a great recipe, and since they don’t generally make blue velvet cake mix, you’ll have to do it the homemade way anyhow. But it’s not too hard, if you do a little bit of planning (usually my downfall in these matters), you totally get to feel like a kitchen superhero when your cake comes out of the oven and tastes yummy and awesome and your mom brings all the leftover cake balls to work and then gets harassed for three days afterward for the recipe.
I adapted this recipe from one I found on FoodNetwork.com, but you can use any red velvet recipe you’d like. Just add blue food coloring instead of red.
Before you do anything, take 2 sticks of butter and 2 eggs and set them out on the counter and scram for a while. Go watch a couple of episodes of Doctor Who or give your dog a haircut or something, whatever. You want to give these ingredients ample time to fully come to room temperature (and for the butter to soften), which takes about 3 hours.
Ok, now you have the butter and eggs warm, now what? Get the rest of your ingredients together. I know it’s super Martha Stewart-style to have all your ingredients measured out into little dishes before you start, but this makes it 10x easier when you’ve got the mixer going and you don’t have to worry about overmixing your batter while you measure out baking soda. Also! This is the point at which you’d want to pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. Don’t forget about that until you go to put your cake in the oven and realize that it’s cold like some people might have done accidentally…
Blue Velvet Cake
- Your 2 sticks of room-temperature butter
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 2 ounces of blue food coloring (you’re probably going to have to use gel food coloring if you want any color other than red, since they usually don’t sell other colors of food coloring in the larger, 2 oz. bottles. Gel food coloring is readily available at Michael’s, and they’re less than $2 a pop, so go crazy and make green velvet or violet velvet cake or something. Either way, your kitchen is probably going to end up horribly stained all over, so you might as well make it a fun color. The food coloring comes conveniently in a 1 oz container, so just empty it out in a dish and then fill the same container with water and voila! 2 ounces.)
- 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder
- Pinch of salt
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 teaspoon white vinegar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
Before you get started, spray a 13×9 baking pan with cooking spray. The pan and the greasing method aren’t super important, since you’ll be crumbling the cake up anyhow, so any type of pan you have is fine.
Then cream the butter and sugar together in a mixer. Just beat them together for a few minutes until they’re good and mixed and the mixture is about a shade lighter than normal. While you’re doing that, mix the cocoa powder and the pinch of salt into the food coloring to make a terrifying deep blue paste.
After the butter and sugar mixture is light and fluffy, take the bowl off the mixer and mix the food coloring/cocoa paste in by hand with a spatula or something. This way you can ensure that you get it mixed through as evenly as possible.
Now you can put the bowl back on your mixer. In the measuring cup that you put the buttermilk in, add the two eggs and mix together, then add that to the nice blue mixture you’ve got going on. Mix in the vinegar and the vanilla. Then, last but not least, slowly mix in the flour and baking soda. And I mean slowly. If you put it all in at the same time, then the mixer throws blue flour all over your kitchen and you stain your white t-shirt and get chunks of blue batter on your eyelid and you get pissed off. So trust me, put the dry ingredients about a quarter at a time and only mix until everything has just come together.
Give the bowl one last scrape to make sure everything is mixed together and then decant to your greased pan. The batter will seem kind of thick, and like a disappointingly small amount, but don’t worry, this cake ends up very moist and fluffy. Bake the cake for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. I started checking after about 25 minutes.
Now let it cool for a while. I watched “Jagged Edge” with my mom and laughed about how they tip-toed around actually saying the phrase “jagged edge” for 2 hours, but we all choose to spend our time differently. Don’t judge me.
Anywho, when it’s cool, crumble the cake into a big bowl and run your fingers through it until it is uniformly crumb-y. Now. For the adhesive. I will admit, I cheated and used a can of cream cheese frosting. I only did this because it is easy, and you can’t taste the frosting in the balls anyhow. Please, for the love of all that is holy, don’t use this to frost your balls (heh). It will just taste like lard. If you like, you can make a double batch of the homemade cream cheese frosting (recipe below) and put half in the cake crumbles.
Now form your balls! Make them any size you want. I used a small ice cream scoop to scoop out the right amount, then I squeezed it really tightly in my hand so the balls were nice and dense and didn’t fall apart. After you’ve formed the balls, put them in the refrigerator to set overnight so they don’t crumble when you ice them.
Now for the outsides of your balls. Most people coat their cake balls with chocolate or that white chocolate bark that you can find in the baking aisle, but I don’t like chocolate so much, so I made some cream cheese frosting that echoes the flavors of Mexican hot chocolate to complement the chocolate flavor in the cake.
Mexican Hot Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
- 1 8-ounce package of cream cheese, softened
- 1 stick of butter, softened
- 2 cups of powdered sugar (I start with about 3/4 of a cup and sweeten to taste, since I don’t like my frosting too too sweet)
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- A pinch of chili powder
- A pinch of cayenne pepper
- 1 (large) splash of Kahlua
Beat all of the ingredients together with an electric mixer for about 5 minutes until the frosting is airy and fluffy. Then dip the cake balls in the frosting and even it out with an offset spatula or a butter knife or whatever. You could make this actual chocolate frosting by adding a bit of cooled, melted semi-sweet chocolate to which you added some espresso or instant coffee.
Then cover with sprinkles. Then eat. Maybe share some if you want. Then also be prepared to have the scariest blue poop ever. Yessssss.
~ ~ ~