Friday, July 15, 2011

Cake Balls

Happy 70th Birthday, Gramma Shirley!

Wow, can you tell it's summer?  I have been meaning to maintain the blog, but the pool and reading in the sun have been more appealing lately.

So my husband's birthday was last Saturday so I made a cake for the family on Sunday to celebrate.  It wasn't exactly how I hoped it would be because I couldn't find one ingredient at Wegman's so I sort of changed things up and bit.  I gotta tell ya though, I am pretty sure this version was better received than the original recipe would have been.  Remind me and I will put up both recipes and you can see which one your family likes better.

ANYWAY, the cake turned out OK considering I sort of flipped one of the 8" round cakes onto the cake plate the wrong way and failed to notice until I had already frosted the top.  I said eff it and plopped the other cake on top of it and then flipped the entire cake over so it was the way I wanted it. I would never recommend doing this because it is extremely risky.  Depending on the cake and the tenderness of the crumb, it could wind up a heap of frosting and cake crumbles.  IF that does happen - or if you feel like getting messy and making something your kids can help with - there is hope!

Cake balls!  It's a simple but very attractive way to present a cake.  I decided to make my gramma a bunch of cake balls today for her birthday (yesterday) because she and my Pa would never be able to finish and entire cake by themselves (especially since Pa is diabetic) before it got dry and gross.  Luckily these can be refrigerated or frozen (so I have been told) as long as they are kept in an air-tight container for a week in the fridge or several weeks in the freezer.

Here's What You Will Need:

- Cake mix*
- Eggs
- Oil
- Water
- Frosting*
- Mini cupcake papers
- Wilton's melts (of any color)*
- Parchment paper
- Plastic wrap
- Toothpicks

*Pick flavors and colors that will compliment each other.  For my gramma's birthday I chose red velvet cake, cream cheese frosting, milk chocolate Wilton melts, and white chocolate Wilton melts (as the accent color).

1.  Mix and bake the cake as directed on box.
2.  Flip the cake out onto parchment paper covered cookie sheet.
3.  Let cool at room temperature for about 10 minutes; Using a spatula or a spoon gently break the cake apart, allowing the steam to escape.
4.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2-3 hours until it is completely cool.
5.  Carefully dump the cake into a large mixing bowl.  With a rubber spatula, scrape the entire contents of a tub of frosting into the cake crumbs.  Mix by hand until cake and frosting is completely blended.
6.  Return cake mixture to the refrigerator for another hour.
7.  Using a teaspoon, scoop (I hate that word) out a walnut-sized amount of mixture and roll between your hands until you've formed a ball.  Place on a parchment paper covered cookie sheet.  When all the mixture has been balled (between 24-30 balls), cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cool and firm.  The firmer they are, the better. As they come to room temperature, they are going to be increasingly more difficult to work with.  If you don't want cake crumbs in your coating, work in small batches - keep the sheet in the fridge/freezer and take a few out at a time.

Red Velvet cake balls look like meatballs, don't they?
*You can alternately use the freezer for any of the cooling steps, but you run the risk of losing moisture or picking up unsavory freezer smells (frozen peppers or onion flavors can and will seep into a cake cooling in the freezer).

8.  Melt Wilton melts according to instructions.  I usually microwave a small amount and work in small batches.  This is a little more time consuming, but it is well worth it.

I used the empty, clean frosting to melt the coating.  It worked better than the shallower containers.

Make sure you have everything prepped before you begin.  

9. Place one cake ball at a time into the melted coating.  GENTLY turn once to ensure complete coverage. Using a small slotted spoon and a toothpick, GENTLY lift the ball with the spoon, tap off excess coating, and skewer the ball with the toothpick.  Place the ball on the parchment paper LEAVING THE TOOTHPICK INSIDE.

 *Do not rely on the toothpick to hold the weight of the cake ball, because the ball can and will crumble.  GENTLY slide the ball off of the spoon using the toothpick as leverage.  You don't want to touch the melted chocolate because it won't look as nice.

10.  Let the balls cool completely.  Decorate with accent color, if desired.  I recommend purchasing the Wilton squeeze bottles for this.  They provide a much more consistent stream and make even application easier.

11.  After the coating is completely hardened, slide off of the toothpick and place in mini cupcake papers.

I was able to fit about 18 of them in a Gladware Take and Bake.

They look great, right?!  Sorry I didn't take pictures of the process, but it takes a great deal of concentration and time is of the essence!

 This one and two others didn't make the aesthetic cut, so the kids and I did a taste test.  Yum!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Streusel-topped Banana Muffins

Rarely is there a recipe that is so simple that a 3 3/4 year old can do [most of] it, but this recipe is. 
I went on a shopping spree at Jenkins Farm Market last week and got so much produce that our bananas browned  before they were all eaten.  In this house, bananas have a very short shelf life.  We won't eat them green and we won't eat them once they start to get little brown speckles on the skin; however, everyone loves banana muffins.  

If you're the "waste not, want not" type, this recipe is just for you.  Here is what you'll need:


  • 3/4 cups all-purpose flour*
  • 3/4 cups whole-wheat flour* 
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil**
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Combine dry ingredients.  *You can use all-purpose flour, whole-wheat, or half-and-half.  I prefer half-and-half because it gives the muffins more substance without being too crumby.  

Peel bananas

Try not to be grossed out by the brown mushy spots.

In a separate bowl, add bananas

Mash bananas.

My assistant enjoyed this part immensely.

Add the egg.

Pour in the vegetable oil.  **Melted butter can be substituted, but we prefer vegetable oil.

Add the brown sugar.

This is what it should look like.

Mix until thoroughly blended.  There will still be small chunks of banana - that's OK!

Pour banana mixture into dry ingredients.

Use a rubber spatula to make sure you get all of it.

Gently stir until blended.  Don't over-mix or they will be tough.

Place paper liners in muffin pan.

Carefully scoop about 1/4 cup of batter in each well.

Use any remaining batter to even out wells.

Pulse butter, flour, sugar and cinnamon in food processor.  Use all-purpose flour for this part.  Don't over-process.  The end result should look like this.

Gently spoon 1 teaspoon of streusel topping on each muffin cup.


Dust off any streusel topping that may have fallen onto the pan.  It will scorch and stick to the pan.

Set the timer for 17 minutes.

Place in the oven and bake for 16-20 minutes.  Every oven is different, so check them often and remove the immediately after center sets and a toothpick or cake tester comes out clean.


Amish Rhubarb Bread

"Rhubarb is undoubtedly an especially good medicine for the liver and infirmities

of the gall; for besides that it purgeth forth cholerick and naughty humors..."

- John Gerard, The Herbal (1663)

My husband calls it devil weed.  To this day I have been unable to produce anything that he will eat, which is unfortunate because we have a very prolific rhubarb plant by our garage.  

My grandma gave me this recipe which yields two lovely loafs of sweet bread.  As she recommended, I had it with coffee and it was wonderful.  I kept one and froze the other for my mom when she came home for the weekend; the kids and I polished off a loaf within a few days and mom admitted hers was half gone in a day.

I didn't have time to take a picture of the ingredients so I will just tell you.  This is what you'll need:

Bread mix

  • 1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, packed
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  •  1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cups diced rhubarb
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts


  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

  1. Preheat oven to 350°
  2. Beat together the brown sugar, vegetable oil, egg and vanilla. 
  3. Combine flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder; stir. 
  4. Add dry ingredients to first mixture with the sour cream. 
  5. Stir in rhubarb and nuts. 
  6. Pour into 2 greased 9x5-inch loaf pans.
  7. Combine topping ingredients; sprinkle over the loaves.
Bake at 350° for about 55 to 65 minutes, or until a wooden pick or cake tester inserted in center comes out clean.

I followed these directions except for a few things:

  1. I didn't use nuts because I didn't have any, but toasted walnuts make anything better so I would recommend it.
  2. I used whole-wheat flour rather than all-purpose.  It is just better for you and I think it is better tasting.
  3. I used parchment paper on the bottom of the greased pans to make removal easier. 

Popped out clean only minutes after coming out of the oven.

Let cool and slice.  Serve with butter or spread (Country Crock is our preference.)


Monday, May 9, 2011

Heath Chip Cookies

I was supposed to make something with rhubarb today, but I was too busy finishing a handbag so I decided to whip these up after dinner while the hubs and the kids skipped rocks on the creek.  Who said a cake mix has to result in cake?  Not Melba..

Preheat the oven to 375

What You Will Need:

I have never tried this recipe with a chocolate cake mix, but I bet it's amazing.  I think the bake temperature should be reduced to 350 and parchment paper is highly recommended.

Melt cold butter in microwave safe dish for 35-45 seconds depending on wattage

Pour cake mix into mixing bowl, make a well in the the middle,  pour in melted butter and 2 tablespoons of warm water. Mix for thirty strokes until all ingredients are well-moistened.  Mix in 2 eggs.

Add  1/2 cup of chopped  pecans  and a bag of Heath chips


Drop by spoonfuls onto parchment paper-lined cookie sheet

Bake for 8-10 minutes.  You will want to take them out as soon as they centers are set.  Do not overbake.


Sunday, May 8, 2011


Homemade calzone

OK, so late Friday night my husband got the munchies.  We were out of Cheez-Its (keep reading for a homemade Cheez-Its recipe) so he decided to make a pizza.  Much to his chagrin we didn't have pizza sauce, so he decided to make his own from tomato sauce and a few spices.  It was great!  He had a little left over so I decided to use it in tonight's dinner.

This is what you will need to make homemade calzones.

A thawed freezer bread dough, ricotta cheese, pizza sauce, cheese and toppings
It's super easy and delicious!  First, preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Spread the dough out on an oiled baking sheet or cornmeal-dusted pizza stone

Spread about half a pint of ricotta on one half of the dough

Add the sauce

Top with mozzarella or any Italian blend of shredded cheese

Add pepperoni, veggies,  etc.

Gently fold dough over and roll the seams

Slit a few holes to release steam, brush with egg wash, and lightly salt

Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown