I really didn’t want to use that for the headline, but really there’s no better description. Chocolate-covered, caramel-cake bonbons with a pinch of sea salt is just too much to say. Plus this is catchier. Now, in the time it took me to actually get this posted… I’ve have already made these again. I reflected my new experience with (parenthesis) around my thoughts, and hopefully they’ll help! The second time went much smoother for me than the first. (that’s what she said.)
Now, these were not the prettiest things I’ve made, but they were significantly better looking than the first time I tried to make Cake Balls. That’s not a link to mine, but they were my inspiration. Those things were ugly, but tasted great. These were a classier take on the cake mix and pre-made frosting I used. They also rated a 5 on the Evil Rating Scale. (Updated 10/28/10 – To date, these are still the most evil thing I’ve ever made and the product I’ve received the most requests and threats for.) The people couldn’t get enough.
Since I had leftover caramel syrup from my caramel cupcakes, and I couldn’t shake the thought of caramel cake, I decided to use up some more and make another cake. I was actually just going to re-make the cupcakes for my coworkers, since they missed out on the cupcake challenge, but for the sake of growing as a baker, or something, I decided to make something slightly different. (Still have more caramel syrup at home for another batch whenever I choose…)
CHOCOLATE SALTY BALLS
- Caramel Cake – 13×9″ cake
- Dulce de Leche – a full recipe, or close to it
- Dark Chocolate (or white chocolate would be yummy too) – about 11 or 12 oz, you’ll want a little extra so there’s enough room to roll
- Sea Salt – about 2 tsp
Start by making the caramel cake, but instead of baking it as cupcakes,use a greased and floured 9 x 13″ cake pan and bake for 33-35 mins, rotating halfway. I baked it on the lower end, but let the cake sit in the pan to cool completely so it probably cooked a little bit longer.
Then I took my leftover dulce de leche, which was most of it, and popped it in the microwave for a bit to soften it up. Instead of using frosting to keep the cake moist and stuck together, I figured the caramel sauce would work in the same way as long as it was soft enough. (The second time I made this, I made a fresh batch of dulce de leche and used it all.)
While that’s warming, line some baking sheets with wax paper (I used three of them). I’d do this now, before the messy part 🙂
To help the cake crumble it into a bowl more easily, I cut it up into squares. I would recommend cutting the crusts off the edge pieces and removing them before you transfer the cake into the bowl. (I did this the second time, so much easier.) Though they don’t taste bad or anything, they’re more well done than the rest of the cake and the edge pieces are a little too solid to roll up into a ball with the rest of it. If you try to mix them in, there will be weird chunks, and they’re kind of sharp when you try to roll them! I realized this a little too late and had to extract little pieces at a time whenever I came across them. No biggie, and now you have a little something to nosh on until these are done.
So once the cake was crumbled into the bowl, I dumped half of the warm dulce de leche on top and started mixing everything up with a spoon. You can use your hands, but this stuff is EXTREMELY STICKY, so it’s probably not a good idea. Plus you’ll have more of the cake on your hands than in the bowl, and you won’t want to deprive people of these treats, I assure you. Once it’s mostly mixed, add the other half and really adhere it all together.
Once everything is good and mixed, you will get the chance to coat your hands in caramel goodness. It’s time for the meatball stage of prep! Taking a little chunk at a time, roll the mixture into little 1″ balls, and place them on the wax paper-lined baking sheets. You can make them bigger or smaller if you want, but these are perfectly bite-sized.
If your cake and caramel aren’t completely combined, you’ll find out now if chunks of cake keep separating. (This went much smoother the second time as well, once I remedied the mistakes of the first trial.) You can fit a lot of these caramel balls on the sheet, but you do want to leave a little space between them. I did 5 down and 6 across on my two larger sheets, and 4×6 on the narrower one. Filled ’em all up!
Once your first sheet is full, pop it in the freezer. Bakerella, and others, recommend refrigerating for 4 hours or so, but I find the freezer is not only quicker, but better for when you want to coat with chocolate. You’ll want those things frozen so the heat from the melted chocolate doesn’t start separating them. Freeze them for at least half an hour.
Start on your next tray and so forth. I’m lucky enough to be able to fit 2 trays in the freezer and one in the fridge. When the first was set, I took it out to coat in chocolate, and replaced it with the fridge tray. Just keep them rotating, it’s fine.
So while those are freezing, prep your chocolate. I don’t really have a recipe here. I used 2 dark chocolate bars (3.5 oz each), and 2 ounces of Bakers bittersweet chocolate. In the end it wasn’t enough, so I had to melt another half a chocolate bar. To thin the consistency slightly, I added butter – a bit less than a tablespoon it looks like in the picture. (The second time I made it, I used shortening. I don’t think there’s a huge difference.) I wouldn’t microwave this, just let it melt over the lower 2 settings on your stovetop so it stays thin but doesn’t burn.
When that’s ready, remove one tray from the freezer and place it pretty close to the burner. I know that sounds weird, but there’s a lot of dripping that happened here. Not the cleanest part of the process, I’m afraid.
Now, here’s how I had my setup so you can get a picture of my system. I had a tablespoon full of sea salt by my left hand, (I literally just had the salt laying in a table spoon so it would be easier to pinch), the tray in the middle, and the melted chocolate on my right (ish.) I would put a ball in the chocolate, using a small fork I rolled it around until it coated completely (pictures to follow), let it drip dry for a sec, race it back to its place on the wax paper without (hopefully!) dripping chocolate over everything else. I’d do a couple in a row, and then sprinkle a few grains of salt on top of the ball before it set completely.
You can use a spoon to roll, but I found it trapped too much excess chocolate, and when I went to place the ball back on the sheet I ended up pouring even more chocolate over it. The tines of a fork make for a great drip valve. I’d gently rap the fork against the edge of the saucepan to get as much off as I could. As you can see, I still managed to drip plenty on the way to the tray. Oh well! Not sure if it makes a huge difference, but I started coating the balls to the left first, so if I dripped over any of the remainder it wouldn’t ruin them. They’d yet to be coated anyway.
See how messy? But who cares, these are all about FLAVOR! Once the first tray is coated, pop them back into the fridge (or freezer) to finish setting. If you don’t, they will melt on your fingers the second you touch them. That may be okay for you, especially if you JUST NEED ONE NOW! But if you’re planning to share or transport them, let them sit in the fridge for a while. When you finally peel them off the paper, you can just crack off the little extra chocolate feet on the bottom and eat them. You deserve it.
These will actually last for a while out of the fridge, provided they have been set properly in the cold first. (ie when I left them out in the kitchen for the day at work after being in the fridge all night.) Mine didn’t last past the first day, but I would imagine they’ll store in the fridge for a few days if they’re sealed properly.
And that’s it! Also, and I know it’s been a while because I’m a terrible daughter, but a batch from my second attempt at these were actually sent to my dad as a part of his Tax Season Cookie Rollout. Hope this doesn’t spoil the surprise for you, dad! Also my sister will be receiving some because I’m so excited for her that she finally left her job! Nothing says “celebration” like caramel/chocolate treats from the devil 🙂