You heard me. Little Baby Chicks.
Don't judge - I'm sure Jesus liked baby chicks too, how could you not? They have soft, yellow fuzz all over them, they're incredibly cuddly, and they are so teeny, you can fit them in your pocket. Unless you're wearing tight jeans. Then I advise caution.
I have to admit, even while knowing about the true meaning of Easter, I still enjoy the secular traditions as well. What would our Sunday be like without Easter egg hunts and a honey glazed ham bigger than my head?
I love the chocolate bunnies (always eat the head first!), woven baskets in hideous pastel colors, taking pictures with the Easter bunny at the mall (check out this photo) and I love love love making Easter goodies. Especially those involving melted chocolate and little baby chicks.
Have you visited Bakerella's site yet? I shamefully admit I got this idea from her. And hers are prettier. But I won't show them to you until the end of this post, for fear that you will go over to her side of the blogosphere and never return. So, while you still think I'm brilliant and oh-so-creative, I give you...
CHICKADEE CAKE BALLS!!(Photos courtesy of my terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad apartment lighting. Thank you.)
This is my second attempt at making cake balls, the first time being last year at Halloween, when I attempted to make cake ball ghosts. "Attempt" is the key word here folks. They kinda resembled white globs of lumpy plastic, with a few sprinkles scattered here and there to make them "festive". I can't believe people ate them. But eat they did, and they liked them too!
So I figured I'd give them another shot, this time with an improved technique.
Making cake balls is ridiculously easy. I've seen other food bloggers try to make it more sophisticated by making their cakes & icing from scratch, but I say "to heck with all of that!". It all tastes the same in the end. And the 99¢ store is always well stocked with boxed cake mixes and frosting, so why bother slaving over a hot stove for hours when you can plop, stir and pour your way to cakey happiness?
Here's what you need before we get started:
- BOXED CAKE MIX. Betty Crocker, Duncan Hines. Who cares? Just make sure it's a flavor you like.
- CAN O' FROSTING. Take your pick, just make sure it compliments your cake of choice. Duh.
- ALMOND BARK. (aka "baking chocolate", aka "candy melts") Available at Walmart, in the flour/sugar aisle. Get the "vanilla" flavored bark if you want to color it. You can use regular chocolate chips, but they won't harden at room temperature, and you'll have to keep your finished treats in the fridge at all times, lest your chickadees start looking a little droopy, a la Joan Rivers. Yeesh.
- CRISCO. You can also use special candy wax, but Crisco is cheaper. And I'm cheap. So there.
- CANDY COLORING. Food coloring won't work, you actually have to get dye specifically for candy/chocolate if you want pretty colored chickadees. I found mine at Michael's.
- A DEEP BOWL. Or a cup. Your choice.
- A FORK.
- A TOOTHPICK.
- WAX PAPER.
Being the season of all things pastel and fruity, I grabbed a box of lemon cake and a tub o' lemon frosting. Yum.
Just plop those ingredients in a bowl, stir it around a few times, and pour it into your trusty 9x13" baking dish. This is my favorite Pyrex pan because it comes with a lid.
Always get dishes with lids! Life is just better that way.
Bake your cake according to the directions on the box and let it cool. I stick mine in the fridge to cool because I'm impatient.
Once it's sufficiently cooled down, go ahead and dump in your can o' frosting. You can use any flavor of cake and frosting you'd like (my Halloween disaster balls were spice cake with cream cheese frosting). Chop up that cake and mix it in with the frosting until you get a sticky dough-like consistency.
Bakerella says to only add 3/4 of the can of frosting, but I always forget and add the full can. I like the consistency better because the cake balls aren't too crumbly later when you're dipping them in chocolate. Just a personal preference, but don't take my word for it, try 3/4 a can first and then add more if you want! I won't be offended if you don't add the whole can of frosting. Bakerella is way cooler than me anyway.
When your "dough" is well mixed, stick the whole pan into the fridge overnight to cool down. Or if you're impatient, a couple of hours is probably just fine. Getting it all really cold will help you form the dough into balls later without half of it clinging to your hands for dear life.
When cool, grab about a teaspoon of the dough into your palms and roll into into a ball. You can make them all the same size or different sizes. I just eyeball it and try to make them about the size of a truffle. For some of my chickadees, I put a little ball of dough on top of a larger ball, to create a head and body. Just squash the little ball on top a little bit so it sticks well to the bottom ball.
When you've used up all the dough, stick them all in the freezer to firm up a bit while you melt your chocolate.
To melt the chocolate, just chop it into chunks and stick it in a deep bowl (I used a cup since my chickadees were tall!) and nuke it in the microwave for 45 seconds. Stir it up a little if you can, then nuke at 20 second intervals, stirring after each nuking, until it's all melted and smooth.
If you need to thin out the chocolate a bit (recommended), just add a little bit of that Crisco before you nuke it one last time, then stir it all up.
I used to melt my chocolates using the double boiler method, but there really is no point to doing that, unless you need your chocolate melty for an extended period of time. The microwave is MUCH faster.
Pick your favorite color of candy dye, and add as many drops as you want to get your desired color.
Now it's time to dunk those chickadees in their chocolate bath!
Drop one of your cake balls into the chocolate. Just dump it right on in! Make sure it's completely covered in chocolate: using your fork, scoop chocolate over the top of it, instead of pushing it down - less chance of the cake ball falling apart! Now scoop the cake ball out of the chocolate using your fork, and tap the fork on the edge of the bowl to drip off any excess. Then, carefully slide your chocolate-coated cake ball onto some wax paper, using the toothpick to slide it off (this preserves the smooth coating you just gave your chickadee).
Repeat with all your cake balls, re-heating your chocolate if necessary. Once they are hardened (this shouldn't take more than about 5-10 minutes), you can start decorating them!
Here's what I used to give my little chickadees character:
FEET: Snowflake sprinkles. Which actually look like flowers? Go figure.
BEAKS: I used dabs of colored almond bark, but you can use little candy drops too. I couldn't find them, so I improvised.
EYES: Just paint them on with an edible marker (found at Michael's). Bakerella also used little round confetti sprinkles, but I couldn't find those either. My shopping trip was very unsuccessful.
All features and extremities can be applied with just a little melted chocolate dabbed onto the back.
Now go distribute these to all your friends or co-workers! But only the ones you like. Otherwise it's just a waste of a cute little chickadee.
Here's the link to Bakerella's way cuter Easter cake balls. Please come back.