Chocolate cake balls are rich, bite-sized bits of goodness drenched in pure chocolate. They're a process to make, but well worth the effort!
Do you love a good challenge?
After all, it’s called a comfort zone for a reason. The tried-and-true is safe, a known quantity, and yet…
Sometimes a challenge can be appealing. That can-I-pull-this-off-even-if-it-hasn’t-worked-before feeling can propel me into trying something new or trying something once more in the hopes of a better result.
It’s how we grow, right?
Hmmm…well, I do like to try new recipes (or at least get better at them). Case in point: Chocolate Cake Balls.
Add a stick and you have Chocolate Cake Pops.
(What is challenging about cake pops? They’re just little balls of cake on a stick and dipped in chocolate, right?)
The pitfalls to homemade chocolate cake pops
There are a number of ways that cake pops can trip you up. Here are but a few…
- Impaling any food runs the risk of it falling off, so I try to avoid that hazard whenever possible.
- If you’ve had commercially made cake pops they might look cute and all, but they can go from dry, tasteless bits of sawdust-on-a-stick to greasy balls of mush. Who wants that? You need to find the perfect balance of cake-to-frosting to combat those two opposing endpoints.
- The chocolate coating…what can I say, but dipping things into melted chocolate is harder than it should be. The chocolate has to be tempered in order for it to have that lovely matte finish and pleasing “snap” when you break it.
What is tempering chocolate?
Tempering chocolate is when you heat and cool melted chocolate to specific temperatures (based on the type of chocolate you’re using) in order to get the cocoa crystals to align properly.
Untempered chocolate doesn’t snap (it more like breaks feebly) and can develop a whitish powdery substance on the surface (called blooming).
In other words, just melting chocolate and sticking stuff into it just won’t cut it if you want a quality product.
Taking on homemade cake balls
To be specific, Sally’s Baking Addiction's Chocolate Cake Pops. Sally makes the whole process less daunting, more doable.
Coincidentally, I had an occasion for which I wanted to bring a treat, and homemade cake pops seemed a tasty and impressive way to have chocolaty goodness.
Actually, the most important reason is that my younger daughter’s birthday is Sunday (as of this posting date) and my older daughter is going down to visit her this weekend.
I want to surprise them with a treat to share. Food is love, after all.
Steps to making cake balls
The actual cake-popping process is pretty straightforward:
- Make single layer chocolate cake
- Make just enough homemade chocolate frosting
- Crumble the cake
- Mix the two together
- Form into cake balls
- Dip the cake balls in chocolate
Sounds simple, right?
Make the cake balls
A recipe for chocolate cake pops consists of cake, frosting, and coating.
Start by baking the cake, mixing it with the frosting, then scooping and rolling out a tablespoon of the dough.
After tempering pure chocolate, dip the chilled cake balls and set aside to dry.
The upside/downside to dipping cake balls in chocolate
The most tedious step of the whole project is tempering the chocolate and dipping all the balls.
It's slow work waiting for the chocolate to heat and cool properly, and you have to keep cleaning the dipping tools so the dipped cake pops release easier onto the baking pan.
On the positive side, there's all those chocolate bits to taste (what, do you really think I'd let it go to waste, did you?).
Updated July, 2018: The second time I made these cake pops, I had better dipping tools and a better way to keep the tempered chocolate warm using a KitchenAid Precise Heat Mixing Bowl.
Both these items made the whole dipping so much easier!
Chocolate cake ball success
These chocolate cake balls are rich cake surrounded by a satisfying dark chocolate shell.
They're moist, delicious, and adorable!
I still need to work on my dipping technique (some balls were messier than others), and it’s important to keep the tempered chocolate warm so it doesn’t become hard to work with.
It's quite the process, but chocolate cake pops are worth the effort, with or without sticks.
Challenge accepted…challenge accomplished, quite deliciously!
Slainté! L’chaim! Cheers!
p.s. to my birthday girl down south: you look a challenge in the face and spit in its eye…saying “you can’t” to you just makes you more determined to succeed. You may be growing older but your spirit refuses to grow up, and I love that about you. Happy birthday to my #1 second-born sweetheart!
Candy making doesn't have to be hard, and making fudge definitely isn't. And if you want to try your hand at chocolate dipped treats, here's a guide to temper chocolate for that satisfying snap.
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Chocolate Cake Balls (aka Chocolate Cake Pops)
for the cake
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 6 Tbsp cocoa powder, unsweetened natural
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ¼ tsp kosher salt
- ½ cup canola oil
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- ½ cup water, hot
For the frosting
- 6 Tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
- ¾ cup powdered sugar
- ½ cup cocoa powder, unsweetened natural or dutch-process
- 2 to 3 tsp heavy cream or milk
- ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
for the chocolate coating
- 5 cups chocolate, dark or semi-sweet, preferably tempered, see Recipe Notes
- decorations, cocoa nibs, sprinkles, etc
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the oil, eggs, and vanilla. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Add the hot water, and whisk again until everything is well combined, making sure all the dry ingredients are incorporated.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 25 to 27 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Transfer the pans to a wire rack and allow the cake to cool completely.
- Make the frosting: Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or hand mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed to really help get the butter well creamed.
- With the mixer running on low, add the powdered sugar, cocoa powder, 2 teaspoons of heavy cream or milk, and vanilla extract. Increase the speed to high and beat for 3 minutes until the frosting comes together. Add another teaspoon of cream or milk if the frosting looks a little too thick.
- Assemble the cake balls: Crumble the cooled cake into the mixture bowl with the frosting, making sure there are no large cake lumps. Turn the mixer to low and mix the frosting and cake crumbles together until everything is combined.
- Chill the balls for 2 hours or freeze for 1 hour. Transfer the cake balls to a plate and keep in the refrigerator until you're ready to dip in the chocolate. You'll need the sheet pan for the dipped cake pops.
- Coat the cake balls: Melt the chocolate or coating in a microwave-safe bowl or in the top of a double boiler. If you're using pure chocolate, temper the chocolate for best results. If you're using candy coating, let it cool down for a few minutes before you begin dipping (if it's too hot when you dip, the coating will crack).
- Remove 2 to 3 cake balls from the refrigerator at a time, keeping the rest cold. One at a time, dip the cake ball in the chocolate using a dipping tool to remove it from the bowl. Gently tap the ball on the side of the bowl to allow excess chocolate to drip off.
- Transfer the cake pop to the baking pan, turning it upside down and gently swirling the cake pop off the dipping tool. Periodically clean the dipping tools so the cake balls release easily.
- Repeat the dipping process with the remaining cake balls, only working with 2 to 3 at a time. The cake balls must be very cold when dipping. The candy coating will set within an hour, and chocolate sooner than that.
- Store the cake balls in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
- Make the cake 1 day ahead of time. Cover and keep at room temperature.
- You can store the undipped cake balls in the refrigerator for up to 2 days or freeze them for up to 6 weeks. Allow them to thaw in the refrigerator then continue with dipping them.
- You can also freeze the finished cake pops for up to 6 weeks once the coating has fully set. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
- Use a 2-cup measuring cup to hold the melted chocolate. It's best for dipping with a popsicle stick.
- Dip a lollipop stick about ½-inch into the coating, then insert into the center or the cake ball. Only push it about ½ to ¾ through the cake ball.
- Dip the cake ball into the coating until it is completely covered. Make sure the coating covers the base of the cake ball where it meets the lollipop stick. Very gently tap the stick against the edge of the measuring cup to allow excess coating to drop off. Decorate the top with sprinkles.
- The best way to allow the coating to dry and set (without ruining the perfectly round cake pop) is to place them right side up in a large styrofoam block or even a box. Sally used a box poked with super tiny holes. Easy and cheap.