Warning: This posting has an unusually high amount of photos of cake and frosting and chocolate. Reading this post may cause you to run to the store to buy ingredients to make cake.
I have been having a lot of fun playing around with the Pioneer Woman Cooks cookbook these last couple of weeks. She doesn't have many vegetable dishes; it is mostly meat and dessert--the two most important things really. She has a fabulous Red Velvet cake recipe that I made as cupcakes last week for our holiday wine tasting party, but I noticed they didn't all get eaten. While that was fine since I ate the rest myself over the next couple of days, I was troubled because it seemed like even as cupcakes the portions were just too big for a potluck dinner party that had a couple dozen other fabulous dishes.
And then I discovered Bakerella while browsing through the Pioneer Woman website. Turns out they are blogging buddies and that Bakerella specializes in making bite sized cake balls. Only Bakerella's recipe was using cake out of a box (which makes me shudder, maybe because I grew up with cake from a box) and canned frosting. (Sorry, Bakerella, you rock, but canned frosting does not.) So I put two and two together and made RED VELVET CAKE BALLS WITH HOT FUDGE GLAZE!
Start by creaming 1 cup of room temperature butter with 1 3/4 cups sugar.
In a separate bowl, sift together 2 1/2 cups flour and 1 1/4 teaspoons salt. PW said to use cake flour but I have used normal all purpose to great success.
In yet another separate, but small, bowl, blend together 2 large eggs, 1 cup buttermilk, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1 teaspoon baking soda, and 1 1/2 teaspoons vinegar.
Alternate adding flour mixture and buttermilk/egg mixture to the butter and sugar. Mix in each addition thoroughly before adding the next addition.
In a small bowl mix a 1 oz. container of red food coloring with 1 1/2 teaspoons cocoa. For some reason, I was out of my mind and put in 3 Tablespoons cocoa. It became sort of a paste, but in the end it worked out fine.
Add red cocoa paste to batter.
Become mesmerized as it turns your whole bowl into a striking crimson.
Now PW said to divide the batter between two 10" cake rounds sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. I only own 8" cake pans so I improvised and used the rest of the batter to make a few cupcakes as well. Pop in the oven at 350 F for 20-25 minutes depending on the size of the cake pans you used. Use the old toothpick in the batter to check if it is done. (Toothpick clean=done)
Next, allow to cool for 15 minutes or so before becoming impatient and turning cake rounds out of cooling racks to finish cooling. It's okay if it breaks because once it is cool, you crumble the cake with your fingers into large bowl.
While cake is cooling, make the cream cheese frosting to hold the balls together. (The recipe I am showing is a half recipe from PW. If you want to keep those red velvet rounds for a two-layer cake or cupcakes, double this next part.)
With your hand held mixer (since your upright is probably still dirty), blend 3/4 stick room temperature butter with 3/4 of 8 oz. package neufchatel cheese. Then add a big pinch of salt and 1 teaspoon of vanilla and gradually add up to 1/2 box of powdered sugar. Try to resist licking the beaters. Yum.
Frost your cupcakes you made on the side if need be and then plop the rest of the frosting in with your crumbled cake.
Make sure your hands are washed or consider wearing surgical gloves because this next part is messy. Mix and mix and mix crumbled cake with frosting until you have a nice, Playdoh like consistency.
Form cakes into balls, approximately 1" in diameter. I think the smaller the better works here.
Place on wax or parchment paper on a cookie sheet and stick a toothpick into each ball. Then put in fridge for a couple of hours. I was in a BIG hurry to get these done for an art opening last night, and I was making jalapeno poppers at the same time, so I threw them in the freezer for about 40 minutes and that worked just fine.
When your little cake balls are sufficiently cooled, take out of fridge (or freezer) and set up a little assembly line. Set up two plates with cooling racks placed on top of them. Leave a space between those and your cookie sheet full of cake balls to allow for your hot fudge glaze.
Make your Hot Fudge Glaze. In a double boiler melt 6 (1 oz.) squares of Baker's unsweetened chocolate along with 3 Tablespoons of butter. Once melted, and while still over heat, blend in 1 1/2 cups of sugar, superfine is best so that it melts in quickly. Then stir in 1/2 cup half and half and one teaspoon vanilla. (If you want the glaze a little runnier, you can add another Tablespoon or two of half and half.)
Move entire double boiler (top with chocolate and bottom with hot water) over to in between the cake balls and the cooling racks. Don't forget a hot pad! If you just take the pan with the chocolate, it will cool to quickly and then you have to heat it up again.
After trial and error, I found the best way to coat the treats was to use a spoon to pour the chocolate glaze over the tops of the balls and then dip the ball in the chocolate to get the bottom coated. Place on cooling rack to set.
Don't they look irresistible?
Towards the end I got the ingenious idea to grind sea salt over the tops of them. Now THAT is really delicious. I am happy to report that not a single RED VELVET CAKE BALL was left at the end of the night. Success!