Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thankful for Desserts - Day 3: Pumpkin Cake Balls

For a long time I did not like pumpkin flavored desserts.  I know! I was horribly naive.  But I love all the cute pumpkin themed dessert ideas that come up in autumn and stick around until right after Thanksgiving. They are so cute and festive and I love the warm colors.  One of my favorite items for a Thanksgiving dessert table is Pumpkin Cake Balls.  These delicious little bites of heaven don't necessarily have to be pumpkin flavored.  In fact these little cuties are filled with a delicious mix of spice cake and cream cheese frosting that - seriously y'all - tastes like a Hostess Donut Stick. 

Yep, I pulled out a y'all.  I mean business with this one.

One of the things I love the most about cake balls (and cupcake bites and cake pops) is that almost everything you need is store bought/from a mix/jar but you put it all together in a way that people are ALWAYS floored by the results.  And really, the possibilities are endless.  These pumpkins could just as easily be snowballs or beach balls or turkeys or faces or anything that the amazing Bakerella has on her site or book. 

To make the pumpkins in question, we start with a baked spice cake.  I used a box mix for this batch.  Just follow the baking instructions on the box, bake the cake and let it cool. You could obviously make your own, but the flavor and moistness are really non-factors in this recipe since the first thing you are going to do is crumble it up. 

Next, add almost an entire can of cream cheese frosting to the mix.  Yes.  Can.  I LOVE home made cream cheese frosting and on top of a cake or cupcakes, there is no substitute.  But in a cake ball, it doesn't matter and I personally find that using the can helps me standardize the amount of frosting I use and the consistency.  And it saves me a whole mess of clean up. 

Using a wooden spoon - or your hands - mix the frosting and the cake together until it forms an even dough.  Pssst... this (and the crumbling) are GREAT tasks to have kids do. 

Cover the dough and put it in the fridge for at least an hour.  The colder it is, the easier it'll be to work with it later.  Once it is good and chilled, roll the dough into balls about the size of a quarter. If you want them to be bigger or smaller, that is your prerogative.  I find the quarter size to be a perfect 3-4 bite treat.  Set the balls on a parchment lined baking sheet and put them back in the fridge for 30 - 45 minutes. 

When your 45 minutes are just about up, melt your chocolate in a small microwave safe bowl.  You want there to be enough depth in the bowl to dunk the balls. You can melt the chocolate in the microwave for 30 second intervals, stirring in between. Or you can use a double boiler. 

Let me take a moment to talk about your candy melts/chocolate.  You guys, I cannot stress enough how important it is to use the good stuff.  I have been known to run to Michael's or Wal-Mart and grab a bag of the Wilton candy melts.  It is super convenient and they come in all sorts of colors.  And that is fine.  If you are using a mold for cupcake bites or cake pops.  But for the dipping and retrieving that needs to happen with cakeballs you should avoid the Wilton candy melts like the plague that they are.  They never melt enough, so they end up super thick or burnt.  They coat really heavily and gloopy (is too a word!) and they cause more frustration then they are worth.  If you have a baking supply store near you, they will sell the good stuff.  Or you can order them off the Internet.  My bake shop has little 1lb bags in seasonal colors for about $4.  Which is more expensive than the Wilton stuff yes, but it melts SO much nicer and goes on SO much smoother and thinner that you can really make it go further and you'll be saved the expense of buying a wig after you've torn out all your hair using the Wilton melts.  If you don't have a baking supply store near you and you don't want to order off the Internet, you can use a good bar of chocolate like Ghiradelli and maybe temper it with some almond bark (in either brown or white) You can then add colorful accents like a nice drizzle with the Wilton melts.  And obviously, you can choose to say "nah Melly doesn't know what she's talking about, I like Wilton melts and I'll keep using them" and you're right, you can do whatever you like.  Just my two cents about the ease of using good quality tools.  

**steps off soap box and returns to the kitchen**

So anyways, pretend I took a picture of the dipping process because I'm not an airhead.

After you have dipped a few, insert a small piece of pretzel into the top of your ball for the pumpkin stem.  You want to do this before the chocolate hardens so I'd dip roughly 5 balls, put the stems in and then dip 5 more. 

Once you have dipped and stemmed all your cakeballs, put them back in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to harden the chocolate. 

Meanwhile, get some green candy melts (this time it would be ok to use Wilton) and melt it up.  Put the melted chocolate into a piping bag fitted with a #3 tip to add the vines.  I started by circling each stem, and then making a little ribbon shape or two down the body of the pumpkins.  This is a great way to hide any imperfections in your cakeballs.  Like the big gash in that one on the middle/right. 

PS: The bright orange smooth ones were made using the good candy melts.  The ugly brownish, lumpy ones were made using the Wilton melts. There, I'm done, not another word about it.

When you are done making the vines, put them back in the fridge for a few moments just to really harden up all the chocolate.  And voila!

An adorable and tasty little pumpkin patch for your holiday table.  If you keep these in the fridge in an airtight container lined with wax paper (and with wax paper between each layer) these pumpkin cakeballs will be good for up to 2 weeks. 

Shopping List for Pumpkin Cake Balls (makes 50 balls)
  • Spice cake (or any flavor cake you prefer)
  • 1 jar of cream cheese frosting
  • 2 lbs orange candy melts
  • 1/4 lb green candy melts
  • 25 pretzel sticks (cut in half)


  1. TOTALLY going to try this!!

  2. Everyone is excited about these!

  3. THANK YOU for the tip on the melts! I have gone NUTS trying to make these cake pops/balls without frustration! lol