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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Car Bomb Cake Balls. Boom.

It's no secret that I am obsessed with Bakerella's cake balls. Obsessed, I tell you. As I mentioned in a previous post, I've made many different flavors over the past two years, and each one is better than the last (looking forward a few weeks, the carrot cake balls I mentioned at the bottom of the previous post would be great for Easter...just sayin'). I love them because they are delicious. I love them because they are easy. I love them because wherever I bring them, they are a hit.

So I decided to give them a St. Patrick's Day twist. Using this guy:

Last year on St. Patrick's Day, besides Irish Soda Bread, I rolled out Guinness Cake for the very first time, and it was fabulous. Dark, intense, chocolatey and yet Guinness-y, it had it all. And this year, I decided to use it as the foundation of brand-new cake balls. But not just Guinness cake balls. What I really craved were Car Bomb cake balls!

Say hello to my little friend.

A car bomb in cake form was too tempting an idea not to give it a whirl. But this juxtaposition of chocolate, Guinness and Bailey's presented its own unique set of issues, and I actually ended up spending a fair amount of time planning the logistics of making these cake balls, because there are so many options at every step. The most important thing to me was trying to make sure that the flavors blended, not competed, with each other, and avoiding one single flavor overpowering the others.

There are 4 main steps during this process where creative decisions have to be made: the cake, the beer, the Bailey's, and the icing.

The Cake

Cake balls always start with the baking of a cake, just like any other cake you might make. I normally do this in a 9"x13" pan because it is easiest, but it honestly doesn't matter. For these balls, I had two options: the Guinness Cake from scratch that I've made in the past; or a modified cake mix. The from-scratch cake is fabulous, and I have no doubt it would make excellent cake balls...but I opted for the latter. I did this partly because I was leaving open the possibility of having to redo them if decisions I made at later steps didn't work out well, so I wanted to start with a cake that came together quickly. But I also used a mix because, to me at least, part of the spirit of the cake balls is that they are easy to make, and require little more than a boxed cake mix and a tub of icing (and in this case, a trip to the liquor store).

So, the take-home message: if you want to make the cake from scratch, it definitely is worth the work if you have the time, and I'll paste relevant links and recipes at the bottom of this post. But if you want a quick, easy, and still yummy Guinness cake, here's what you do: get a chocolate cake boxed mix (something dark like Devil's Food), and just replace the water in the recipe for Guinness. It'll be almost (but not quite) a full bottle of beer. And that's it. You just bake it up like any other cake, and let it cool. Easy, huh?

The Beer

You might have noticed that in the above pictures, I am using the Guinness Extra Stout. However, when I made the from-scratch Guinness Cake, I used regular Guinness. If you want to use regular Guinness with the cake mix, you certainly can, and I'm sure it will be delicious. I chose to use the Extra Stout however, because I was looking for a sharper flavor that wouldn't be overpowered by the Bailey's. And, I think they turned out well, but you can use either one to make cake balls. But, and this is an important "but", if you are making either type of Guinness cake, and keeping it as an ordinary cake and/or cupcakes (in other words, no balls), I wouldn't use the Extra Stout. The cake will have a bitter aftertaste on its own, and it will need the icing mashed directly into it to counteract the bitterness. I almost pitched the plain cake when I taste tested it, but I decided to keep going. And I'm glad I did, because I think the Extra Stout flavor was just right for the cake balls, because then you can taste notes of every flavor. But trust me, if you're just after a cake to be sliced up and eaten, use regular Guinness.

The Bailey's and the Icing

Although Jameson's is traditionally a part of Irish Car Bombs, I don't personally like whiskey, so I chose not to include it in the cake balls. I also didn't want to try to pack too many different flavors into the little guys. But everything I talk about can be applied to a Bailey's/whiskey mixture if you wish.

The main question is, how do you add the Bailey's flavor? Do you combine it into the cake and make homogenized balls, or do you layer it on? And if you layer it on, then what flavor icing do you mix the actual cake with? My mind jumped back and forth between all the possibilities: combining the cake with the cream cheese icing I originally made and rolling each ball into a Bailey's chocolate ganache first before dipping it in chocolate; or whipping up the Bailey's ganache into a frosting and using that to combine with the cake; or making a Bailey's buttercream for the frosting; or just dumping straight Bailey's directly into a cake/frosting see what I mean, there are so many ways you could combine the flavors, and I'm sure each one would be uniquely delicious.

Me, I decided why break away from traditional cake ball methodology? I wanted to try and make this concept work as simply as possible. So I added Bailey's directly to the cake and used the Betty Crocker buttercream icing. I would normally choose the cream cheese icing, but I wanted something slightly sweeter to counteract any remaining bitterness in the cake. However, I do think that the Betty Crocker cream cheese icing or vanilla icing would also work great, it really comes down to your personal preference. 

These will turn out great no matter what!

The Nutshell

So, in a nutshell, after all that decision-making, this is how you made the Car Bomb cake balls:

1. Bake a Guinness cake -- -- either by the recipe below or by substituting Guinness for the water in a Devil's food cake mix, and follow the rest of the directions on the box.
2.  Let the cake cool completely. You can even freeze it if you are going to roll and dip the balls on a different day. In fact, I've found that the balls are much easier to form if the cake is cold.

3. Add a little less than half of the tub of icing to the cake and mix it in thoroughly. You can do this by a mixer or by hand. Then add the entire contents of a 50ml bottle of Bailey's into the mixture and combine. At this point, you need to see the consistency of the mixture. Ordinary cake balls use an entire tub of icing, but adding Bailey's changes this because an entire tub of icing on top of the liquor would be too loose. Add additional icing in dollops until the mixture seems to be coming together into something firm enough to hold a ball shape. I think I ended up using around 3/4 of the tub by the time I was done.

4. Chill the balls in the freezer for about 30 minutes.

5. Melt some chocolate or candy coating in the microwave for dipping. I normally thin it out with a little shortening, just a cap-full or so (I chose vanilla candy wafers for purely aesthetic reasons, the white on top of the dark looks like a pint of Guinness to me). Dip the balls into the chocolate, and wait for them to set up. If they are nice and chilled, it won't take too long.

6. If you want, drizzle some additional chocolate on the top in a decorative manner. I usually melt candy wafer (with slightly less shortening) and put it in a ziplock bag, snipping a tiny bit off of one corner. I use it like a decorator's bag, and chuck it when I am done. No mess, no clean-up of decorator's tips -- easy. For these balls, I used white for the drizzle because I had my whole Guinness color scheme going on, but normally I drizzle on a contrasting color. It really helps distract the eye from imperfections in the dipping, trust me. I'm a horrible dipper, but drizzle on some decorations, and the cake balls look great!

Remember, almost every step of this process is fungible, and there are tons of variations. I even toyed with the idea of injecting each ball with a Bailey's and Whiskey ganache -- I think I might try that next time, a cake ball version of Smitten Kitchen's amazing looking cupcakes. Actually, I'd love to try the cupcakes themselves sometime. 

As promised, I have recipes and links for the from-scratch cake, and also a ganache and buttercream recipe, if you decide to go that route or customize your own cake and/or cake balls!

From-Scratch Guinness Cake (tweaked from this Food Network recipe)
3/4 C cocoa (recipe called for unsweeteded, all I had was dark and it worked fine)
2 C sugar
2 C flour
1 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
1 stick of butter, melted
1 bottle of Guinness or other stout beer
1 tbls vanilla
3 eggs

1. Preheat oven to 350F
2. Combine all dry ingredients in a medium bowl (I hardly ever do this when it is directed, but I'm glad I did this today, because the cocoa had lumps. You could also sift the dry ingredients directly into the combined wet ingredients if you want)
3. Combine beer, butter and vanilla in a separate bowl
4. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then add the sour cream
5. Gradually add the dry ingredients, mixing to remove any lumps
6. Put in a 9"X13" pan (sprayed with butter spray) and bake for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick in the center comes out clean
7. Cool completely

Bailey's Ganache (for rolling or use as frosting, this is a thick ganache)
8 oz bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tbls Bailey's
1.  Heat cream in a saucepan until almost boiling, then pour over chocolate in a heat-resistant bowl
2.  Stir until the chocolate melts. Let cool for 10 minutes in the fridge (stirring occasionally), and then whisk in the Bailey's
3. If you are going to roll balls in the ganache, you can do so at this point
4. If you are going to use ganache as the frosting, put it into a mixing bowl, and mix it (with the whisk attachment if you have it, although the paddle will do) on medium until fluffy. Then mix it into the cake until the mixture is the proper consistency for making the balls.
Bailey's and/or Jameson's Ganache (for filling, this is a thinner ganache, adapted from Smitten Kitchen)
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 tbls butter, room temperature
2 tsp Irish whiskey and/or Bailey's (if you are using both liqours, either use one of each, or one of Jameson's and two of Bailey's) 
1.  Heat cream in a saucepan until almost boiling, then pour over chocolate in a heat-resistant bowl
2.  Stir until the chocolate melts. Add in the butter and whiskey. Let cool for about 10 minutes (stir occasionally), and then whisk in the Bailey's.
3.  You need some special equipment for this because if you want to actually fill the balls, you need to inject them. The best thing would be a heat-resistant metal baster with the injection tip that you can thread on the end, because the ganache has to be warm enough to still be liquified. If you were filling cupcakes, you would cool it until much thicker, as per Smitten Kitchen's original directions. Fill the baster with the ganache and attach the injector tip. Plunge the tip in to the center of each undipped cake ball, squeeze out some ganache, and repeat. The you can dip the cake balls.

Please note that if you use either of the above ganaches,  the cake balls must be stored in the refrigerator!

Bailey's Buttercream Icing (Smitten Kitchen)
3 to 4 cups confections sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperatue
3 to 4 tablespoons Baileys 
1. Whip the butter in the mixer for a few minutes, until nice and fluffy
2. Slowly add the sugar.  I mean really slowly, a few tablespoons at a time -- you will need less sugar this way, and the finished product will be far less grainy than the average quick buttercream frosting. Thanks for the tip, Smitten Kitchen!!
3. When it looks spreadable, add the Bailey's. Then you can combine with the cake to make the cake balls, but add it in dollops an combine, so the mixture doesn't get too loose!
 Happy St Patrick's Day Baking!!


Brennan's Mommy said...

I didn't know you had a blog! :D Lovely...this sounds VERY yummy...I have a great recipe for a cake that I think you'll love, I'll send it to you later...just have to dig it out, and in this kitchen, it could be anywhere.
I'm definitely looking forward to your concoctions at Easter...and Brennan is too. :D

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the recipe! Just wanted to let you know that on the "from scratch" recipe for the Guinness cake, you didn't list the sour cream with your ingredients. Had to hazard a guess based on the Food Network link you provided. Can't wait to see how it turns out though! :)