For Easter this year, I fell in love with the idea of doing a Robin-egg-themed dessert...something that was a beautiful speckled blue. In the course of my pre-holiday shopping, I came across these turquoise Wilton candy melts (you can find similar ones here) and I was sold on the idea: I was going to make Robin Egg cake bites!
Of course, as usual, I planned on baking far too much for the actual holiday, and got burnt out before ever getting around to making the Robin Egg cake bites. Fortunately, the Easter season lasts for 50 days.
Perfect for an Easter brunch (next year!) or any Spring-themed spread, these moist chocolate cake balls are shaped into ovals, dipped in blue melting chocolate, and speckled all over. I'm thinking they'd go lovely on a Mother's Day table. Or in a little bowl at a brunch with woodland-themed decor. I piled mine up in a woven basket and now they're serving as the edible center-piece on the table over the weekend (dangerous, I know).
These little chocolate-covered egg-shaped cakes take some time to make, so be forewarned! And anything that is shaped and dipped can be frustrating to deal with, especially when you have a 9-month-old strapped to your front, and your 2-year-old insists on "helping." :) But you CAN do it, and below, I've tried to give lots of tips and suggestions to make the process go more smoothly. And trust me, the charm and whimsy of these little Robin Egg cake balls make up for all the effort.
How to Make Robin Egg Cake Bites
First, bake up a cake. I went with my go-to chocolate recipe for cake pops -- a recipe I love because it is so moist that you don't really need to add additional frosting to form the cake into balls. (Find the recipe below. Bonus! You don't need a mixer to make this cake.)
Once the cake is cooled, crumble it into the bowl of a mixer, add frosting as/if needed, and mix on low until completely broken up and the mixture easily comes together into a dough when you pinch a bit between your fingers. (If you are new to the cake-pop world and found that a bit overwhelming, I've compiled some of my favorite tutorials at the bottom of this post, so read on for those links!)
Next, you'll want to roll the cake mixture into tablespoon-sized balls, tapering one end so that it is egg-shaped. If you persevere through this stage, you'll wind up with about 70-80 little eggs, depending on how many mouthfuls of cake you eat in the process. At this point, you can put your shaped cake balls in an airtight container in the fridge (for a few days) or freezer (for a month or two), or continue on to the next step.
When you are ready to assemble the Robin Eggs, go ahead and pull the shaped cake balls out of the fridge/freezer and allow to come to room temperature. Melt your blue candy melts (you'll need about 1 lb). I usually melt candy melts in a small pyrex bowl in the microwave in 30 second bursts, stirring well in between. If you want (I do!), add some paramount crystals to the melted chocolate to thin it out, making it easier to coat the cake balls.
Then, go ahead and drop a cake ball into the bowl of melted chocolate, using a spoon to roll it around and completely cover it. Gently dip a fork into the melted chocolate, slide it under the cake ball, and lift straight up. Lightly tap the fork on the edge of the bowl to allow the excess chocolate to drip through the fork's tines. Drag the bottom of the fork over the edge of the bowl to scrape off any remaining chocolate, then place the fork on a piece of parchment paper so that the tines rest level with the counter. Using a toothpick placed just under the dipped egg, slide the cake ball off the fork and onto the parchment paper, being careful to keep the fork level so that the egg doesn't roll. Repeat with remaining cake balls.
(Just a note: what I explain above is my preferred method for dipping and setting these eggs. I tried first the method of stabbing the cake balls with a toothpick, coating them in chocolate, allowing them to begin to set in an upright position, then placing them down on parchment paper and removing the toothpick (see method here), but I found that my toothpick would pull off a good bit of chocolate, and then they got sloppy, and the additional effort needed to make them round on the bottom wasn't worth it to me. My method above is much simpler, and they look about as show-stopping. Only if i were going to bag these treats as party favors or something would I do the more labor-intensive method.)
As you go along, you'll notice that the fork tines leave little shards of chocolate sticking out from the bottom of each egg. Don't worry! Allow the chocolate to set until completely hard, and then you can pick up each egg, turn it upside down and, with a sharp pairing knife, remove any chocolate that sticks out from the base. Also, if you see any bubbles in the chocolate, you can pop them with a toothpick before the chocolate sets. I didn't worry too much about it, because these were going to be "speckled" later on and the bubbles wouldn't be as noticeable.
Once the chocolate coating is set and you've cleaned up the bottom edges, you are ready to speckle your eggs. My first attempt, I melted a small amount of semi-sweet chocolate chips (about 1 tablespoon), thinned it with some paramount crystals, dipped a paintbrush (a brush used exclusively for baking) into the mixture and attempted to speckle the eggs by running my fingers through the brush (as suggested here). That method did not work for me. The chocolate seemed too sticky & thick, my brush was a bit small, and I wasn't getting any spraying action. Not even a smidge.
Next, I decided to mix up a small amount of cocoa powder (about 1 teaspoon or less) thinned into a liquid with vanilla extract (you could use anything that would evaporate quickly, like a high proof alcohol). This speckling method worked much better! Dip the brush into the cocoa mixture and tap it gently to shake off any excess. Hold your brush over the eggs and, instead of running your fingers through the bristles, gently hit your finger on the top of the brush. I found this method distributed a really nice, even speckle.
tips, tutorials & tricks for cake pops/balls
Below you'll find a few links to tutorials that I've looked at recently and thought were helpful, judging from my own experience of making cake pops for the last few years. There are hundreds of other resources out there, so this is just to get your feet wet if you're new to the process. Also, you'll notice that even the links below contradict/disagree with one other on methodology and best practices, so there's definitely room for variation. The only way you'll know what works for you is by trying it for yourself! I have my own opinions on cake pops, which I'll have to save for a future post.
Tips & tricks for coating. This tutorial recommends using silicon bowls for melting your chocolate, because glass retains the heat for longer. I haven't tried it, but from my experience glass bowls can cause problems of scorching the chocolate if you aren't careful. I'm interested in acquiring some small, but deep, microwave-safe bowls.
Cake Pops dos & don'ts. This link also provides storage tips (fridge, freezer) so it's definitely one to bookmark.
There are so many different ways to decorate your cake pops, but one of my favorites is the marbled effect, especially if you have small amounts of leftover candy melts in different colors. Here's a good video (fast-forward to around minute 5 to get the marbling). These marbled ones are really cute and whimsical. Here are some not marbled, but out of this world glam.
And that last video reminds me that I prefer to have my cake pops set "upside down" in the sense that the cake pops are on the bottom and stand with the sticks up. I like the way they look in mini cupcake wrappers on a tray. Here's a tip on how to make the bottoms perfect for this method.
my favorite cake-pop chocolate cake recipe
1 3/4 cups flour
2 cups white sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk (or yogurt/sour cream thinned with milk)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup hot coffee (or 1 teaspoon granules dissolved in 1 cup boiling water)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 13x9-inch pan with cooking spray and set aside.
In the bowl of a mixer, sift together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
In another bowl, whisk together buttermilk, eggs and vanilla.
With the mixer fit with a paddle-attachment and running on law speed, slowly pour in the buttermilk mixture. Mix until combined, then stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. (just a note - you can, and I have, easily make this cake entirely by hand using a sturdy whisk.)
Again with the mixer running on low speed, slowly pour in the hot coffee and stir until combined. Remove the bowl from the mixer and give the batter a good stir, being sure to scrape down all sides of the bowl.
Pour batter into prepared pan, bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes, until the cake springs back when lightly pressed in the middle, or a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool completely in pan before breaking up and forming into cake balls.
This recipe is adapted from Ina Garten's recipe, which really seems to be a glorified and enriched version of the classic Hershey's cocoa cake. Ina Garten's improvement of coffee for water and buttermilk for milk adds complexity, moisture and depth.