Photo: Freakgirl, Flickr
Cake balls, best described as ooey-gooey cupcakes with two tops, have become a certifiable trend in Texas and South Louisiana.
"We've definitely created kind of a craze," admits Robin Ankeny, the baker behind the Cake Ball Company in Dallas, where the local paper recently ran a story on how to make Valentine's versions of the wildly popular treats.
Ankeny started selling cake balls in 2006, inspiring a horde of professional and amateur imitators – and a few detractors: "Put down the cake balls," an Austin blogger pleaded in a recent post bidding good riddance to the past year's fads. The treats were so ubiquitous by Christmastime that the Times-Picayune food editor Judy Walker reported in early 2009 that they "turned up at just about every party or gathering I attended."
Walker admitted she'd never before heard of cake balls, a sentiment shared by food experts across the region. While Ankeny insists cake balls are an old Southern tradition, the treats are still rarely found in states that don't share a border with Texas.
"I grew up eating them," Ankeny says. "My mom learned to make them from a friend of hers."
Cake balls, also sometimes referred to as cake pops or cake truffles, are "a blend of cake and icing," Ankeny explains. "They're hard on the outside, but moist, decadent and rich on the inside."
Cake balls are so simple to make that the Dallas Morning News suggests using them for kid's cooking projects. The basic recipe calls for a whole cake, which is then crumbled up, mixed with frosting, rolled into balls and dipped in confectionery coating.
Ankeny, who sells her cake balls through her own website and the Neiman Marcus catalog, says the birthday cake and brownie varieties are her best-sellers, although almost any flavor combination is possible. Even better, fans claim decent cake balls can be made at home using cake mix, canned frosting and food coloring, so even if the trend does get tired, the ball bakers won't.