A Baking Adventure: Chocolate Pumpkin Spice Cake Truffles

The title is a little deceiving, since I didn’t actually have to bake anything for this recipe… But it did use baked goods, and it was definitely a kitchen adventure!

I had some frozen chocolate cake that I’d been wanting to use for cake balls, so as autumn hit the air and I was sitting at home one day wishing I had a seasonal treat, I came up with this recipe for Chocolate Pumpkin Spice Cake Truffles:

Ingredients:
– Baked chocolate cake
– Canned pumpkin
– Pumpkin Pie Spice
– Cream cheese frosting (I used canned)
– Chocolate of choice (I used semi-sweet chips)
– Crushed walnuts (Optional)

I just happened to have all this laying around, so my on-a-whim experiment commenced. I crumbled up the cake in a large mixing bowl, added in a dollop of canned pumpkin and a dollop of frosting, and then sprinkled in some pumpkin pie spice to taste. I found the best way to mix it was with my hands, so get in there and get messy. The key to cake balls is the texture. I failed, hence the title “truffle” instead of “cake ball.” I added in a bit too much wet ingredients so they were a little too moist for a cake ball.

Once everything was mixed up well, I rolled the cake balls and set them aside in the refrigerator. A couple of hours later I returned, with my chocolate melted and ready to dip the truffles. I read that it’s best to freeze these for about 15-20 minutes before dipping in chocolate; however, thinking that they’d been in the fridge for so long anyway, I didn’t do that. Listen to the cake ball experts people! Freeze them first. It helps keep the cake together when you dip, making less of a mess.

The chocolate came out thicker than I wanted and not as “pretty.” I’m not sure if this is an experience thing or because of the chocolate I used. I tried a couple of different techniques, including one recommendation to break off the center prongs of a plastic fork, just leaving the outer prongs to create a tool that helps excess chocolate drip off. Thick chocolate aside, I topped my truffles two different ways: crushed walnuts and pumpkin pie spice. Another tip I learned: when you are sprinkling chocolate with spice, wait until after the chocolate has hardened. Otherwise, it just melts and you can’t see it.

All in all, I’m happy with how these turned out. The taste was great, but the texture was a little weird when eaten at room temperature. Since I was worried about the pumpkin filling, I kept them refrigerated anyways, so it wasn’t much of a problem. In retrospect, I probably could have eliminated the canned pumpkin and just relied on the pumpkin pie spice for the flavor I was looking for. As with most of my adventures, I learned a lot and can see myself making cake balls/truffles again!

– Posted by Cupcake Crusader, Jenn (Westminster, MD)

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A Baking Adventure: Lemon Raspberry Cupcakes

I’ve never really participated in a bake sale before. I’m sure that’s hard to believe since I’m such a sweets lover. My participation is limited to purchasing bake sale items for my own enjoyment. I have no idea about what the “rules” are. But when we Crusaders decided to host our own bake sale to raise money for Share Our Strength’s Great American Bake Sale, I thought, “How hard can it be?” Then I happened to watch the movie I Don’t Know How She Does It. Sarah Jessica Parker’s character has to take something to her daughter’s school bake sale and, for fear of looking like a failure to the highly domestic moms, she doctors up (or destroys, depending on how you look at it) a store bought pie, hoping to pass it off as homemade. This put fear in me. Do bake sale items HAVE to be homemade? And if so, what qualifies as homemade? Does it have to be from scratch? And what if it turns into a TOTAL disaster?!

Deciding that as a stay at home mom I should have the time to do a recipe from scratch, I searched the internet for the perfect bake sale cupcakes. Stacy would be doing chocolate, so I wanted to something that would be more of an opposite, but still fun and seasonal. With these thoughts in mind, I came up with Lemon Raspberry cupcakes with a raspberry filling and a lemon cream cheese frosting. The problem with being a new baker and at the mercy of the internet for recipes is that if you haven’t tried it, you don’t really know if it’s going to be good. So, when I found LemonCupcakes.net, claiming that the recipe on The Little Red House blog was the best, I decided to trust them. The recipe is for Lemon Coconut, but the cake is purely lemon.

Lemon Cupcakes:
As soon as I saw that the recipe included using more than one bowl, I panicked. Anything using more than one bowl for a cake is bound to be complicated and I only had 40 minutes, if I was lucky! My goal was to get the cake batter done and in the oven before my daughter woke up from her morning nap. Well, that didn’t happen.


(Prep time included zesting 2 lemons, squeezing fresh lemon juice, and separating eggs.)


(One of the more unique steps: rub the sugar and lemon zest together in a bowl until the sugar takes on a yellow hue and becomes fragrant.)

At some point during my process of measuring dry ingredients and whisking the eggs and buttermilk, Leah woke up from her nap, only adding to my level of stress. How was I going to finish this complicated recipe (okay, complicated for ME) with a curious, mobile, and awake 9 month old? I prepped an area in the family room next to me, removing the dog’s water bowl, so that Leah could freely, and safely, roam around while I finished up the batter and kept an eye on her. Of course this would be the day that she learned how to turn the tv on and off…but the batter was much more important than the tv at this point!

After combining all the ingredients with a hand mixer, and having the spatula shoot straight through the mixing attachments twice, it was finally done and ready to go into the cupcake pans! A couple of adjustments I made to the recipe: I choose to use real lemon juice instead of lemon extract. Knowing that extract is more concentrated, I used at least 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Also, I didn’t realize the recipe called for cake flour, not all-purpose flour. Instead of going to the store, I looked up how to use all-purpose flour as a substitute (who knew there was a specific cake flour?!). After baking, I was surprised by how little the cupcakes rose. I thought, “Oh no! Something went wrong! I should have just followed the recipe exactly!”


(I filled the liners 2/3 full, like you are usually suppose to do, but it hardly rose while baking.)


(I did like that you could see flecks of yellow from the lemon zest.)

I cut out a part of the cupcake center, since I’d be filling them later anyway, to taste it. The cake was dense, but so moist! Relief set in. Only two more items left to make!

Raspberry Filling:
I found a recipe for raspberry cake filling on Food.com. It looked so simple and it was! I think it also helped that I waited until the next day, when someone else was home to keep an eye on Leah, so that I could put all my focus on making the perfect filling.


(Only 4 ingredients needed for this recipe! So easy!)


(The filling had an amazing color!)

Just as I’ve done before, I cut out the centers of the cupcakes so they’d be ready to spoon in the filling. One day I’ll experiment with my filling injector, but now was not the time to risk failure, especially after making it this far.


(I used a grapefruit knife this time, and it worked perfectly!)


(As I mentioned in my last baking experiment, baby spoons work perfectly for dropping in the filling. My favorite is The First Years’ Take and Toss spoons.)

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting:
When it came time for the frosting, I decided not to go with the option on The Red House’s recipe. I was worried that it wouldn’t be lemony enough. Instead I used a recipe from Annie’s Eats for their Blueberry Lemon cupcakes, which uses lemon juice and zest.


(Always be sure to have extra confectioners’ sugar, in case you need to stiffen up the frosting to get the texture you are looking for.)

After using the 3 cups of sugar the recipe calls for, I thought the frosting was the consistency that I wanted. However, when I got around to piping, it was very runny. So, I dumped the frosting out of my stainless steel piper and added another 1-2 cups of confectioners’ sugar. That seemed to help a little, but it still wasn’t the exact consistency I wanted. I went with it anyway, knowing that since it was warm in the house getting the consistency just right would be difficult and that the frosting would set up better as soon as I moved them to a cooler location.


(I added some yellow sprinkles, but felt it was still missing the splash of red to represent the raspberry.)


(I went to the store later that night for fresh raspberries. I think it really helped the look!)


(I like how the filling soaked into the cake.)

The lemon and raspberry came together in a perfect balance. I was worried that the filling wouldn’t bring enough raspberry flavor, but it was perfect. Despite all the hard work, I will definitely make these again! They were a huge hit at the bake sale and that’s what really matters!

– Posted by Cupcake Crusader, Jenn (Westminster, MD)

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