Monthly Archives: July 2015

Home-made Ding Dongs

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A while back when I was making stuffed cupcakes (Storm Troopers for the twins fifth birthday). I was explaining it to my Seattle muse, and she said that I should make Ding Dongs. I said that it seemed like stuffed cupcakes with chocolate cake and chocolate frosting. And she said “No, every bite needs to have all three components- cake, chocolate frosting, and filling”.

So I started to investigate Ding Dongs, and experiment with the best way to make them. And that is what I will describe in this article. Mindy says there are recipes that you make once for curiosity, or some other reason, but once you have made them, you will never make them again because they are just too much work. I think Ding Dongs might belong in that category. I found it best to spread the work over three or four days so that the various steps could cool and set before going forward.

And this recipe takes some specific equipment. I used a 2.5 inch biscuit cutter, a 1 inch cutter from the center of a doughnut cutter, my wide spaced wire racks and a couple piping bags. You could get away with a 3 inch biscuit cutter, but the smaller cutter should be at least 1.5 inches smaller. I say to use wide spaced wire cooling racks because you want the dripping chocolate to fall through and not get stuck on the rack. And while you could use tableware spoons to move the filling and ganache into the center of the Ding Dong, it is far easier with the piping bags.

Home-made Ding Dongs

Ingredients

Chocolate Cake

  • 1/2 cup butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour*
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup buttermilk

*Measure the flour by using a spoon to fill the measuring cup; scooping the measuring cup directly into the flour will firmly pack it and result in too much flour.

Chocolate Ganache

  • 10 oz. heavy cream
  • 12 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2 Tablespoons butter

Marshmallow Filling

  • 3.5 oz. marshmallow cream
  • 3 Tablespoons butter at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

Cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Line a 9×13 baking pan with parchment paper. Set aside.
  3. in a medium size bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and cocoa powder.
  4. In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy
  5. Add the eggs one at a time mixing well after each addition; scrape the sides of the bowl as necessary.
  6. Add the flour mixture to the sugar/butter mixture about 1/2 cup at a time, alternating with the buttermilk
  7. Pour the chocolate cake batter into the parchment lined baking pan and bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean
  8. Remove the cake from the oven and cool completely in the pan on a wire rack

Ganache

  1. Place the chocolate chips, butter and salt in a heatproof bowl.
  2. Bring the heavy cream to the boiling point, but do not boil it
  3. Pour the hot cram over the chocolate and let it set for a minute
  4. Stir the chocolate until all is melted and the mixture is smooth without any lumps
  5. Set aside to cool. When ready to use, it may be necessary to heat it up a small amount so that it flows easily.

Filling

  1. Place the marshmallow creme and butter in a mixing bowl and beat until smooth.
  2. Stir in the vanilla extract and powdered sugar, mixing well until light and fluffy

Assembly

  1. Take the cake out of the pan onto a nice flat surface; fold back the parchment paper.
  2. with the large biscuit cutter (2.5 inch) cut cake disks out of the cooled cake and set aside. I usually get 12-13 of these pucks from the cake.
  3. With the small cutter (1 inch) cut the center core out of each puck. Trim the core horizontally into three pieces; a top and bottom piece about 1/4 inch thick and the center piece which can go with the cake scraps. (See Cake Pops and Trifle for using the cake scraps)
  4. Place the bottom piece back into the puck and press it down back into place.
  5. Set the top piece and the cored puck aside until all the pucks are ready.
  6. Put a small amount of ganache onto the bottom piece in the puck; about 1-2 teaspoons. This is easiest with a piping bag. The ganache is to seal the bottom piece back into the puck so the filling doesn’t leak out around the edges of the bottom piece.
  7. After the ganache seal has cooled, pip the core of the puck full of filling up to about 1/4 inch of the top; place the top piece back on the puck.
  8. Place the pucks on a wire rack over a sheet pan to catch the drips. Spoon ganach onto the top of each puck, and smooth it over the edges to run down the sides. So not try to cover the sides at this time
  9. When the top ganache has cooled and hardened, turn the pucks over and repeat the spooning of ganache on the new top side.
  10. With a soft pastry brush, paint ganache onto the sides of the pucks where there has been no run down from the ganache on the top.
  11. Leave at room temperature for the ganache to set completely before serving.

    Here is a photo of the homemade Ding Dong versus the commercially available Ding Dong. I was a little anxious to take the picture before the ganache had set and so you can see which is which by the chocolate streaks.

    dingdong 005

    One of the experiments I tried was using foil instead of parchment paper to line the cake pan; it was a mistake. The cake came out more moist that it should have been, and tore when I tried to cut out the pucks.

    I found that I could heat the heavy cream to a boiling point in the microwave, so I left it in the glass measuring cup and nuked it for 2:20 minutes. Most recipes say to put it into a sauce pan and heat it on the stove; that is just another pan to wash. To reheat the ganache, I nuke it in the microwave for about 15 seconds, and then stir it so the melted sides are mixed with the still cold middle of the container.

    I discovered that in order to paint the sides of the pucks, I needed to leave space between the pucks. So as a result, I actually used two wire racks and sheet pans so the pucks were farther apart. It is important that the ganache flows easily; if it is not warm enough, it tends to be thick and stick more to itself than to the cake. Then, when a Ding Dong is picked up, the ganache wants to stay on the platter.

    At some point in the future, I plan to make cupcakes out of this cake recipe, core and fill them with this filling recipe, and frost them with the chocolate ganache. I think people will be just as happy with them as with these Ding Dongs with chocolate ganache in every bite.

Cake Pops

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When I originally wrote this article, I had not yet taken the Cake Pop Class; today I was making some cake pops and discovered that this aritcle really was bad. So I am editing it (June 2016)

Another great use of the left over cake pieces is in making cake pops. (Or you can make a cake just for this). This first set of photos are from the Decorette Shop where Lenette works, and made these Cake Pops. You can see that cake pops don’t stop with the little round balls on the ends of a stick. Indeed, they can take on all sorts of shapes and decoration. Between Lenette and Marilyn, they got me started; I think I should probably take Lenette’s class on making cake pops because it is obvious that she is quite skilled at it.

My first take on making cake pops is that it is just as hard as making dipped chocolates; first there is the making of the filling, then the melting of the candy melts, and finally bringing it all together. It is a little like dipping chocolates, but easier since the stick provides a good handle.

I am going to be a little vague about quantities in the ingredient list; in my case, I was using the left over cake from making home-made Ding Dongs, and left over chocolate ganache. Lenette says that she uses left over cake from when she levels a cake to flatten it; she just puts the pieces in the freezer and when she has enough and time, goes into Cake Pop mode. Even without taking the class, she gave me plenty of hints on how to proceed; I didn’t use all that she said because I wanted to get the basics down and learn how the candy melts worked. On the non-ball shaped cake pops, Lenette said that you shape the cake before dipping it in the candy melts; I had assumed that you shaped the warm candy melts.

I measured some of the ingredients today, and this is what I know. I used a single 8 inch round cake layer-(1/2 a cake mix box). I crumbled it in the food processor, and then added the ganache. The ganache required 6 ounces of chocolate and 1.5 ounces of heavy cream. (I made it backwards by heating the cream in the microwave, and then adding the chocolate to it; normally you pour the hot cream over the chocolate). In the end, I made 3.5 dozen cake pops. I used my #60 scoop to form the dough balls, and it took 16 ounces of melted chocolate to glue the sticks into the balls, and to cover the balls.

Cake Pops

Ingredients

  • Baked cake- either left over pieces or one made just for this
  • Ganache- that will set up stiff (e.g., ganache recipe below
  • Candy melts- I used 16 oz, for 36 pops
  • Sticks
  • Sprinkles (optional)

Directions

  1. Crumble the cake in a food processor, in batches if necessary, and empty into a mixing bowl
  2. Mix into the cake crumbs the ganache; use enough to make the crumbs stick together in a dough ball
  3. Scoop and form into one inch balls; place on a sheet pan temporarily.
  4. Melt the candy melts; do not over heat- treat like chocolate.
  5. For each cake pop, dip the end of a stick in the candy melt and then insert into the cake pop until you feel the end coming through.
  6. Do NOT refrigerate the cake pop dough; that will cause the chocolate in it to shrink. Then, when you dip the cake pop and the candy hardens, it will crack as the dough expands back to room temperature.

  7. Coat the cake pops one by one by dipping into the candy melt and rotating to coat completely.
  8. After coating the cake pops, decorate with sprinkles and other attached items before the candy melt hardens, and stand the cake pop upright in a styrofoam block or top of a box

You can also add other decorations to the cake pop by drizzling with chocolate, or other colors of candy melt.

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Taking a hint from the Cake Pops I saw at the Decorette shop, I got out the “food marking” pens I used on the marshmallows of the Storm Troopers, and drew faces on many of my Cake Pops.

The ganache that holds the cake pop dough together has to be a very thick ganache. The normal 1 to 1 ganache is not going to work well.

Chocolate Ganache

Ingredients

  • 3 oz. Heavy Cream
  • 12 oz. Candy melts or Chocolate Chips (Semi Sweet and Dark Chocolate seem best)

Directions

  1. Put the melts or chips in a heatproof bowl.
  2. Heat the cream to a boil- but don’t let it boil
  3. Pour the cream into the bowl with the chocolate, et al. Let sit a minute to start melting the melts/chips.
  4. Whisk the mixture until smooth and the melts/chips are all melted.

Trifles

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Sometimes, you have some leftover cake; sometimes, the cake you cooked failed. But in either case, if you have some cake, and want to make a nice dessert, think about a trifle. And of course, you could always just cook a cake planning to make it into a trifle.

I was first introduced to trifles when we were making a birthday cake for Jeff. It was an angel food cake, and for some reason, it didn’t cook right and we had what I thought was a mess, and time to start over. But Marlys said NO. She proceeded to cut the cake up into pieces and make a trifle from cake, whipped cream, and strawberries.

More recently, I have been experimenting with making Ding Dongs. After cutting out the cake circles, there is a lot of cake left over. So I decided to make a trifle. It is chocolate cake, vanilla pudding, strawberries and whip cream.

Basic Trifle Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 pre-made cake
  • 2 packages of instant pudding (3.4 oz each)
  • 2 lbs fresh fruit or thawed frozen fruit
  • 3/4 cup whipped cream (see Creme Chantilly)
  • 1/3 cup liquid (sherry wine or fruit juice or water)

Directions

  1. Prepare the pudding according to its directions.
  2. Mix the drained, prepared fruit with the liquid. Save a few pieces as garnish
  3. Cut the cake into cubes about 1 inch on a side.
  4. Place half the cake in the bottom of the trifle bowl.
  5. Drain and layer half the fruit on top of the cake layer.
  6. Top with half of the pudding mixture.
  7. Repeat layering with the rest of the cake, fruit, and pudding
  8. Top with the whipped cream, and garnish with the saved fruit.
  9. Chill well before serving


There are lots of combinations of cake flavors, pudding flavors and fruit that go together well. I have already mentioned angel food cake and strawberries; in that case, Marlys used more whipped cream for the pudding layer. And this trifle is chocolate cake, vanilla pudding and strawberries. Other ideas:

  • Angel Food cake, mixed pineapple, mangoes, papaya, vanilla or lemon pudding and maybe shredded coconut as a garnish.
  • Spice cake, apple pie filling and custard.
  • white or chocolate cake, sliced bananas, vanilla or custard.

I am certain there are some cake and pudding flavors that would go well with blueberries; if you have a suggestion, please send a reply to this posting so others can see it.

Semi-Home-Made Cake Batter

When you need just some cake to decorate, it is easy to buy a box of cake mix at the store and make it up. It contains all the dry ingredients, and all you need to add are water, eggs and oil. Mix 30 seconds at a low speed, and 2 minutes at a medium speed and you should get a perfectly lovely cake.

But if you want, you can use the dry mix in the cake box as a base, and modify the wet ingredients to add taste and richness to the batter. That is what I mean when I say semi-home-made. You save time by not having to measure out the dry ingredients, but you add flavor by your choice of wet ingredients.

The reason for using semi-home-made cake batter is to give your cakes a richer taste. About a year ago, the Decorette shop gave out tips on making additions and changes to the normal way store-bought cake mix are made in order to make them semi-home-made.

I have been using those tips, but have had one problem; most of my cupcakes collapse while they are cooling and no longer have a mushroom shaped top. I decided to take the tips apart, and use only a single one in each batch of cupcakes until I discovered what was going wrong.
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What was going wrong seems to be when more moisture is added to the batter. I felt I would have to cook the cupcakes longer in order to dry them out, and I did, even though a toothpick came out clean. But still, the cupcakes crashed.
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And then I received a hint indirectly from my Seattle Muse that I should cut back on the “water” equivalent if I were to add the sour cream or yogurt. For ½ cup of sour cream or yogurt, I reduced the “water” equivalent by ¼ cup. I still increased the cooking time by 10%- 21 minutes instead of 19 minutes, and I was happy to have nice mushroom tops on the resulting cupcakes.
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While I am using cupcakes as a test vehicle, you can also make these same changes to a standard cake as specified by the back of the cake mix box.

The tips from the Decorette Shop without change were:

  • Add 1/2 cup sour cream
  • Instead of 3 eggs use 2 egg whites and 2 eggs
  • Replace water with buttermilk or milk
  • Replace oil with melted butter (but double the amount of melted butter
  • Add vanilla bean paste for even more flavor

My taste buds didn’t really detect many of the changes; maybe more sensitive tastes would detect the difference. I ended up with just a couple of the changes, and I even modified those. My changes are:

  • Replace most water with a mix of milk and cream
  • Add 1/2 cup sour cream or plain Greek yogurt

If the back of the box calls for 1 cup water, I reduce the total milk and cream to 3/4 cup. And I make the mix of milk and cream 3/4 milk and 1/4 cream. This means that if you have Half-and-Half, you would use 1/2 milk and 1/2 Half-and-Half since it is half milk and half cream. If you use heavy/whipping cream, then you might have to calculate the appropriate amount of milk and cream. It would be nice if the cake box calls for 1 1/4 cups water, because then you would have 3/4 cup milk and 1/4 cup cream. When the box calls for 1 cup water, I used 1/2 cup milk and 1/4 cup heavy cream and got good results; that is slightly less milk and more cream than should be according to my 3/4 to 1/4 rule, and that is why I specifically mention that case.

You are invited to try the other tips given by the Decorette Shop; I am only saying that my taste was not sensitive enough to see the difference.

November 2016: I had reason to make a “pull-apart” cake using the mini-cupcake cups this month, and felt that I should update this post to reflect that experience.

I started with a box of cake mix that gave the directions as follows:

  1. 1 1/4 cups water
  2. 1/3 cup Vegetable Oil
  3. 3 whole eggs

The directions were to preheat the oven to 325 degrees for dark pans and 350 degrees for light pans. Mix the ingredients including the box of cake mix for 2 minutes, put into the pans and bake for 14-19 minutes for cupcakes.

Now I was making mini cupcakes, so the time had to be adjusted accordingly. And I discovered that the bottoms of the cupcakes were starting to burn, so I baked them (they were in dark pans) with the pans in a sheet pan to protect the bottoms. Because of that insulation of the bottoms, the cooking time came out to be about the suggested time even though the cake size were small and the heat should penetrate to the middle of the cake faster than for a full size cupcake.

I also decided to only make half the box of cake mix at a time so that I could focus better on the cooking. I got 36 cupcakes out of each half of the box of cake mix. Here is the ingredient list I used:

  1. 1/2 box white cake mix (just over 8 ounces)
  2. 3/8 cup milk
  3. 1/8 cup heavy cream
  4. 1/4 cup sour cream
  5. 1/3 cup melted butter
  6. 2 whole eggs

As a side note, I nearly forgot to get the butter ready. I cut the 1/3 stick into small chunks (2 x length and 6 x across) and put it in a small dish. I was going to use the microwave for 30 seconds to melt it, but didn’t want to be cleaning the microwave after melting the butter. So I slipped the small dish into a sandwich baggie, sealed it, and everything went better than I had expected.

The other experience I had was in filling the cupcake cups. First, I piped the dough into the cups for better control. Originally, I piped around the edges and let the center fill itself. It doesn’t fill as well as hoped. So I starte piping the bottom center and letting the dough push itself out to the edges of the cup. This seems to work better.

The second thing to note is about the reuse of the cupcake pans. I discovered that during the cooking there seems to be moisture pushed out and through the cupcake paper. If that moisture is on the bottom of the pan cup when the pan is reused, the cupcake paper wants to pull away from the cupcake paper; the paper seems to fall off the cupcake. So be certain to use a paper towel and wipe the cups of the pan dry before putting the papers in for making the second half of the box of cake mix.