Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Cake Ball Fail

I'm not afraid to admit my failures. After all, that's the only way to learn from them. So, what I intended to be a tutorial has turned into a "How NOT To..." post. Enjoy :)

You know those adorable cake pops sold at Starbucks? Yeah, these:

They are a popular single serve treat and the newest trend in baking. Cake balls are the same thing without the stick. I always thought they would be difficult to make until I spoke with a friend who was about to make a batch while chasing her two kids and preparing for the company she was about to host for Christmas. She assured me they were quick and easy to make. "Just crumble cake, mix it with icing, form balls and coat them in melted chocolate", she said. Four steps. Seems easy enough.

Not so much.

It started out well. I crumbled some cake, mixed in a bit of icing and formed balls:

Unfortunately, it was the coating them in melted chocolate that didn't work so well:

Cake Ball Fail
 I see now that a few things went wrong. 
  1. There's a reason why these things are typically made on sticks. They're hard to handle and dipping would have been much easier. Candy sticks have gone on my Michaels shopping list.
  2. I need a double boiler. Or I at least should have tried the homemade version (a stainless steel bowl over a saucepan). As it was, I melted my chocolate in the microwave. After its removed from heat, the chocolate solidifies fast. Too fast to coat even one cake ball. 
  3. My cake pops *may* have been too soft. When I try this again (and I will), I'll be more careful with the icing and do some research into the right consistency. 
Have you successfully made cake balls? Comment below with any tips.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Pack a Carry-On Like an Expert

With my mind on travel, I want to share this fantastic video from PopSugar which shows how to get tonnes into a small carry-on suitcase using folding techniques and zipper bags.

Just make sure to buy the largest possible bags. I didn't realize how big the bags are in the video and the large ones I picked up were just too small to fit many shirts or more than one pair of jeans.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Happy New Year!

While my travels over the holidays didn't allow me to blog, I look forward to writing about life in 2012. Two thousand eleven will be a hard year to beat, but spending two weeks with family in Belgium was a great way to start the year.

The travel trend continues with a mother-daughter vacation to the El Dorado Royale in two weeks and a trip to the Dominican Republic with Cam and 10 of our closest friends in February. (Yes, I'm a ridiculously lucky girl!)

Besides travel, 2012 will find me in the kitchen. While I love baking and plan to work on my cake/cookie decorating skills this year, my true weakness is cooking dinner. My timing is all wrong, I either undercook or burn everything and I have no concept of seasoning. Oh, and I usually manage to hurt myself - knife cuts, bruises, burns, etc.

I'd like to say I'm exaggerating, but I'm not. A "Jessica Dinner" consists of microwaved hot dogs and warmed up beans. I've even been known to burn the toast. Sometimes I don't even bother doing that much, and end up snacking on an apple, a granola bar or nacho chips.

Luckily Cam does most of the cooking - he's an excellent chef.

I think he'd like me to contribute more in the kitchen though. I got the hint from the 4 Ingredient cookbook he kindly gave me for Christmas. Browsing through it, the recipes look somewhat simple and have inspired me to take on the challenge of learning to cook.   

Source: Pinterest
Tonight, I'm cooking my first meal of the year. I've chosen a simple sweet and sour chicken dish from the cookbook. Wish me luck!

Update: I didn't burn it, and it tasted alright! I used pre-cooked chicken to prevent undercooking, and served it with (entirely too much) brown minute rice: