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Cake Balls versus the Elemental Theories of Physics

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Joined: Dec 12, 2005


Posted to Thread #14981 at 6:47 pm on May 30, 2009

Physics was a favorite course during my college years. I loved analyzing the steadfastness of laws governing expansion & compression, melting points, gravity and testing theoretical soundness with physical experiments. These days, the only experimentation I do is in my kitchen, but like an old friend who will tell you <i>honestly</i> that you should NOT buy <i>that</i> outfit, the laws of physics are there to explain when a recipe goes horribly awry.

I've been following Bakerella's food blog and her clever uses for <i>Cake Balls</i> [see Link]. Her concept is simple: prepare a boxed cake mix, crumble it, add a can of icing, form & chill 4 dozen balls, dunk in melted chocolate...and wa-la, you have 48 mini orbs of delight.

Based on what I had read, this adventure seemed like a cake walk. {Sigh} An unsolicited pun just slipped out of my fingers. Forgive me. I'm still a little queasy from descending into <i>Cake Ball Hell</i>, which is similar to the reaction divers get from the bends, only this one involves melted chocolate and jimmies.

It all started out rather innocently. At work, donations were requested to send toiletries to troops stationed in Iraq. I was scheduled for a stint at the donation table and decided to make Cake Ball lollipops as an <i>extra</i> incentive to donate.

Now I live for <i>extra</i>. My middle name is Extra. In this scenario, <i>extra</i> justified a run to D&G, a crack house for bakers. It's a large cake & candy supply store where I purchased TWO HUNDRED lollipop sticks, 200 candy cellophane bags, 3 jars of jimmies in red, white and blue, food coloring in three colors, 3 bags of milk chocolate discs, 3 bags of white chocolate discs, Styrofoam squares, a half-sheet cake display board and a patriotic table decoration. I also searched for--but couldnt' find--a 1.25" round, fluted cookie cutter. By the way, did you notice anything odd just now? Like...why was I buying 200 of everything! Well, why not? These looked so easy!

The day before my volunteer stint, Larry thoughtfully baked the cake so it would be ready when I got home from work. Tipping his head toward the cake pan, he said: <i>"It's red."</i>

<i>"Right."</i> I replied, gathering the rest of the ingredients to start the project.

Lifting an eyebrow he said, <i>"...but it's...RED?"</i> in a lowered tone, as if the cake might overhear and be offended.

Looking up from the instructions, I replied: <i>"Ya, Lar...I know. It's RED Velvet Cake."</i>

Apparently Larry had never seen a Red Velvet Cake nor looked at the large colored photo on the front of the box because this cake confused him. <i>Still</i> not ready to let it go, he continued: <i>"I thought maybe I pricked my finger..."</i>

Now...speaking purely from a volumetric point of view, if Larry <i>had</i> pricked his finger, he would also have had to rip off his entire arm and drain ALL of the blood out of his body into the bowl to get a batter this red. Then he could have nailed the stump over the kitchen door as a homage to Beowulf ripping the arm off of Grendel. Trust me. It takes human ingenuity and hazardous chemicals to achieve a color this red.

Once we got past the "red" issue, I crumbled the cake mix and peeled open the can of <i>" real cream cheese icing with artificial flavoring."</i> One taste later, I was rummaging in the refrigerator for 6 oz of "real" <i>real cream cheese</i> to dissipate the cloying sweetness and ratio of preservatives per cubic inch.

I began shaping the balls and, you remember that red dye discussion we just had? Well, it turns out that once you start rolling the damp dough in your hands, you end up with red-dyed fingers and red-dyed palms. Red dye migrates across every surface you touch within a 10 foot radius. Keen-eyed anthropologists will be able to track the decline of my sanity if they follow this trail.

<a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" border="0" alt="Dye Hands Die!"></a>

I rolled 60 balls of dough using my purple ice cream scoop (1.625" dia, 7/8 oz, and no, we're not OCD. We're...consistent) and popped them into the freezer for 20 minutes to firm up. Looking through my old cookies cutters, I found--to my utter delight!--a 1.25" fluted round cutter. How fortuitous! Sadly, this would turn out to be the last happy moment of my evening.

Twenty minutes later, the balls were firm, but only slightly so. I took one, rolled it into a cylinder and pressed the cookie cutter at one end. Supposedly, this molds the bottom portion into a fluted shape while pushing the extra dough into a cute rounded cupcake. It looks adorable while providing distinct surfaces for various candy coatings. Bakerella is a genius at this.

I, on the other (red-dyed) hand, am not a genius at this. I fluctuate around the Forrest Gump level of baking IQ. [<i>"Run, Forrest! Run!!"</i>] My dough was still too soft and smooshed unattractively around the cutter so I popped it back into the freezer.

Ten minutes later I tried pressing the cookie cutter through the dough again. Now, we're all adults here, right? So I'm going to leave the Physics classroom and mentally walk down the hall to the Sex Education classroom. Suffice it to say that my cookie-pressed dough did not look like a fluted/rounded cupcake so much as it looked like Mr. Penis Head.

Since THAT wasn't about to happen, I tried to shape the dough with a melon baller (too round), an apple corer (too small), and the plastic tubing from a garlic peeler (too large). I finally made the executive decision that the cakes balls would remain...balls.

Inserting a lollipop stick, I dipped a ball in the melted chocolate and waited for the excess to drip off. And I waited. Patience NOT being my middle name, it was <i>still dripping</i> when I gave the stick a gentle tap on the rim, thus precipitating the dough to break off and fall into the chocolate. <b>Physics Lesson #7: A falling body will accelerate at a rate inversely proportional to the level of observable patience.</b>

I stuck the balls back into the freezer to harden yet again. <b>Physics Lesson #18: Systematically calculate the critical freezing point of known substance to avoid having to refreeze every friggin' 15 minutes.</b>

Over the next two hours, I dipped and dripped while either reheating the dark and white chocolate disks or refreezing the softening balls. If Mr. Joules had proposed his First Law of Thermodynamics using chocolate, we'd all be a little happier right now.

<b>Physics Lesson #42: When a warm object comes in contact with a cold object, the molecular structure of the warm object re-aligns, causing its state to rapidly change from a liquid to a solid mass.</b> [Physics Babble Translation: Damn! I forgot to sprinkle on the jimmies before the chocolate set up!]

<b>Physics Lesson #167: Cause and Effect with Projectile Motion: Tiny jimmies will first accelerate in a downward motion, bounce, and then follow a parabolic path all over the kitchen.</b>

<a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" border="0" alt="Jimmies"></a>

I finally had a rhythm going when I glanced over to the Styrofoam block holding the finished sticks. Squinting, I noted there were tiny cylinders of red dough laying on the foam underneath several of the coated candy balls. <b>Physics Lesson #259: When chocolate mass cools sufficiently to solidify, it will compress the trapped dough inside. In order to balance the reduced interior volume, the dough will exert an equal and opposite force and eject a minute amount of dough in an attempt to stabilize the pressure.</b>

Now I know you won't believe this, but what I had was...<i>Pop Poop</i>.

By 10:00 pm, the kitchen was splattered with red dye and jimmies like a crime scene from <i>Dexter</i>. But 40 balls were finished and I decided that was good enough. [Please stifle any comments such as..."200 of them"! Right!]

The last step was the packaging. Trying to slip a cellophane bag over a ball proved difficult; I had been overgenerous in size and the ball barely fit inside the bag. But with care and Larry's help, it squeezed over. Then I cut the red ribbons too short. So I gave that job over to Larry. Then I noticed that one of the finished balls had a crack around its hemisphere. Then I noticed the NEXT ball also had a crack. And the next ball too!!! What the Galileo! Turns out they ALL had a crack in the coating!

<a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" border="0" alt="Photobucket"></a>

And why would that be, class??? Repeat after me: "Expansion and Compression, Miss Low IQ."

Now pay attention. In an effort to ensure the dough would not get stale, I had completely coated each ball with chocolate. <b>Physics Lesson #436: As the internal cake batter returns to room temperature, its molecular expansion is limited by the solidified mass of cooled chocolate. Next, observe how the solid chocolate shell has fractured. Ergo, we can conclude that the forces of trapped Red Velvet Cake <i>exceed</i> the forces of chocolate.</b>

What did this ultimately translate to? Spackling <i>each individual crack</i> because, like General Custer, we are doomed to meet our fate.

By 11:00 pm, we had finished and I had reached a whole new level of respect for Bakerella. Here's the finished result.

<a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" border="0" alt="Photobucket"></a>

PS: You still don't believe me about the <i>Pop Poop</i>, do you? You think I'm taking <i>artistic license</i> a bit too far...right? Fair enough. If empirical data is needed as proof...

<a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" border="0" alt="Photobucket"></a>

[shortcut for Latin <i>Quod Erat Demonstrandum</i> which is Geek for "I've proven the damn thing, now pay up, Euclid!"

[<i>Hand Model courtesy of Santo Lorenzo Faustini Modeling Agency</i>]


Jesus saves. Buddha recycles.

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