We don't have much and I wasn't sure what we could afford, so I came up with the idea to do a "12 Days of Cookies" gift for my parents, my mentor and my sis. Then I realized I couldn't afford to ship that many cookies (nor would all of them survive, should the Post Office delay them), so I did mini sets of shippable cookies for my mentor and sis in pretty Christmas tins, and saved the rest of the cookies for the following week.
I didn't make a dozen types of cookies. I ran out of baking steam when I got sick a few days before Christmas. In the end, I made:
- "Abstract Tiger" Peanut Butter Cookies*
You see, one night before Christmas Eve, I was sitting at the kitchen table, happily dunking little cake balls in vanilla-flavored almond bark. (I'd run out of the green candy melts and no one in town had any candy melts, not even Walmart, which had run out a few weeks earlier.) I finished all the little balls and stacked as many as I could onto my quarter-sheet pan to go into the fridge to set. Not all of them fit, so I left them on my cutting board while I went to shove the pan into the fridge.
I bet you see where this one is going.
The fridge was stuffed full of food for Christmas Eve - an 8-lb ham was taking up a big chunk of room on the bottom shelf, along with a bunch of produce on the middle shelf. So I set the pan down mostly on the wedge of space on the bottom shelf (I thought), while I tried to prevent the door from swinging all the way open.
And the entire quarter-sheet pan of cake balls came crashing down onto the floor, cake first.
It was not good. I didn't have the time to go out and buy everything again, bake it all again and decorate it again. So I packed up the few I had left on the table for my mom and gave it up for the night, incredibly frustrated and upset.
In the end, my family loved the cookies. Most of the recipes came from the little booklet included with the December issue of Food Network Magazine. They came out fairly well, though I wasn't happy with the lack of strength of flavor in the lemon volcanoes and peanut butter tigers.
The runaway favorite of the entire deal? Cake balls. The very thing that decided to give me a meltdown.
What I love about them is the hard crunch of the candy shell and the soft, chocolatey inside. These little guys have been made famous by Bakerella and, though I would have loved to do little Christmas trees, I went with something I could reasonably pull off:
It would have been so neat though. I almost bought little sprinkles to sprinkle on top of the little trees. And I almost did cake pops instead of cake balls when I found the lollipop sticks at the craft store. It would have been so much easier to get a good coating if I had.. and maybe since they would have been stuck into a block of styrofoam/floral-foam, they might not have crashed and burned.
Maybe next time.
Christmas Cake Balls [printable recipe]
- 1 box devil's food chocolate cake
- 1 can chocolate frosting (not the whipped stuff)
- 2 bags Wilton's candy melts, different colors
Prepare and bake cake as directed for a 13x9x2 pan. Let cool completely. Crumble into fine crumbs. (This is very sinful. Deliberately destroying a cake? Definitely a sin, but very delicious.) Mix most of the can of frosting in, adding the rest as necessary. You can use a spoon or fork, but at some point, it's just easier to use your (clean) hands. Form into little balls and freeze.
Melt the candy melts as directed. Dunk the little balls into one color then let set on some parchment paper. After a few minutes (and several more dunkings), the first little balls will be ready for a drizzle of the opposite color. When done, freeze or chill to speed up the setting process.
Check out bakerella.com for more ideas for cake balls and cake pops, as well as absolutely gorgeous pics.
. . . .
- You might be wondering about the "Abstract Tiger" cookies. Next year is the Year of the Tiger, according to the Chinese. Every year, my husband and his family have made little cookies shaped like the animal of the upcoming year. My husband and I've made little rats with heart-shaped cutters and little oxen out of circles the past two years, so this year we were going to use a kitty-shaped cutter from a Halloween set for tigers.
Except the cookie dough kept breaking. And breaking. And breaking. We finally gave up and drew stripes on the plain discs -- thus abstract tiger cookies were born.