#WhyIMarch: Resistance Vanilla Cake Truffles

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I believe in women. I believe in equality. I believe in progress. I try not to get too political on here, because after all, the focus of this blog is to foist gluttonous amounts of butter and sugar on you, but the recent events in this country are freaking me out. To tell you the truth, I actually really hate politics. Or maybe it’s better to say, I hate the game of politics. But given the direction that politics have been heading for the past 15 years or so, I have found myself getting more and more informed out of necessity. During the course of the 2016 election, I was simultaneously overjoyed and horrified, as I believe many people were. Overjoyed because I strongly supported Hillary Clinton and was ecstatic at the idea of electing the first female president; horrified because all of the Republican candidates were completely nightmarish scenarios, one worse than the next with their archaic, oppressive, misogynistic views. And then Donald Trump won the nomination, which had seemed implausible… yet there we were. I, like much of the nation, believed that Hillary had this thing in the bag. However, we all watched on election night as things unraveled.

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But let me back up a few days. I was excited to make a special dessert to bring to work to celebrate our big victory the day after the election, as I had when President Obama won in 2008. I had been wanting to make a Momofuku Milk Bar Birthday Cake forever, and I thought this would be the perfect celebratory occasion, albeit with red, white, and blue sprinkles instead of multicolored. I happily made my cakes and frosting and birthday crumbs, and carefully stacked and build my cake with love. I was even planning to make fondant letters saying “Hillary 2016” to place on top– I was so ready for this! But then the unthinkable happened. As each state descended into darkness, my spirit and enthusiasm drained with it. As I watched the results come in throughout the evening, my chest pounding harder with each hour that passed, I didn’t have the heart to make the fondant letters anymore… How could this have happened? What was I going to do with this cake now? Very few people were celebrating– and I kinda wanted to punch those people in the face. But I didn’t want the cake to go to waste, so I still brought it to work as an “eat your feelings” cake the day after the election. My coworkers loved it, and every bit got eaten, but we were still devastated. I also had made a bunch of extra cake because I’d wanted to try making cake truffles, my favorite item at Milk Bar. I was all set to write up a big blog post about the election cake, but I didn’t have the heart to continue. I also didn’t have the will to make the cake truffles, so I formed the cake into balls to avoid wasting it, and put them in the freezer for a long nap. (Because of this, I didn’t bother photographing this step unfortunately.) When was I going to need red, white, and blue cake again in the foreseeable future? Certainly not for the inauguration…

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But then came word of the Women’s March on Washington, set to take place the day after the inauguration. I have never been a politically active person. I have never participated in a protest– but this was the time. I knew that I had to be a part of this event. My husband and I are flying from California to Washington to have a voice during this disturbing time of unjust politics and altered reality. And then I realized that I did have a red, white, and blue occasion to celebrate! I decided to make the cake truffles as a celebration of resistance and standing up for what’s right.

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Let me tell you now that making the cake and/or truffles is quite a project. There are several components to make, plus baking and assembly. I will also tell you that it is 100% worth it. This cake is a stunner, and the truffles are adorable. (Also good portion control… if, you know, you have a problem with that sort of thing. I wouldn’t know first-hand, but um, I hear that’s an issue for some people… *cough*)

The directions to make and assemble the cake can be found here (and you can see my process photos here), though I’m going to focus on the truffles in this post. You will need to make cake, milk soak, and sprinkle crumb “sand”. The truffles are a messy endeavor, though with a little organizing, you can minimize the amount of chocolate that goes to waste. (In fact, if you have a second person to help you, it’s easiest to make a little assembly line– one person runs the chocolate operation, the other mans the sprinkle sand.) I recommend putting a small amount of the sand crumbs in a small bowl, rather than rolling the truffles around in one larger bowl because the sand will get clumpy from the white chocolate; if you add small amounts of sand as needed to your smaller bowl, you will continue to have fresh, non-gloppy sand.

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A few ingredient notes:

  • Vanilla: The original recipe explicitly calls for clear artificial vanilla extract in order to mimic the flavor of old-school boxed cake mix. I’m torn on that, because there is nothing that I would like to sniff for hours on end than a bottle of pure vanilla. I think it just depends on what kind of vanilla flavor you want here– it’s perfectly fine to use pure vanilla if you don’t have or don’t want to use the artificial stuff. (I will probably do so in the future.)
  • White Chocolate: It is ultra important to use high quality white chocolate that will melt well. Typical white chocolate in the neighborhood of 31-32% cocoa solids melts into more of a “pudding” consistency than a smooth liquid; a chocolate around 35% melts beautifully into a luxurious pool that is perfect for dipping. I recommend Valrhona Ivoire, if you can afford/find it, but it’s admittedly very expensive. I was using Guittard Soie Blanche as a reliable choice, but lately it’s been melting more thickly, and they said at my baking supply store that Guittard changed their formula. However, I just discovered that Callebaut white chocolate melts perfectly well, despite containing only 26% cocoa solids, so that too is a great choice– I’m not sure why this lower-percentage one melts so nicely. (If your white chocolate melts on the thicker side, you can employ this little trick to thin it out: Stir some paramount crystals into the white chocolate while it is melting, about ½ teaspoon at a time as needed, and it will thin out the chocolate so you can more easily roll the cake truffles.)
  • Sprinkles: This is originally a multicolored birthday cake, but the beauty of sprinkle recipes is that you can customize the colors for any festive occasion: green for St. Patrick’s Day, red/pink for Valentine’s, and of course red/white/blue for any sort of American holiday.

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The recipe for the original cake is for a 3-layer 6″ cake; I wanted to make an 8″ cake, so I quadrupled the recipe in order to have enough for both the cake and truffles (4 quarter-sheet pans!), but I had such an overabundance of cake left over that I made 100+ truffles! I didn’t need the fourth cake at all, and a triple recipe would have been plenty. If you are making only truffles, just use the quantities below, but of course you can double or triple as you wish. (Though a double batch of batter was a little much for my stand mixer to contain– it’s best to make the cake batter one batch at a time!)

With that I say… THANKS, OBAMA. *sigh*

…and now we fight.

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Resistance Vanilla Cake Truffles
Adapted from Momofuku Milk Bar Cookbook
Yields about 25 truffles (I got more than what the recipe promised)

For the cake:

  • 245 grams (2 cups) cake flour
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 75 grams (¼ cup + 2 tablespoons) red, white, and blue sprinkles, divided
  • 55 grams (½ stick/4 tablespoons/2 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 60 grams (⅓ cup) vegetable shortening, at room temperature
  • 250 grams (1¼ cups) granulated sugar
  • 50 grams (3 firmly packed tablespoons) light brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 110 grams (½ cup) well-shaken buttermilk
  • 65 grams (⅓ cup) grapeseed oil
  • 2 teaspoons clear vanilla extract

For the “sand” crumbs (makes about 275 grams, 2¼ cups):

  • 100 grams (½ cup) granulated sugar
  • 25 grams (1½ firmly packed tablespoons) light brown sugar
  • 90 grams (¾ cup) cake flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 20 grams (2 tablespoons) rainbow sprinkles
  • 40 grams (¼ cup) grapeseed oil
  • 1 tablespoon clear artificial vanilla extract (or pure vanilla)

For the milk soak:

  • 55 grams (¼ cup) milk
  • 1 teaspoon clear vanilla extract

For truffle assembly:

  • 5 ounces good-quality white chocolate, melted

To make the sprinkle cake:

Preheat an oven to 350°F and place a rack in the center position. Line a quarter-sheet pan with parchment paper so that there is a bit of excess up the sides, enough to pull up the cake when it’s done.

Whisk the cake flour, baking powder, salt, and 50 grams (¼ cup) of the red, white, and blue sprinkles in a medium mixing bowl.

Place the butter, shortening, granulated sugar, and brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and cream them together on medium-high speed for 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, add the eggs all together, and mix on medium-high for another 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the bowl again.

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With the mixer on low speed, stream in the buttermilk, grapeseed oil, and vanilla extract. Bump up the mixer speed to medium-high and paddle for 4-6 minutes, until the mixture is very pale (almost white), about twice the size of the original butter/shortening/sugar mixture, and totally homogenous; there should be no streaks of fat or liquid. (The long mixing time is necessary because of the chemistry of these ingredients; there is a high liquid-to-fat ratio here, and it takes a long time to incorporate them smoothly.) Scrape down the sides and bottom of the mixer bowl.

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Add the flour/sprinkle mixture all at once and mix on the lowest speed for 45-60 seconds, just until incorporated; do not overmix. Scrape down the bowl one last time.

Spread the cake batter in an even layer in the prepared quarter-sheet pan with a small offset spatula. Scatter the remaining 25 g (2 tablespoons) sprinkles evenly on top of the batter.

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Bake the cake for 30-35 minutes; it will puff up about double in size with a deep golden top. At about 30 minutes, carefully poke the edge of the cake– it should bounce back slightly and the center should not jiggle. Leave it in the oven for an extra few minutes if needed.

Set the pan on a wire rack to cool completely. The cooled cake can be stored in the fridge, tightly wrapped in plastic, for up to 5 days.

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To make the “sand” crumbs:

Preheat an oven to 275°F and place a rack in the center position. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place the granulated and brown sugars, cake flour, baking powder, salt, and sprinkles in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed until the ingredients are even combined. Add the grapeseed oil and vanilla extract and mix again on low until the mixture has formed crumbly clusters; the wet ingredients act like a “glue” to help the clusters form and stick together.

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Pour the clusters onto the prepared sheet pan in a single layer and bake for 15 minutes, gently stirring once midway through.

Place the pan on a wire cooling rack and allow the crumbs to cool completely before using them.

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To make the milk soak:

Whisk together the milk and vanilla extract in a small bowl.

To assemble the cake truffles:

Line a quarter-sheet pan with parchment paper and fit a food processor with its metal blade. Remove the cake from the quarter-sheet pan and peel off the parchment from the bottom. Break the cake with your hands into large chunks and place them a few at a time in the food processor bowl; pulse several times until the cake is reduced to fluffy crumbs. Repeat as needed until all the cake has been crumbled. Transfer the crumbs to a medium-sized bowl.

Add 2 tablespoons of the milk soak to the bowl and mix it with your hands (latex gloves optional) until the mixture is uniformly moistened. If you pinch off a small piece, it should hold together; if it’s too dry, add a little more of the milk. With a small spring-loaded ice cream scoop or with your hands, roll the wet crumbs into smooth spheres about 1″ in diameter. Set them aside on prepared sheet pan.

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Once all the balls are formed, cover the pan with plastic wrap and transfer it to the fridge for 30 minutes to chill the cake balls slightly. (You can also store them in the fridge overnight at this point and resume the next day, or even freeze them for a few weeks; let them thaw in the fridge before proceeding.)

Place about ¼ of the “sand” in a small bowl; keep the rest nearby. Wearing latex gloves, put a small amount of the melted white chocolate in the palm of your hand and roll each ball between your palms to coat it in a thin layer of melted chocolate; add more chocolate as needed. This will act as “glue” for the next step.

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Working quickly, drop the chocolate-covered spheres one by one into the bowl of sand, tossing and rolling them around to cover completely. If the chocolate shell sets before the entire ball gets coated in sand, dab some more chocolate onto the “bald” spots and re-dip in sand. Keep rolling the truffle around in your hand very gently for a few seconds to help the crumbs adhere. Add more sand to your small bowl when it runs low. Repeat until you have coated all the cake balls.

Let the cake truffles set in the fridge for about 15 minutes. They can be stored for up to a week (chilled) in an airtight container.

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© Dafna Adler & Stellina Sweets, 2017.

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2 Responses

  1. I love that you wrote this, and I feel exactly the same way. Your fellow marchers in DC are lucky to get those cake balls! How would you compare this cake to the Baked ultimate birthday (sprinkle) cake?

    1. Thanks, Sally! I was a little nervous about getting so political in this space, but I figure that if someone doesn’t like it, they are simply welcome to stop reading. *shrug*

      Hmm… this cake is made with fake vanilla on purpose, so the two cakes do taste very different. I personally prefer the taste of pure vanilla, but I do love this cake in its own right. I have a bottle of McCormick’s clear vanilla on order, which I will try next time (you know, in the name of… research), but I’d probably just use real vanilla in the future. I don’t like the taste of so many waxy sprinkles on the BAKED cake– that’s probably the only thing I’d change about that cake. But seriously… I’d stuff them both in my face with no regrets!!

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