Alright, you know how yesterday I mentioned that I was going crazy thinking about the pumpkin cake balls I made last year? But I couldn’t make them because they are so crazy delicious that I’d probably just shovel the entire batch into my
pie cake ball hole and then crawl off and die the happiest/most painful sugar-fueled death ever?
Well, I did it anyway (made the cake balls, not die). Hiya, there, cake balls.
I just couldn’t resist any longer. Plus, I figure, I can always pawn the majority of them off to my husband’s co-workers. Nothing makes working folk happier than a big, heaping plate of bite-sized sugar bombs.
If you’re thinking that cake balls are probably a little bit out of the ballpark of the usual repertoire of this here blog, you’d be partially correct. Yes, I’m a total organic, local, whole foodie snob—so no, the boxed cake mix and artificially flavored candy coating doesn’t really make that part of my personality jump up and down with enthusiasm. But, on the other hand, part of my food philosophy is that being terribly restrictive with your diet is just bonkers boring. I don’t want to live in a world where I can’t eat cake balls.
Of course, if I was really on top of my game, I could have made the whole recipe from scratch. But man, who has time for that? I am not a baker, and I bake cakes so infrequently that I totally rock the cake mix aisle of the grocery store when I need to. I’m not ashamed to admit that I love cake mixes. I can doctor up a cake mix with the best of them. For the 3-4 cakes I bake a year? When I really don’t like baking to begin with? Cake mixes are my savior. In this particular recipe, spice cake mix is where it’s at.
If you’ve only ever hit up the cake mix aisle to grab chocolate or white cake for birthday cakes, you might not know that these little boxes of fall-flavored deliciousness are there. You might have to look closely. It might be on the bottom shelf, but I promise, there will be a spice cake mix. Grab it. Buy it. Learn to love it.
If you’ve never made cake balls before (or cake pops, if you put a stick in them), let me tell you, they are so fun to make. Basically, you bake a cake (see aforementioned cake mix), let it cool, then smash the crap out of it with your hands (fun!) and then mix in some frosting (we’re using cream cheese frosting here) until it is goopy, dense and totally delicious.
Then, you form that mixture into little balls, roll those balls in a candy or chocolate coating, decorate them and prepare yourself for the rapid-fire praises of all those who partake in cake balldom. Seriously. You’ll never hear more compliments than when you bring cake balls to a party.
I really like the way these cake balls look with a little dark chocolate drizzled on top and some fall-colored sprinkles, but, take it from me, don’t be tempted to swap out the candy coating for chocolate. I’ve done them with chocolate before, and they’re still delicious, but the chocolate way overpowers the pumpkin spice cake and cream cheese frosting. Stick with the vanilla or white chocolate coating.
Enjoy! I’m gonna go eat a raw kale salad or something.
Pumpkin Spice Cake Balls
Prep Time: 45 minutes | Cook Time: 25 minutes | Makes: 3 Dozen
For the Cake
- 1 box spice cake mix
- 3 eggs
- 1–15 ounce can pumpkin puree (or about 2 cups)
For the Frosting
- 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 1/2 stick butter, softened
- 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the Coating
- 1 pound vanilla candy coating
- 1-3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 ounce semisweet chocolate
- Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and lightly-flour two cake pans, set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the cake mix, eggs, and pumpkin puree on medium-low speed until just combined. Then turn the speed up to medium-high and beat for 2 minutes, until light and fluffy. Divide the batter between the prepared cake pans and bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool completely.
- To make the frosting, beat together the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of a mixer. Add in the powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, until smooth.
- To make cake balls, break up the cake into a large bowl, add in the frosting, and using clean hands, smoosh it together until well-mixed. Using damp hands, form the mixture into 1″ balls and place them onto a baking sheet. Once you’ve finished with all the mixture, place the baking sheet in the freezer.
- While the cake balls are chilling, melt the candy coating in a saucepan over low heat, until smooth. Add in the vegetable oil, a tablespoon at a time, until the mixture is the thickness of a thin alfredo sauce. Do not try to thin out the coating with milk or water (it’ll just make it clumpy). Turn off the burner.
- Remove the cake balls from the freezer, and working one at a time, gently drop a cake ball into the candy coating, and spoon more over top to coat. Fish out the ball with a spoon, and place it on wax paper to harden. Repeat with remaining cake balls, you should have just enough candy coating to do all the balls.
- For decoration: melt the semisweet chocolate in the microwave, using a spoon, drizzle it on the cake balls and then top with sprinkles.
More Fall Desserts
What’s your favorite fall-inspired dessert?
Now that it’s officially autumn, you guys won’t be mad if I bury you in cozy, comfy recipes for the next few months, right? I hope not, because man, I have some good ones up floating around in this food-obsessed brain of mine.
Life seems to finally be calming down after one of the more crazy summers of my life, and it feels so good to get back into the kitchen and cook just for the sake of cooking and eating. I’m an equally-opportunity season lover, but something about being in the kitchen with fall-inspired ingredients on a crisp day while the leaves tumble outside the window makes my heart happy. I have dreams of stews and soups and roasts and casseroles and all that delicious, hearty food that makes packing on an extra 10 pounds of winter weight totally worth it (after all, you’ll just work it off with yard work in the spring, anyway, amirite?).
One of the tell-tale signs that I’ve shifted into the autumn mindset is when I stop icing my beverages and instead drift toward hot coffee and hot tea. We’re pretty vigilant about keeping our heat off as long as possible, and as the thermostat dips lower and lower, my hands seem to get colder and colder. That poor husband of mine. Pretty much from September through April, the second I touch him, he jumps out of his skin thanks to my ice cold hands. Wrapping my hands around a warm mug is to benefit both of us. And, hey, it doesn’t hurt that the mug contents are totally delicious.
This isn’t the first chai latte recipe on the blog, but this is definitely my favorite. The original was back early in this blog’s life (and hey, I talked about my cold hands there, too), and I wasn’t much of an experimenter. My sister passed the recipe along to me, and I liked it, so I posted it without tweaking. But two years later, I’ve been working and tweaking the recipe for a while now, and I’ve landed on a concoction I love even more than the original. Out is the highly processed sugar, and in is natural, flowery honey. Also added: a decent amount of vanilla extract and freshly cracked black pepper, which sounds like a weird combo, but trust, me, it’s beautiful together. Sweet, a little bit spicy, and so crazy aromatic that your husband will walk in the kitchen and say, “Holy crap. That smells amazing.” #truestory
I also love this recipe because the sweetness level is 100% customizable. In the recipe, I include a base amount of honey (1/4 cup) and that gives you a lightly sweet version—much less sweeter than the chai lattes you get at the Bux, but still treat-worthy. If you like a little more sweetness in your latte, just add more honey. In fact, if you’re serving this to a crowd, I’d say the best plan of attack is to make the recipe as written, and then have more honey on the table for folks to customize their drink as they like.
Of course, if you happen to get another heat wave in the next few weeks, this also works beautifully as an iced chai. But let’s just pretend like that’s not going to happen, okay? I’m ready for fall to be here to stay.
Vanilla Honey Chai Tea Latte
Cook Time: 10 minutes | Makes: 4 small mugs or 2 large
- 2 cups water
- 2 black tea bags, tags removed
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom OR 6 whole cardamom pods, crushed
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon OR 1 whole cinnamon stick
- 3 whole cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- Pinch freshly ground black pepper
- Pinch salt
- 1/4 cup honey
- 2 cups milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- In a saucepan over medium-high heat, mix together the water, tea bags, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Add in the pepper, salt, honey and milk. Bring back to a boil, remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Strain through cheesecloth or fine mesh sieve into mugs. Top with whipped cream or more ground cinnamon.
More Hot Drinks
What are you most excited about for the new season? Anyone going on any trips or have anything fun planned?
- Recovery: I started off last weekend recovering from food poisoning (as I was flying to the Healthy Living Summit). Womp. Womp. Thankfully, the airport is full of good mild tummy recovery food. This was my airport lunch: bagel with cream cheese, apple juice and Gatorade. I also packed some saltines just in case (but I didn’t crack into them).
- In-Flight: Even when my tummy is feeling fine, I always get ginger ale in flight. Anyone else have a go-to airplane drink?
- Snack: Gretchen and I headed to a coffee shop in Minneapolis to get a snack. I grabbed an iced pumpkin latte and a cherry Chobani.
- Small Plates: Gretchen, Lauren and I split four appetizers for dinner our first night in Minneapolis—BBQ pork quesadillas, cheese-stuffed pretzels, hummus platter and a house salad. Plus two beer samplers.
- Breakfast Spread: The spread at HLS breakfast was quite impressive! I had some fruit, bacon, a delicious egg scramble, some oatmeal, coffee and some tastes from smoothies. I didn’t finish all of this because my tummy was still a little topsy-turvy.
- Pile it up!: Lunch was a make-your-own fajita bar, which I turned into a make-your-own taco salad bar. Yum!
- Lunch Dessert: Yup, healthy living bloggers eat dessert. See this piece of chocolate mousse cake I had after lunch. Which was immediately followed by a keynote speaker telling us about the evils of sugar addiction. Ha!
- Snack: You had to go out of your way to be hungry at HLS. Snack time was some hard-boiled eggs, cheese wraps and some trail mix.
- Local Brews: I don’t remember the name of the brewery, but I drank a few local MPLS beers for dinner at HLS. This was a nice IPA that wasn’t too bitter or hoppy.
- Peck of Pickled Peppers: A pickle plate shared with the table at dinner. The pickled beets were amazing.
- Bagelwich: Lox, capers, red onion, tomatoes, and plain cream cheese on a bagel. Plus decaf. With a view.
- Airport Treat: Waiting for Craig to pick me up from the airport, I sipped on a decaf Salted Caramel Mocha. So sugary. So delicious
- Mac and Cheese: We got mac and cheese in our swag bags at HLS, so Craig took it and did some doctoring up. He added ground beef, red onion and garlic. So yummy and comforting.
- Swag: More HLS swag. This was a darn good brownie.
- Campfire: We made BLTs over the campfire. Although, I guess, these are technically BSTCs—bacon, sprouts, tomatoes, cheese.
- Alliteration: Bacon, buttermilk and brown sugar biscuits.
- Yum: Found this (after hearing many good things about it from Lauren) at Whole Foods. Very good.
- Salad!: Remember salad? We haven’t had any lettuce coming off in months, and haven’t bought any, but I had a serious hankering for a caesar salad, so I bought a bag of romaine. It was everything I’d hoped it would be.
- Snausage: More Whole Foods goodies—basil and garlic pork sausage. Which I baked with some tomato sauce, peppers and onions and served over a bun with a knife and fork.
- Hodge-Podge: I didn’t have any dinner ideas, so I just kinda threw a bunch of veggies in with some pasta and mixed it with some Greek yogurt and parm. It was delicious!
- Rainy Day Breakfast: A frittata with garlic, red onion, mushrooms and goat cheese.
- My Favorite Brewery: Found Upland’s Oktoberfest. Very, very good. And the photo on the label makes me desperately want to go to Munich.
- Pretty: Fruit salad made with pears, apples, blueberries, strawberries and watermelon.
- Roast: Marshmallows on the campfire.
What’s the best thing you’ve eaten this week?
- Not bad: First time trying this amber lager from Third Shift. It was pretty good!
- Pizza night: Caramelized onions, bacon and goat cheese with alfredo sauce. Plus a side salad of purslane, tomatoes and cucumbers.
- Dessert: Does anyone else eat just chocolate chips for dessert? I have tiny bowls which work perfectly.
- Castoffs: I thinned our Swiss Chard plants, and I wasn’t about to toss away the thinnings. For lunch, I had an open-face sandwich topped with baby Swiss Chard and chicken salad (I promise there is a piece of bread under that), plus a few tomatoes on the side.
- Canned: We’re running low on groceries, so I opened up one of our jars of canned peaches to give us some fruit. So yummy!
- Grillin‘: One of my favorite dinners—grilled brats with peppers and onions. Plus some mustard to dip in, and a little bit of chow chow (in place of sauerkraut).
- Breakfast: Toast with tomatoes, basil, parmesan and runny eggs.
- Freebie: A bowl of Naked Granola (which was sent to me for free to review). I’m really loving their granola, it’s not very oat-y, which I like. And you get big, yummy chunks!
- Desperate: I was getting really desperate for food and ate this block of ramen I found in the back of the pantry. And then I immediately went and made a friggin’ grocery list.
- Simple: Sometimes I like to make a big batch of brown rice, black beans and fresh salsa and then we use it for dinners, lunches, and snacks. So yummy, so filling, so simple. Puppy likes it, too.
- Hash: Bacon, potatoes, garlic, onion, Swiss Chard, okra and poached eggs.
- Car Lunch: I was out getting my hair done and getting and pedicure, and I stopped at Qdoba for lunch. I got a chicken burrito with fajita veggies and black beans. So yummy. Why is Qdoba so delicious?
- Treat: I know there is nothing healthy about it, but I doubt I’ll ever give up my every-now-and-again Mountain Dew. So sugary and delicious.
- Pumpkick: Now this is a really good pumpkin beer. Pumpkin-y, spice-y, yummy!
- Jolly Rancher: This tastes like someone melted an apple Jolly Rancher and mixed it with beer, and it’s amazing.
- Ring, Ring, Ring, Ring, Ring: Banana phone.
- Tradition: Every other Wednesday night. Fresh baguette, local cheese, fruit and a bottle of wine.
- Settling: I somehow got a nice bout of food poisoning, so I’m taking care of my tummy and eating only mild foods right now. I made a smoothie with banana and pineapple.
What’s the best thing you’ve eaten so far this week?
It’s hot. We haven’t had a lot of heat this summer, but the past few days have been seriously toasty ’round these parts. I always assume that as soon as the calendar flips over to September, Mother Nature will get the memo and turn the thermostat down, but she never seems to co-operate. Craig and I had our wedding reception at the end of September a few years ago, and it was 95°! I was seriously regretting my big, fluffy taffeta dress that day.
Anywho, even if the thermometer doesn’t look like it, we are closing in on fall and with that comes lots of yummy, yummy fall food! I love fall food. I love slow-roasted root veggies and creamy squash soups and tons of fresh rosemary and sage.
I’m not ready to whip out the winter squash quite yet (after all, our butternuts are still growing out the garden), but I did go as far as making a cozy, comfy, rosemary-infused potato side dish the other day.
Because I can’t entirely quit summer yet, I also threw in a bunch of sliced okra. I know there are a lot of okra haters out there, but I ain’t one of them. Man, I love okra. I love the flavor, I love the texture, I even love the slime (especially when it works so well to thicken up soups, stews and chowders). If you’re afraid of the okra slime, don’t worry, this dish is 100% slime-free. Here, sautéing the okra in thin slices cooks the slime out and leaves you just with earthy, soft, caramelized pieces of okra goodness.
We’ve got okra coming off at a pretty good clip in our garden right now (Silver Queen variety, in case you were curious), so I just trekked down to the garden, pulled out my knife and sliced off a few pods for this side dish. If you aren’t growing your own, right about now is when farmer’s markets around the country will start having nice piles of okra kicking around. Although, admittedly, since we’ve had such a cool summer here in the Midwest, okra might be a little bit harder to find or pricer. Okra loves, loves, loves heat—we can grow it pretty well here in Southern Indiana, but in the Northern parts of the state, it’s a struggle—and with the cool weather, it isn’t producing the way it usually would.
Anywho, we actually turned this side dish into an entree by topping it with a couple of poached eggs (we’ll top almost anything with a poached egg), but this would be an awesome Sunday supper side dish. It’s so cozy and comfortable. I can see it going alongside some roasted chicken and maybe some sautéed greens. YUM.
It does look like I might get to pull out my boots and scarves later in the week (especially since I’m heading to Minneapolis this weekend for the Healthy Living Summit, where it promises to be much cooler than Southern Indiana). And I thoroughly plan on eating all kinds of yummy, fall-inspired foods (and probably a Pumpkin Spice Latte or two).
Bacon, Okra, and Potato Hash
Prep Time: 10 minutes | Cook Time: 20 minutes | Makes: 4 side-dish servings
- 2 pounds new potatoes, quartered
- 2 slices bacon
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1/2 pound okra, tops removed and sliced thinly
- 1 large sprig rosemary, finely minced
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Fill a stock pot with potatoes and water, bring to a boil and cook until potatoes are fork-tender. OR place potatoes on a microwave-safe plate and cook on high in microwave for 5 minutes, or until potatoes are fork-tender. Set aside.
- In a large skillet or dutch oven, cook the bacon until browned and crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove bacon, crumble and set aside.
- Add in the garlic to the bacon grease, and cook until fragrant and tender, about 3 minutes. Add in the potatoes, okra, and rosemary and cook, stirring frequently, until the potatoes and okra are browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat, add in crumbled bacon, salt, and pepper.
What’s your favorite fall-inspired food? What are you looking forward to most about fall? Scarves? Boots? Pumpkins? Leaves?
- Road trip: Craig and I went on a day trip to visit friends and breakfast was oatmeal from Starbucks. With all the toppings.
- First: For some reason, last year, I wasn’t feeling the PSLs, but I got my first one of the season this week, and it was delicious. I’m in love again.
- Yum: Breakfast of toast, goat cheese, basil, tomatoes and poached eggs.
- Freebie: My friends are Naked Granola sent me some granola and cookies to try and they are SO yummy! They are just lightly sweet, and very, very good. Highly recommended. Go support this small company!
- Homemade: One of the benefits of working from home—I can, on a whim, decide to make ravioli on a Tuesday night. This was whole wheat dough filled with basil, parm and Greek yogurt. Yum.
- Dessert: I love weird ice cream. This one is goat cheese and roasted cherries. So delicious.
- Simple: Breakfast of two over-easy eggs, toast, sautéed kale and toast.
- Country Drink: Sweetened sun tea and mint leaves in a Mason jar. I love sun tea.
- Cook out: We had my parents over for Labor Day and on the menu was smoked chicken, potato salad with sundried tomato and bacon, broccoli salad, bread and corn on the cob.
- Lemon-y: We made shandys for Labor Day! Yum.
- Husband-made: Craig made us breakfast burritos. Whole wheat tortilla with egg whites, bacon, white tomato and sprouts.
- Work: I made some baked chicken strips for a freelance project. Dipping sauces—Greek yogurt honey mustard and plum sauce. Plus some baked potato wedges alongside.
- Leftovers: We’ve been eating on leftover smoked chicken for a few days. Alongside on this one, a salad made of cucumbers, tomatoes, sprouts and basil.
- Brew: My first pumpkin beer of the season! There are a lot of pumpkin beers I prefer over this one, but it’s still pretty delicious. I just don’t think it tastes very pumpkin-y or spice-y.
- French Press: I love my French Press.
- Sunday Morning: Whole wheat buttermilk pancakes for breakfast! Plus the very, very last of our maple syrup. Womp. Womp.
- Pizza and Beer: Craig works about a 1/4 mile down the road from our favorite local brewery/pizzeria, so he picked us up some pizza and a growler of beer on his way home. He somehow managed to make the 30 minute drive home without eating a single slice. He has more willpower than I do.
- Does A Body Good: Remember when people used to drink glasses of milk? I never do that anymore. I should though. It’s such a filling snack!
- Sip: Ever had one of these before? It’s half grapefruit soda and half beer. SO delicious.
- Lunch With Friends: We had lunch with the amazing Coach Krissie and her husband, Nathan and I ended up with this pulled pork sandwich along with potato salad.
- Banana Laffy Taffy: This amazing wheat beer I had at West Sixth had this flavor and scent of banana Laffy Taffy, which is amazing. I love banana Laffy Taffy.
- Donuts: We stopped at a local donut and coffee shop with Krissie and Nathan. I had a funnel cake donut (and it tasted exactly like a funnel cake!) and everyone else had maple bacon donuts. Along with an iced coffee.
- Purple Slurple: I haven’t been having a lot of smoothies lately, but Craig did bring me this almond milk, banana and blueberry mix.
- Obsessed: I’ve eaten this sandwich no less than three times this week. Whole wheat bread, sprouts, mayo, tomatoes and cheese. So incredible. The only thing that would make it better? Tortilla chips on it. Anyone else love chips on their sandwiches?