Red Velvet Cake Balls


Many people mistakenly think that red velvet cake is a chocolate cake when it actually has very little cocoa in the batter. Its deep brownish-red color is due to the combination of cocoa and a hefty dose of red food coloring. My version has more cocoa than most and about half the red dye. Feel free to increase the red food coloring if you like; many recipes suggest to double my amount.

Red velvet cake balls pair wonderfully with our Cream Cheese Frosting. Use your choice of coating—these cake balls work nicely with dark, milk or white chocolate.

Adapted from Cake Balls: More Than 60 Delectable and Whimsical Sweet Spheres of Goodness (Harvard Common Press, 2012) by Dédé Wilson. Image Dédé Wilson.

Red Velvet Cake Balls
Makes: Makes about 42 ping-pong-sized cake balls
  • 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon sifted natural cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup low-fat buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar or distilled white vinegar
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon red liquid or gel food coloring
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
Frosting and Assembly:
  • ½ batch Cream Cheese Frosting, ready to use
  • 1⅓ pounds semisweet, milk, or white chocolate, such as Callebaut or Ghirardelli, finely chopped
  • Red colored sugar, glitter or nonpareils (optional)
  • 42 miniature fluted paper cups (optional)
  1. For the Cake: Position rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Coat the inside of a 9-inch x 13-inch rectangular pan with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.
  2. Whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl to aerate and combine; set aside.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and vinegar; set aside.
  4. In a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the butter until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the sugar gradually and beat until very light and fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping down the bowl once or twice. Beat in the vanilla and red food coloring until thoroughly combined.
  5. Beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping down after each addition and allowing each egg to be absorbed before continuing. Add the flour mixture in four additions, alternating with the buttermilk mixture. Begin and end with the flour mixture and beat briefly until smooth. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
  6. Bake for about 20 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center shows a few moist crumbs when removed. The cake will have begun to come away from the sides of the pan. Let cool completely in the pan on a wire rack. The cake is ready to use. Alternatively, double-wrap the pan in plastic wrap and store at room temperature for up to 1 day before proceeding.
  7. For the Cake Ball Assembly: Crumble the cooled cake in a large mixing bowl. Combine the cake and about ¾ cup of the frosting. Test by compressing and tasting and add more frosting only if needed for flavor and moisture. Roll into golf-ball–size cake balls. Refrigerate until firm. This can be done 1 day ahead; store in an airtight container once they are firm.
  8. Line two rimmed baking sheet pans with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Melt the chocolate in the microwave or a double boiler. Dip the balls one at a time in the chocolate, encouraging any excess chocolate to drip back into the container. Place, evenly spaced, on the prepared pans. Sprinkle a bit of red sugar, glitter or non-pareils on top of each cake ball while the chocolate is still wet. An option is to sprinkle a few cake crumbs on each ball (see image for variations). Refrigerate briefly until the chocolate is set. Trim the bottoms, if needed. Place each cake ball in a paper cup, if desired. Place in a single layer in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.

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