Sweet Tooth — balls o’ cake from Petit Cake Shop

Is the cupcake craze over? And what’s the deal with cake balls, or cake pops, cake balls’ spherical cousin? Why do people hate slices of cake? This, and other ruminations on baked goods, right here.

Cake balls are more than just glorified Timbits
Photos by Tracey Lindeman

Cake balls. What’s up with that?

Cake doesn’t naturally come in balls — it has to be formed, by hand presumably, or perhaps with an ice cream scoop. A quick Internet search indicates you’d first bake a cake, then crumble it up into a bowl, only to shape its remains into edible bites, with the assistance of frosting.

Sounds like a lot of work.

Are cake balls, or cake pops (cake balls’ spherical brethren), the new cupcakes? I mean, people still lose their shit for cupcakes — like, “Fuck this slice of cake. I want it cute, and small, wrapped in paper.” But is the novelty wearing off?

Maybe, if businesses like Petit Cake Shop are taken as evidence of changing trends in the baking world (and my baker friend in New York assures me it’s true). The Lachine home-based business, founded in the spring of 2011, is run by Stephanie Segal, mother of two, baker and independent small-business owner.

The inspiration for the venture came from having to participate in the dreaded elementary school party. “We had to bring a baked good, and I knew there’d be 100 cookies/brownies/cupcakes, [and] I wanted to something new and different. It turned out to be quite a lengthy, involved process, but I loved the creativity I could use in styling and designing them, not to mention they were unbelievably delicious and cute,” Segal says.

“When I put a bunch in a box as a thank you to a friend, I thought, ‘I would pay for that.’”

She brought me a half-dozen cake balls one morning, and I ate them all. In the name of journalism, of course.

I don’t know what I was expecting before I opened the box — maybe a bunch of Timbit-looking things? What I got was a small army of what, at first glance, appeared to be homemade, chocolate-coated truffles. I thought, “That Stephanie, she’s a woman after my own heart.”

She had neatly packed six different flavours into the adorable little box: spicy choco-apple, butterscotch latte, s’mores, pumpkin pie, peanut butter-chocolate and salted caramel-chocolate. Each was covered in a thin melted chocolate or candy coating, the snap of which contrasted the softness of the cake nicely. Some had chocolate or caramel drizzled over top for decorative effect. Nice touch.

The butterscotch latte and salted caramel-chocolate cake balls were my personal favourites — neither was too sweet, both were moist, and the butterscotch latte one had a noticeable smoothness to its flavour. The salted caramel-chocolate one combined a salty caramel drizzle with a deep chocolate cake base, proving yet again that salty and sweet are, when united, the ultimate force in baking.

The peanut butter-chocolate one was also evidence of this phenomenon, though the peanut butter could have used a bit more salt to play that up. Either way, I can only assume this one is one of Segal’s most popular options, since it’s common knowledge that few things in culinary history compare to the addition of peanut butter to chocolate.

Moving on, the pumpkin pie one tasted of spice cake more so than pumpkin pie. Luckily, I fucking love spice cake. It would work nicely paired with the butterscotch latte cake ball and a nice cup of black tea.

Finally, my least favourite ones — the spicy choco-apple and the s’mores. Let me start by saying I have no affinity for s’mores. I never did the singing-”Kumbaya”-around-the-campfire thing, and am hardly ever around a bonfire or an open flame. Plus, marshmallows? Meh (although I do enjoy a burnt marshmallow every decade or so).

The s’mores cake ball is totally adorbs, with its pair of tiny mini-marshmallows and chilled dark chocolate coating, but the cake itself was sort of ambiguous, in the way that red velvet cake isn’t so much a flavour as it is a colour. But hey, this is serious journalism, so I ate it anyway.

The marshmallows, as marshmallows are wont to do, got pressed up against the roof of my mouth, and everything went downhill from there. Their sponginess, combined with the relative dryness of the cake, made this cake ball fall a bit flat.

On the other end of the moisture spectrum was the spicy choco-apple cake ball, which was perhaps a little too moist. I ate it last, and it felt a bit soggy compared to the others — perhaps a tad undercooked, or oversaturated with icing or applesauce? What it had going for it, though, was the richness of the chocolate. Decadent, to say the least. ■

A dozen cake balls will cost you $22, including gift box or platter. Petit Cake Shop doesn’t have a storefront, but delivers around Montreal. You can email Stephanie Segal at petitcakeshop@gmail.com or call at 514-432-1612

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