During the darkest point of battling my eating disorder in 2012, I finally found the courage to begin therapy. It was around November and the holiday season just started, so I was telling my therapist about how I lost my job and moved back with my parents and therefore had no money to give Christmas presents to anyone.
My therapist then asked, “why don’t you make them something?” I had an incessant fear of cooking and baking because the last guy I’d dated told me that I was an awful cook. My therapist thought it would be a good self-esteem exercise to learn one recipe and gift it away. At the same time, it was a good way for me to learn how to be around food and remain in control.
Since I was jobless and wasn’t enrolled in school, I had all the time in the world. I set out to make something out of the pantry. I had red velvet cake mix, icing, and … bars of chocolate.
And so my tradition of truffles began. Over the years, the day-long process has shortened into 2 hours worth of baking, and I package and gift these truffles during both the holidays and for birthday presents.
But it goes so much deeper than being just a cheap present.
The truffles at the beginning were awfully ugly. I went through boxes of boxes of cake mix trying to make the truffles look presentable, because my ex-manchildfriend danced around my head constantly telling me I couldn’t bake to save anyone’s life. I wanted to prove him wrong. Years later, I’m now baking and decorating Chinese sponge cakes, cooking vegan recipes, and creating carb-free/sugar free cookies.
Fun fact: During that Christmas, the cute neighbor next door brought over some eggnog for my family, to which I dug up the courage and gave him a box of my awful treats and prayed that my baked abominations wouldn’t scare him away. 4 years later, that man is sleeping soundly next to me in bed while I type this. So, you never know when your downfalls can be your strengths.
If you yet haven’t read my story, you can read about how my eating disorder stemmed from financial insecurity on my About page. Due to having bulimia nervosa, I had a severe fear of being around food. My truffles have become a symbol of my personal growth, my road to recovery, and the discovery that you don’t have to buy gifts for others if you can’t afford it financially. When you feel like you have nothing left to give, you still have your hands and creativity to make something.
Now that the story is out of the way, here’s my recipe for my truffles!
Ingredients (all found at Walmart):
- Betty Crocker Super Moist Cake Mix: $2.00 (although they were on sale in-store for $1.00) – you can use any brand of cake mix for this recipe!
- Cream Cheese Frosting: I used this Duncan Hines Whipped Frosting for $1.64
- 24oz Plymouth Pantry Almond Bark Vanilla Baking Bar: $3.10
- You can use Wilton Candy Melts as well, but I prefer using the Plymouth Pantry Baking Bars as it is a much better value. The only downside to the Plymouth Pantry brand is that they only have vanilla and chocolate, whereas Wilton has a variety of colors.
- Toppings (pick one): 2oz slivered almonds ($2.08)
Recipe yields about 40 truffles.
- To make the cake mix: you’ll need vegetable oil, water, and about 3 eggs. I didn’t list these since most people may already have these ingredients. It doesn’t really matter what brand or flavor you pick, as this is just the foundation for the truffles.
- Melting Chocolate: I’ve tried using regular chocolate bars like Symphony and Hershey’s, but I still choose candy melts like Wilton or Almond Bark instead. Chocolate melts too easily and burns too easily when heating up, since it requires tempering. To make things easier, I get candy melts. I prefer them in flavor and texture compared to real chocolate because chocolate can be way too sweet for this recipe.
- For the slivered almond topping: Make sure to get slivered and not sliced almonds. Sliced almonds will have the almond skin intact, and slivered will not. You will need to place this into a food processor and crush it so it breaks into small pieces. Don’t over-pulse it, or it will look like sand!
Other Flavor Combinations
- Red Velvet: Red velvet cake mix, cream cheese frosting, chocolate candy melts, slivered almonds
- Funfetti: White cake mix, cream cheese frosting, white chocolate candy melts, rainbow sprinkles – Here is my recipe for Funfetti Truffles!
- Cookies & Cream: Vanilla cake mix, white chocolate candy melts or Hershey’s Cookies & Creme bars, Oreo cookies. With this variation, you would dip the cake balls into the white chocolate and top with roughly-crushed Oreo cookies.
For this recipe, I’ll be making red velvet truffles!
1. Make the cake as directed on the box. I usually just bake it in a 13×9-inch pan. No frills – you’ll be crumbling the cake up anyway!
2. Let cake cool. After it is cooled, use a fork and crumble the cake up until the crumbs are fine, fluffing it to ensure the edges are crumbled. If the edges are too crisp, cut those pieces out. You’ll be rolling the cake crumbs into a dough, so any crispy pieces will definitely be discovered when someone eats your truffles!
I personally prefer to crumble the cake up a few minutes after it’s out of the oven. As long as the middle is finished cooking, you can crumble it up fast and use most of the edges of the cake before it gets too crisp.
3. Mix in a big dollop of icing. Keep adding more until the mixture begins to hold together. You want it to be sticky enough to roll into a ball that can hold its shape. Don’t mix in too much icing, or the balls will be too heavy and crack.
4. Line a baking rack or plate with wax paper or parchment paper. You will set the truffles on here to set.
5. Roll the mixture into 1-inch balls. To keep the balls from breaking, I flatten and fold them until the mixture turns into a dough – that’s when I know the mixture is firm enough to hold.
6. Refrigerate the balls for at least one hour, or until the balls are cold and hard. Refrigerating them helps prevent cracking and breaking when you dip them into chocolate. I’ve omitted the refrigeration step a few times and have always had them break apart during the dipping process!
7. In the meantime, prepare the slivered almond topping. Chop the slivered almonds in a food processor using the pulse setting – you don’t want to over-process it to where it becomes fine crumbs. We just want crushed almonds!
If you don’t have a food processor, you can place them in a plastic bag and use a meat tenderizer to crush them.
8. When the balls are ready, break off about 3 squares of the chocolate and heat them in a microwaveable bowl in 30-second intervals, stirring between each.
9. Using a spoon, dip and roll the balls gently in the chocolate, in circular, swooping rotations. This ensures an even swirling design around the ball and prevents the truffle from looking like a wad of poop. Add more chocolate and melt in intervals as you continue on – this also helps the chocolate from cooling down and hardening.
10. Set the balls on the parchment paper, and sprinkle with topping of choice.
11. Refrigerate again until candy melts are set. Package and gift away!
You don’t need to box up these truffles. I’ve put them in treat bags from the Dollar Tree when I made them for my whole staff at work for Christmas or Valentine’s Day. It’s up to you how you package them, although I recommend putting them in mini cupcake liners in case the cake mixture starts sweating through the chocolate (this is normal during refrigeration).
My local Walmart has an extensive baking section featuring Wilton-brand baking supplies and packaging, so I have a huge variety of ways to package my sweets. Here are my staples for packaging:
- Mini cupcake liners: $0.98
- Wilton Cupcake Boxes (3-pack for $3.50) – this gives me a box big enough to fit 16 truffles. If you’d like to put in less, they also have smaller boxes and treat bags as well as many other packaging options available at Walmart.
- Ribbon ($1- $5 depending on color, thickness, yards)
Have you made some baked goods to give to others as gifts? Share with us in the comments below!
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