Cake balls are little drops of chocolate bliss from Russia, with love.
Custom cake baker and artist Luda Woodward has introduced Durangoans to a unique confection from her childhood. The bite-sized treats are not as fluffy as cake and not as dense as truffles. Theyre like squishy brownies dipped in chocolate. The flavor is a chocolate-lovers delight, and the tiny, feminine decorations are undeniably cute.
Woodward grew up in Cachlen Island in north Russia. As a child, she loved a small cake she believes is called peroshna that cost 22 coins. She said she would save for a week to buy the treat. After culinary school in Russia and emigration to the U.S. with her husband, she re-created the cake balls from memory. She began work at The Cake Stand, a well-known bakery in Texas, sometimes baking up to 30 cakes a day. Woodward introduced her employer to the cake ball recipe, and it soon became a hit with customers. She embraced her artistic side by decorating the cakes with simple, entirely edible designs made with buttercream.
When her husband got a job in Durango last year, Woodward came along somewhat reluctantly. She missed Russia and her sister in Texas. Heather Hinsley of Cake Café befriended her, helped her adapt to a new town and later brought Woodward on as a contract baker for her business. Woodward helped make the planet-like cake ball confections that wowed guests and judges at this years space-themed Chocolate Fantasia event. Woodward also makes customized, decorated cakes of all sizes through her business, Cake Makes a Party.
The unique shape of the cake ball appeals to many because it is small compared to a slice of cake. Its texture is unique because its lighter, less sweet and not as rich as fudge. The coating is high-quality dark chocolate, and the interior can include a cream filling flavored with mocha, raspberry, lemon or peanut butter. As a hostess, cake balls offer an advantage over other desserts because it is a finger food that doesnt require utensils.
Natural ingredients are important to Woodward. She doesnt like fondant, because there are chemicals in it that arent supposed to be in cake. She recalls from childhood that elaborate decorations and food coloring were not common in Russia. Bakers would use beets for a pink tint, cocoa powder for brown and carrots for yellow.
Woodward still prefers simplicity. On cake balls, she likes to use seasonal accents, such as bees and flowers in the summer, or holly leaves during the holidays. She enjoys this part of her work, because she originally wanted to be an artist, not a baker.
All my life, I always try to go away from this, she said. But something pulls me back to the cake. I stopped fighting it.