My parents were in town last week for my son’s birthday party, so they were around when I was making and photographing some SugarHero desserts. When my mom walked into the kitchen and saw this cake, she stopped, smiled and said, “Oh honey, everything you make is so—” A pause.
My mom does not lie—many things that I make and post here are time consuming. Let’s be honest about this. I’m no Rachael Ray, and very few of my recipes could be described as quick or easy. This is something I think about frequently, both because it causes me to be working in my kitchen at unholy hours of the night, and because I’m aware that fast and easy foods are the flavor du jour. We live in a Pinterest world, and that means few ingredients, minimal steps, and instant gratification. Basically, the exact opposite of everything I make.
*I should point out that this particular recipe does make use of a cake mix, though, so y’all should come back here right now!
Now that I’ve effectively talked you out of ever making one of my recipes, let me sell you on this polka dot cake. I won’t tell you it’s fast, because I like you too much to ever lie to your face. But I pinky-swear to you that it truly is easy. The polka dot pattern on the outside is made by pressing candy into frosting, which requires zero planning and very little thought.
To make this even more Easter-appropriate, you could roll your cake balls into egg shapes, and decorate the outside with an Easter egg pattern. You might be able to see in some of the pictures that I got a little ambitious and tried to make multi-colored cake balls with stripes or dots inside. It worked, but I didn’t think the effect actually looked very appetizing, so I abandoned the idea–but you could certainly experiment with combining colors to form cool patterns! The cake itself is a lemon cake with coconut buttercream, so it tastes light and springy. It’s the perfect way to end a special Easter dinner, or you can use this technique to make any special occasion cake. Birthdays, anniversaries, and major holidays all call for surprise polka dots, in my opinion.
And don’t worry, this story with my mom has a happy ending. To punish her for her brutal honesty, I served her a big slice of this cake that as soon as I was done taking pictures. That’ll show her.
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Prepare the box mix according to the package directions. Divide the batter between five or six small bowls. Add a small amount of food coloring to each bowl to make different pastel shades. Scrape the colors into small cake pans, pie tins, or other small oven-safe containers. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and the top springs back when lightly pressed. The baking time will vary depending on how much batter you use and the size of the pan, so watch the cakes carefully and start checking for doneness after 10-15 minutes of baking.
After the cakes are baked, let them cool completely. Crumble the cooled cakes into separate small bowls, then add a spoonful or two of frosting to each bowl. Work the frosting and cake together with your fingertips until the cake is moistened and holds its shape when rolled into a ball. (If you have ever made cake balls before, you are looking for the same texture as cake balls.) If necessary, add more frosting until you get a consistency that's easy to work with, but stop adding frosting before the cake gets greasy or gummy. Roll the cake into small balls of different sizes, and place them on a wax paper-covered baking sheet. Cover the sheet with cling wrap and keep it in the refrigerator until you're ready to make your cake layers. The polka dots can be made up to a week in advance, and kept in the refrigerator or freezer until ready to use.