Gingerbread Cake Balls: giving sugar plums a run for the money

Dubious, doubtful, hesitant, unclear and let’s not forget reluctant. These are all words I would have used to describe my feelings towards cake balls when they and their siblings cake pops came on to the food scene.

Truly, wasn’t mashing together your store bought cake and icing something you were supposed to have stopped doing after second grade? Like rolling little pellets from your squishy white bread, or sucking the ice cream out through the bottom of the cone, it was strictly kid stuff.

I held my stand-offish attitude for a few years, bypassing all recipes flitting by on my computer screen. I did love and admire the whimsical pops created by Bakerella and her compatriots. What incredible creativity and decorating!

And then I attended a demo here with author and baker Dede Wilson. Dede (day-day) showed us how to skip the cans of chemical laden icings and use fresh, homemade ingredients to elevate the cake ball to superior status. Her book Cake Balls is terrific and full of amazing recipes and ideas. I bought 3 copies that night!

I’m lucky enough to have access to the best mixes and ingredients on the market, so using Dede’s book as inspiration, set out to create a cake ball that could become a part of my holiday cookie tray. Gingerbread was my first stop, pastry cream and soft diced ginger came along for the ride, and some outstanding semi sweet chocolate literally wrapped it all up.

Let’s get started on a batch of Gingerbread Cake Balls.


Step one will be to choose your favorite gingerbread cake mix or recipe. I’ve adored our mix for years now, so it was my go-to cake. Mix and bake as directed , and allow to cool completely. You can even do this part the day before if you’re prepping ahead of time. You’ll need one 9″ layer for approximately 40 cake balls.

In a large bowl, use your fingers to break the cake into moist even crumbs. If needed you can trim off the edges and corners if they don’t break up easily. They make delightful little baker’s treats while you are working.


The amount of filling or binder you will need will vary slightly depending on the moistness of the cake you are using. Gingerbread is very moist and you hardly need any binder but consider how much flavor and creaminess  a bit of pastry cream will bring to the party.

For added flavor and texture, toss in about 1/4 cup of soft diced ginger, or mini diced ginger. You could add very finely chopped nuts if desired, but I don’t want too much “crunch” in here.

Begin with about 1/2 cup of prepared pastry cream (either from your favorite recipe or our mix) and blend it into the cake crumbs. Don’t be fancy, do dig in and mix with your fingers. Use a light touch rather than squashing and mashing.


Occasionally  stop mixing and test the mix for cohesiveness. You want the mixture to stick together without being soggy, nor dry. Remember rolling those balls of squishy white bread? That’s a pretty good goal to shoot for.


Use a teaspoon or tablespoon scoop or your fingers to scoop up balls about the size of small walnuts or large gumballs. Roll smooth with your palms and place on a parchment sheet about 1″ apart.  Place the tray in the freezer for 20 minutes at least to freeze solid. If wrapped airtight , you can freeze the balls for up to 3 months like this. Truly handy if you’re prepping for the holidays.


For the coating, melt 2 cups of semi sweet or bittersweet chocolate and stir until smooth. You can use a double boiler, or you can melt on high in the microwave for 70 to 90 seconds.

I did one half of the batch in a very dark chocolate and one half in a lighter, semi sweet. It’s an easy way to please more people in the crowd.


One at a time dip the chilled balls in the melted chocolate. Tap on the edge of your bowl to encourage any drips of chocolate back into the bowl.


Place the balls on parchment paper to firm up. With the cold cake, this usually only takes 5 or 10 minutes. You can place the balls back in the fridge to firm up faster, but they will also melt faster during serving if they go from cold to warm. If you don’t mind chocolate fingerprints all over, it’s all good.


The perfect afternoon or evening treat. Crisp chocolate shell, soft moist cake, bright studs of ginger. The recipe makes about 40 cake balls so there will be plenty for snacking, sharing, gift giving and well, more snacking.

I’m glad I got over my reluctance and started down the cake ball path. I see many, many flavor combinations in our future here on Flourish!

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MaryJane Robbins

MaryJane Robbins grew up in Massachusetts and moved to Vermont 20 years ago. After teaching young children for 15 years, she changed careers and joined King Arthur Flour in 2005. MaryJane began working on King Arthur Flour's baker’s hotline in 2006, and the blog team ...


  1. Mariz

    Ohmygosh! this looks absolutely sinful (in a good way)! ever since I bought my daughter the keetzen cake pop mould in Amazon, she’s really been into baking. We can’t wait to try them 😀

  2. Chloe

    I used the KAF gingerbread recipe for the inside and found the molasses flavor a bit overpowering for my taste–even with the spices doubled, their flavor seemed muted. Next time I make these (and there will be a next time!) I think I’ll substitute golden syrup for half of the molasses so that the spices’ flavor comes through more clearly. As is, they still make a lovely little treat! Thank you for a terrific recipe!

  3. Jen

    My oldest son makes cake balls all the time for school. I’ll have to show him this and maybe we’ll have a new dessert for the Holidays.

    1. MaryJane Robbins, post author

      It would be such a great esteem builder to have him present this after dinner. Take pictures for sure! ~ MJ

  4. Erin

    I realize this is a ridiculous question, but I must ask it anyway…is there any way to make pastry cream without the milk and heavy cream? My son is lactose intolerant so I would like to figure it out. The butter is fine, it’s other dairy that causes problems. I usually breeze past all recipes that call for a cream filling, etc, but I would like to learn to make something special for him!

    1. MaryJane Robbins, post author

      Hi Erin,
      I wish I knew of a dairy free pastry cream recipe, but I don’t. Is there a dairy free pudding recipe or mix perhaps that you could use? ~ MJ

    2. Chloe

      You might try checking the kosher aisle for parve pudding mix. You can make it up with water & because it’s parve it doesn’t contain or require dairy.

    3. AnneMarie

      Why not just use a dollup of butter frosting? A little butter whipped with confectioner’s sugar. It really doesn’t take much, and it’s a frosting you can use on some cupcakes as well for later, store in the fridge and pull out and warm when you need it.

    4. slm

      Jello pudding mixes are usually all dairy free. You can make them with coconut milk or other dairy milk substitute.

    5. The Baker's Hotline

      Good suggestion! I tried a vanilla mix with almond milk and I wasn’t thrilled with the results. Maybe coconut milk will work better…Jon@KAF

    6. 54

      non-dairy milk+cornstarch+sweetener=pudding. i have some friends who go vegan from time to time for religious reasons so i use this pretty much any time a custardy filling is needed. it’s not quite the same but it works.
      i’m also lactose intolerant but i use either “lactose-free” milk or take a lactase supplement. you could also try goat milk if you can find it. it’s WAY easier to digest than cow milk.

  5. Christine

    My daughter just saw this, and told me that this is what she wants for Christmas. I’m thinking instead of the dark chocolate, use white chocolate flavored with just a touch of lemon oil.

  6. AnneMarie

    Made these for years, since 2007. They are WONDERFUL. I use a dollup of cream cheese frosting, scratch of course, and I add coconuts and date pieces to the balls.


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