Part of the mystique of Gabby Loubiere’s popular cake balls at Brew Ha-Ha! is their interactive nature. The coffee shop owner constantly invites feedback from customers on what flavors they most enjoy and what they’d like to see, resulting in 150 rotating flavor choices on the menu.
Recently, however, Loubiere realized that while she was flush with white and yellow cake-based choices, she was short on chocolate. “I couldn’t believe how few chocolate ones there were compared to the others. There were only about 15,” says Loubiere, who instantly created a contest inviting fans to suggest possible new chocolate cake balls.
After plowing through hundreds of suggestions, she and her staff narrowed the field to four: chocolate cookie dough; chocolate espresso bean; Almond Joy with chocolate, almond and coconut; and Snap, Crackle, Pop, an amalgam of chocolate cake, Ghiradelli caramel sauce and bites of caramel dipped in chocolate and mixed with Rice Krispies. Over the last few weeks, the fresh baked foursome was featured in a special “ballot box,” which customers purchased to sample and vote.
The winner by a close margin was chocolate cookie dough, a ball of chocolate chip cookie dough wrapped in chocolate cake and dipped in chocolate.
Loubiere starting making cake balls when she needed a small bite dessert to serve with short-lived plate lunches at her coffee shop in 2005. Her cousin suggested she make red velvet cake balls using their grandmother’s recipe. Customers loved them and they sold out fast, but Loubiere found them tedious and time consuming, so she’d only make them sporadically. Each time, the demand for the diminutive pastries intensified, and Loubiere finally caved. She made the job more interesting by adding new flavors and soon was baking them constantly.
“It’s been the craziest thing,” she says. “They have taken on a life of their own.” She and her staff make them constantly, and are often in the midst of decorating them at the front counter when patrons order. Last August, one of her designs, a cake ball-festooned wedding cake was featured on Brides.com as wedding cake of the month. The tiered cake featured an exterior of cake balls in pale shades of peach, pink and yellow.
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