These homemade sno balls are our take on Hostess Sno Balls and are made with chocolate cake, a meringue filling and frosting, and fuzzy pink coconut. They taste almost like the real deal–but are way better for you–and are perfect for any occasion but are especially well-suited to birthday parties, spring, showers, and Easter.
It took some tinkering before these snowball domes of fuzzy Day-Glo pinkness became the Marilyn Monroe of the snack rack. Hostess Sno Balls were originally chocolate cupcakes covered with ho-hum white marshmallow and shredded coconut, hence the name. But not long after, Hostess decided to jazz them up by tinting the shreds of coconut feather boa pink. It wasn’t until 1950 that the icing on the cake, so to speak—that is the cream filling as well as frosting— was added.
Although Sno Balls still turn heads after all these years, I’ve given them a face-lift using a richer, moister, more sophisticated cake made from Dutch-processed cocoa that’s slathered with an ethereally light Italian meringue.–David Leite
LC Not Even Counting Note
Whatever you tend to watch—whether calories or WW points or your digits on the scale—just don’t even go there with this one. The pleasure is so much richer, so much less fraught with guilt when you’re not even counting.
Homemade Sno Balls
- Domed cupcake pan with six 1/2-cup molds (each 3 1/2 inches in diameter by 1 1/2 inches deep)
For the cake
- 1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature, plus more for the molds
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour plus more for the molds
- 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup Dutch-processed cocoa
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1 large egg
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- 1/2 teaspoon chocolate extract (optional)
- 1 teaspoon powdered instant coffee dissolved in 2/3 cup boiling water
For the filling and frosting
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup water
- 4 large egg whites at room temperature
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups sweetened shredded coconut preferably Baker’s Angel Flake Coconut
- 6 drops red food coloring
Make the cakes
- Heat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Butter and flour the molds.
- Beat the butter and sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl and set aside. Add the egg and then the yolk to the butter and sugar mixture, scraping the bowl after each addition. Add the sour cream and chocolate extract, if using, and mix until combined. Alternate adding the dry ingredients and the instant coffee mixture in 3 additions, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.
- Divide the batter evenly among the molds, filling them almost to the top. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Set the molds on a wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes. Run the tip of a knife around the rim of each cake and lift out. Place the cakes on the wire rack to cool completely.
Make the filling and frosting
- While the cakes cool, in a small, heavy saucepan over medium heat, bring the sugar and water to a boil. Cover and cook for 3 minutes. Uncover and continue to cook until the syrup registers 235°F to 240°F (112°C to 115°C) on a candy thermometer, about 3 minutes. This is known as the soft-ball stage.
- Meanwhile, using a stand mixer, beat the egg whites on high speed until frothy. Add the salt and beat until the whites are glossy and hold soft peaks. When the syrup is at the desired temperature, carefully pour it in a very thin stream down the side of the bowl into the egg whites with the beater still on high speed. Continue to beat until the mixture cools, 8 to 10 minutes. Beat in the vanilla. Scoop out and reserve about 3/4 cup of the meringue. Add 3 drops red food coloring to the remaining meringue in the bowl of the stand mixer and mix until combined.
- Place the coconut in a food processor fitted with a metal blade, add 3 drops food coloring, and pulse 15 times. Turn the coconut into a large bowl.
Assemble the sno balls
- Using a serrated knife, carefully slice off the top third of each cake, keeping each top alongside its cake. Pinch about a tablespoon and a half of cake from the inside center of each cake and set aside for nibbling. Fill the hole with a dollop of the reserved white meringue and replace the top. Thickly frost the top of the cakes with the pink meringue. Then generously sprinkle each cake with coconut until completely covered. Tamp down gently on the coconut to maintain the domed shape. Serve at once.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
These homemade sno balls were hands-down delicious. All three components—cake, filling, and frosting—are good on their own and together. Each component isn’t difficult to make. And everything comes together very quickly. This is a really long, detailed recipe. It’s definitely a weekend project if you want to eat the cupcakes fresh, but you can also make parts of the recipe ahead, which would cut down on the feeling of how long it takes.
The cupcakes were so tender that they seemed to squish a little when I started taking them out of the molds. So I left some cupcakes in the molds until they were mostly cooled. This worked better than removing immediately. I honestly loved the filling so much that I’d like to see more of it in the cupcake. You could get more coconut flavor by adding coconut flavoring along with the vanilla.
You could also cut down some of the work by taking regular pastry cream and adding coconut flavoring. You can speed up the process for the pastry cream by placing a piece of plastic wrap into a half sheet pan, spreading the pastry cream into a thin layer, and the placing another piece of plastic wrap on top, then place it in the fridge and the cooling time should be cut in half. You can definitely make the pastry cream a few days in advance. You could easily make the cupcakes the day ahead and refrigerate them. In place of using a pastry bag and tip to fill, you could use a knife, cut a small hole in a cone like shape into the the cupcake, remove the round, fill, and replace.
Originally published April 13, 2018