Hot chocolate in Austin in the summertime?'
Austin, TX (Vocus) September 23, 2010
Holy Cacao, the "sweet little dessert trailer" and pioneering cake ball purveyor that has become one of the stars of the Austin food scene, was born out of a dream of hot chocolate. When Fort Worth native and University of Texas graduate Ellen Kinsey moved to New York City with a Masters in City Planning from the University of Pennsylvania to develop low-income housing, among the local pleasures she discovered were the super-rich hot chocolate at Manhattan's celebrated City Bakery and the frozen "hot" chocolate at the popular Serendipity 3. When she moved back to Austin in the summer of 2008, nobody was developing any real estate, so she decided to open her own business. Realizing that there was nothing like those New York chocolate treats in the Texas capital, she announced to her boyfriend -- Dallas-born John Spillyards, a former Peace Corps volunteer who had moved to Austin "for all the usual reasons" and worked in everything from pharmaceuticals to construction -- that she wanted to open a hot-chocolate food trailer. He replied "Hot chocolate in Austin in the summertime?'" "Why not?" Ellen answered. "Ben and Jerry got their start selling ice cream in Vermont."
Food trailers (or trucks) are the hottest urban food trend in America today. All over the country, start-up entrepreneurs and veteran restaurateurs alike are finding innovative ways to offer a whole new kind of "street food", offering everything from tacos and burgers to Belgian waffles and Viennese schnitzels in a casual roadside environment. But there's nothing else anywhere like Holy Cacao, a lively art-splashed mobile emporium of indulgent delights that has quickly become an essential part of the iconic South Austin Trailer Park & Eatery complex on South First Street, in the bustling South Austin neighborhood.
John loved the idea of working with Ellen on her project, and when he took her home to Dallas for Thanksgiving that year, they got invaluable insight from his sister Cammie, Vice President of Research and Development for OSI Restaurant Partners in Tampa, Florida, operators of Outback Steakhouse, Flemming’s, Carrabba's, and other international restaurant chains. An obvious expert in culinary product development, Cammie liked the hot chocolate trailer idea, but said, "Listen, you guys need to sell something besides just drinks." Then she suggested cake balls. “After describing them to us we thought that they sounded like the perfect trailer dessert", said Ellen and John.
Cake balls -- as the culinary world is rapidly finding out -- are a Southern confection, quite possibly invented in Texas, that might best be described as spherical cupcakes mixed with frosting and completely enclosed by chocolate. The interior frosting gives them a consistency like that of chocolate truffles or even fudge, and needless to say they are pretty much irresistible. Once they had the basic product refined, Ellen and John decided to imbue the cake balls with what Ellen calls "trailer chic" by presenting them not as finger food but on flat Popsicles sticks, making them even more fun to eat.
Early stories in the Austin press about their enterprise -- which Ellen and John had decided to call, with a sense of fun, Holy Cacao (Theobrama cacao (pronounced: ka-cow) is the tree that chocolate originates from) -- brought dessert-hungry locals flocking to their original street side location.
The repertoire of cake balls includes six varieties and they often will introduce a new flavor of the month:
- Holly's Favorite Balls- Chocolate cake blended with butter cream frosting, and dipped in dark chocolate and topped with chocolate sprinkles
- Wedding Balls- White cake mixed with butter cream frosting, dipped in white chocolate, and topped with rock sugar crystals
- Velvet Balls- Classic Red Velvet cake with cream cheese frosting, dipped in white chocolate, and topped with toasted red velvet cake crumbs
- Diablo Balls- Chocolate cake mixed with ancho–cayenne cream cheese frosting, dipped in dark chocolate, and topped with cayenne and cocoa toasted walnuts
- Rabbit Balls- Rich carrot cake mixed with cream cheese frosting, dipped in white chocolate, and topped with toasted walnuts
- Brass Balls (made with cookies instead of cake)- Crushed peanut butter cookies bound by peanut butter, dipped in dark chocolate and topped with cookie crumbs
And that dream of hot chocolate? Hardly forgotten. Holy Cacao also features the opulent beverage in three variations (a highly addictive classic version called The Original; The Mexican, infused with ancho chile, cayenne and cinnamon; and Peppermint Patty, infused with peppermint), all of them also available in frozen form. Then there are Holy Cacao's trademarked Cake Shakes (milkshakes with cake blended in, akin to the last part of a bowl of cake and ice cream); a series of classic Blue Bell Ice Cream floats; and Roast Your Own S'mores kits (including an open campfire weather permitting), complete with handmade marshmallows.
Holy Cacao may be "just" a dessert trailer, but it has already come a long way. It was featured last summer on two national TV food shows -- the debut installment of the Food Network’s new primetime series “Kid in a Candy Store” and the Cooking Channel’s "Food(ography)”. And there's great news for non-Austinites: Anyone in America can order Holy Cacao cake balls. "Even though our original website didn't have a shopping basket," says John, "people wanted our cake balls so much that they'd just call us up and order. Now customers can make one simple visit to the website and place a cake ball order to be shipped anywhere in the country http://www.theholycacao.com ." In addition, he reveals, "The Holy Cacao team is crafting a concept to bring our 'trailer chic' desserts to shopping malls around the country." Maybe they'll even end up in New York City. Stay tuned!
Holy Cacao is a gourmet dessert trailer offering unusual items such as Cake Balls, Cake Shakes, S’mores, and Frozen Hot Chocolate at affordable prices. From the unique menu options to the trailer’s original artwork, Holy Cacao provides an authentic Austin experience. The Cake Balls are available individually at the trailer or by the dozen and can be shipped anywhere in the U.S. Call 512-851-CAKE (2253). Located in the South Austin Trailer Park & Eatery at 1311 South First Street, Austin, Texas 78704. Remember…chocolate is good for you!