Surprise queso de bola

So there’s a thing called “surprise balls”. They’re balls of small gifts and trinkets that fall out one-by-one as a recipient unravels strips of crepe paper in-between them. Upon my discovery of these balls, my question was: how can I “Filipinize” this?

Surprise balut? Surprise coconuts? Surprise kalamay? Why not? But, I felt I needed something more Christmas-themed.

And then it hit me. I tried queso de bola for the first time some time ago and loved it. They’re these tasty yellow balls of cheese wrapped in red paraffin wax that many Filipinos enjoy during the Christmas season. Instead of using crepe paper of different colors for each gift, I decided to interchange yellow and orange for each one, ending with a layer of red, and sealed with my gold queso de bola seal of approval.

First you need:

  1. Crepe paper or recycled paper. In the Philippines you can find these at the mall in the school supply section. Not sure if National Bookstore has them, but I’d be surprised if they didn’t. In the US, your local arts and crafts store, like Beverly’s or Michael’s in Northern California, will have them too. Use recycled paper from home by painting them red and yellow and glueing pieces together to make long strips. Boom you saved money, and space at the landfill.
  2. Scissors. Cut paper into 1″ wide strips that are about 3 to 4 feet long. You’ll need one strip per trinket or small gift. My surprise queso de bola were about grapefruit-sized, holding 1″ inch to 3″ inch-sized gifts, requiring about 60″ inch-long (5 foot) paper strips each layer. It all depends on how big you want your queso de bola, the size of your trinkets, and how big your gifts are.
  3. Glue. Use this to dot some glue at the end of each strip to prevent the ball from unraveling as you add the next layer.
  4. Gold sticker paper. Cut these into circles and write your “to” and “from” on them to mimic the seals found on traditional queso de bola. Some seals are blue, some are gold, so choose what you wish! I made mine to mimic (albeit horribly) one of the oldest brands of queso de bola, Marca Piña.
  5. A black marker. To write “to” and “from” with.

Now all you need are gifts. Go out and have fun using your imagination… find trinkets, toys, medallions, stickers, notes, quotes, key chains, confetti (beware, it can get messy), love letters, etc. You name it, you can cheese-ball it!

How to make it (read an in-depth tutorial with photos here, or continue below):

  1. Take your first trinket and wrap it in your first strip of paper. If your trinket is oddly-shaped, don’t worry. As you add more trinkets and wrap them it should start rounding out into a ball-ish shape. Doesn’t have to be perfect.
  2. Place your next trinket onto the wrapped trinket, and wrap it all up (including the first wrapped trinket) in your next strip of paper.
  3. Repeat until the package has shaped up to be round enough to pass for a ball.
  4. Wrap it in a final red strip (or brown if it’s a “coconut”). You might have to use more than one strip to wrap this final layer since the ball might be quite large and will have more area to cover.
  5. If it’s a surprise queso de bola, slap that gold seal of approval and you’re done.

Feel free to unleash your creativity on these awesome balls. Whether they’re Filipino-themed, Christmas-themed, or non-themed, stuff these balls with trinkets you feel your recipient will enjoy. Your balls might not be as cheesy as mine though. Or my jokes.


Originally published at on December 16, 2012.