Cake pops are having a moment. Bakerella, queen of the cake pop, published a book, and now even Starbucks is offering cake pops in three funtastic flavors (probably the lowest-cal item on the menu by sheer smallity).
Note: If you haven’t seen Bakerella’s site, go do it. Have a snack at the ready.
Jen suggested cake pops or cake balls for her party, and since cake balls are (were) on my to-bake list (see the right sidebar for reference), I decided to give it a whirl.
In the world according to me, it’s usually unacceptable/ blasphemous/ intolerable/ super upsetting/ inexcusable/ just plain wrong to make a cake from a box. But with cake pops, the cake is beside the point. The point of a cake pop is the concept and the presentation. I wouldn’t describe cake pops as gourmet. A cake pop is not a chocolate gateau truffle infused with buttercream and enrobed in tempered 83.75% couverture chocolate. It’s a moist ball of crumbled cake and frosting speared on a stick and dunked in Wilton’s candy melts. Cake pops are one of those desserts that people get really excited about. Sure, people like cake, but cake pops are much more fun.
At first, I planned to make cake balls, since I imagined balls of chocolate cake tumbling off sticks and falling to their sticky deaths in a pool of pink candy melt. But the cake balls didn’t work out so well. I was excited to try out my new dipping tools, but they left indents or bald spots on the cake balls. I switched to a pair of spoons, tapping the spoon against the side of the bowl to remove the excess candy melt. My spoon tapping skills were clearly not up to par, because each cake ball sat on a sheet of wax paper in a puddle of pink. Just like this. That’s me on the left. (I dyed my hair black and shaved my eyebrows).
Once the cake balls dried I scraped off their puddles with a paring knife and used a Wilton squeeze bottle to drizzle them with dark chocolate candy melts. I put each cake ball in a mini muffin paper to disguise the surgical scars, and decided to try out cake pops.
I dipped 6 inch lollipop sticks in candy melts, stuck them in the leftover cake balls, and put them back in the fridge to set. I took out one at a time to dip. At first the dipping took a while because the candy melts were hot and very liquidy. After each dip, I had to tap and twirl the pop for a while before it stopped dripping. Once the candy melts had cooled the dripping stopped quickly, leaving a smooth, thick layer on the cake pops. On the down side, the cooled candy melts hardened very quickly, so I had to be quick about adding jimmies or sanding sugar.
I set up several bowls and bottles of sanding sugar (pink sanding sugar, brown jimmies, and plain granulated sugar for this batch). It was helpful to have a sheet of waxed paper ready to funnel the extra sprinkles in the bowls back into their bottles.
I bought a chunk of Styrofoam at Michael’s, covered it in plastic wrap to keep it clean, and put the dipped and sprinkled cake pops in it to dry.
With the batch of cake pops for Jen, I didn’t have any problems with cracks in the candy melts. Often, the candy melts crack as they harden because the cold, refrigerated cake balls don’t get along well with the hot coating. I’ve heard that the cake balls expand as they warm, which causes the narrow cracks. I didn’t use that much frosting for this first batch of cake balls, so they weren’t very dense and probably had room to expand. If there were any cracks, they were well concealed by the sprinkles. The second batch of cake balls I made used a lot more frosting, which kept them securely on the sticks (so much easier to dip), but I had a bunch of cracks. In the future, I’m going to keep using more frosting, but take the cake pops out of the fridge a few at a time to warm up, and let the candy melts cool before I dip.
Here is a shot of the cake pops, served at Jen’s birthday party:
I wrapped them individually in clear plastic gift bags with wiry silver ribbon:
1 boxed cake, and the other ingredients you need to make it
1 can of frosting (or you can make your own, but store-bought frosting has the benefit of being long-lasting)
2 bags of candy melts or real chocolate if you’re confident in your tempering
Sprinkles, jimmies, sanding sugar, granulated sugar, chopped nuts, chopped up candy canes, or any other decorations
Bake the boxed cake, let it cool, and crumble it up, removing any crusty corners that won’t crumbify. Add 1/3 to 1/2 of the frosting, depending on the consistency, and mix it in well with a spoon or with your hands until the cake will form balls. Roll the cake mixture into balls ¾ to 1 inch in diameter. (If you make them too big you risk candy melt casualties.) Chill the cake balls in the refrigerator on a sheet pan until firm, around two hours.
Melt one bag of candy melts according to the directions on the back. Melt them in a relatively deep container, like a one-pint measuring cup. Be careful not to overheat them.
Dip the lollipop sticks into the candy melts, coating about ½ inch of the stick, and then insert halfway into the flattened ends of the cake balls (one side will be slightly flat from sitting on the sheet pan. Sit the cake pops on their heads in the fridge for a few minutes until the candy melts set.
Before dipping the cake pops, take a few out of the fridge at a time and let them warm up for a couple minutes. Make sure your candy melts are not too hot. They shouldn’t be, since they’ve been sitting out for a while as you dipped the lollipop sticks. You’re trying to reduce the temperature difference between the cake balls and the candy melts.
Dip the cake pop straight into the candy melts, coating it until you cover the hardened candy melt around the base of the stick. Tap the lollipop stick on the edge of the bowl, rotating as you tap. (How hard you need to tap will depend on how much frosting you used, and therefore how sturdy your cake balls are). If your cake balls are very firm you can also hold the cake pop upside down and twirl it. This is a terrific video that shows two methods for dipping cake pops.
When the cake pop has almost stopped dripping, hold it over a bowl and shake sprinkles or other decorations over it. Stick it in a piece of Styrofoam to harden.
Store them in the fridge or in an airtight container outside the refrigerator.