Put down the cake pop maker and step away, far, far away…
Good. Now, let’s talk about cake pops, what they are, how to make them, and why machines do NOT make real cake pops. First, the question I’ve been receiving over and over lately: “What’s a cake pop?”
I tell my clients (as well as family and friends), that it is essentially “cooked cake and icing mixed together, on a stick, and dipped in chocolate. Sort of like an inverted cupcake coated in chocolate.”
This explanation is quickly followed by: “Oh wow, that sounds awesome!” Most of the time, they are awesome, and very easy to make with a little patience. The trouble with desserts like these (and why companies come up with machines that are meant to save time) is that you do need to set aside a decent amount of time to make them. Since I usually make about 4 dozen at any given time, I can plan about 2-3 hours, from cake baking to cellophane wrap and tie, to complete them. I have been making them consistently and in mass quantities for over a year now, so for the average home baker, figure it could just as easily take you the day. Don’t be discouraged! The finished product, particularly if you use one of your own recipes for the cake and icing, is well worth the work!
Fact of the matter is, the appeal of a cake pop is the fact that cooked cake and icing are mixed together to create this almost raw dough consistency and flavor. Using a pop maker just gives you cooked cake, in the shape of a ball. Yay, whoop-de-do.
I recently visited a hotel in the area that made a chocolate cake pop as a part of their dessert table in their Sunday brunch buffet. My first instinct when I saw them was to laugh. They looked lumpy, flat, and small. I couldn’t help but ask one of the employees in the room: “Do you have a pastry chef here?” I mean, look at it, it’s awful! Of course, I proceeded to take a bite, and promptly spit out the completely raw brownie batter that somehow managed to stay on the stick when it was dipped in some fancy, expensive chocolate. A PASTRY CHEF made this?? The concept just seems so simple to me, the un-classically trained baker/pastry chef.
Patrons be warned, cake pops are in fact COOKED cake and the fact that icing is mixed with it, gives it that raw type of consistency. Many of you may already know about Starbucks’s pop trio, which seem to be correctly made. Trouble with what they carry, is that its widely mass produced and gives you this lovely chemical aftertaste. (No offense Starbucks)
Cake pops are a very versatile dessert. You can make just about any cake (box or scratch) and combine it with any icing (again, box or scratch). For my clients, it’s only from scratch. New flavors are simply new cake recipes I create and test, blended with a basic buttercream or cream cheese icing. My second most popular pop, is the Classic Vanilla, which you can now make at home! See the recipe below and remember to have fun with it!
Classic Vanilla Cake Pops
1¼ cups flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
½ cup vegetable or flavorless oil
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
½ cup plain or vanilla Greek yogurt ( I prefer Voskos or Fage)
Sift flour, baking powder & soda, and salt into a small bowl and set aside.
In a large bowl, beat eggs and sugar until mixture becomes a pale yellow color. Slowly incorporate oil and add vanilla. Mix in half of your flour mixture until completely incorporated. Add the Greek yogurt until no white streaks remain. Follow by adding the rest of your flour mixture.
Bake in your preheated oven for about 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Some ovens may require you to rotate your cake halfway through for even baking.
Allow your cake to cool completely (the cake can be made one day ahead). Once cooled, crumble the cake in a large bowl. Add a couple spoonfuls of your icing (recipe follows) and begin to mix the icing and cake until a soft dough forms. Test the mixture by rolling a 1-2 inch ball. If the ball falls apart or appears crumbly, add some additional icing. Be careful to not add too much icing, as your dough can be too oily and difficult to dip in your chocolate.
Roll your batter into 1-2 inch balls, making sure there are no cracks. Once you have rolled all of your dough, refrigerate while you prepare your sticks and chocolate. If your cake is too cold, this may cause your hardened chocolate to crack, later on. Follow the instructions on any Wilton Candy Melts bag for melting. First place your stick in the melted chocolate, coating about an inch of the stick. Put the precoated stick into a cake ball and repeat for each one. Once the chocolate is cooled, begin dipping each pop, carefully tapping off any excess chocolate. Use a Styrofoam block to allow your pops to harden, or lay flat on wax or parchment paper. They should only take a few minutes to cool. Use any sprinkles or décor immediately, before the chocolate hardens.
Note: Do NOT refrigerate the pops once they are finished. Condensation will build on them, creating a wet, sweaty exterior and simply an unpleasant cake pop eating experience. Pops will keep, covered, for up to 10 days.
Cream Cheese Icing
2 sticks unsalted butter
12oz cream cheese (not whipped)
4 cups confectioners sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Cream softened butter and cream cheese until soft and completely incorporated. Slowly add confectioner’s sugar one cup at a time, beating on low initially, then increasing speed. Add vanilla and beat mixture until light an fluffy.
Icing can be kept, refrigerated, up to 1 month.