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 “cooked cake and icing mixed together, rolled into a ball and a stick is inserted in the center. Then dipped in chocolate. Sort of like an inverted cupcake coated in chocolate.”
This explanation is quickly followed by: “Oh wow, that sounds amazing!” Most of the time, they are amazing, 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. Plan at least 3 hours or more, from cake baking (and cooling!) to cellophane wrap and tie, to complete them. Consider that it could just as easily take you the entire day, if you're a brand new baker but 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 that everyone loves to eat, but without all of the dangers of eating uncooked batter. 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 spread in their Sunday brunch buffet. My first instinct when I saw them was of curiosity. If it wasn't for the stick coming out of the very small and lumpy mess, I would never have known what it might be. I couldn’t help but ask one of the employees if they have a pastry chef in their hotel, to which the response was yes. Although, I wasn't very sure. 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?? Dear reader, the cake pop is not, in fact raw, nor is it a chocolatey mess of anything but thoroughly cooked cake and icing blended together to a dough-like consistency.
Many of you may already know about Starbucks’s versions of the cake pop, 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) Be weary of cake pops before you order them online. Make sure you ask the baker how they are made so you know that you're eating a thoroughly cooked product. And no, pop makers are not the real deal. Sure, you can try them, but don't be fooled by the "perfect" circular shape of these cake balls.
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). Check out my own second most popular pop, 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.