Saturday, May 14, 2011

Adventures in Cake Pops

Alrighty. Coming at you is the highly anticipated start to my cake pops journey. I was going to wait and blog about it after I finished my first batch, but it appears I have waited too long to do so and those yummy little cake morsels that were still awaiting their coating have started to get kind of hard. :( I guess that's what happens when you leave frosting-laced balls of cake in the fridge for nearly a week. Oops! Something to remember for next time...and I guess I'll just have to whip up a fresh batch tomorrow. Oh darn! ;)

Before beginning my journey, I watched a how-to video by the Bakerella, a lady who has apparently been making these tasty little treats for awhile now. I learned some tips and the general steps to making a cake pop. If you have ever checked out this product before you know there are some amazing cake pops being made out there. My first attempt was a simple one, but with time I would love to perfect my skills enough to make some of the stunning creations that can be found online.

I decided to use my favorite vanilla sheet cake recipe in my attempt to recreate my favorite cake pops - Starbucks' birthday cake pops - which I blogged about a couple months ago. I gathered my ingredients and with the assistance of my special helper (my nephew, Jacob), we set out to bake a yummy vanilla sheet cake. :)

  • 2 sticks butter
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups plus 2 Tbsp flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sour cream or buttermilk (I substituted with 1/2 cup regular milk plus 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla
In a saucepan, bring the butter and water to a boil. Remove from heat and add sugar, flour and salt. Beat with a mixer. In a small bowl, combine eggs, milk (plus lemon juice), baking soda and vanilla. Mix well. Add to the mixture in the saucepan. Beat well and pour into a greased and floured pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-35 minutes (depends on pan - 20 for jellyroll pan, 35 for 9" x 13" pan like I used).

After the cake was baked, we let it cool completely. 

Next it was time to crumble it up. I decided to cut off the edges first because they were a little more crisp than I wanted in the pops. Looking back, I probably should have taken a little off the top of the cake too, to give the cake crumbs a consistent color. Below is the cake, crumbled into crumbs and the frosting that I decided to use. I am not a big fan of frosting in general, especially of canned frostings, but I also don't really like making frosting either, so I thought I would cheat and try it out using a canned frosting first.

On my next attempt, I think I may try making my own frosting to use. Not sure yet though. I am also thinking about trying a simple boxed white cake mix too instead of the vanilla sheet cake. I think the flavor will be more similar to that of Starbucks' pops. Here is a pic of the crumbs with the frosting mixed in.

Next came the messy part. I think it's easiest to just get your hands in there and make the balls...

In hindsight, I think I made the balls too big. I had a bit of trouble with some of them wanting to fall off while coating, so next time, I will make the balls smaller. Once the balls are formed, I placed them in the freezer for 15 minutes, as instructed by the Bakerella. In the meantime, I got the candy coating ready by melting some pink Wilton's candy melts in the microwave.

Another tip for next time - I think using a double boiler method for melting may be a better technique than nuking them. The candy melted just fine, but by halfway through the process of coating the pops, it was starting to harden in the bowl too, making it difficult to use. I needed to be able to keep it warmer for the duration of the process.

Once the cake pops froze for 15 minutes, I took them out and started coating them. The Bakerella had instructed to dip the lollipop stick in the candy coating slightly, then insert it into the cake ball.

Next you place the cake ball into the candy coating and turn it, coating it evenly on all sides. Then you are supposed to hold it over the bowl and tap the hand that is holding the cake pop lightly to allow the excess coating to drain back into the bowl. Hmm. The balls coated just fine, but I had trouble getting any excess to come back off. :( I think the coating needed to be a bit thinner somehow. So, I was left with a pretty thick candy coating on each cake pop. So thick that 14 oz of candy only managed to coat 17 cake pops! And I had a lot more cake balls leftover that needed to be coated...For my next attempt I bought some Ghirardelli white chocolate to use as a coating. I may try adding some almond flavoring to it too and hope that I can get the coating much thinner and easier to work with.

Sadly, I did not think ahead and get something to put the lollipops in to dry/harden. The Bakerella suggests styrofoam blocks, which would be great for sticking the sticks into and allowing the cake pop to stand and harden into a beautiful round shell. So, I had to improvise and chose to just set them on their tops on some wax paper. As you can see below, there is plenty of excess coating at the bottom/tops of the pops and you can also see how rough the coating was starting to get as it cooled down. :(

And now for the final product...They were fairly close to Starbucks as far as moistness was concerned. The shell was a bit too thick for me, but I am going to work on that next time. The taste was good and hubby said he actually preferred it to Starbucks' version! :) Now I need to work on making them more beautiful.

And one final pic of my favorite little taste tester, who, of course, loved them! :)

Stay tuned for part two to my adventure!!

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