Saturday, December 10, 2011

Cake-Pop Magic!

If you haven't heard of cake-pops, allow me to rock your world. If you have, but aren't sure what they really are, allow me to rock your world. If you've attempted them, and want to step your game up...that's right... allow me to rock your world!

Okay, maybe I'm a little full of myself and overconfident in my cake-popping abilities- but after making hundreds, experiencing just about every problem and figuring out many 'tricks' of the trade- I FINALLY am about to reveal everything you didn't really care to know about cake-pops. 

So here is the quick and dirty run-down of how to make them:
- Bake a cake and let it cool
- In a bowl, add about a 1/3 to 1/2 cup of desired frosting and thoroughly mix with the cake
- Roll the 'dough' into balls with a diameter about 1.5 inches thick, refrigerate
- Melt candy melts (chocolate), stirring intermittently to prevent burning
- Put a cake-ball on your stick and dip in the chocolate, tapping off excess chocolate
- Put in a styrofoam square (or some other contraption) to dry
- Add desired sprinkles before the chocolate melts

Viola! Cake-Pops!!!

So, sounds pretty easy right? Well it's certainly not rocket science, however it does take a little finesse to get them to turn out 'pretty'.

If you are satisfied with your curiosity of "the cake-pop", read no further. But if you want to be THE HIT of the next party...allow me to equip you :)

Where to start, where to start...

Things I like to use:
- Cream cheese frosting. It tastes best with every cake-pop IMO (yep, I used text slang, I'm cool like that).
- 6 inch cake pop sticks. You can find these at Joann's, Michaels or even Walmart.
- WinCo (grocery store) candy melts from the bulk aisle. They are cheaper and melt well. You'll have to go to the craft store for colored varieties though.
- Butter-recipe cake mixes. They just turn out better (taste better for cuppies/cakes too).
- Dollar Store 'styrofoam' for drying (it's not really stryrofoam, but I'm not sure what it's called, so the green ring is what I'm talking about. Reusable + Cheap = PERFECT

Things NOT to use:
- Regular food dyes/icing dyes. Anything water based will ruin the chocolate. You have to buy special candy dyes which are available at craft stores in the candy making aisle.
- Too much oil. Sometimes people add extra oil to cakes to make them moist. If you do this you risk your pops oozing out oil...not attractive!
- Your freezer. Many sites say to freeze your pops to cool them, but I find that this leads to cracked pops. If you must freeze them, make sure to let them come close to room temperature before dipping to prevent expansion and cracks.

Your Problems, My Solutions:
- BALLS FALLING OFF THE STICK- This can be due to a few things. The best way to avoid this is preventative action. If you dip the stick in some chocolate, then put it in the ball and allow it to dry it acts like a glue and helps the ball stay on. Also make sure to insert the stick all the way through the ball to stabilize it.
- DIPPING TECHNIQUE- This can be another reason your pops fall off. When dipping do not shove the entire ball in the chocolate, it will be too heavy and probably fall off. Instead dip from the side and rotate, dip again, rotate, etc... Then gently tap/shake the stick get rid of excess chocolate.

- BALLS NOT SMOOTH/CRUMBLING- You likely did not add enough frosting. Depending on the consistency of your cake, you may have to add a bit more frosting. The final consistency should be a mix between cheesecake and playdough. Also make sure to condense the mixture. Kneed it and work it until it does not have seems. You want a smooth ball or else it is at a higher risk to crumble on the stick. Your final 'dough' should look similar to the pic below.

- CHOCOLATE TOO THICK: If you over melt your chocolate it will burn, aka become too thick. Once it burns, it's done for. Microwaves vary, but try a lower power if necessary. Stir the chocolate every 30 seconds or so until it reaches the desired consistency.
*You can add a little oil (tsp or so) as well to thin out the chocolate, this trick has saved me many a times.

- Cupcake pops. Bakerella has a tutorial to making these, however I think 'my' way is easier. Craft stores sell Peanut Butter Cup trays in the candy aisle for a couple bucks. Fill one with chocolate, insert the ball, let cool. Then insert a stick with chocolate and dip the top, add sprinkles and a 'topper' (mini m&m's are perfect). These are pretty easy and if you can't ever get the balls to stay on, this is a great alternative. Plus they look so darn cute, and that's totally what counts.

 Don't mind the fly in the wine glass. It was just visiting :)

- Contrast piping. A simple way to spice up a ball is to let it dry and then use another color to drizzle on top and add sprinkles. This way the sprinkles will only adhere to the second color. Use a freezer bag for piping or special piping bags from the craft store. (see first pic)

- Black. Why there are not black candy melts at the craft store is beyond me. Such a necessary color for characters. There is however dye that comes in a four pack. You can mix this with a different color to make black, works great. Can't say the same about the Food Writer pens, they suck. Apparently Americolor makes a better pen, but I have yet to order one (don't have them in stores).

- Character Pops. Making character can be tedious and is not for the impatient. However some of my favorite pops are character ones. Just think about the details ahead of time and try to attach what you can when the chocolate is wet.

-Toothpicks are my favorite tool. They can be used to apply details, make textures, clean up drips etc.

- Chocolate toppers. You can essentially create any design out of chocolate and adhere it to the pop. Just pipe chocolate onto parchment paper and let it cool. Then either stick it on the pop while it's wet or use a toothpick to adhere it after they've dried.
Butterfly toppers:

Okay good people. If you are still reading this blog, you must have something resembling patience- so I think your a great cake-popping candidate! I'll leave you with some of my favorite creations.

The possibilities are endless. Be creative and HAPPY POPPING!