The other day, Autumn had the great idea of making cake pops. We've never tried it before, but decided to go for it. First of all, I have to say that cake pops are delicious. You get this little bite of rich cake coated in a hard chocolate shell. These are definitely not an every day kind of treat because they are a little more work to make. We studied up by following Pioneer Woman's tutorial and this Bakerella video. The video was really helpful for showing us the dipping and tapping technique (more on that below).
The first step was to bake a plain cake. The tutorial we followed recommended using a cake mix, so I decided to go with a chocolate mix. I used a recipe from my "Cake Mix Doctor" cookbook. This recipe basically takes a plain chocolate cake mix and gives it a little extra homemade flavor. Here is the essence of it:
Add to one box of plain chocolate cake mix:
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/3 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Mix all ingredients together in an electric mixer. Pour into a 13 by 9 inch sheet pan and bake for 35 minutes at 350.
We let the cake cool completely (while we ate a delicious grilled salmon dinner and tried roasted fennel for the first time. It was an adventurous night for us!)
Next, we whipped up a batch of cream cheese frosting. I thought cream cheese would be a good choice because it is not quite as sweet as buttercream and it has such a good flavor. Basically, it is one of my favorite frostings, so I figured it would make our cake pops extra delicious. We used a basic recipe:
1 - 8 ounce package of cream cheese
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
3-4 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
First, make sure the cream cheese and butter are softened, at room temperature. If you don't think ahead and leave them out long enough, like me, you can put them in the microwave for 30 second intervals on low power (like level 2) until both are nicely softened, but not melting.
Beat the cream cheese and butter in an electric mixer with the whisk attachment until the two are fully blended together. Next, add the sifted powdered sugar, a cup at a time, until the frosting has a nice, spreadable consistency. Finally, mix in the vanilla extract and stir until blended. Now take a lick when no one is watching because this stuff is delicious.
The next step in our cake pop adventure was creating the cake balls. That's right, cake balls. Basically, we crumbled up the chocolate cake and mixed in the frosting until the mixture was sticky enough to form into balls, but not too mushy.
Please notice my personal sidekick in the bottom left corner. Just waiting to see if any of that crumbled cake will land on the floor. Sorry, Zeke, no chocolate for you!
We only used half of the frosting for the cake balls. The rest should keep for about a week in a container in the fridge.
Next was the fun and messy process of rolling out the cake balls. We weren't too picky about making them all a perfect size. We just started rolling out the cake mixture and placing the balls of cake on a wax paper covered cookie sheet. We were able to make about 50 from our cake and frosting mixture.
The cake balls need to be chilled before you can dip them in chocolate, so we sped up this process by putting them in the freezer for about 15 minutes and then moving to the fridge so they don't freeze (Bakerella's suggestion).
Once the balls were chilled we brought them out to begin the dipping process! First, we melted our candy melts in the microwave according to their package directions. We used 3 kinds - milk, dark, and white chocolate.
Next, we took our lollipop sticks and dunked just a little chocolate on the end to secure it in the cake ball. Once we had the sticks in, we dipped the whole pops into the chocolate. I would definitely suggest watching the Bakerella video for this technique. After the cake balls were fully coated, we lifted them out and tapped off the extra chocolate by gently tapping our hand that was holding the cake pop. A little tricky, but we got the hang of it! One suggestion is to make sure that the cake balls stay cold before they are dipped. We had a few that got a little loose and one that was lost in the chocolate that we had to eat. Such a shame.
The final step was pretty fun... decorating! We had to work quickly because that chocolate coating dries right away. We experimented with sprinkles, sugar sparkles, coconut, and drizzling another color of chocolate on top. I think my favorite were the ones with the rainbow sprinkles. To let them fully dry, we put the sticks in a styrofoam block on the counter.