Takes the Cake: Erin's recipes and strategy for cake pops
My talented, baking coworker Erin Lippitz has written another installment of "Takes the Cake" for this blog. Cake on a stick - it's genius. Let me just say, don't read this blog if you don't want to end up craving cake.
Also, Erin's not the only one known to eat canned frosting with a spoon. Happy reading!
My sister never starts phone conversations off in the usual way. She generally just launches right in to a thought, sometimes mid-sentence. So I wasn't surprised to get a phone call mid-January that began this way:
Sister: "I need cupcakes that look like beach balls!"
She was planning a January pool party for my soon-to-be-2 niece and wanted to extend the theme to the cake. I love this kind of stuff, so my brain immediately began churning out cute ideas. I thought about making a large beach ball cake to "float" on top of a sheet cake made to look like water. Awesome. Or individual cupcakes with blue, wavy icing with handmade (out of modeling chocolate) beach balls on top. Adorable. Or my husband's idea of creating a beach scene on each cupcake and using a tiny cocktail umbrella as a beach umbrella. Cute, but possibly an eye-poking hazard for toddlers.
I finally decided to try something I've never done before. Cake on sticks. I've been wanting to try this for months but just didn't really have the excuse to make dozens of small balls of cake. But it fit really well with the theme; little beach balls on sucker sticks and bite-size cake perfect for small children.
Here's what you do:
To create cake pops you basically make a dough using cake crumbles and buttercream frosting. Yummy!
Bake a cake (chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, it doesn't matter) using a mix or from scratch. I bake from scratch and you can find my all time favorite white cake recipe here. I always add a bit more almond flavoring and an extra 1/2 cup milk to this recipe, but that's just my preference.
Pour your cake batter into a sheet cake pan or two 8-inch round pans and bake. If you aren't interested in making about 300 cake balls (because really, who has the time?), I would suggest baking 24 cupcakes and only using what you need for the cake crumbles. Then when you're done, you'll have leftover cupcakes (which are fairly manageable and your co-workers will love) instead of part of a sheet cake.
Make buttercream frosting. I made vanilla because I had vanilla cake but you can match your frosting flavor to the cake flavor. I would suggest making your own frosting over using the canned (although I love canned frosting and have been known to eat it with a spoon) simply because you can control the consistency. Stiffer frosting works better. I use a recipe from Buffy Vance, cake artist and teacher extraordinaire, who owns Madeline's Confectionary in downtown Urbana. I've taken many classes from her.
Buffy's Crusting Buttercream Frosting
1 cup butter (softened)
1 cup vegetable shortening
2 pounds powdered sugar
1/3 cup water
1 tablespoon vanilla
Cream butter and shortening together and add most of the water. Add the sugar and beat on low until mixed. Scrape the bowl and beat on low an additional five minutes. Add vanilla. For thicker frosting use less water.
In a fresh mixing bowl, crumble your cake using a low speed. Add frosting a little at a time until a dough forms. Be careful you don't use too much frosting or your cake balls may be too moist to stay on the stick.
Place wax paper on a cookie sheet and clear a spot in your fridge. Form the dough into small round balls (about the size of a gumball) and place on the prepared cookie sheet. Pop them in the fridge for 10 to 15 minutes.
While the cake balls are chilling, begin melting your chocolate. I used white chocolate purchased in the candy aisle at Michael's. It tastes great and melts beautifully. But you can use whatever chocolate goes with your cake. Use a double boiler if you have one. If you don't have a double boiler, you can rig one up like I do. Use a glass bowl placed over a saucepan with water in the bottom. Make sure your bowl doesn't touch the bottom. Boil the water and the steam will melt your chocolate.
If you find your chocolate is too thick and feels like it's hardening, add a little bit of vegetable oil. You shouldn't have to do this if you use the candy melts (they're made for melting) but if you use chocolate chips you may have to.
When the chocolate is melted, dip the end of the sucker stick into it and then jam it carefully into the cake ball to secure it. Be careful not to send it all the way through. You'll need to put them the pops in the fridge to allow the chocolate to harden so you can pick them up.
After the sticks are secure, dip the cake ball into the melted white chocolate and cover the cake entirely. Don't leave it in too long or the chocolate securing the cake to the stick will melt and you'll lose your cake ball. Let excess chocolate drip off and place the sucker stick upright in a styrofoam block (so the cake is sticking into the air). Once the chocolate hardens you can use your leftover melted chocolate to decorate them. I melted pink chocolates and put them in a piping bag to pipe designs on the cake pops.
As you can see from the photo (those are the actual cake pops I made) I didn't decorate them like beach balls. But the swirly and dotted designs were still super cute. And of course you can't go wrong with pink. For a cute theme display, I got three little pink pails, put the styrofoam inside and covered it with white sand. Then I stuck the sticks into the styrofoam through the sand.
The cake pops were a huge hit at the party with the toddlers and grown ups alike. These are a fun, kind of unexpected, treat for everyone to enjoy.
If you want to watch cake pops, check out this video for a lovely step by step video instruction.