I’m a bit of a late adopter with some things. I was almost a teenager when I learnt to ride a bike. I only recently got my first iPhone and even then it was a donated one. And I had never eaten, let alone made a cake pop until recently. Unlike the bike riding, I think the cake pop addiction is a habit here to stay. I am ever faithful to all things novelty.
Here are a few good tips I’ve found through trial and error to make perfect (well almost perfect) pops. This makes about 13 pops.
– Leftover cake (110g = 3 cup cakes worth)
– Buttercream (70g = 2 heaped tablespoons worth)
– Candy Melts ( 170g = about half a bag)
– Sprinkles and any decorations you fancy
Take your leftover cake. If you are going to eat the cake pops within a couple of days then you can use your own homemade cake. If you want a little longer shelf life then buy one of the value blocks of Madeira cake from a supermarket. Usually has a good few weeks on it. I know, I know, homemade is best, but if I don’t say it someone will ask. As for flavours and types of cakes, I tend to use leftover vanilla cupcakes using a basic sponge recipe, however you can use any flavour you like. I haven’t tried fruit cake yet but I assume it would work okay. Just be careful of the weight of the pop. More on that later.
Use your fingers to break the cake up into breadcrumbs. You need a light touch rather than a squeezing touch. You can also use a food processor or the flatbeater in your stand mixer. I tend to use my hands as I don’t make cake pops in huge quantities. Leave your cake crumbs in a large bowl and then add your buttercream. (If you do make too much cake pop mixture then freeze at the ball stage and you’ll have more pops for a rainy day. A great tip from Jo.)
I use the old fashioned half butter (salted if you’re interested) to icing sugar buttercream recipe with a good tablespoon of vanilla extract, beaten in my stand mixer for 7 minutes until light and fluffy. However, for cake pops you really don’t need light and fluffy buttercream. So if you’re making buttercream especially for cake pop purposes then I would probably use a wooden spoon. You can use any flavour buttercream by the way… much like with the sponge.
Add the buttercream to the cake crumbs one tablespoon at a time and give the mixture a good stir. All cakes bind with buttercream differently. What you’re looking for is the cake to come together with the buttercream into a thick spread like consistency that will hold a shape. Too dry and the cake pop will crack whilst it’s chilling. Too wet and the buttercream will melt when you dip in the Candy Melts. Test it by taking a tablespoon of mixture and scrunching it up with your fingers. It should hold easily and then be happy to be rolled between your palms. Cover the mix with clingfilm and then refrigerate for about 30 minutes. If you haven’t make cake pops before add one teaspoon of buttercream at a time. You can add, but you cannot taketh away.
After 30 minutes you can start to roll your cake truffle mixture into balls about 2.5cm across between the palms of your hands. Any larger and you run the risk of the weight of them dragging them off the stick when dipping. Oh and don’t add oil to your hands or anything else to stop it sticking, just go with it. Once rolled, pop on a plate lined with greaseproof paper or back into the bowl you chilled the cake pop mixture in and either put in the freezer for 20 minutes or if you don’t have room in your freezer (my hand is firmly up) then cover and pop back in the fridge for an hour. You don’t have to shape your cake pops into balls of course, you can instead shape into cones to make Christmas trees or Santa hats. Whatever you fancy really. Here’s a little film to show how:
A few minutes before you’re ready to start to dip and decorate your pops, melt your Candy Melts. I use the microwave in 20 second blasts – the packets have all the instructions. If you do overheat them they seem to lose their shine when dry. Instead you could melt the Candy Melts over a pan of simmering water instead to control the temperature better. Make sure whatever you end up transferring your melts to that the receptacle is small enough in width to allow the Melts to have a little depth. You need to have something to dip into. (I know some of you will prefer to use chocolate to dip your pops into… I have found it less easy as it takes a little longer to dry. You just need a bit more practice I guess.)
Find something to rest your still wet pops in to allow them to dry. I use an upturned meatball griller (!) but you could also use a block of polystyrene with holes poked into it, an egg box with yet more holes poked into it or an upturned colander if the holes are big enough. Dip a lollipop stick about half a centimetre into the melted Candy Melts and then push the stick into the rolled cake pop until it’s just over half way in. Set aside and allow about a minute to dry. This stage is important as it stops the cake balls from falling off the sticks later.
I tend to get all the sticks into the cake balls first. It makes best use of the dry time required. It also makes sure your Candy Melts aren’t so hot that they make the cake expand and crack through the dried Candy Melts shell once you dip the whole cake ball. Using boiling hot Melts to dip cake into ends in cracked pops and possibly tears. (If it does happen just allow the pop to set and then dip again as if starting with a nude cake ball. Just a thicker coating but better than trying to patch the cracked pop up.) Here’s a little film of the whole process from stick dipping to sprinkling: (If you prefer to read instructions then they’re all below the film along with some pop-pics.)
Then take the stick with the nude cake ball now attached to it and dip into the melted Candy Melts. Don’t start to swish it about as it’s likely to fall off. If your receptacle isn’t deep enough to cover all of the cake ball then use a teaspoon to bathe the cake ball in Candy Melts, gently pushing it over the cake ball. Then use the stick to pick the cake pop up and hold the stick against the side of the dish and tap very gently encouraging the excess Candy Melts to fall back into the dish. You can turn the pop as you do this to ensure you don’t end up with a peak drying where the Melts drip into the dish.
Using Candy Melts is very easy but it’s different from chocolate as it dries more quickly. Either allow to dry by carefully placing the stick into your drying rack of choice or take this opportunity to hold the pop over an empty dish and sprinkle anything you fancy over the still wet pop. You can use a toothpick or fork to make a spikey cake pop if you like by pulling at the Candy Melts covering as it dries. You could also allow the pop to dry with one coating and then use an icing bag to dribble another colour over the pop… the possibilities are endless. Oh and you can even melt your Candy Melts into a disposable icing bag in the microwave, just balance in a jug.
P.S. For those who might ask the Reindeer and Santa faces are from Sainsbury’s, as are the red, white and green sprinkles. The holly leaves and berries are by Wilton (though you can get similar from Sainsbos) as are the little white snowmen on top of the Christmas tree pops. The holly leaves were attached using a white icing pen, the type you buy that comes with nozzles to just attach to a toothpaste type tube. Lastly if you have Candy Melts leftover you can allow them to dry, seal in a bag and then re-melt again the next time you need them. They don’t get upset by repeated remelting like chocolate does. (Same goes for if you’re a slow-dipper and they get too solid half way through the process, just re-heat.)
If you reached this far you deserve a cake pop.