Previously: Lisa Yelsey’s recipe for rugelach. This post is generously sponsored by A Friend of The Toast, who wants to encourage others to support the site as well.
Hi everyone! Hope your summer is going well. Here is what’s been consuming me for several months: CAKE POPS. Like many people, I tried one at Starbucks years ago and then forgot they existed. But then a pregnant friend asked me to make some to give out as baby shower party favors. She is my first friend to be pregnant and I’m wildly excited for her, so I immediately began researching cake pops with a single-minded devotion. Here are some sample notes from my investigation:
After several hours of intense, focused cake pop research you will start to form a lot of opinions. Some people on Pinterest seem to have part of the story right, but not the full story. What I’ve done here is put all the pieces together so anyone can make a cake pop that tastes great and looks amazing.
These cake pops are a dense, truffle-like and flavorful dessert, sure to impress everyone you know. Because I want my friend’s baby shower to be perfect, I’ve also figured out how to make them as beautiful as possible. What follows are notes from my research and the resulting perfect cake pops. I’ll walk you through each and every step — it’s all extremely doable if you have time and patience.
- chocolate and/ or vanilla cake ingredients
- chocolate and/or vanilla buttercream frosting
- coating, such as candy melts, baking chips, chocolate chips
- lollipop sticks
- microwave safe bowl or double boiler
- melon scooper (optional)
- Styrofoam to stick the pops in
- food processor/blender/fork
- baking sheet
- waxed paper or parchment paper
Step 1: Bake cake.
When looking for the best type of cake to use, I wanted to choose something light and moist so it would hold together but not be overwhelming when condensed. I ended up using a recipe from a Joy the Baker cookbook I have for three-layer chocolate cake and a three-layer vanilla cake. Both turned out AMAZING. I saved about a third of each cake, and my family spent an afternoon slicing off larger and larger pieces until it was all gone.
If you have a chocolate cake recipe you like or want to try out, I say go for it. I think light and tender is best, since you’re going to be mixing the cake with the dense frosting.
Step 2: Make the frosting.
For cake pop mixing, your buttercream frosting should be extremely soft. No matter what buttercream recipe you’re using, you can mess with the ratios a little bit until you think it’s soft enough (I used less powdered sugar than usual). I used the Joy the Baker chocolate buttercream recipe for these. I think her buttercream recipe is a little more complicated than it needs to be, but it tastes VERY good and I’m reluctant to stray from something that’s working. Again, if you have a frosting recipe you already like, trust your instincts!
Don’t worry too much about keeping your buttercream cold during these steps. Since you’re mixing it with the cake, it doesn’t need to hold any form.
Step 3 [THE FIRST TECHNICAL STEP!!!]: Crumble your cake and mix it with the frosting.
I crumbled my cake in a food processor. If you don’t have a food processor or blender, you can just go in with a fork and start wrecking it. If you make the cake ahead of time and put it in the fridge or freezer, just wait for it to thaw a little bit before attacking.
Once the cake is fully crumbled, start to mix in the frosting. Here is where you should start paying more attention! Begin mixing the frosting in slowly so you won’t overdo it. If you overmix the cake and frosting, the cake pop becomes too wet and will not hold together. Also, it will just taste like biting into several tablespoons of dense frosting at once. Too sweet and NO THANKS. You want to be able to form the mixture into a ball, or a little bit beyond that, but stop when you get to that point.
I used a melon scooper. If your scoop crumbles when you try to roll it, add a tiny bit more frosting. I ended up using about a quarter cup of frosting to one and half 9” layer cakes. I’m sorry if this is not actually a useful measurement for you. You will figure it out.
This step is time-consuming, but not that hard. I used the melon scooper again to make sure all of my cake pops were roughly the same size. The melon scooper also condenses the mixture, making it denser and better able to hold together. But you can just use a spoon or a tablespoon or something if you don’t have a melon baller.
Roll the cake/frosting mixture into balls, and put each one on the waxed paper on your baking sheet. Repeat foreeevvvver.
Step 5: Melt the coating and use it to put the cake pops on sticks.
Heat candy melts or chocolate chips, whatever coating you’re using, until melted. (Candy melts are a sugary wafer used mostly for coating and decorating — I bought some at Michael’s, but I think any craft store or Amazon will have them.) You only have to melt a little bit for this step, and this can be done in the microwave. Take your lollipop sticks, stick them in the melted chocolate, and twist a little bit, so you don’t have a ton of excess. Then stick each lollipop stick into a cake ball.
If you are making multiple flavors of cake pops, you might want to use a different coating for the lollipop sticks for each flavor. The coating will be visible from the bottom of the cake pop, and it will be easier to differentiate the flavors after they are coated. You could also just keep them separate after coating them, or keep track of them at all in your head somehow, which I repeatedly forgot to do. I refused to be criticized at the time, but in retrospect, people like to know what flavor they’re about to eat.
Put all that in the freezer to chill. Do other stuff! Clean up the 100,000 dishes you’ve used that are scattered around the kitchen. Keep your dog from trying to lick powdered sugar off the floor. Watch that amazing performance of “Ring of Keys” from the Tony Awards 100 times and cry.
Take the still-uncoated cake pops out of the freezer. Melt your coating! I recommend a candy melt or chocolate baking chip if you are interested in the smoothest possible appearance, but baking chocolate or chocolate chips/white chocolate chips will work too and taste just as good.
Some recipes recommend adding oil to the melted coating, but I don’t since the consistency can get weird and I don’t like to mess with the chocolate taste. You also don’t have to worry about issues with temperature or cracking if you’re not adding the oil. Just make sure the chocolate doesn’t harden while you’re working with it, which you can do by melting it right before you’re going to be coating.
Melt A LOT OF COATING this time, more than you think you’ll need, because it’s important to fully submerge each cake pop. Otherwise you’ll have to work out a system with a spoon and be very delicate with them and that will be annoying.
Have your Styrofoam handy. Also, put down a ton of aluminum foil, because this stuff will get everywhere.
Once you have everything laid out and ready, start coating the cake pops. Take an uncoated cake pop and fully submerge it in the melted chocolate. When you take the cake pop out, twist the cake pop, still upside down, back and forth. Place it right-side-up in the Styrofoam.
Once you’ve made a batch (about 10-15?) put the whole Styrofoam, with the cake pops stuck in it, in the fridge. The pops will harden pretty quickly so you shouldn’t have to wait too long after making them to eat. Important to note: If you are making a ton of cake pops, keep your later batches in the freezer. They lose structural integrity once they get closer to room temperature and will start falling off the lollipop sticks.
These will stay good in the fridge or freezer for at least a week. If you take them out of the fridge, they’ll still taste good for a few hours.
Each time I experiment with these, I ask for detailed notes from every person I know. My pregnant friend has already given these her seal of approval, but I keep texting her to ask if specific flavor aspects are okay and she is 100% done with me now.
Good luck! You can definitely make these yourself if you have a good chunk of time, or a little bit of time spread out over a week. The combination of cute presentation and great taste makes these especially fun if you love receiving compliments (and who does not?). If you try these out, let me know how it goes!
Photos by Jackie Friedman.