I posted last week about the nightmare that is .... the PTA Bake Sale. Bah! To be fair it's not just the Bake Sale... just about anything to do with the PTA is a minefield of potential social faux pas, especially as I'm new to it all! I'm hoping that by the time the Shouty One & Chubby Cheeks one are at school, I will have learned to say no (and to mean it) when faced by the Stepford Mothers and their clipboards! In the meantime, I will just suck it up, and attempt to beat them at their own game! Hence, Operation Cake Pop-a-licious was in full swing this weekend!
Earlier in the week, I made a delicious Vegan Chocolate cake. Under normal conditions, cake in our house lasts about as long as a proton in the Hadron Particle Accelerator at Cern! However, devious Mummy knew she was making cake pops at the weekend so hid the cake in a lunch box at the back of the fridge! Hurrah... hungry plague of locust-children 0. Mummy 1.
I decided to continue with the Vegan theme, purely because I'm good friends with a family of vegans whose kids normally have to give the Bake Sale table a wide berth!
For basic cake pops, you will need...
- Cake. Any type. I had 3/4 of the Vegan Chocolate Cake mentioned before.
- Frosting. Any buttercream textured type of frosting will do. I made my own chocolate buttercream with 2oz vegan buttery spread (you can use butter), 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder and 2 tablespoons soy milk (you can use normal cow's milk).
- Chocolate chips or candy melts. I used two different sorts: Wilton's orange Candy Melts for the Jack O' Lantern cake pops (this isn't dairy free though) and Ghiradelli's Semi-sweet chocolate chips (these ARE dairy free!).
- Sprinkles or candy to decorate (optional).
- Vegetable oil or vegetable shortening (Crisco).
- Lollipop sticks. In actual fact, these are optional,too! You can skip the stick part and just create cake balls... they can be displayed in mini paper cupcake cases if you like!
- Also optional: a styrofoam sheet is really helpful to keep the cake pops upright while the harden and for decorating, however, you can just use a cup to stand them up in!
- Small clear cellophane treat bags.
- Decorative ribbon.
- Styrofoam circles.
First things first...
Fact 1: You cannot make cake pops all in one go. They take time. The actual amount of effort isn't that much, but you do need to leave them to chill in the fridge for lengths of time, so taking that into account when planning for an event is essential. So two days prior to the Fall Festival I made a start on the cake pops!
Fact 2: You will get messy hands. You can't make cake pops without getting sticky!
In a large bowl, crumble the cake with your hands into a fine even texture. Then adding a little bit at a time start to mix in the frosting, again with your hands. I can't tell you how much frosting to use as it depends on how moist/dry your cake is. The aim is to create a dough out of the cake crumbs, using the frosting to bind it together. For the three quarters of the Vegan cake I used, I needed about 3/4 of the buttercream quantity I made (see recipe above). As I've stated, you will get messy hands!
Once the cake crumbs and frosting mix resembles a large ball of pliable (but not wet) dough you can start to form your cake balls. In preparation, line a large cookie sheet with foil or baking parchment. Then you need to pinch out a small amount of dough and roll it in the palms of your hands to an even ball shape the size of a walnut. The perfect gadget for speeding up this process and standardising the size and shape of your balls is a set of meatball tongs! Space the balls out evenly on the cookie sheet, cover loosely with plastic wrap/clingfilm and chill in the fridge overnight.
The next step is to fix the lollipop sticks in place and to coat the cake pops in a chocolate coating. You will need to melt your chocolate chips (or candy melts). There are several important things to remember when melting chocolate...
- Do not overheat it. It will seize up. With that in mind there are several techniques which help to melt the chocolate without it going wrong. You can melt chocolate in a metal bowl over a pan of simmering water (this is called double boiler or bain marie method), but even the steam can make the chocolate overheat. You will need to keep stirring the chocolate chips and remove from the heat before they all look melted. Keep stirring and the internal heat will finish the job. You can also melt chocolate in a microwave, but make sure you use the 50% power setting and do it gradually! Start with 1 minute and stir afterwards. Then in 15 second blasts (again at 50%) until fully melted. Don't overdo it though!
- Do not allow water to come into contact with the chocolate. It will seize up and become all hard and lumpy. This is why I prefer to melt in the microwave rather than using a bain marie. Condensation and steam from the double boiler technique can ruin a whole batch of chocolate! Another thing to note is if you are planning to colour white chocolate... you will need to buy colouring gels specific to candy/chocolate making, as the water based ones will cause the chocolate to go lumpy!
- If your chocolate does seize up, you can sometimes rescue it by adding a tablespoon of vegetable oil or vegetable shortening (Crisco). I add this when making cake pops anyway, as it makes the chocolate runnier and easier to work with.
Your cake pop balls should be nice and firm straight from the fridge, but may have flat bottoms where they've sat on the cookie tray. I like to stick the stick in the flat side. Dip the lollipop stick in the melted chocolate so that the last 1/2 inch is coated, then push it gently into the cake ball so that it goes to the middle. This is where the styrofoam sheet comes in handy, as you can then push the lollipop stick into the foam to wait for the chocolate to harden. Fix all the sticks in the pops.
Then you will need to coat the cake pop in the chocolate or melted candy. Gently plunge the cake ball into the chocolate. Don't move it around or attempt to twirl it, as your ball will likely come off the stick. If the chocolate doesn't cover the whole ball, gently rock the cake pop from side to side until the none of the cake is visible. Gently pull the cake ball out of the chocolate, and then carefully tap the stick against the side of the bowl while turning the stick. This should get rid of any excess chocolate and leave you with an even coating. If you are planning to cover the cake pops in sprinkles or decorate with candy, now is the time to do so, before it sets.
Place the cake pop stick back in the styrofoam and chill to set.
If you want to decorate the cake pop with a face (like the Jack O' Lanterns) you can melt a small amount of candy in a piping bag (in the microwave is easiest), and then you can decorate with your chosen design. This does take a steady hand and I found it quite frustrating! So next time, I'm planning to try some candy writers (pens specifically designed for writing on candy/chocolate).
I finished my cake pops off by putting a little cellophane bag over each one and tying with a ribbon! Bake Sale ladies eat your heart out!
So... were they a success!? I'm delighted to report, that they were a resounding one... yay! So much so, that I ended up having to shell out $6 for my brood to get one each! All to a good cause though, right?!