Today we are going to dive into the tiny little morsels of goodness called cake pops, also known as cake balls or cake truffles. In your time baking and cake decorating, surely many of you may have heard horror stories about cake pops, like cracking chocolate, cake pops falling off their sticks and the chocolate not melting properly, but with a few tips and tricks you can enjoy making cake pops that will wow your friends and family!
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First, gather your ingredients and tools. Here is what you will need:
- A cake – Any kind of cake will do! It can be a box mix or your favorite “from scratch” recipe, and can be baked in any shape or size of pan. This Buttermilk Cake recipe is butter-based, and makes a cake that is a great consistency for creating cake pops. (Note: If you use an oil-based cake, you may find that your sticks turn yellow and greasy after a few hours, so you may want to substitute butter in place of oil.)
- Icing – For best results, use a buttercream that is made with only butter, no shortening. (This will help your cake pops stay together better when they are dipped.) This Swiss Meringue Buttercream Recipe works very well.
- Ice-cream scoop
- A plate or extra cake pan lined with parchment paper
- Cake pop sticks or sucker sticks
- Candy Melts – At least 24 oz. This is also referred to as summer coating, chocolate coating or candy coating, and can be found in craft stores and cake supply stores. During this tutorial we may refer to it as chocolate, do not be alarmed, we are still talking about Candy Melts!
- Styrofoam to place your cake pops in once you are finished dipping.
Once you have everything gathered and your cake is made, we are ready to begin!
Step 1: Making cake crumbs
Take your cake out of the pan and dump it in a bowl. Yes, you heard me, dump the cake in a bowl! Next, and this is the fun part, using your gloved or very clean hands, mash up the cake into small crumbs. Why your hands you ask? I have tried many ways of mashing the cake, including a food processor, a mixer, and a fork, and my hands have worked the best at getting the pieces small enough without making them too small and turning the cake gooey rather than delicious.
Step 2: Preparing the cake dough
Next, add a small amount of icing to your cake crumbs. You will want to add about a ½ cup of icing for 5 cups of crumbs. Again, using your hands, mix up the icing and cake until it is fully incorporated and the cake can form into balls and hold together. If you find your cake is not holding together well, you can add small amounts of icing until you get a good consistency. Please note, you don’t want to add too much icing or you may end up with cake mush, which isn’t as good as it sounds. Trust me!
Step 3: Forming the cake pops
Now we are ready to form our cake pops. I like using an ice-cream scoop to make sure my cake pops are a consistent size. Scoop out your cake pops, then using your hands, roll the cake pops into tight balls. They should hold together well and not have cracks or crumbs. Remember to always make extras, just in case.
Step 4: Inserting sticks and freezing
Place them on your plate and insert the sticks. I like to put the sticks in about half to three- quarters of the way into the cake pop. Place them in the freezer for at least one hour. It is important not to skip this part! Your cake pops need to be frozen in order to dip them in the candy melts, or they will fall apart in your candy, which is never good!
Step 5: Removing from the freezer
After an hour, pull your cake pops out of the freezer. They need a few minutes to warm up just a little. I know you are wondering why I told you they had to be completely frozen and now I am telling you to let them warm up. Well, let’s go back to high-school chemistry class for the answer. When something is frozen, it shrinks, and when it warms up again, it expands. So our cake pops have shrunk a bit. If we pull them out now and dip them, they will be beautiful for about 10 minutes and then you will start to see your chocolate cracking and cake pop insides escaping any way they can. We don’t want that! So leave your cake pops on the counter while you warm up you candy melts and that will be just about the right amount of time for your cake pops to expand and still be cold enough to not fall apart and crack your chocolate. If it takes longer than 15-20 minutes to melt your chocolate, place your cake pops in the refrigerator, then let them warm slightly before dipping. If you leave your cake pops in the freezer longer than 1 hour, they may need a little longer to warm up. They are ready to dip when they are still very cold, but just a little squishy on the outside.
Step 6: Melting the chocolate
To melt the chocolate, follow the instructions on the packet. Warming up candy melts can be tricky, though! Read our blog post on how to melt white chocolate, and follow these tips to help you out:
- Remember the old commercials, chocolate melts in your mouth…you know the rest. The point is chocolate melts in your mouth! Which means chocolate melts at a very low temperature (below body temperature). Do not try to boil your chocolate! When melted, chocolate should be a little warmer than room temperature.
- All microwaves are different, but I heat my chocolate in the microwave at 50% power — never higher than that. You can even melt it at 20% power.
- Make sure to melt more than you will need. The more candy melts you use, the easier it will be to get them to work properly. I usually melt 24-32 ounces at once.
- If you find that your candy melts are hot, but they are clumping together or forming “elephant skin” and will not drizzle, the candy melts are too hot. Add a small amount of shortening and stir until melted. Stir until it is cool and you may be able to save your candy melts.
- If you prefer using a double boiler to melt your candy melts, make sure your water in the bottom pan does not exceed 130° F (or 50° C), and keep all water out of your chocolate, or your chocolate will seize up and you will have to start over with new chocolate. Not fun!
Step 7: Dipping
Now your cake pops have expanded and your candy melts are ready to go. Gently dip your cake pops into the candy melts all the way to the stick, don’t twist them too much and don’t let them touch the sides or the bottom of the bowl. You can use the spatula to push the chocolate up to the stick as you turn the cake pop. Gently pull them out and shake them carefully. You can also tap them gently on the side of the bowl, but I prefer to just shake them. Once you have gotten most of the extra chocolate off the cake pops, twirl it just a little while shaking it gently to help even out the remaining chocolate. Then place the cake pop upright in the Styrofoam to dry.
Oh, they look beautiful! Dip the remaining cake pops and you are ready to wow your friends, family and customers, because everyone is going to want some of your sweet treats!