Custom-shaped cake pops are like tiny edible masterpieces on a stick. Unique, and fun to look at, yes. However, it’s no secret that cake pop making can go from fun to frustrating in no time flat. Trust me, you’re not alone if you feel like the cake pops are conspiring against you! I have definitely been in that position. Making cake pops had probably given me as many wrinkles as they have given smiles to the people enjoying taking bites of them! I’ve learned quite a bit over the few years I’ve been making them and now I’m here to rescue and resuscitate you from the cake pop conspiracy situation in your kitchen.
Today, let’s take a good look at how to make custom-shaped cake pops.
Let’s review how to make shaped cake pops.
The secret to making shaped cake pops is in the dough. Not in the dough, but the actual dough itself.
Here’s something nobody else will tell you: making cake pops is not a consistent one-size-fits-all situation. Cakes are just like people, they’re all different, 100 percent of the time. Handling cake for cake pops will be different each and every time. In this tutorial, I’ll teach you how to achieve this perfect cake pop dough texture, using your personal judgement and very little actual measurement. The right texture will easily give you the results you’re looking for when you’re shaping anything from a basic round ball to a whimsical mermaid tail!
Bake the cake. You’ll need a completely cooled cake. A whole cake, a half a cake, the amount is up to you. I say this because the texture of the dough is what matters, not specific amounts added to one another. Pictured here is half of my mouthwatering snickerdoodle cake in my stand mixer. For cake pops, recommend cakes without any added textures, like nuts or chunks of fruit.
Crumble the cake until the crumbs are fine and mostly even, about 3 minutes on a low speed. Using a stand mixer will help the dough-making process go faster, but it’s not necessary. Using your hands and good ol’ elbow grease works just as well! Remove about 1 cup of crumbs (per whole cake) and set aside.
Add a binder to your crumbled cake. A binder is the paste that will help hold the crumbs together to form a dough. Common binders used are buttercreams, store-bought creamy-style icing, or even just cream cheese alone. My personal favorite is the thick texture of homemade cream cheese icing. I found that slightly chilling the binder helps bind the cake crumbs faster. If your binder is at room temperature, pop it in the fridge for 10 minutes. The flavor of the binder won’t matter much because you’ll be using such small amounts that it will hardly affect the taste.
Here’s the trick. Add the binder a tablespoon at a time to your crumbled cake. My general rule of thumb is starting with 3 tablespoons to 1/4 cup of binder for a 9″ x 13″ cake, then adding more along the process. The total amount of binder you will use depends on the kind of cake and amount of cake you’re using. Cakes baked from scratch are denser and will use more binder than box mix cakes.
Mix on the lower speeds of 2 or 3, for at least 3 minutes, then check the texture. If it looks like this, you’re almost there. Add another tablespoon or 2 of binder and let it whirl for 5 minutes.
Continue this stop-and-check process until your dough has reached a play dough or clay texture. The dough should feel sturdy, not tacky or crumbling when you handle it with your fingers. It shouldn’t fall apart when you place it in between your fingers and squeeze. If you feel it’s too wet or tacky, don’t worry! Remember that cup of crumbs you put aside earlier? This is where that will come in handy. Mix in a little bit at a time until your dough is no longer tacky and can be handled like play dough or clay. Remember to add only 1 tablespoon of binder at a time if you find it’s too dry once again.
When your dough looks like this, you’re done. Gather it, ball it up and cover in wrap plastic wrap so it doesn’t dry up. Open only as you scoop your portions using a cookie dough dropper. Scoop one, form it and repeat.
This process may take more time than you’re used to, but once you get the hang of it, it’ll become a breeze.