Tutorial on Basic Cake Pop Making
Tried making cake pops before? Failed miserably? Ready to try again? Sick of all these questions? If so, this post is for you!
There are a lot of potential reasons that your last cake pop attempt went wrong. I'll point out the most common mistakes I see when people try to make cake pops for the first time.
1. Bake your cake!
Believe it or not, some of the best cake pops are made from those good old-fashioned cake mix boxes. You can make these using the instructions on the box and even change up the ingredients to be food storage worthy (just use egg alternatives!).
Tip: I have used homemade cakes in cake pops, but often the homemade cakes I make are very moist. This makes a great cake, but a terrible cake pop. Why? Because you need to add frosting to the cake in order to mold it into a cake pop. When you have a cake that is already very moist, you won't need to add as much frosting. This means you don't get the frosting flavor (which you want!) and it also changes the texture of the cake pop. White almond sour cream cake is possibly the worst cake I've ever made into a cake pop. Very buttery cakes are also terrible. The butter just seems to seep out of the cake pop ball and doesn't hold its shape very well.
2. Mix your cake with frosting!
I love using my stand mixer for this. I have mixed by hand, but it takes a lot longer and it is not always easy to get it fully mixed. Use your paddle attachment and just add a spoonful of frosting to 3/4 of a whole cake. It's always better to add less frosting than you think you need. You can always add more, but you can't take it out!
What frosting do I use? Just about any frosting will work...even those canned frostings! I do love to add in fresh homemade buttercream when I have it, but it's definitely not a necessity. In fact, the canned frostings help the cake ball hold up quite well and seep less.
Allow the mixer to do its work for at least a couple minutes. The dough should form a ball around the paddle attachment so that it is one big blob of dough. If there are still crumbles, you need to add more frosting.
Tip: How can you tell if you added too much or too little frosting? To check the dough, try rolling the dough into a ball. If the dough leaves residue on your hands or is sticky, you've added too much frosting and you'll need to add more cake, which is precisely why you should not put the whole cake in the mixer first. If the dough doesn't quite stay together or it stays together but has persistent cracks in it, you need to add a little more frosting.
3. Roll into shape.
This part of the process is a bigger deal than you might think and it often gets ignored because, well, who can't roll some dough into a ball? You really need to do two things here: make sure your cake ball is the appropriate size (not too big or too small) and really mush that ball together!
Below is the amount of cake pop dough you will use for each cake pop. It's harder than you think to get the right size every time, but weighing the dough takes way too long for me. My cake pops are typically 1 1/2" in diameter before dipping in chocolate. I've made bigger cake pops, but if you are new to this, try to keep them fairly small. The bigger they are, the more likely they are to fall off that stick!
In the pictures below, my hand model (aka my amazing SIL, Jenny) shows how to really squish those cake balls! This was her very first time making cake pops and you can see in the last picture just how beautiful and smooth the cake ball is turning out.
Tip: You've really got to mash that ball together! The temptation is just to worry about making it into a nice round shape, but it is even more important to get it compact. By doing so, you eliminate some of the risk of the cake pop coming off of that little stick.
Making different shapes are fun and can really enhance the look of the final product. Keep in mind, though, that a sphere is the easiest to dip and should probably be your starting point if you haven't tried it before.
4. Attach the stick with chocolate!
You'll need to melt your chocolate. Heat the chocolate in the microwave on 50% or 40% power. I heat it for 60 seconds the first time before I pull it out and stir. Then I heat again at 30-45 second increments, stirring each time, until the chocolate is melted. Don't over heat! I used a horrendously crappy microwave in a rental house and it burned my chocolate very easily (I mean it would turn brown/black and get all smoky and smelled terrible). So, yeah, don't do that.
Tip: I like to use a plastic bowl (I bought mine from IKEA) and a plastic baby spoon. I bought bowls specifically for this use so that I can leave the chocolate in the bowls and don't have to worry about cleaning the bowls every time I use them. I can also leave the spoon in the melted chocolate which will harden around the spoon as it cools. Because it's plastic, I can leave it in the bowl when I put it in the microwave with the chocolate.
Your chocolate should drizzle from the spoon...beautiful.
Tip: If possible, purchase quality chocolate melts (sorry, Wilton, I'm not talking about you). I like both Merckens and Alpine wafers, but I'm sure there are others that would work well too. Try to find a specialty baking store near you. I was lucky enough in both northern Utah and Pittsburgh to find one that sold these great chocolates. It is cheaper to purchase them from a store than to buy online. Now I have to travel three hours to get my chocolate wafer fix, so I purchase them in bulk and store them for a year and they are still good. Wait...that's almost like a food storage item, isn't it? Weird. And on a food storage website, too.
Take your sucker stick and dip it into the chocolate, about 1/2". Then, stick that stick about 3/4 of the way into the cake pop, trying to go as straight as possible without wiggling that stick around. Allow the chocolate to harden on the cake pop.
5. Dip the cake pop!
Alas, another step where you might have experienced some hair loss. But if you've followed the tips so far, you are much less likely to fail this next process.
Pay particular attention to the angle of the chocolate and the cake pop ball. See how the bowl is tilted so that the chocolate is almost to the edge? And see how the cake pop ball is not dipped straight up and down, but rather on the side, and only about a third of it at a time?
After making sure that the chocolate goes all the way to the part of the ball where the stick and the ball of cake meet, turn the ball about 1/4 turn and dunk again. Do this all the way around the ball until the cake ball is completely covered.
Take it out of the chocolate and dip the top to make sure you got the top covered.
Pull the cake ball out of the chocolate and allow the excess to drip off. You can carefully wiggle it around if you wish, but make sure you are paying particular attention so that if you start to experience some movement in the cake ball, you can hurry and save it from falling off! But if you've followed these steps, you shouldn't have a problem.
Place your pop on a piece of wax or parchment paper or in a piece of wood drilled with holes. If you like, add some sprinkles while it's still wet. Allow your cake pop to dry.
Now display your beautiful creation and wait at least 30 minutes before you pig out on this delicious sweet treat! Why? Because you want people to see how amazing and talented you are before you destroy this in your mouth.