A friend of mine referred me to her boss for a 5th birthday party. I was surprised that I got an e-mail to follow! I was told that the party was at Home Depot and she was looking for cake pops. Ah, cake pops. I’ve never made them before. They seem pretty simple, but since I never made them before there is always that tiny bit (or a big bit) of apprehension. A cake, cupcakes, or even cookies was something I already began looking up, so cake pops threw me for a loop. I was originally asked for the cake pops to be shaped into something associated with the construction theme, like tools. I didn’t think this would be possible. I saw one of two options: (1) make a regular cake pop and attach mini fondant tool shapes to the top of each one, or (2) make the cake pops into shapes I might actually be able to do. We went with option 2, with the goal of making 10 construction cone cake pops and 10 hard hat cake pops.
So with panic about, I went at it. Cake pops ahoy! I should mention, the cake pops in the little cake pop machines aren’t what people are usually looking for. They want the moist ones. I lucked out that they wanted vanilla cake with chocolate buttercream, and chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream. I offered many options, including red velvet and peanut butter and jam (seriously?). I never made those combinations before. It reminded me I need to test out more cakes in my spare time. At some point someone is going to want something other than vanilla and chocolate! I found this recipe that sounded pretty good. I’m not sure why I didn’t go with my normal chocolate cake recipe, but anyway: http://tinyurl.com/pc6ttrz.
This cake was a pain in my neck to make. I followed the instructions which included having a dry mixture set up, a boiling water and coco powder one, and a milk and vanilla bowl… I can things everywhere. Running around the kitchen like and insane person. But as you can see below the cakes came out nice and level so I was happy with that.
I knew I wouldn’t need this much cake so I decided to freeze 1/2 of the cakes. So 1 chocolate cake and 1 vanilla cake. I’ve recently learned that some people think freezing cakes is a bad idea, that it isn’t fair to the people you serve it to. I’m a bit confused by this. The freeze is a good friend of mine. I always buy in bulk and freeze almost everything (well, within reason). The cake tastes exactly the same and its easier to level when frozen. But, to each their own.
I know you can shred the cake by hand but I threw mine in my KitchenAid and let that do the job for me. I waited until it was broken down into fine crumbs then slowly added in the chocolate buttercream. I started with two tablespoons and let it mix again. It wasn’t at a play-doh like consistency yet so I added a little bit more. The picture on the lower right shows some of the mixture sticking to the sides of the bowl. I thought this would be an issue, but it wasn’t. So if this happens to you, just ignore it.
The picture below shows more of the consistency I was looking for. I kept the cake covered while I rolled out the balls. I didn’t want it to dry out.
Just one 8 inch cake makes a ton of cake pops. I used a small scooper but I still didn’t get them all the same size. I guess it really doesn’t matter once th3ey are all bagged and decorated. But looking at this picture you can see how different in size they all were. It is very easy to roll them into a ball. Possibly years of rolling meatballs has helped here.
I used a frozen vanilla cake that I had. Below, you can see how I broke up and mixed the cake. In the bottom right picture you can see that I formed the vanilla ones into little cone shapes. They are easy to form into the shape you need, but If I was going to try something more detailed or with a pointed edge, I think I would need more buttercream. I would have to try that sometime in the future.
When I was looking up some guides to making cake pops one of the articles I read suggested that you keep a cup of extra crumbs set aside in case you add too much buttercream to the mixture , you’ll be able to toughen it back up. Because I didn’t need to do this, I add extra cup of vanilla cake and chocolate cake. I figured I wouldn’t let it go to waste and combined them both to make extra cake balls to store. The medium color was the combination cake balls. I had a lot of extra cake pops to freeze. This ended up being great because I needed extra. Sometimes the candy melts wouldn’t dry right, or a pop would get ruined, and then for some I had to re-do because I just didn’t like the way it looked. Bottom line? Making extra is good!
The hard hats were much easier to make than the traffic cones. For the hats, I first carved a little crescent moon shape out of the yellow candy melts (I used Wilton), and “glued” it to the cake pop with melted candy melts. This took a little bit to get right. They were sticking out a bit on the sides, but eventually I realized when the pop was dipped it would fill in the sides. You need to make sure the piece you cut out is large enough. With a few layers of melts it will look like a little bump on the hat. (Side note: Pretty sure if I added eyes, I could have made this a duck… Moving on.) After the hat dried (and it dried quickly), I put some extra melts into a piping bag and cut the tip off. I piped three lines like a hard hat has on the top. I tried to add some more detail on the sides at first, but it just didn’t look right. I think these turned out pretty good. I should also note, that when making the candy melts I put them in the microwave at 50% power at 30 second intervals. Once it was almost completely melted, I added in a teaspoon of Crisco to make sure it was thin enough. I read some complaints about Wilton being too clumpy on cake pops but if you add Crisco or Paramount Crystals it solves this problem. I couldn’t get the Paramount Crystals in time, but Crisco did the trick.
Now for the pain. I figured these would be easier to make than the hard hats. I was very wrong about that. So I molded the cake into a little cone. I put some candy melt onto the stick before I put it into the cake pop. I didn’t want for it to dry. This worked out pretty well, but if the cake pops warmed up too much, they would get stuck in the candy melts. I had them in the freezer for a few hours, then moved them into the fridge as I set up until they weren’t solid anymore. They sat on the counter as I melted the candy melts. I’m hoping I can remember this process next time. I’ve read about the pop being too cold can lead to cracking as the melts dry.
Anyway, I tend to ramble! You can see in the bottom picture the squares on the counter. I ordered a plastic mold for chocolates for squares. I put them in the freezer for about 5-10 minutes until they hardened. I then took a knife and spun a hole into the bottom of the square until I reached the other side. Once I did I was able to spin the candy stick into the square. I then used some melts to attach the two pieces together.
Okay. So below you can see the squares attached to the cones. I probably should have left them as is, but I thought it looked too disjointed. The picture on the bottom was my first shot at making the cones. I added more orange so they would look like one piece. I seriously struggled with adding the white lines. If I left it thick enough to stay in place when I put it on the pop, it would look so sloppy since it would dry so fast (like it does below). If i thinned it so it would be easy to manipulate, it would take too long to dry. I would have to put it on in sections and it still wouldn’t look right. After showing some people the picture, they all were in agreement that they didn’t look good and I should try again. Thank goodness for all those extra cake pops in my freezer!
Time to try again! I figured maybe if I had the squares on the stick first, then added the cone, it would look better. Seamless even? Below is a better picture of putting the holes in the squares. I set them up on the sticks and then prepared the cone pops again.
Since I had to go back to the store and buy more candy melts, I found these Wilton candy decorating tips. I figured maybe I could use those to pipe the white lines easier without getting clogged. When I used the metal piping tips it dried closed almost instantly. Below, you can see the result of adding the still wet cone directly to the square. It does look a bit better, but I still wasn’t a fan.
I wasn’t successful in getting the white lines the way I wanted them, but I ran out of time. I had to deliver the cake pops to the office of the woman who ordered them. It was an hour drive away and I wanted to try and make it there before heavy traffic started. She only wanted them individually bagged, so I put them in the box below laid out. I picked out the best cones and just went with it.
So here is where I had a breakdown: I already struggled with the cake pops, and had to run to the store first thing in the morning to rush making new ones. So I get in the car, and drive an hour to the location. The parking lot was a zoo. I had to keep driving around just to find a spot. When I finally did, the spot was so small I struggled getting the box out of the car… and BAM! Somehow… I broke two of them. Smashed flat. I just started at them in shock for a long period of time, completely devastated. I contacted my friend who worked with the customer and told her what happened. I gave her the two broken cake pops, and told the client that I would have to drop off the cake pops on the day of the party. If it was actually the day of the party, I would have had someone bring me the spares at home and meet me half way… I would have been an hour late, but I would have gotten them there. But that’s beside the point. So I had to drive all the way back home (in angry tears). I picked up new supplies and remade the ones that broke.
I was so upset that I such an error happened that I didn’t want to give someone the cake pops laying in a box like I was going to do. I went and picked up some Styrofoam and caution tape. I needed to make a display for the cake pops for presentation, and to possibly hide any of the sloppy errors on the pops themselves.
First I tried hot gluing the caution tape all over the Styrofoam, but the glue began to melt the tape. Instead, I attached two cake boards to the Styrofoam and only the caution tape around the outside with some light tape and cooled glue to hold it together. The glue also melts the Styrofoam so the cake boards came in handy. I printed out some construction signs and added them to the front of the display.
The end result looked good, but damn. It was a rough few days. I really began to question if it was worth all the time and effort.