Tuesday, July 14, 2015

GUEST BLOG: Cake Pops (for Dummies)

The following is a special guestipe written by none other than my little sister, Annie! She's a teacher, a sweetie, and a cake pop master. In fact, you've probably read about her on this site. So now, read FROM her -- and learn about cake pops (and how I was obviously the best big sister in the world).


Growing up, Emily and I were quite the sister duo. We were the best (or worst?) when it came to bickering back and forth about trivial things that really did not matter at all in the long run. Everywhere we went -- from trips to Target, Sunday mornings at Perkins restaurant, or family vacations, we were the loudest and most embarrassing siblings in the general vicinity. Though we irritated our parents and each other quite a bit, we had some fascinating and quite humorous stories come from our childhood.

Me and my baby. Emily and someone else's baby.

One thing I will always remember is our biannual road trips to Chicago to visit our grandparents. I think anyone with siblings will remember just how miserable it is to sit in a car with your family for eight hours or so at a time. Though our trips were not quite up to par with the Griswold family vacations, they sure seemed insanely similar at the time. Fighting over music choice, pushing each other out of our personal space in the boxy Oldsmobile van, unknown smells, vague complaining and not enough breaks for Culver's (and their bathrooms) to satisfy everyone. Eight hours can seem like a lifetime when you are a young child, but there were always positive bonding moments bound to happen during our time in the car. For example, I vividly remember Emily pulling out a crusty breadstick from an Italian restaurant in Chicago (probably not as good as Olive Garden) from the seat pocket and singing "Bread Boyyyyy!!!!!" in a low heroic voice and it became the theme song to our ride home. This was a song to go along with our family sing-alongs to Kathy Mattea, which was about the only music we could all agree on besides the cassette tape where cows (yes, cows) would sing their own renditions to Christmas carols. This "Cow Christmas" tape had gone missing and its whereabouts are still unknown to this day.

One time, we were on our way to go camping and I had a creepily huge doll with long blonde hair along for the drive in between Emily and me. I vividly remember Emily teaching me how to braid her hair and it's memories like those that you hold on to. On this same trip, we decided to make use of our awesome new car top carrier, which was apparently not attached correctly (give Larry a break, it was brand new technology). Well, we were driving on the highway, probably going pretty slow in the right lane when it flew off with a funny noise that I still remember.

These are only a few of my childhood road trip memories, but between our casual car break-downs and my demands to visit every souvenir shop we saw, they also made a difference in our lives. With that, here is how I make cake pops.

You can make cake pops with any of your favorite boxed cake or you can make it with cake from scratch. I made these ones with three different boxed cake mixes: Duncan Hines' Red Velvet, Betty Crocker's Chocolate & Pillsbury's Funfetti -- though you can use whatever kind you'd like!

Cake Pops (for Dummies)
1 box of cake mix of your choosing (makes 19-25 pops)
Eggs/oil/water (follow box directions)
1 container of cream cheese frosting per batch (I used Betty Crocker)
1 can of Crisco's shortening
2 bags of Wilton's Candy Melts of your color choice, which can be found at Michael's craft store

1 pack of white long cake box sticks, also found at Michael's
strip of styrofoam or something sturdy with holes
...refrigerator and rest of kitchen

Follow the directions on the boxes and bake your cakes of choice in any size pan you wish. Each cake mix will make about 19-25 pops depending on how big you make them.
Once you bake your cake and let it cool for 5-10 minutes, make sure your hands are clean and empty the cake in a large mixing bowl. Break it up into pieces using a knife and put the bowl in the fridge for 10 minutes. Once cooled in fridge, take out and break up even more with your hands so that the whole cake is basically crumbs. Take the cream cheese frosting and scoop about two to three tablespoons into the bowl and mix in with your hands as much as you can (this gets messy and doesn't mix well but don't worry).

On a plate or pan or other flat surface, begin making balls with your hands out of the cake. This takes practice and may frustrate you. The frosting will help hold these balls together. Put them on the flat surface until all or most of the cake is gone. Make sure balls aren't falling apart and are pretty compact. Put balls in freezer (or fridge) for 10 minutes.

While they are in the freezer or fridge, bring three cups or so of water to a boil in a regular pot. Place a med-large metal mixing bowl over the boiling water and turn the burner to low. Scoop 2-3 tablespoons of Crisco's shortening into the bowl and let melt fully (it will be clear). When melted, add half a bag of Wilton's candy melts and stir the entire time, into the shortening, until melted completely together.

Candy melts!

Dipping procedure #1: Take the cake balls out of the fridge and make sure they are all pretty much compact. Dip each stick into the melted candy about an inch and place into each cake ball (also about an inch). This acts as glue. This is also the easy part. To make the candy dry quicker, I put them back in the fridge, still on the plate like before, only this time they have sticks sticking up. :)

Thank goodness for Wilton's.

Dipping procedure #2: After about another 5-10 minutes, add the rest of the candy melts and turn the burner up a tad. If necessary, I'd also add more shortening. You kind of have to play it by ear. You don't want the melt too thick because it will cause the cake to fall right off the stick. The shortening acts as a thinner and keeps it from burning.

Pour the entire contents of the candy melts into a tall but narrow cup. I used a very tall coffee mug.
Get ready & brace yourself, this is the difficult part. Don't get discouraged if a few of your pops take one for the team, especially if this is your first time making cake pops.

Carefully take each cake pop and dip them into the cup until you reach about an inch past the pop itself (onto the stick). Turn it sideways and tap stick with your finger to get the excess candy melt off of the pop.
Stick it upright in styrofoam or something with holes in it to let it dry. On to the next one! Do this until you have completed all of the pops. Run out of candy melt? Or something disastrous happens? That is why you have an extra bag, just in case. If you want to add sprinkles, do it before it dries! Don't worry if you make a mess, it's hard to avoid with these.

There you have it! Your first time may not be so pretty but by the second time, you'll be a cake pop pro, I promise.

Happy baking!

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