Friday, December 23, 2011

Cake Pops

I'm totally a Christmas baker, but I don't generally make cookies. I prefer to make candy or other sweets. Of course I've made my caramels, plus some nut brittle (a variation of a recipe I learned at cooking class) and some homemade hot chocolate mix. Earlier this week, I saw some instructions on how to make cake pops. You know, those cute little treats on a stick they sell at Starbucks and other coffee shops? The great thing about this process is that you didn't need a cake pop maker. Sure, it's easy, but even for this self-proclaimed kitchen gadget diva, it's just one more thing to fit into the cupboards. Anyone can make these cake pops with just a few ingredients and supplies! I'm going to share with you these instructions with my alterations and some things I learned. Here's what you need:

1 cake mix (in a box, pick your favorite flavor, I used white)
2 8oz packages cream cheese (softened)
1 package meltable candy coating
candy canes (or other hard crushable candy)
peppermint extract
lolly pop sticks

First, bake your cake according to the directions on the box. I can't remember the last time I baked a cake in a plain ol' rectangular pan. Let it cool all the way. Then crumble the entire cake in a large bowl with the softened cream cheese. The original recipe called for one package, but I found it's just not enough to keep the cake balls together, so 2 packages will work best. Besides, who doesn't like more cream cheese?? Mix the cake and cream cheese until well incorporated. Then form the cake/cream cheese mixture into little balls. They should be slightly smaller than golf ball size. Place the cake balls onto a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper. Once all the mix is used (about 24 balls), place the cookie sheet in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes.

While your cake balls are chilling, get out a big ziploc bag. Put your candy canes (or other candy) in the bag and crush them into small pieces. My daughter had a good time with this step! Caution: do not make candy dust. The flavor will be there, but the texture and visual appeal just won't be the same. We used the flat side of a meat tenderizer, but a rolling pin works too. Put your crushed candy in a bowl and set aside.

Once the balls have chilled, melt your candy coating. Apparently, I am the world's worst candy melter. I ruin the candy more than I actually melt it. I could claim that I'm not used to the cooking temps of my new range, which is true, but mostly I'm a candy melting moron. I thought that melting on the stove would be easier when it came to dipping because I could keep it warm. In two words: EPIC FAIL. I burned the candy in the pan, it clumped and congealed and had to be thrown out. The particular candy I purchased had a special tray and instructions to melt in the microwave. Use them. :) Here is my failed candy.

Anyway, start with just a small amount of the melted candy coating. I found that I needed to make 2 steps of the process where it originally had one. Remove the cookie sheet with your cake balls from the refrigerator. Dip the end of the lollypop stick into the melted candy and stick it into a cake ball. This will help the sticks stay in the finished cake pop. I also purchased the 8" lolly pop sticks that are about 1/8" sticks. The next time I make these, I'm going to get smaller sticks. I think these were just a little too big, but you try what works for you. Put the pops back into the refrigerator for 10 minutes. The original instructions did not include this step and I had quite a few pops that crumbled. They still tasted great, but didn't exactly qualify as a "pop".

Now, melt about half of the candy. Once melted, add about 1 tsp of peppermint extract to the candy. If your choosing to make these at other times of the year and using candy other than candy canes, you can change the flavor or omit all together. For holidays, it does make a pretty tasty pop to flavor the candy peppermint. Then take about 4-5 pops out of the fridge and dip into the melted candy. Use a spoon to coat the entire ball with the candy. Once coated, sprinkle the crushed candy canes on the pop. Place on another cookie sheet covered in parchment to cool and harden.

After I got the candy melted properly and the sticks insterted and cooled, these were pretty easy to make. They look really pretty and taste awesome! And SO much less expensive than buying them :) Happy Holidays!!

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