I made Cake Pops!!
And I hated almost every minute of it 😦 If you’re thinking of trying them yourself though, keep reading…
I first became aware of Cake Pops at about the same time I became aware of Whoopie Pies; in the UK they seemed to rise on the same wave of small, cute novelties which were jumping on the Cupcake bandwagon. They did have a bit more sticking power though and you do still sometimes see them around. I think it’s their sheer arrogance, personally, dandering up there on their stick above all those ground-level bakes, with their glossy sheen and cutesy decoration. No one quite has the guts to ignore them.
The Cake Pop is the ultimate package for the American cake lover: cake meets lollipop meets snack on sticks. The person who turned them from novelty to craze (albeit unintentionally; she had no idea of the attention her invention would attract) was Angie Dudley, author of the now hugely popular blog, ‘Bakerella.com’. In the blog post which sent the Cake Pop viral in January 2008, she said that she had seen something similar at a party and decided to challenge herself to recreate it. That post had received 384 comments up to November 2014. But Bakerella did not create the Cake Pop; she popularised it. The researchers at Foodtimeline.org found similar lollipop cookies in cookbooks from the 1960s (two cookies sandwiched together with a lolly stick in between), although nothing called a ‘Pop’ until the early twentieth century, and nothing on any scale until the famous Bakerella blog post in 2007. They were made even more ubiquitous by Starbucks, who launched a range of Cake Pops in 2011 as part of their ‘Petites’ range (which also included mini Cupcakes). What Bakerella did do was cross two trends to create the Cupcake Pop just a few days after her original Cake Pop post in 2008. The Cupcake Pop was an instant hit because it epitomised three current crazes: for small, impossibly cute, and new. Several thousand blog posts, a cookbook, and appearances on national TV shows including the Martha Stewart Show for Cupcake Week in 2008, she has successfully imparted her knowledge to the cake-loving masses.
Well, I say successfully. She has certainly written a beautifully-illustrated book full of imaginative cake pops, all accompanied by trouble-shooting guides and step by step instructions. However, she can’t help a klutz like me who has no talent for finicky decorating (which is odd because I frequently spend hours doing small and finicky sewing tasks). I did know what I was getting into. Dudley is quite clear that it’s not a quick job. She suggests that you set aside a couple of hours and that’s just for the decorating – in fact, she recommends using a cake mix for the cake, and a tub of ready-made frosting to bind the crumbs together into the requisite balls. Then the balls need to chill, take a dip in some melted candy coating, get neatened up via an elaborate system of ‘tapping’ and rotating, and finally, go for a beauty treatment for their final adornment. Let’s face it, Cake Pops are all about the decoration. When I caved to all the pretty pictures on Bakerella and bought a second-hand copy of Dudley’s book, Munchkin spent a happy half hour looking at the pictures and deciding what he wanted us to make. The Scientist, meanwhile, was unimpressed at the idea of a cake which sacrificed size and heft for appearance.
But back to the Cake Pop (mis)adventures in our kitchen. Munchkin picked out the Robot Cake Pops. It took some time to assemble all the necessary paraphernalia: lollipop sticks, candy melts, sweeties for the decoration. Then, last Wednesday evening we baked the cake (our family go-to chocolate cake). On Friday morning, Munchkin crumbled it all up with great gusto, and helped me to mix the crumbs with some buttercream (we were flying by the seats of our pants with quantities here since the instructions are for a a standard cake mix cake and a tub of frosting). I shaped them and chilled them overnight as Munchkin was all about staying for tea at his friend Lizzie’s house on Friday evening. On Saturday morning, we got our supplies ready – and everything went downhill from there, really. The melted candy melts were too thick; I tried adding some milk and golden syrup which I’ve done successfully with melted chocolate in the past – disaster. The next batch worked ok but rapidly thickened up so I consulted the trouble shooting pages and added a bit of oil. Minor improvement. Third batch, ditto. The result was one decently coated cake pop and a small battalion of gnarled and pocked ones. We gloomily waited for them to dry, gurning incongrously at us from the middle of a floral table piece I had been given by our lovely neighbour. Then, the next problem: you’re supposed to use more of the candy melts to stick the sweeties on. Well, ours were all in a melted and solidified lump by then and I was ready to throw a fit. Fortunately we had some buttercream leftover so we abandoned all attempts at finesse and just stuck the sweets on any part of the Cake Pop with a flat enough surface. More gloom while they dried, then we packed them up and took them to visit Munchkin’s grandparents.
It had not been a fun experience; nor was it really one which Munchkin could participate in, since the later stages were all so fiddly. However, he seemed unaffected by my gloom, and the family were excited to see the robots. I couldn’t face trying one, but I must admit that they seemed to go down well (even with the sceptical Scientist, ha!). I think we really have the family chocolate cake recipe and the presence of sweeties to thank for that though.
So, I am most definitely never making Cake Pops again. Ever. However, if you get on well with detailed decoration and can handle your candy melts, go wild. They are extremely cute after all, and nothing will mark you out as a more accomplished baker. I’ll just be down there with the ground level bakes 🙂