We can think of approximately zero reasons not to love cake pops. When you're holding one in your hand, your day is looking pretty good — and if you were having a bad day a minute ago, you aren't anymore. Because, cake pops!
If you're thinking you need a whole lot more cake pops in your life, this tutorial will help you make them and all their cousins (cake balls and cake truffles —though those two nicknames usually describe cake pops without a stick), without a hitch.
What You Need
- Binder (try tacky frostings like Swiss meringue buttercream or cream cheese frosting )
- 12-to-16-ounce bag of candy wafers in any color (For beginners, dark brown is the ideal choice because it melts into the best consistency, and you won't have to thin it out.)
- Paramount crystals
- Cookie scoop
- Wax-paper-lined cookie sheet
- Lollipop sticks
- Cake pop stand or Styrofoam block
- Gloves (optional)
- Sprinkles (optional)
Avoid cake recipes that call for oil; the butter-only kinds work best. That's because oil can cause cake pops to ooze heavily, and turn the sticks yellow. And that makes for a sad cake pop.
If you're using a box of cake mix, there's an easy way to hack it to avoid oil. First, make sure you pick a mix that calls for three eggs. Substitute the oil and water in the directions with 1 cup (250 ml) of milk and 1 stick (½ cup or 125 ml) of butter, melted.
1. Crumble the Cake
Crumble your cake in a bowl, either with your hands or with a stand-up mixer (use the paddle attachment and a low speed setting). Don’t flatten or “mash” the cake with a spoon or fork. Set aside about a cup of cake crumbs if you’re not used to this process; they'll come in handy later for troubleshooting if necessary.
2. Make the Dough
Next, add a small amount of binder to your cake crumbs. This will “glue” all the cake crumbs together to form a dough that’s pliable and easy to shape. For best results, use a tacky frosting like honey buttercream, cream cheese frosting, Swiss meringue buttercream, creamy store-bought frosting or even straight cream cheese.
Start by adding about 2 or 3 tablespoons of binder to your cake crumbs. Mix with your hands, or use a stand mixer at a low speed for about 3 to 5 minutes. It's tricky to specify an actual measurement of binder since every cake differs, as does each type of binder. It’s all in the feel. Continue to add binder one tablespoon at a time until the dough has the consistency of Play-Doh. It shouldn’t be tacky, and it shouldn’t crumble if you form a ball or give it a squeeze between your fingers.
If the dough is too dry, add a little more binder. If it’s too wet or tacky, remember that cup of crumbs we put aside earlier? It’s time to use it. Add the crumbs in and incorporate them into the dough. If it’s still on the dry side, add just a tiny bit more binder to get you to the right texture.
Cover the dough in plastic wrap while doing the next step.
3. Form the Cake Pops
Now comes the moment of truth. Grab a cookie scoop if you've got one — it will help you get a more consistent size. Scoop your dough and form balls using the palms of your hands. Keep the rest of the dough covered in plastic wrap as you take out a few scoops at a time. The balls should hold together well and not have cracks or crumbs. Place cake balls on a wax-paper-lined cookie sheet and refrigerate for at least five minutes. You can chill them longer if you want to, but make sure you cover the top with paper towels if you do.
4. Melting the Candy Wafers
While the cake balls are hanging out in the fridge, use the time to melt down your candy wafers so you can make a candy coating. There are lots of brands of candy wafers; just note that all brands and each color within those brands will melt into a different consistency. You'll probably see the Wilton brand everywhere; as for the higher-quality brands like Mercken’s and Clasen, they're usually only available in specialty-baking or candy-supply stores.
Melt the candy wafers by putting them in a plastic microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for one minute at 50 percent power, then stir. Continue to heat the wafers in the microwave at 30-second intervals and 50-percent power. Make sure to stir between each interval until all the wafers have completely melted.
Once they've melted, you can gauge the consistency and thin them out using Paramount crystals if you have to. (Paramount is the only product that won't affect the integrity of the coating; find it online or in specialty-baking or candy-supply stores.) Add only about 1 teaspoon of the crystals at a time while stirring to melt, and incorporate them completely.
4. Insert the Sticks
Remove the cake balls from the fridge, and let them sit at room temperature for a few minutes to take the chill off. If they've been in the fridge for over an hour, they’ll need to sit out a bit longer, about 10 minutes or so.
Dip about ⅓ inch of the lollipop stick into the candy coating, then insert the stick into a cake ball about halfway. This adheres the ball to the stick and prevents the ball from sliding down or shifting. Do this for all of the cake balls. The candy coating should harden and set after a few seconds.
You’re ready to dip once you’ve got your sticks in place; your cake balls don’t feel chilly; and your candy coating has cooled down a bit. Dunk a knuckle into the coating, and if it doesn't feel hot, you’re good.
Hold the cake pop upside down and dip it into the candy coating in one motion, then lift up and gently shake off the excess. Turn it right side up and add sprinkles while it's still wet, or place it on a cake pop stand or Styrofoam block to let it dry completely. Repeat the process until all the cake pops have been coated.
Ta-da, homemade cake pops! Now we'll step aside and leave you alone to admire (and devour!) your work.