There is something about the holidays that brings out the pastry chef in all of us. A friend of mine was inspired to make Reindeer Cake Pops for her son’s pre-K class holiday party, and ever-curious, I volunteered to discover how to do just that as her side-kick. Ever see those shining cake pops in the bakery rack at the pastry shop? They look perfect, like molded truffles. The icing coats are pristine smooth and the sticks well-embedded in the cake. After making a few dozen of these guys from scratch, and developing a steep learning curve in the process, it is very rewarding to feel like your homemade cake pops are verging on store-window perfect!
A veteran cake-pop maker stopped by and thought that our first-attempt was very impressive… which probably means “well, at least they are edible!” And, boy were they delicious! It was actually rewarding watching the first batch of cake balls fall off the sticks because then we had an excuse to taste-test. We tested several. For freshness of course! By the end of the cake batter, we managed to create some truly adorable cake pops for the holiday party and we felt we had really accomplished something when we looked back at where we had started!
- 1 box of cake mix - per your preference
- ½ (8 oz.) container of frosting - per your preference (or home made!)
- Vegetable oil or Shortening
- 32 oz. candy melts or candy coating
- 2 baking sheets
- Wax paper
- Large mixing bowl
- Microwave-safe bowl
- Teaspoon measurer
- Lollipop sticks
- Styrofoam block or cake pop stand
- Decorations: sprinkles, sugar, coconut, red hots, nuts, etc.
- Prepare the cake batter and bake per the box or recipe instructions in a 9x13 pan.
- After baking, transfer cake to cooling rack to cool completely before moving to next step.
- Crumble the cooled cake into a large mixing bowl. TIP: crumbles should be smaller than a dime.
- If using store-bought frosting, microwave the frosting for about 10 seconds to soften it slightly. (Same applies to home made frosting if your recipe produces thick frosting).
- Combine 8oz. (½ a store-bought jar) of frosting with the crumbled cake in the large mixing bowl and stir with a FORK until the frosting is completely incorporated with the cake crumbles. TIP: For our cake pops, we used birthday cake and orange frosting, so it was very easy to combine the two because we simply mixed until there was no more orange frosting visible.
- To form the cake balls, the cake-frosting mixture needs to have the perfect consistency. Pick up a handful and squeeze, if everything stays together and there are no cracks (think new play-do) then your mixture is good to go. If you see cracks (think old play-do), even tiny hair-line cracks, add a little more frosting to your mixture and stir with a FORK. Repeat until your mixture sticks together with no cracks.
- Tightly pack small walnut-sized balls of cake-frosting mixture and transfer to a baking sheet lined with wax paper. TIP: This recipe should make 40 cake pops so make sure you do not make the cake balls too large; the balls will not stay on the sticks correctly if they weigh too much.
- Clear space in your freezer and insert the baking sheets for 15-20 minutes.
- Clear enough space on your counter for the two baking sheets, the bowl of candy coating, the lollipop sticks, the styrofoam block or cake pop stand, and all your decorations. Make sure your decorations are ready to go because the candy coating will harden on the cake pops within a minute of application. TIP: Layout your decorations in small glass dishes so you can quickly and easily sprinkle them or place them on your cake pops.
- Using a microwave-safe bowl (we used a 2-cup, glass measuring cup), melt 16 oz. of candy melts or candy coating in the microwave in 30-second bursts. Stir briefly with a spoon and continue melting in 30-second bursts until the candies are completely melted. (When you use up all of the first batch of coating, prepare the next 16 oz.). The melted candies should coat your spoon and slowly drip off (not run) the spoon. TIP: If your candy melt is too thick, add a ½ teaspoon of vegetable oil or shortening. Stir and do the drip test. Repeat as necessary but do NOT exceed 2 teaspoons per 16 oz. of candy coating or your coating will crack as it dries on the cake pop.
- Remove the baking sheets and frozen cake balls from the freezer. Insert the lollipop sticks into the melted candy coating to just cover the tip, about 1-2 cm.
- Immediately insert the candy-coated end of the stick into a frozen cake about ½ way into the ball. Repeat until all your sticks are coated and inserted into the cake pops. Cake pops should remain on the baking sheets with the sticks up in the air. It will take about 2 minutes for the sticks to "set" in the cake ball.
- Congratulations! You now have a cake pop! Time to Decorate. Gently pickup the stick end of the cake pop and dip it into the melted candy coating. Rotate the cake pop around to coat the ball. TIP: We found that if we rotated the cake pop with it gently supported against the side of the bowl it prevented the cake ball from separating from the stick. If your cake ball is just too heavy with the added weight of the candy coating, try coating by drizzling the candy melt over the cake pop with a spoon or putting the candy melt in the spoon and twirling the cake pop in the spoon.
- If your melted candy coating begins to thicken, reheat as needed. (Remember, don't exceed 2 teaspoons of oil or shortening per 16oz.). If you begin to run out of candy coating, make a new batch.
- Immediately after applying the candy coating to the cake pop, begin to decorate. The candy melt will harden within a minute and you want your decorations on there before that happens. Roll the cake pops in sprinkles, or drizzle decorations over the cake pop.
- In our reindeer inspired cake pops, we broke pretzels in half and inserted the halves into either side of the cake pop to be the "antlers" and we cut Mike&Ike pieces in half and inserted a half into the center of the cake pop for Rudolph's red nose (you could also use red hots). We then dabbed some white icing and black sprinkles for the eyes.
- Place your decorated cake pops in the styrofoam block or your cake-pop stand so that they are as upright as possible and allow to dry completely for about 5 minutes.
This recipe is adapted from “Cake Pops by Duncan Hines” available online at allrecipes.com