Sunday, September 11, 2011

Labor Day Mass Chaos... er... family gathering & everything you need to know about cake pops!

So here's the thing about my family... my grandparents have four kids. All four are married. Three of the four have four kids each. One of those kids (me!) is married. The other of the four has twelve kids! (That's no typo-- there are really twelve of them!) And three of the twelve are married. One has two kids. Mix in a few boyfriends and girlfriends, and that brings the grand total to FORTY-THREE people at my cousins' rental house at Smith Lake last weekend.

See! I totally wasn't kidding... Count us!

I always love gathering with this side of the family. Chaotic doesn't even begin to describe it, but the laughter, Bible discussions, music, board games, boating, laughter, photos, and laughter are precious and irreplaceable! When Jim and I decided to make the weekend trip, I knew I had to take cake pops. Since we decided Friday evening to leave for Alabama Saturday morning, I decided against my better judgement to stay up all night making cake pops.

And wasn't it worth it!? Check out some of the cake pop photos from the weekend...

Chocolate caramel, Strawberry lemonade, and Funfetti 
cake pops! Nearly 200 of them!
Adorable cousin Jordan
Cousin-in-law Caroline
Cousin Mary and boyfriend Matt 
Cousin Lexie

So what's the recipe, you ask!? A lot of time, a little creativeness, and some boxed cake mixed and cans of frosting! Not one thing about a cake pop needs to be homemade. I used the following for my nearly 200 cake pops: 2 Duncan Hines Dark Chocolate Fudge cake mix & 2 small cans of Duncan Hines Homestyle Caramel frosting; one Duncan Hines Lemon Supreme cake mix & a can of strawberry frosting; and one box of Funfetti cake mix & a can of Duncan Hines Homestyle Cream Cheese frosting. The combinations are endless, so have fun with the flavors! 

Cousin Becky & boyfriend Kyle
Here is a recipe for about 40-50 cake pops depending on the size you make:
1 box of cake mix 
1 can of frosting to match your cake flavor (You won't use the whole can.)
2-4 bags of candy melts (I've yet to figure exactly how many candy melts are needed. Play it safe and buy some extras.)
Gel food coloring, if desired
Sprinkles, sprinkles, sprinkles!
Pop sticks

Prepare and bake the cake as instructed on the boxes in a 9x13 inch pan. When the cake is done, let it cool, and then crumble it into a large bowl. Mix two-thirds to three-fourths a can of frosting into the crumbled cake. The consistency should be slightly doughy-- firm enough to roll the cake into bite-size balls.

Wrapped for 5 hour drive
And that's the next, long, boring, meticulous step. Roll each of your doughy cake mixtures into bite size balls and place them on a wax-paper-lined tray. This takes forever, so turn on the radio and sing along. Don't worry about making your cake balls perfectly round. I'm convinced that only Bakerella can do this because she is a magic cake pop queen or something to that effect. Just go for a roundish shape. Place your cake balls into the freezer for 15-20 minutes until they are firm but not frozen.

While your cake pops are in the freezer, melt some candy melts in cereal-sized bowls. My estimate is 2 bags of candy melts per box of cake mix, but I could be off. When you make 200 at a time, some measurements get lost in the madness. You're going to want to add about a tablespoon of Crisco per bag of candy melts. This thins the melted candy a bit. If you decide to add gel food coloring, you'll need to add more Crisco. Use your own judgement. You want fairly thin melted liquid. During this whole process, be careful not to overheat your candy melts. They are nasty burnt!

Sister Casey & boyfriend Adam
Now that your candy melts are ready, grab your cake balls from the freezer. For each cake ball, take a pop stick and dip one end into the melted candy before sticking it about halfway into the cake ball. Put the now-cake-pop back on your tray and repeat for each cake ball. You'll need to stick them back in the freezer for about 5 minutes to let the pop stick and melted candy set in the cake ball. Use two trays to eliminate wasted time, or take the 5 minute break to start cleaning your now-messy kitchen!

Get your cake pops out of the freezer, making sure they aren't super cold. If they're too cold, you're candy coating will crack after it dries. Take each pop, reshape carefully if necessary (sometimes the top gets flat from the tray), and carefully dip into the melted candy. Be sure you cover the entire cake ball and part of the stick as this helps to stabilize the cake pop. Avoid a lot of twisting in the melted candy, as you will loosen the cake ball from the stick. After your pop is coated, carefully air-tap the pop to get off some of the excess melted candy. If you're decorating with sprinkles (which I highly recommend!), add those now before your candy hardens. If you're decorating by piping a different color of candy melt onto the cake pop, you can do that now or wait until later. 

Place your cake pop into a piece of styrofoam to dry. And you're done!

If you're looking for a cute way to display your cake pops, here's what I do (an idea I got from Bakerella's book). Buy a block of styrofoam in the size of your choice and wrap in pretty wrapping paper. On a separate piece of paper the same size as the display surface of your styrofoam, mark dots two inches apart, starting in the top corner about one inch from either paper edge. Place the paper template over the wrapped styrofoam and use a pin to poke and twist small holes in the styrofoam every two inches. And now you have a pretty drying and display stand for your cake pops!
Cake pop styrofoam stands

So now it's all clear as mud, and you can go create! Really though, have fun! My first cake pops looked much less cute than these. Also, remember that sprinkles are your friend! They cover blemishes in your dipped cake pops and add color and spunk! You can pick up a variety of sprinkles, along with pop sticks, gel food coloring, frosting tips and piping bags, styrofoam, and wrapping paper, at Michael's or Hobby Lobby.

Happy cake popping!

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