Cake pops — those colorful dipped and decorated golf ball-sized rounds of cake on a stick — are everywhere. They’re popping up at school functions and weddings, birthday parties and baby showers.
There are books about cake pops, classes and YouTube videos.
Even Starbucks sells them.
Popularized by a blogger known as Bakerella ( www.bakerella.com), cake pops have taken over as the new cupcake. In her New York Times best-seller, Bakerella shows readers how to craft cake pops that look like robots, koalas, puppies and ghosts.
The classic cake pop is a super-sweet and mushy mouthful. In its original form it is made of finely crumbled cake and frosting creamed together, chilled, then dipped in colorful candy melt and decorated. In the last few years they’ve become an international sensation, and many cities are going cake-pop crazy.
A few examples:
—In Prairie Village, 15-year-old Sarah Fox, a freshman at Shawnee Mission East High School, has started her own cake pop company called Great Expecaketions. A local business has started to sell them.
—In Lenexa, a company called Select Brands has rolled out the Babycakes Cake Pop Maker, an appliance that resembles a waffle iron with deep round wells that bakes a different kind of round cake ball.
—In Leawood, Marsha Pener Johnston invented a culinary cousin to the cake pop that she calls “Browniepops” that she has sold around the world. And:
—In Overland Park, the Culinary Center of Kansas City now offers classes on how to make cake pops.
Today we examine the cake-on-a-stick trend in more delicious detail.
Sarah Fox, 15, Shawnee Mission, Kan.
Great Expecaketions is no sidewalk lemonade stand. It’s a real company complete with a website (www.greatexpecaketions.com), Facebook page, professional pictures and logo. Sarah’s pops are even for sale at a local business — Social Suppers in Corinth Square — for $1.60 per pop.
So how did a teenager who can’t even vote start her own company?
She had a little help from her parents.
“She’s got a dad in sales and a mom with a marketing background,” Sarah’s mother, Sylvia Fox, said. “We heard about cake pops from a friend in St. Louis who had mentioned them on her Facebook page. That was in early January. I told Sarah, because she likes to bake, and she’s an artist of sorts.”
Sarah made more than a hundred cake pops the Sunday before Valentine’s Day for her 11-year-old brother’s school party. They were a hit. But not right away.
“A lot of the kids thought it was a chocolate lollipop,” Sylvia Fox said. “And by Valentine’s Day you’ve had so much chocolate that it doesn’t seem that special. But then I said to them, ’Hey, there’s cake on that stick!’ They were all like, ’Oh, I love cake!’ But it was also interesting to see the mothers. (Some) had never seen (cake pops) before. They thought it was great that Sarah had made them.”
Sarah, who had been looking for a way to make money, launched her company shortly thereafter.
“It’s going great,” her mother said. “We told her the other day, ’You’re almost in the black, which is incredible for less than three months.’ “
She makes the pops by hand in her kitchen.
“They’re not really hard to make; they just take quite a while,” she said. “I have to plan out a day where I can make them and just flip them out. It doesn’t feel like work to me because I like baking.”
Babycakes Cake Pop Maker (an appliance that resembles a waffle iron with deep round wells that bakes a different kind of round cake ball)
There’s more than one way to make a cake pop. And the Babycakes Cake Pop Maker — while not the original way — is certainly the fastest. Heat it up, pour cake batter in the 12 round holes, then close the lid.
Poof! Perfectly round cake balls, ready in minutes. Put on a stick, then chill, dip and decorate.
The product was one of the hottest things at the recent International Home & Housewares Show in Chicago, drawing oohs and ahhs from the large crowds. Kathy Moore and Roxanne Wyss, local food professionals and home economists known as “The Electrified Cooks” (who also develop recipes for The Star’s Eating for Life column), wrote the instruction book and demonstrated the appliance at the March show.
Everyone loved it, Moore said.
“Because you can, for the first time, bake balls of cake batter so easily and in just four minutes,” she said. “People were thrilled that you could do them so easily, and make them with pure cake rather than with the cake and frosting combination. And these are small bites. There’s so much less guilt. It doesn’t ruin the caloric input for the day.”
One limitation. Since the cake is not mixed with frosting, it is not moldable. It’s round, or nothing.
Still, the machine has proved popular.
“My neighbor has been converted,” Wyss said. “She keeps (cake balls) in her freezer and pulls them out as she needs them. She’s used them as teacher appreciation gifts and taken them to a friend who was in the hospital. At Easter, instead of doing eggs, she decorated cake pops and took them up and down the neighborhood.”
The cake pop maker costs $24.95 at Kohl’s and also is available on the company’s website, thebabycakesshop.com.
Cake isn’t the only dessert you can set on a stick. It was a Leawood, Kan., woman who introduced the world to Browniepops.
Since 2006, Marsha Pener Johnston has made them for Paris Hilton, Carson Kressley and the band Kiss and has shipped them to Sweden, Russia, China and more. In the last two years, she has sold at least a half million.
In December she sold Browniepops to a company that owns ProFlowers and Shari’s Berries. She now works for that company as its corporate baker in charge of new products. For now she still makes Browniepops in a commercial kitchen in Prairie Village, Kan. Beginning in July the pops will be made in California, but she will retain a test kitchen in Kansas City.
“This is a Kansas City success story,” she said.
Pener Johnston, a trained pastry chef, describes Browniepops as a cross between a truffle and a gooey brownie.
“Our formulation is such that we can hand-mold it,” she said. “We do bunny rabbits and chickens, and right now we are working on Father’s Day. I’m watching the artists hand-mold them into footballs and hand-paint baseballs and basketballs.”
She also makes cheesecake pops.
Step by step: How to make cake pops
CAKE POP FLOWERS
Makes 48 cake pops
- 1 boxed cake mix, baked
- 3/4 can vanilla frosting
- 3 (1-pound) packages white chocolate candy coating
- 1 package of 50 cake pop sticks
- Multicolored candy corn
- 1 cake pop stand (available at most craft stores)
- 1 pastry bag
- 1 small bag pastel-colored M&Ms
In a large bowl, break up cake into fine crumbs, eliminating all chunks. Add frosting, then cream together with cake crumbs until mixture reaches a Play-Doh-like consistency. With your hands (wearing thin, latex gloves) mold batter into small, cone-shaped balls, then place on cookie sheet lined with waxed paper. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours in refrigerator. Do not freeze.
Melt candy coating, one package at a time, according to package directions. (Tip: if candy coating is too thick, add 3 tablespoons solid shortening per package to candy coating and reheat in microwave to achieve a thinner consistency).
Taking a few cake balls out of the refrigerator at a time, dip the end of an empty cake-pop stick into the melted candy coating, then pierce the center of the narrowest end of cone-shaped cake ball, pushing no more than half way through. Holding the stick with the pop facing down, dip entire pop into the melted candy coating. Remove pop slowly and lift upward, allowing excess candy coating to drip down toward the stick. Rotate (or spin) the pop as the coating drips down to achieve even coating and cover all “bald” spots. Set coated pops in cake pop stand. Add melted candy coating to pastry bag.
Using coating like glue, squeeze a thin layer on top of cake pops. Carefully arrange candy corns in desired colors to make the petals of the flowers. Squeeze more candy coating on the middle of the flower petals, and top with M&M of your choice.
Per cake pop: 249 calories (42 percent from fat), 12 grams total fat (6 grams saturated), 7 milligrams cholesterol, 35 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams protein, 115 milligrams sodium, trace dietary fiber.
Recipe from Celia Thompson, instructor of the cake pop class at the Culinary Center of Kansas City.