At a recent fancy event, when the dessert table was unveiled, we were startled by how many adults elbowed past children to get to the cake pops display. (Hey, that little kid was going for the last red velvet one! We couldn't let that happen.)
This got us thinking about how cake pops seem to be everywhere these days. They've gone from being a novelty item to a classy presence at birthday parties, bar mitzvahs, baby showers and weddings.
"Food-on-a-stick is a perennial favorite with Americans," points out food historian Lynne Olver, creator and editor of the Food Timeline, a website that can trace the provenance of nearly any food.
Olver says that prior to today's version of cake pops, there were lollipop cookies featured in the 1963 edition of Betty Crocker's Cooky Book. These were basically a frosted sugar cookie sandwich on a stick. Some 40 years later, Neiman Marcus had a big hit selling what the company called Cheesecake Pops, which, as the name implies, was cheesecake on a stick.
"Cupcakes ruled during the 2000s and, while still popular, discerning consumers ... were ready for something new. Cake pops are perfect," says Olver, because they are "portable, inexpensive and personally portioned."
Olver credits blogger Angie Dudley of Bakerella fame with bringing cake pops to the world's attention. In August 2008, a few months after Dudley began to write about making cake pops, she was invited to appear on The Martha Stewart Show. Dudley achieved superstar status and her first book, Cake Pops by Bakerella, became a New York Times bestseller. (A serious aside that has nothing to do with baking --- while on the book tour, Dudley became very ill and had to have a kidney transplant [her second] at Emory University in Atlanta. Dudley wrote about the life-changing experience and her gratitude for her mother's donation of the kidney.)
Starbucks jumped aboard the cake pops bandwagon in March 2011, as part of its "Petites" lineup. Starbucks now sells three flavors: Birthday Cake Pop, Raspberry Truffle Cake Pop and Tiramisu Cake Pop.
A Starbucks spokesman told Squid Ink: "Customer feedback ... has been overwhelmingly positive and we continue to introduce new flavors to the lineup. In fact, we're excited to launch a new flavor in September, Salted Caramel Cake Pop, which is inspired by our seasonal favorite beverage, Salted Caramel Mocha."
If you search for cake pops on Amazon, more than 5,000 products appear, including molds, special baking pans, an electric cake pop maker with a filling injector and, for all you athletes out there, a Cake Pop Baller.
Many of the recipes for cake pops call for mixes and store-bought frosting. L.A. baker Emily Blake, owner of Surprise Surprise Bake Shop, instead uses old family recipes as inspiration for her cake pops (which can be ordered online or by phone).
"We make ours from scratch," says Blake. "My mom grew up in Indiana on a farm and my grandma and mom both baked. My whole life I baked with them. I have about six cookbooks from my grandma and a couple from my mom. Most of our recipes are adapted from those."
Blake believes that cake pops are here to stay: "I think they haven't really hit their popularity peak yet. We're getting busier and busier and busier." She says part of cake pops' appeal is that the small size "allows you to indulge with half the guilt."
Blake shared with us the recipe for one of the baker's most popular flavors, Snickerdoodle, which, like most cake pops, is fairly labor-intensive. Things you will want to have on hand: A big bag of lollipop sticks, a large cookie sheet, 24 ounces of high-quality white chocolate for melting, a glass bowl or Pyrex pitcher, parchment paper or nonstick foil, an 18 x 12 inch Styrofoam block (available at any craft store).
See the recipe after the jump.
Snickerdoodle Cake Pops
From: Emily Blake of Surprise Surprise Bake Shop
Makes: About 3 dozen cake pops.
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups milk
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Grease 3 (8-inch) round cake pans.
3. Sift together both flours, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.
4. In a mixing bowl on medium-high speed, cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy (about 2 minutes). Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in vanilla. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of milk, and beating until combined after each addition.
5. Divide batter evenly in the cake pans, filling each three-fourths full. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean. Transfer cake pans to wire racks to cool completely.
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
4 cups powdered sugar
2-3 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1. Beat butter with mixer on medium speed for about 1 minute.
2. Add powdered sugar and 2 tablespoons milk, and mix on low speed until incorporated.
3. Add cinnamon and mix on low, gradually increasing speed to medium-high until frosting is fluffy. If frosting is too stiff, add the remaining one tablespoon milk, and blend until combined.
Cake pops assembly:
1. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper or nonstick foil.
2. Transfer the cake into a large bowl and add in 2 ½ cups of the frosting. (Refrigerate any extra frosting.) Using clean hands, crumble up the cake and mix it together with the frosting.
3. Roll the cake and frosting mixture into rounds that are slightly smaller than a golf ball. Place each ball onto the lined cookie sheet.
4. Melt about one cup of white chocolate in a glass bowl or small Pyrex pitcher. (You can melt the chocolate in the microwave, in 30-second intervals, stirring after each interval until smooth and glossy.)
5. Dip just the tip of each lollipop stick into the white chocolate, then immediately insert the stick three-quarters of the way into the cake balls. The chocolate will act like glue, securing the cake ball to the lollipop stick as it chills. (Note: When you are finished with this step and all the cake pops have sticks in them, put the glass bowl or Pyrex pitcher aside. No need to wash it now, because you're going to use it again to melt more chocolate.)
6. Refrigerate the cookie sheet with the cake pops for about 3 hours, or until the cake ball batter has hardened. (You can also freeze the cake pops for about half an hour to speed up the process, if you have room in your freezer for the large cookie sheet.)
7. When the cake pops are cold and solid, it's time to dip them into melted chocolate. Fill the Pyrex pitcher or bowl with more white chocolate. (As before, melt the white chocolate in the microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring after each interval, until smooth.)
8. Hold onto the stick end and dunk each cake pop into the melted chocolate. Gently twirl it around so the whole ball is coated. Allow any excess to drip off, back into the pitcher or bowl. Lightly dust the cake pop with a mixture of cinnamon and sugar.
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9. The cake pops will dry on the Styrofoam block. Simply poke the sticks into the Styrofoam so the cake pops stand straight.
10. Keep the cake pops refrigerated until serving time. In the unlikely event that any are left over, refrigerate those.
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