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.