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.greatexpecake tions.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.
They’re available online at www.browniepops.com and www.proflowers.com.
Cake Pop Class
The Culinary Center of Kansas City in downtown Overland Park, Kan., is getting into the cake-pop groove by offering several cake-pop classes throughout the year.
The three-hour class costs $60.
During a recent class, instructor Celia Thompson showed students how to create a colorful bouquet of cake-pop flowers for Mother’s Day. As several dozen women craned their necks to see, she crumbled a sheet cake into fine crumbs in a large bowl, then mixed in three-fourths of a can of vanilla frosting and stirred until the mixture was the consistency of Play-Doh.
To save time — the cake pops have to chill for two hours — she gave students chilled and formed cake pops, along with their own container of melted white chocolate coating. Assembling the cake pop was not hard, but it was time-consuming if you wanted to do it well.
At various points in the dipping and decorating stage, the white chocolate dip became thick and unworkable. Thompson and her assistants showed her students how to add solid shortening to the mixture and reheat it to create a thinner consistency.
After a few tries, students got the hang of it. An hour later most had dipped all their pops, added colorful candy corns and an M&M on top to make their cake-pop floral bouquets. Thompson then gave them special flower pots in which to arrange their creations and helped them wrap them as gifts in clear plastic and ribbons.
Britton Briley, 30, of Prairie Village, came to the class for the same reason most everyone else did.
“I’d read about them on Bakerella and wanted to come and learn how to make them myself,” she said.
She’s seeing cake pops more and more places these days.
“My nephew gets them at birthday parties,” she said. “They’re giving them as party favors.”
An expectant mother, she also wanted to be able to create cake pops for her family.
Vicki O’Malley, a real estate property manager from Leawood, loved the class.
“I thought it was very easy and achievable,” she said. “I think cake pops allow people to be more creative than just making a regular cake. You can’t prepare a regular cake in a flower pot, you know what I mean?”
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.
Bakerella made mini-treats a big trend
If there is one person responsible for the exploding popularity of cake pops it is Angie Dudley of Atlanta, better known as Bakerella. Her wildly popular cake pop blog (www.bakerella.com) and book, “Cake Pops: Tips, Tricks and Recipes for More Than 40 Irresistible Mini Treats” ($19.95, Chronicle Books), have brought the fun and creativity of cake pops to bakers around the globe. Recently we talked to her about the cake-pop craze.
Q. Who invented cake pops?
A. I was the first to start making cake pops, with their endless opportunities for cute shapes and designs. While I didn’t invent cake balls, the base for any great cake pop, I did elaborate on what you could do with one.
And you were the one who discovered that cake balls didn’t always have to be round, right?
Round was cute when I first turned them into lollipops or cake pops, but as soon as I discovered how I could really shape them like I did when making Cupcake Pops, I knew I was on to something exciting.
How did information about cake pops spread so fast?
On the Internet. When I posted them on my website, the reaction was overwhelming. A couple months after my photos (went) live I appeared on “The Martha Stewart Show” to show Martha how to make them. That didn’t hurt, either. From there I just kept experimenting.
When I turned the cake pops into things like spring chicks and animals, the interest only intensified. People were making their own, but there were still so many questions. I wanted to do a book to make sure there was a resource that would help people make them. Basically they went viral, and I’ve been going along for the ride ever since.
Why do you think they’ve become one of the hottest trends out there?
Let’s start with they’re just plain cute. Then there’s the initial “wow factor” and the endless possibilities for themes. Plus they taste yummy. But I think it’s (mostly) because they bring smiles to everyone (who) encounters them. Kids go crazy for them. But sometimes I think it’s the grown-ups (who) love them more, because they know what’s involved in making them. Throw in that they are portable and portion-controlled. They’re perfect!
Could you share a fun personal story about your journey with cake pops?
I proposed for someone on my blog through cake pops. She accepted, thank goodness.
Fun. Anything else?
I made Cake Pops with Blake Lively in her apartment. Surreal.
What are the five coolest ways you’ve ever seen a cake pop decorated?
I’m pretty fond of the Mr. Potato Head design on my site because I’m amazed at how you’re able to re-create something so detailed using candy in such small form.
I don’t think I can narrow it down to just five cool ones, though. That’s why I created a Pop Stars section on my website.
I like to feature people who are doing creative work with cake pops, and let me tell you, there are a bunch. I’ve seen everything from Justin Bieber to Boston terriers.