Desserts, Snacks

Jack-o-Lantern Cake Pops

I’ll just come right out and say it: Making cake pops, those adorably decorated candy-coated cake-and-frosting balls on sticks made famous by Bakerella, can feel like a colossal waste of time. They are just about the only thing I make where I question whether the taste is justified by the effort. Don’t  get me wrong — they’re good, but if I wanted to eat box-mix cake and frosting, surely I could invest far less time than, oh, say, six hours! The formation of the cake balls, the insertion of the sticks, the dipping, swirling and tapping, the decorating, the wrapping and tying up with ribbon … maybe it’s easy for someone blessed with deft fingers, but for someone who lacks finesse in the hand-eye coordination skills department (that would be me!), it takes practice. Each time I make cake pops, I swear to myself, “Never again.” But, as I gaze upon the finished product and “ooh” and “ahh” at the cuteness, I forget what a pain the process can be, and sure enough, there’s always a next time (hmm, am I talking about cake pops or childbirth?!).
 
A few weeks ago, in the grocery store checkout line, Jack grabbed the latest Family Circle, which had these amazingly cute Halloween cake pops on its cover. He showed it to Derek, who squealed with delight. They begged me to buy the magazine, and when we got home, they wouldn’t let go of it. So, of course, I had to abandon the pledge I made after the Easter cake pop all nighter to never make the darn things again. Family Circle had instructions for making jack-o-lantern, ghost, pirate (ADORABLE!) and black cat cake pops, but I decided to make just the jack-o-lantern ones because they were the least complicated to decorate. Plus, I thought it would be cute to give them to Jack, Derek and their cousin Maddy when we all went pumpkin picking.
 
You’ll find a ton of recipes, videos and tips online for making cake pops, but the basic steps are all pretty similar. Here’s what I did.
 
Jack-o-Lantern Cake Pops (based on Family Circle’s Halloween Cake Pops)
Makes 48 cake pops
 

Ingredients

  • One 18.25-oz box of cake mix* and the ingredients necessary to make the batter
  • One 16-oz container of prepared frosting**
  • Two baking sheets
  • One 13″x9″ cake pan
  • Deep mixing bowl
  • Two Styrofoam blocks (to stick the cake pops into so they can dry)
  • 48 6″ lollipop sticks (found at Michael’s, JoAnn’s and other craft stores)
  • 48 oz (3 pounds) orange candy coating (the baking section in most craft stores sells Wilton’s Candy Melts)
  • Green Tic-Tacs
  • Deep, microwave-safe bowl
  • Ribbon

*I know some fellow overachiever out there is going to want to do this with homemade cake. I’m a huge proponent of from-scratch baking, but I advise you not to do it for cake pops. They’re more about appearance than anything else (for me, anyway), and not the best stage to show off your cake-making prowess. Think about it this way: If Brad Pitt showed up on your doorstep, wearing only boxers, would you care whether those boxers were made of some fancy-schmancy organic cotton? I think not. Back to cake mix: I like using red velvet, but any flavor will work.

**If you use red velvet cake mix, cream cheese frosting goes nicely with it. But again, you can use any prepared frosting you want.

***Very important: Do not use Wilton Food Writers for this project! They are often found at craft stores, but sadly, they don’t write on candy coating. I found this out when I was trying to decorate the cake pops, Googled the problem and found out that this is a universal issue. Bakerella uses Americolor brand markers, so I ordered them from Amazon for overnight delivery (I was on a self-imposed deadline!), and lo and behold, they worked.

To make the cake balls:

  1. Bake the cake in the 13″x9″ pan according to package instructions. Let the cake cool completely. Meanwhile, line two baking sheets with wax paper.
  2. Crumble the cake into the mixing bowl. Make sure it’s in fine crumbs. Family Circle advises rubbing two chunks of cake against each other, but I always find that in the end, you do need to use your fingers to make sure no large pieces of cake remain. You want the consistency to be almost like sand.
  3. Mix half to three-quarters of the frosting with the cake crumbs. You won’t use all of the frosting (if you do, the cake will be too moist), but you’ll want to use enough so that the cake can be formed into balls and hold their shape. It’s best to use your hands to make sure the frosting and cake are thoroughly mixed together.
  4. Take a little bit of the cake-and-frosting mush and roll it into a ball. Don’t make the balls too large, because once dipped in candy coating, they’ll get a bit bigger, and you don’t want it to fall off the stick. Err on

    Chilled cake balls, turned so that flat side faces up, ready for sticks

    the side of smaller balls. (Fine, take a moment to giggle. I did.) When I made my first batch of cake pops, I

    found that using a mini ice cream scoop (or a melon

    scoop) to scoop out the amount of batter helped me make the cake balls the right size.

  5. Place the cake balls on the wax-lined baking sheets. Then, lightly cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours. I usually make the cake balls one evening and leave them in the fridge until the next night, which is dedicated to dipping, decorating and wrapping. 

To dip, decorate and wrap the cake pops:

  1. Before you begin, gather all your materials — the sticks, the Tic-Tacs, the ribbon (cut into however many pieces you’ll need to wrap the cake pops), the candy melts, the Styrofoam blocks, and make sure they’re all unwrapped and easy to access. You may want to wrap the Styrofoam blocks in plastic wrap so that the block remains clean for your next cake pop attempt!
  2. Take one tray of cake balls out of the fridge. Turn the balls over so that the flat side (where it rested on the baking sheet) faces up.
  3. Melt the candy melts in the microwave according to package directions. I use one 16-oz bag at a time. Take care not to overheat it, because then it hardens and is a pain to revive. Also be careful not to get any water in it, as that ruins its consistency. My sister-in-law gave me the excellent tip to add a little bit of shortening (two teaspoons of vegetable shortening per 16-oz bag of candy melts) to make it a little more liquid and easier to use for dipping. Note that you’ll have to take frequent reheating breaks unless you have one of these doodads.
  4. First, the insertion of the sticks: Dip 1/2 inch of each stick into the melted candy coating. Insert  the stick into the center of the flat side of the cake balls. Don’t insert the stick more than halfway. The coating will pool around the base of the stick, where it goes into the cake ball. That’s the “glue” that holds the stick and the cake ball together. Repeat for all the cake balls on the tray. You’ll have 24 cake balls with sticks pointing straight up out of them.

    Chilled cake balls with coated sticks inserted in the center of the flat spots

  5. Next, dipping and “stemming”: Take a cake pop (I like to start with the ones I stuck first, as those have had the longest to bond with their sticks) and dip it into the melted coating. Tap off any excess coating: Hold the pop over the bowl in one hand, and tap your wrist gently with your other hand.(If you use the hand holding the cake pop to shake off excess coating, the force of the movement will be too strong and could cause the cake ball to loosen or fly off the lollipop stick.) The excess coating will fall off, but you will need to rotate the lollipop stick so the coating doesn’t build up on one side, making it too heavy on that side. If too much coating starts to build up at the base of the stick, simply use your finger to wipe it off, spinning the lollipop stick at the same time. This can happen if the coating is too thin or too hot. It’s not as hard as it sounds; it just takes a little practice. (OK, I took the last five sentences from the Family Circle recipe, and I would substitue “a little practice” with “a lot of practice. Haha! It might help to watch this video on how to make cake pops.) Remember to reheat the candy coating for just a few seconds occasionally to keep an ideal consistency.
  6. Once the cake pop is dipped, insert it into the Styrofoam block. While the coating is still wet, press a Tic-Tac vertically into the top of the cake pop so that it looks like a stem. Hold it for a few seconds to set it.
  7. Continue until all the cake pops are dipped and outfitted with a stem.

    Jack-o-lantern cake pops, dipped and affixed with green Tic Tac "stems"

  8. Repeat steps 4-6 until the second tray is done, too.
  9. By the time you finish dipping all the cake pops from the second tray, the first batch will be ready for decorating. Take your black Americolor brand marker and draw cute jack-o-lantern faces on the cake pops.

    Decorated Jack-o-lantern cake pops, ready for packaging. As you can see, many hours elapsed between the start and completion of the process!

  10. Slip a treat bag gently over each cake pop, then tie the base with ribbon.
  11. Collapse onto bed with exhaustion, but sleep knowing that you will win MAJOR POINTS for making such cute confections!

    Jack-o-lantern cake pops, all wrapped and ready to go

 

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About Saucy Mommy

I'm Beverly, a mom of two who loves to cook and write. Check out my blog at www.saucymommy.com for family-friendly (but tasty) meal ideas and pictures of bento box lunches.

Discussion

4 thoughts on “Jack-o-Lantern Cake Pops

  1. Yaaaay! I went through your whole site and I love it! And Johnny is awesome for having the artwork done for you ~~
    I can’t wait to read more. ❤

    Posted by wa | October 17, 2011, 8:16 am
    • Thank you!!! Actually, he DID the artwork. I mean, he bought the images, but then he put them all together and customized them in Photoshop. I’m so glad he knows how to do that stuff, because I sure don’t. 🙂 Thank you so much for reading, my dear. 🙂

      Posted by Saucy Mommy | October 17, 2011, 8:19 am
      • that’s so awesome he put the whole thing together. For some reason I thought he found someone to do it FOR you. dang, Johnny, GREAT JOB! I really like how this blog looks; the layout, the pictures, and easy to understand instructions. I really want to try making the cake pops one of the weekends!

        Posted by wa | October 17, 2011, 9:26 pm
  2. Thank you, thank you, thank you!! I am making these for this weekend, so all of the tips and step-by-step instructions really help. 🙂 Hopefully you will be here to bask in my triumph, or tisk at my failure. P.s. I love that whilst putting together some kick butt artwork for you, Johnny also remembered to include a Lululemon bag. What a guy!

    Posted by Donna | October 17, 2011, 7:08 pm

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