Friday, 20 April 2012

How to make cake pops

Several people have told me recently that they've tried to make cake pops but that it ended badly, usually with the cake pop and the stick parting company.

Here are my tried and tested instructions for making cake pops AND happy faces:

You will need:

Cake crumbs
Chocolate for dipping eg. Wilton candy melts, Silver Spoon chocolate buttons or Callebaut callets
Cake board or other flat non stick surface
Paper lollipop sticks

To make a dozen cakepops you will need 360g of mixture. Use roughly 280g cake crumbs with 80g buttercream.
  • Mix the cake crumbs and the buttercream until the mixture forms a solid ball like pastry. Keep back some cake crumbs and buttercream so you can add more if the mix is too dry or too wet. 
  • Take a piece weighing about 30g and roll it into a smooth ball, placing it onto the cake board. Repeat until all the mixture is used and you have a dozen or so little balls.
  • You can also cut shapes from the "dough".
  • With a paper lollipop stick, make a hole no more than halfway into the ball. Don't push the stick right through the ball or you have hugely increased its chances of sliding off the stick.
  • Dip the sticks into a little melted chocolate and insert into the holes. Put the balls into the freezer for 20 minutes until very firm but not frozen.
Ready for chillin'
  • When the 20 minutes are nearly up, start melting your chocolate very gently in a small deep plastic bowl in the microwave (30% power for 30 secs at a time, stirring each time). You are tempering the chocolate and you don't want to overheat it, otherwise it will form too many crystals and give you an unattractive bloom. Once it's melted you can add some vegetable oil (one tablespoon of oil to 250g of chocolate) so that it pours in a sheet.

  • Take a cake pop and dip it into the chocolate. Turn it slowly, so that the chocolate covers a centimetre onto the stick, sealing the cake completely. The butter in the cake will fight to get out; by trapping it in completely, you will have it defeated. Tap the stick gently against the bowl so excess chocolate runs off, then leave to dry. 

Stick it right in. RIGHT IN.
  • Stand the cakepops to dry in a polystyrene block and don't allow them to touch each other. I find shouting "no kissing!" helps.
  • Don't touch the chocolate yourself either or you'll get a big fat fingerprint on it. Keep cocktail sticks handy to burst a bubble or cover a missed bit. 
  • The chocolate sets quickly so you need to add sprinkles straight away while the chocolate is still tacky.
Tacky. Possibly in more ways than one
  • You can dip vanilla cake in any colour chocolate, but don't dip chocolate cake in white chocolate if there’s a sharp edge (like the wedding cakes) on the cake pop as it shows through.
  • Sometimes the chocolate dribbles down the stick. Wipe this off while it's still wet or else it will stain the stick
  • For reasons nobody can quite fathom, a hairline crack sometimes appears on the chocolate. You can reseal it with the back of a warm spoon or simply dispose of the evidence by eating it. 
A word on chocolate
  • Wilton's Candy Melts are available in lots of great colours and are ideal for cake pops. However they taste like those white mice you used to get in a 10p mix. I use Callebaut Belgian chocolate because I prefer the taste, but you are more restricted on colour. You can colour white chocolate by mixing in an edible dust. If you use an off-the-shelf chocolate bar, it helps if you grate it finely before melting.
  • Chocolate is an expensive ingredient and you need a bowlful of it for dipping. Put unused chocolate in a plastic bag and once it's set, break it up into small pieces so you can re-use it.

Of course you could just eat it...
Once the cake pop is dry you can decorate it with florist paste, modelling paste, piped royal icing, piped chocolate, dipped chocolate, cocoa butter & edible dusts, or sprinkles. But that's probably a whole other post... Have fun!
Christmas puddings: dipped in white chocolate with florist paste decoration
Sheep: white sprinkles, modelling paste face and legs
Horses: florist paste and cocoa butter mixed with edible dust
Octonauts: modelling paste, dipped chocolate and cocoa butter mixed with edible dust
Wedding cakes: piped royal icing

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Easter Eggs

Is there a more pleasing sound in the world than the sharp crack of a chocolate Easter egg being broken open? My friend Kate says it's the sound of a second egg being cracked open.

As a child I’d wait patiently until after Easter Sunday lunch to break open my chocolate egg. I still remember the joy of finding a solitary Playmobil man inside one. In my 20s I celebrated Greek Orthodox Easter, which involves a lovely big lunch but which is disappointing on the egg front: real eggs are boiled and dyed red, then decorated and cracked against each other. You are left picking shards of shell off a boiled egg that you then have to eat, an unnecessary side dish to the largest meal of the year.
Easter on the island of Sifnos – cracking eggs and nearly cracking a smile. This is the last known photo of me with my husband before he mysteriously disappeared.
In more recent Easters I’ve reverted to chocolate and this year when I wasn’t baking creme eggs inside cupcakes, I was making Easter egg cakepops.

Best of all, I did an Easter egg workshop at Davenport's Chocolateswhich sells its fantastic artisan chocolates all over the UK. If you see their distinctive lime green and chocolate brown boxes, do yourself a favour and buy one. In fact while you're at it, can you buy me one too? (violet creams, please)

I did the same workshop last year so knew I was in for treat. We were welcomed by Jane Williams, the charming chocolatier who established Davenport’s five years ago, with a cup of Davenport’s hot chocolate and an invitation to help ourselves to a large tray of mixed chocolates. I had to try all of them in the interests of research.
The tray of chocolates; lime creams; antique Easter egg moulds
We started by making the eggs themselves, filling a mould with tempered milk chocolate then sitting it on the vibrating grid on the left. The chocolate sets within minutes and the moulds are filled and vibrated a second time to create a thick shell of chocolate.

Sleeping Easter eggs. Their young nestle below in a separate box.
Then comes the bit when everyone goes quiet and concentrates - decorating. It's like being back at school except it’s a lovely art lesson instead of double maths.

I wrote my nephew’s name on the egg, safe in the knowledge that at only 18 months of age he’d have to share it with the rest of family. Particularly if we opened it after he’d gone to bed.
Easter egg hunt. Surprise! It’s a cat! A really annoyed cat.
Once the egg was decorated, we chose some chocolates to seal inside the egg. There were dozens to choose so it was a tough task, but I went for orangettes; my all-time favourites violet creams; and two flavours from Davenport’s new Heritage Collection: lime cream and salted peanut caramel, both of which are superb. The new collection launches this spring, something to look forward to once you’ve polished off your Easter eggs, including that one you bought on Easter Monday on the basis that if it’s now half the price, it’s also half the calories...

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Creme Egg Cupcakes

It’s nearly Easter and you’re probably wondering what to do with the creme egg multipack that somehow fell into your shopping trolley when you were looking at broccoli. Here’s what: creme egg cupcakes.
 You will need:
  • 12 creme eggs, defoiled
  • 200g unsalted butter, softened
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 180g self-raising flour
  • 20g cocoa powder
  • 75 ml milk
Makes 12
  • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C/160 degrees C (fan oven)/350 degrees F/gas 4
  • Cream the butter and sugar together until it’s light and fluffy, then add the beaten eggs. IMPORTANT: use the real eggs at this point, not the creme eggs, or it will all end in tears.
  • Sieve the flour and cocoa powder together and add to the mix, then add the milk until you have a dropping consistency
  • Half fill the muffin cases, then place a creme egg in each one. A quick word on cupcake cases – they come in a million different sizes. Use big ones here like Lakeland’s muffin cases
  • Spoon the rest of the mix over the eggs
  • Bake for about 20 minutes until the cupcakes are springy to the touch.

You now have two options:
a) eat them while they are still hot and the creme egg is warm and runny. This is full-on food porn
The money shot (cupcake on the right contains a Cadbury's caramel egg. I don't discriminate)
b) allow the cupcakes to cool in the tins, then transfer to a wire rack. This allows you to ice them just in case you think a whole creme egg inside a cupcake isn’t quite sweet enough.

To make buttercream, beat 125g of unsalted butter with 250g icing sugar, half a teaspoon of vanilla essence and a couple of tablespoons of water. If you want to hint at the eggy goodness inside the cupcakes, why not colour some of the buttercream yolk-yellow? 

These cupcakes were destined for the green room at The Stand in Newcastle as a thank you to the acts who last night generously gave their time and talent to raise money for the Sick Children’s Trust. It's what Jesus would have wanted. Happy Easter!
Thanks to Chris Ramsey for this photo of a “MoFo-ing cupcake” 

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Clandestine Cake Club - March

At February’s Newcastle Clandestine Cake Club, Sky TV filmed a moving appeal for men to come forward and eat cake. The response was overwhelming and an unprecedented 6 (SIX) men turned up to March’s event.

The cake ladies were ready and waiting: we had a candle-lit room and loads of alcohol hidden inside the cakes. This month's theme was "Cakes with Beverages" and some cakes contained an entire bottle of booze – special mention must go to Lauren’s amazing Jamaican black rum cake.

There are now so many cakes at each event – tonight’s had 18 - that it's impossible to try them all, so I went for Nelly's Shirley Temple cake (read more here) Emily's lemonade cake, Lisa’s dandelion and burdock cake and the  aforementioned Jamaican black cake, after which things went a bit blurry. I had made a coconut milk cake from Marian Keyes' new cookbook but it vanished into the night and never returned my calls. Luckily when I baked the cake the mixture spilled into the centre of the bundt ring creating a small, separate cake for me to enjoy at home. The technical term for this is "cake win".

Thanks to Blackfriars restaurant for allowing us to hold the event in their beautiful Banquet Hall. It claims to be Britain's oldest dining room as it was a monks’ refectory in the 13th century and today serves excellent food whether or not you've taken a vow of chastity and silence. Thanks as ever to Lisa for organising the event.  The Clandestine Cake Club now has over 60 clubs in the UK and overseas - if you'd like to make new friends and eat a lot of cake, visit the website to find your local cake club or to learn how to set one up.