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Sometimes while looking through all of those glossy magazine photos, something will catch my eye.  I will of course,  spend the $7.99 for that one recipe and photo (total sucker).  And, then as usual it gets tossed into a giant magazine basket in between 4 or 5 Pottery Barn catalogs and underneath a People magazine, never to be seen again.

Interestingly enough last night, somewhere between packing their backpacks and tucking the littlest into his bed I remembered a magazine I had bought last August with a clever cake pop idea for the first day of school.  They were shaped like tiny apples, which is reminiscent of presenting your teacher with a shiny, red apple.

The idea is from Celebrations magazine and I furiously dug through many a catalog in the giant magazine basket to find the issue.

You see, each year I make something sweet to commemorate their first day of school.  Last year, it was these and they were a huge hit.

 This cake pop recipe uses a different technique  (than found at Bakerella) for shaping the actual cake ball part and I’ve tried to include a few tips to help you succeed when you get to that step.   They’re at the very bottom of this post.

I have to admit to you all that this recipe was a little tricky to execute.  However, I’m not convinced this was a total flop since my boys thought they were cool and told me they tasted pretty good.  But, there were a few challenges like keeping the dough from falling apart and difficulty with getting uniform shapes (or getting them to look like cute apples, actually).

I think I would use the smooshed-up cake mixed with frosting technique and still shape them into the apples.  I think it’s a cute idea and would be a fun treat for your favorite teacher.

Here’s how I began my cake pop adventure.  Scroll down to see what my husband and I thought about these little wonders.

First, line a baking dish with parchment paper.  I didn’t get too fancy with measuring the parchment…just popped it into the dish and pressed it down.  Spray with cooking spray and dust parchment with about a 1/2 tbsp of flour.  Tap out any excess flour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  In the bowl of your stand mixer, add 1 18.25- ounce box of red velvet cake mix, 3/4 cup strawberry puree (add water if needed to thin slightly), 1/2 cup water, 1/3 cup oil, 3 eggs, 1 tsp strawberry extract, and 1 tsp vanilla extract.  Beat at medium speed for 1 minute, then increase speed to high and and beat for 2 minutes.

Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish and bake in preheated oven for 18-22 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Reduce the oven temperature to 200 degrees.

Remove cake from oven and let cool in the baking dish for 10 minutes.  Then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Crumble the cooled cake and place into the freezer for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, place 24 slivered almonds into a small bowl.  Add some green food coloring (I used a paste food color found at AC Moore) and then add 1/4 cup of water. Stir to blend the water and green food color.  Coat the almonds well with the mixture.  Drain the almonds and pat dry with paper towel.  Place almonds onto a baking sheet and into 200-degree oven.  Bake until dry or approximately 12-15 minutes.

Place 2 10-ounce bags of red candy melts along with 1/4 cup of vegetable shortening into a microwave-safe bowl.  Heat on high in the microwave for 30 second intervals stirring in between each interval, until melted and smooth.

After forming the cake crumbles into 1 1/2-inch balls.  Place the cake balls onto a rimmed baking sheet and freeze for 15 minutes.  Next, dip the end of one lollipop stick into the melted candy melts and then insert into the cake ball.  Dip the cake ball into the melted candy melts, coating completely.  Insert into styrofoam block to begin drying.

Before completely dried, insert a pretzel stick (broken in half) which will become the apple’s stem and insert a colored almond which will become the apple’s leaf into the top of your cake pop.  You’ll need 12 pretzel sticks.

Okay, so these weren’t perfect.  In fact, my husband and I looked at them earlier this evening and thought they resembled meatballs which had been dipped into red candy melts (not quite like the adorable apple I was going for).  But, our children loved them so that made me happy.

First Day of School Cake Pops

Original recipe adapted from Celebrate Magazine, July/August 2011 

Ingredients

1 18/25-ounce box of red velvet cake mix

3/4 cup strawberry nectar

3/4 cup water, divided

1/3 cup oil

3 eggs

1 tsp strawberry extract

1 tsp vanilla extract

24 slivered almonds

1 tsp of paste food coloring (green)

2 10-ounce packages red candy melts

1/4 cup vegetable shortening

12 pretzel sticks

Method

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a baking dish with parchment paper and spray with with cooking spray (or baking spray that includes flour).

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the first 7 ingredients, using just 1/2 cup water.  Beat at medium speed for 1 minute.  Increase speed to high and beat for 2 minutes.  Pour batter into prepared baking dish and bake until a wooden pick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 18-22 minutes.

Remove cake from oven, and cool in dish for 10 minutes; remove to a wire rack to cool completely.  Reduce oven temperature to 200 degrees.  In a medium bowl, crumble cooled cake and freeze for 15 minutes.  Using your hands, form cake crumbles into 1 1/2-inch balls.  Place cake balls onto rimmed baking sheet and freeze for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, drain almonds and pat dry with paper towel.  Place onto baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes or until almonds are dry.

In a large microwave-safe bowl, combine candy melts and shortening.  Microwave on high in 30-second intervals, stirring in between each interval until melted.

Place a lollipop an inch into melted candy melts and then into a cake ball.  Carefully dip the cake ball into the candy melts, turning to coat completely.  Insert cake pops into styrofoam to begin drying.  Before drying completely, insert a broken pretzel stick into the top of the cake pop (stem) and one almond (leaf) next to the pretzel stick.  Dry completely.

Yield: 24 cake pops

Kitchen note: Use 1 or 2 cake balls from freezer to dip into candy melts and keep remaining cake balls in your freezer until ready to dip.  The original recipe specified forming a 2-inch cake ball, but they tended to crumble when inserting the lollipop stick.  Be sure to insert the pretzel and almond before completely dry or this step will be difficult once the candy melts have completely hardened.

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