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For pops, ditch the boxed cake mix

  • Cake pops from a recipe in the cookbook “The Perfect Cake.” AP

  • This image provided by America's Test Kitchen in May 2018 shows the cover for the cookbook “The Perfect Cake.” It includes a recipe for party cake pops. (America's Test Kitchen via AP)



America’s Test Kitchen
Tuesday, June 12, 2018

There’s no denying the novel appeal of cake pops; after all, everyone loves food on a stick, and if it’s dessert, even better.

Most recipes call for starting with cake made from a store-bought mix, breaking it into crumbs, combining it with canned frosting, and forming the mixture into balls. We knew we could do better.

Making a simple homemade yellow cake was easy enough and far superior to anything from a box; baking it in an 8-inch square pan gave us just enough cake for about three dozen pops. While traditional frosting worked as a binder, tasters found the pops overwhelmingly sweet.

Moistening the crumbs with milk worked just as well, and a couple of tablespoons of confectioners’ sugar provided just enough sweetness.

Briefly freezing the cookie dough-like cake balls made them firm enough to stay put on their sticks, and also helped set the coating of melted chocolate chips (chips worked better than bar chocolate because their stabilizers created a smooth, snappy coating).

We like to use a 2-cup liquid measuring cup to melt the chocolate; its tall, narrow sides allow for easier coating of the cake balls. You’ll need a floral foam block (available at craft stores and online) to stand the cake pops upright as the coating sets. If you’re unable to find one, stand the dipped cake pops upside down on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet (note that this will give the tops a flat appearance). To make different colors for the coating, add drops of food coloring to the melted white chocolate chips.

Party Cake Pops

1½ cups all-purpose flour

1 cup granulated sugar

1½ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

½ cup sour cream

1 large egg plus 2 large yolks, room temperature

1½ teaspoons vanilla extract

¼ cup milk

2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

2½ cups white chocolate chips or semisweet chocolate chips

Lollipop sticks

Multicolored nonpareil sprinkles

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 8-inch square baking pan, line with parchment paper, grease parchment, and flour pan.

Whisk flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt together in bowl of stand mixer. Fit stand mixer with paddle; add butter, sour cream, egg and yolks, and vanilla; and beat on medium speed until smooth and satiny, about 30 seconds. Scrape down bowl with rubber spatula and stir by hand until smooth and no flour pockets remain.

Scrape batter into prepared pan and smooth top with rubber spatula. Gently tap pan on counter to release air bubbles. Bake until light golden and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking. Let cake cool in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove cake from pan, discarding parchment, and let cool completely on rack, about 2 hours. (Cake can be wrapped in plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 24 hours.)

In clean, dry bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle, break cake into rough 1-inch pieces. Add milk and confectioners’ sugar and beat on medium-low speed until broken into fine, evenly moistened crumbs and cohesive dough begins to form, about 1 minute, scraping down bowl as needed.

Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Working with 1 packed tablespoon cake mixture at a time, roll into balls and place in single layer on prepared sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze until firm but still pliable, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Microwave 2 cups chocolate chips in 2-cup liquid measuring cup at 50 percent power, stirring occasionally, until melted, 1 to 2 minutes. Working with 1 cake ball at a time, insert lollipop stick into cake ball, stopping at center.

Dip entire cake ball into melted chocolate and turn until completely coated (tipping measuring cup to the side as needed). Lift up from chocolate (do not turn upright) and gently shake side to side to allow excess coating to drip off evenly. Turn cake pop upright, gently twist back and forth to even out coating, and insert stick into foam block. Sprinkle with nonpareils.

Stir and rewarm chocolate in microwave as needed to stay fluid; add remaining ½ cup chocolate chips and melt when chocolate level becomes too low to dip easily. (If cake balls become too soft, refreeze until firm.)

Let cake pops sit at room temperature until coating is set, about 30 minutes.

Serve.

Cake pops can be kept at room temperature for up to 4 hours or refrigerated for up to three days; bring to room temperature before serving.