Thursday, May 29, 2014

Patriotic Cake Pops (and Bonus Funfetti Cupcakes!)

We celebrated Memorial Day this past Monday. With every year, I find that I appreciate more deeply the sacrifices that others made, allowing me to enjoy the life I live. It's so humbling to recognize how many of my freedoms were paid for by the blood of people I will never know. So special.
Naturally, my celebratory contribution came from the kitchen! Each holiday, my family does a cookout and we invite people over for a big party. Typically, I'll cook something or furnish dessert. It's my "thing"--but lately, I haven't had much time to spend in the kitchen, and this dessert occasion hadn't really crossed my mind! So when my sister cornered me (on Sunday, mind you) and demanded, "So...what tasty treats are YOU cookin' up, missy?!", I stammered for a moment and produced some non-answer before making a speedy escape. (There she is, pictured below!)
I rushed home and combed through scads of red, white, and blue recipes, but none really appealed to me until I thought, "CAKE POPS. I've never made those before! Great time to try it out, right?" Then began the research. I love desserts, but if they're ultra sweet, I can't enjoy them--and most of the recipes I found add a can of frosting to the cake! I instantly knew that would be overkill for me (and for the guests!), so when I found this recipe (slightly adapted) from Angie at Eclectic Recipes, I was thrilled. She substitutes a block of cream cheese for the can of frosting, (no healthier, obviously, but so incredibly delicious!)
I also made a batch of cupcakes (a doctored-up box mix, for convenience) because those are my go-to. They were supposed to be the easy dessert! But was one hilarious mishap after another with these! All I wanted was to make some swirled frosting, as using Wilton Gel Colors produces beautiful, pigmented color in cakes and frosting. 
But...nothing worked out. I didn't have piping bags, so the swirls didn't work like I had planned--and then, one of the icing bags exploded WHILE I was icing the cupcakes, causing a bright red frosting eruption that was a huge mess, and THEN one of the cupcakes just fell over! It toppled right on its head and lost all the frosting. Good grief.
Anyway, there's no cupcake recipe today--but I just followed the directions on the box (and added pudding mix and vanilla extract, like usual), and topped with a simple cream cheese frosting that I dyed using the Wilton Gel Colors mentioned above. Pipe frosting onto cooled cupcakes!

Thankfully, the cake pops didn't present such a challenge, and I absolutely love the way they turned out. Obviously, I must pay homage to the cake pop queen, Bakerella--so here's a cake pop video by Bakerella herself, for you to watch and learn in your cake-pop endeavors!
Because this was my first time making cake pops, I had to make some new purchases; namely, Styrofoam blocks (to hold the cake pops as they dry) and lollipop sticks. I found both in the craft/cake section at Walmart. I also used Wilton Candy Melts for the first time (beautiful finish, but VERY sweet). Good luck and godspeed!
  • 1 box white or yellow cake mix (I used yellow) 
  • 1 package vanilla pudding mix
  • All ingredients needed to make box cake mix (I substituted butter for oil in the cake mix, and added a dash of vanilla extract!)
  • 1 package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 package Wilton Candy Melts (or white almond bark)
  • 1-2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
  • Lollipop sticks
  • Red, white, and blue candy sprinkles (I found a can of "Patriotic Sprinkles--perfect!), sparkling sugar, or anything else you want to use to decorate.
Prepare cake as per directions on cake mix, adding 1 package vanilla pudding mix. Bake as directed in a greased 9 x 13 pan. Let cake cool completely (I stuck mine in the fridge to accelerate the cooling process). Set cream cheese out to soften (I left mine on the counter while the cake baked, which was plenty of time, but if you need to soften it, microwave it for 10-12 seconds--it should be soft; not melted).
If there are any crusty edges on the baked cake, trim those first. Crumble cooled cake into a large bowl until the crumbs resemble the texture of sand. Add softened cream cheese and stir (or mix with your hands like I did) until you've got a big ball of cake "dough."

Form cake balls (I used a 2-tablespoon cookie scoop so they'd be uniform) and place on a wax or parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Freeze for 15 - 20 minutes.  Meanwhile take a deep, microwave safe bowl and melt the candy coating in 30 second increments, stirring between. Add a tablespoon of shortening (this is to thin the coating) and stir until until melted and smooth.
Remove cake balls from freezer. Dip ¼ inch of lollipop stick in the candy melts and insert into the cake ball then immediately dip in candy coating. Cake pop should be completely covered, but don't stir it around or the cake ball might fall off.

Remove from candy melts and let drip then hold it sideways in your hand tap your wrist with your free hand to remove the excess (you can see how she does it in the video linked above). If you're using sprinkles, add them before the coating sets .

Let dry standing up in Styrofoam blocks or stand upright on wax paper.


  1. Your pics are ahmazing! Wish I could have tried one of your scrumptious creations. Bake away, my friend, bake away! :)

    1. Thank you so much, friend! Yeah, everyone at the party devoured the cake pops-- and everything remaining, I took to work with me (so that I wouldn't eat it all myself!) This was a fun recipe, though. It turned out so well!