Sunday, November 30, 2014

Caramel Apple Cake Pops

What do you have to be thankful for this year? It's a tired question, I know, especially in the wake of the craziness that is Black Friday. In such a busy holiday season, I realize that it's very easy to overlook how wildly and ridiculously blessed we are, in part as compared to others; but also because we were privileged enough to wake up today, see people that we love, and enjoy the beauty of life.
I have tried, in my life, to make a point to notice the little things and live life as a grateful person; not in a "glass half full" kind of way, but in an authentic "I am REALLY thankful for _______" kind of way. Each day, I encounter something that reminds me how fortunate I am to live where I do, have the things I have, and live the life I live. When I remember to posture my heart in this way, I am consistently humbled by the million blessings in my life, and it perpetuates a grateful heart in me.

In light of the recent cold weather, I'm thankful for a warm home and the means to heat it. When money is tight, I'm thankful to have a job that I love (which came just in time!) When I'm not feeling too good, I remember that in the not too distant past, I was feeling MUCH worse and almost didn't live to tell the story. When I'm feeling lonely, I think of the family and friends I love so dearly, and am immediately thankful for their presence in my life. And when I feel a sweet tooth coming on, I am EXTRA thankful for dessert! :)

So here's the thing: some desserts cause me more trouble than others, and this time, I didn't have the best of luck with these cake pops. I've only made them once before, HERE, and while delicious, they are a LOT of work. The payoff is worth it, but these are certainly a special occasion treat only.  Also, bonus story: when I was transporting the cake pops to my parents' house for Thanksgiving, they fell over in my car four times. FOUR. TIMES. Not just like one cake pop tipped over. No, I mean the entire Styrofoam block CAPSIZED in my car. As such, I now have sprinkles, sparkling sugar, and Nilla wafer crumbs all over the place, so beware all who enter my vehicle... 

  • Spice cake mix (and all ingredients to make it--I substituted oil for butter and added some vanilla!)
  • 1/2 can of apple pie filling
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup caramel sauce (you can use store-bought) 
  • 1 package vanilla pudding mix
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Lollipop sticks
  • Mini muffin wrappers (I did half cake balls and half cake pops)
  • Sprinkles and Nilla wafer crumbs for decorating
  • 6-8 oz almond bark or candy melts
Prepare cake according to 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 refrigerated mine to so it would cool faster). 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).

In a blender or food processor, add the apple pie filling and process it until it's in bite-size chunks (so no big slices of apple); add the softened cream cheese and vanilla.

Take the cooled cake and trim any hard edges first, then crumble cake into a large bowl until the crumbs resemble the texture of wet sand. Add apple pie/cream cheese mixture and the caramel sauce and stir (or mix with your hands like I did) until you've got a big ball of cake "dough."(The mixture was a bit wetter than I wanted, so I think next time, I may either use fresh apples, drain some of the apple pie mixture, or use a bit less caramel).
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 (I actually refrigerated mine overnight--this was a two-day process for me). 

When ready to coat, melt candy coating into a deep, microwave safe bowl in 30 second increments, stirring between. Add a tablespoon of shortening (this is to thin the coating) and stir until until melted and smooth.

If you're doing cake balls, drop the cake ball into the candy coating and lift out with a fork; allowing the excess to drip off until smooth. The fork method had mixed results for me, so  eventually, I began using a toothpick to dip the cake balls and then removing it before the coating hardened; then I covered the holes with sprinkles.
For cake pops,  dip the tip of  the 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 the cake pop queen, Bakerella, does it in this video). Be sure to add any sprinkles or garnish before the coating sets .

Let dry standing up in Styrofoam blocks or stand upright on wax paper. If transporting, find a better method than I did--and sigh with relief when they're finally finished! :) Happy Thanksgiving, friends.

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