Summer Holidays Week 1: Cake Pops

So the summer holidays have started and as we all know, boredom sets in within about a week. My little one misses nursery terribly – so do I for that matter! – and I’ve had to compile a long list of things to do, indoors and out – to choose from in order to keep her amused and keep things fresh and varied day to day. Helping me in the kitchen will no doubt crop up many times – and I thought it would be fun to come up with a weekly, hands-on project that will particularly appeal to little people. For the first week, I have chosen cake pops – little balls of cake, rolled together with buttercream and dipped in chocolate and sprinkles, then stuck on a stick. Think cakey lollipops! Last week, I made a batch of cupcakes for my daughter’s fantastic (and much-missed) nursery teacher, Tara. I had a few cupcakes left over (and a bit of buttercream) so popped them all in the fridge and used them to make these cake pops this past weekend.

This is not a recipe as such, more of a guideline – as cake pops originally came about as a way of using up off-cuts of cakes, leftover cupcakes or making tasty use of slightly dry, over-baked cakes. If you fancy a go but have none of the aforementioned, then you could make a simple cake of your choice (try a single 8″ Victoria sponge layer – 100g each of butter, sugar and flour, plus 2 medium eggs – bake at 180c/350f/gas mark 4 for around 20 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean). Really though, a basic supermarket slab of Madeira cake would be fine. This is not boutique cake couture – this is all about keeping kids occupied! Nowadays, cake pops are often made professionally to order and presented as real works of art; but in my opinion there is no lovelier cake pop than one made by a four year old.

Approximate guideline for 12 – 15 cake pops, depending how big you roll them.

200g cake – any kind at all (this is around 6-7 cupcakes)
125g room-temperature buttercream (if you’re making some especially, try beating together 50g butter and 75g icing sugar, plus 1/2 tsp of flavouring, if desired, until light and fluffy)
200g chopped chocolate or chocolate chips, for coating. I used half milk and half white chocolate chips. (Wilton’s Candy Melts are very good for this kind of thing, but any chocolate will do)
You will also need some cake pop sticks – I recommend wooden ones (I used pretty pastel plastic ones from Wilko that unfortunately completely flopped over under the weight of the cake ball! I make the mistakes so you don’t have to…)

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First, crumble the cake into a bowl. This can take some little people quite a bit of time. (Go and make yourself a coffee and come back ten minutes later to check their progress!) When it’s crumbled as finely as it’s ever likely to, spoon in the buttercream.

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Squash it all together until you’ve got a sort of cohesive dough, then roll it into balls. As children tend to eat half of the mixture in the process, remind yourself this is a fantastic exercise for developing their fine motor skills.

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When you’ve finished rolling the balls, pop them on a plate or a little tray in the fridge for about half an hour until they’ve firmed up a bit. If you’re in a hurry, about ten minutes in the freezer will do. Using a cake pop stick, poke a hole about half way through the underside of each ball. Melt the chopped chocolate/chocolate chips/Candy Melts in little bowls in the microwave. I find a couple of 20 second bursts on high does the job for me. Obviously you should do this bit.

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Dip each cake pop stick into the melted chocolate and insert into the cake pops. This acts as a kind of glue. Put the tray of cake pops back in the fridge for at least fifteen minutes or until set.

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Now, just let your kids run riot with their decorative skills. Lay out bowls of (warm but not hot!) melted chocolate and sprinkles and let them get on with it. (You might need to give them a hand coating the cake pops as evenly as possible. Get them to rotate each cake pop gently in the chocolate, using a teaspoon the cover the underside if necessary). When they’re all done, return the cake pops to the fridge to harden the chocolate. Best served straight from the fridge – as this chocolate isn’t tempered, it will go melty and generally misbehave if left out at room temperature. Cake pops will keep happily in the fridge for a few days (good luck with that).

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