A few months ago, two of my fave people – Janet & Jaime – were on a shopping trip in Buffalo and they came across the Bakerella Cake Pops book. They felt that I had to have this book, and volunteered to be taste testers once I had tried out a recipe. I started out with cake balls, which are infinitely easier than cake pops. I say this only because of the cake pop sticks. This weekend, I was having some serious adventures getting the cake ball to stay on the stick – perhaps because the cake ball was too drenched in chocolate and the stick couldn’t support the weight. Ultimately, It worked out. I decided that I wanted to bring cake pops to Talia’s third birthday party. Talia and her sister Ava are two of my fave kids. Their mom is pretty great too!

I decided on everyone’s favourite flavour: chocolate! So, what you have to know is that make cake balls is super simple. Rather than baking cake from scratch, I took the easy way out and used a cake mix. Mind you, Bakerella says this is okay. Cake mix turns out super moist, which is great for cake pops. So, easy peasy instructions:

Break out your cake mix and follow instructions to bake a cake.

Let the cake cool for at least a few hours, or overnight.

Cut the cake into pieces and crumble it into little crumbs (over a bowl). If you’ve got bigger cake chunks, breal them up with a fork.

Add ready made (or homemade) frosting to your crumbled cake, and mix together.

Place wax paper on two cookie sheets. Roll little balls -not quite as a big as a golf ball of cake and place on cookie sheet. Do this until you have used up all of the batter.

Refrigerate! (This is key). Leave the cake balls in the fridge for a few hours until completely cool. It is much easier to dip them and/or insert the lollipop stick.

You’ll need some chocolate moulding wafers (available in tons of colours at the Bulk Barn) and some coloured sprinkles or decorative sugars. Put your moulding wafers into a bowl and microwave for approximately 30 seconds. Remove from microwave and mix the wafers. Put the wafers back into the microwave for another 30 seconds. Remove and mix briskly. You want a smooth and thin consistency. If you need to microwave for a few more seconds, do so.

If you are dipping the cake balls without sticks, simply put the cake ball on a spook and immerse in chocolate. Tap the spoon on the side of the bowl to get rid of excess chocolate. Lightly drop the coated cake ball back on to the baking sheet and add sprinkles.

If you are going to make cake pops – you want to insert the lollipop stick into the cake ball, before you dip the pop into chocolate. You may want to use the spoon to help fully cover the cake with chocolate.  You can then place the cake pop standing up (cake down) on the wax paper, and add sprinkles. Or, if you’ve got styrofoam or a block of florist foam, you can wrap with pretty paper, and display cake pops upright.

Once you’ve mastered this – time to try some other exciting cake pop projects.

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Red velvet cupcakes are the baker’s holy grail, no? I’ve tried to make them once before, and I’d say they were fairly substandard. Expectations run high with red velvet. People are very particular about the cake, and even more so about the cream cheese icing. I try to eat red velvet cupcakes or cake whenever I see them – in part because of my big sweet tooth, and in part out of curiosity. This is such an elusive flavour to perfect. When I visited Brooklyn, I visited Cake Man Raven upon my friend Ivy’s recommendation. Ivy is very serious about her Red Velvet, so I knew I had to follow up on her suggestion – it was a tasty piece of cake (these days, Ivy is crushing on the Cheescake Factory’s version of Red Velvet).  Yesterday, I was watching the Food Network and Ina was whipping up a batch of the delectable creations. It seemed that Red Velvet was demanding my attention – especially since I am planning to visit Ivy on Monday. So, I decided to try a recipe I found online. Let’s see how it turns out – I’ve got a batch in the oven now.

The results were good. The taste testers (read: Jodel’s family & my family) liked the cupcakes. This was an interesting recipe as it used sour cream in place of the traditional buttermilk and vinegar. I wasn’t happy with the icing – it was lacking. The consistency wasn’t what I was hoping for. I decided to head back to Google, and lo and behold, the Cake Man Raven recipe is online. I decided to try it. The icing is a much better consistency, and the cake is looking good. Tomorrow I test it out. Fingers crossed!

Alright folks, the Double Chocolate Chip Cookies got the thumbs up from a few taste testers (read: my coworkers). This recipe is from  Babycakes, a vegan, gluten-free bakery based in NYC. They’ve just released their second cookbook, which is no doubt, worth investigating.

Ingredients:

1 cup coconut oil (I used about 3/4 cup)

1 1/4 cup evaporate cane juice (I used gluten-free organic crystal sugar)

1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tsp salt

2 tbsp pure vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free All Purpose Baking Flour

1/4 cup flax meal

1 tsp baking soda

1 1/2 tsp xanthan gum

1 cup vegan chocolate chips (I used regular in my recipe)

Preheat oven to 325, and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

When baking with coconut oil, melt it down first. Mix together oil, evaporated can juice, applesauce, cocoa powder, salt and vanilla. In another bowl, whisk together the flour, flax meal, baking soda and xanthan gum. Using a rubber spatula, add dry ingredients to the wet mixture and combine until a dough is formed. Gently fold in the chocolate chips. Scoop the dough onto the baking sheets, spacing the cookies about 1″ apart (they will spread). Flatten the dough with your palm. Bake the cookies for 14 minutes. The finished cookies will be crisp on the edges and soft in the center. Let the cookies stand on the cookie sheet for 10 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Happy baking! Let me know how it turns out. Next up, I’ll try carrot cupcakes. I’ll keep you posted.

You know cookies are reasonably healthy when the recipe calls for flax meal and apple sauce. I’ve not had a chance to do very much gluten free baking. I have been experimenting a bit with different flours and recipes. After the Farmer’s Market last week, I realized that it would be a good idea to try to incorporate more gluten free and vegan recipes in my repertoire, given that everyone loves cookies, and dietary restrictions make it tougher to get tasty baked eats.

I decided to use a recipe from the Babycakes cookbook to test run my first gluten free cookies. They are in the oven now, and they smell great. Babycakes is a NYC-based bakery. On one of my last trips to the Big Apple, I dragged my best pal Trish to sample some gluten free cupcakes – she did not appreciate the little adventure that took us away from our Soho shopping. I liked the cupcake I sampled, so I thought I’d give the cookbook a go.

Stay tuned for a recipe, if my taste testers approve these cookies tomorrow.

SWEET!!!! made its debut at the Markham Main Street Farmer’s Market and it was a smashing success…  Check out some snap shots of our day!

Some of the little customers just couldn’t get enough.