We've been cake pop central around here!
It started with the arrival of the new Nordic Ware Cake Pops pan sample. We have been wondering how it would compare to the traditional method, and were pleasantly surprised- especially by the color!
There are the obvious differences between the traditional and pan formed balls. The density and texture of the cake center is significantly different since there is no need to mix the cake with any binding frosting or cream cheese, it simply cooks the cake in single serve ball shaped portions- you just stick and dip. It does make just 12 at a time, however, so some of the time saved shaping the balls goes in to waiting for the next batch.
There is a delicate balance between just enough batter, and too much: overfilling leaves you with a Saturn looking ball and causes a lava flow out the top vent hole while underfilling leaves a flat side where the batter doesn't fill the sphere. A small portion scoop helps regulate the batter distribution.
Another tip is to use plenty of cooking spray. Don't forget to spray the top pan too! We used a brownie mix to make our pops, so they were nice and dense and had a good crust to grab on to the pop stick, but make sure to let them cool thoroughly before trying to dip. It is also helpful to dip the stick in some chocolate first, then press it into the ball and allow that to set before doing the full dunk. This makes the connecting point stronger. If the pop is loose you'll lose it in the chocolate, and if it's not cooled or under cooked the stick may poke through the top if you are drying them upright. Setting the pops on their head to dry works well to support a dense or large ball, but means you have to serve them stick side up because it creates a flat spot on the ball. One work around is to serve with no stick in a pretty candy or cupcake paper.
Styrofoam pieces work well to support pops while they dry- or if you happen to have a pan of rice crispy treats around- they work great as well! It's helpful to freeze hand rolled balls before dipping, but you have to work fast if you're adding decorations- like sprinkles, coconut, mini chips, etc.
For me, the decorating is the best part because it allows so many combos, like white chocolate with chocolate cake, milk chocolate with funfetti and sprinkles, white chocolate with dark drizzles, even a few with sugar and salt crystal sprinkles. Near the end when the stick to ball ratio was skewed we combined several balls into large discs and filled them with Nutella, pinched them back into a ball and dipped them in white chocolate and coconut! My favorite was chocolate cake, chocolate frosting, dark chocolate coating with a finishing salt sprinkle.
Less hand mess, fewer steps, universal size. Did have to wipe out pan after each batch, may have been brownie mix. Higher yeild, more flexibility in flavor, size and shape varies, texture more like a chocolate bon bon than cake.
Pros and Cons of Traditional vs. Pan Pops:
+ Pan results in less hand mess, has fewer steps per batch and produces uniform size.
- Pan needs to be wiped after each batch (atleast with brownie batter), multiple batch waiting time, less dense ball may cause stick to poke through.
+ Traditional method has a higher yield, allows more flexibility in flavor, size, and shape varieties. The texture is more like a Bon Bon filling.
- Multiple steps (bake, mix, roll, freeze, dip, decorate), mess! lots of hands on, size and shape change a lot from pop to pop, density can create a problem with the ball staying on a stick- if you have lots of 'drop offs'- try a smaller sphere.