Well, here it is: Mr. AA’s birthday “cake” – a fleet of nerdy, edible Death Stars.
Despite them being a bit of a “craze”, I didn’t really know much about cake pops until this experiment – and although I did a bit of research and asked a friend of mine plenty of questions, I still ran into a few problems. I’ll talk you through the process with some photos below.
First up, I was horrified to learn that the inside of a standard cake pop is crumbled cake mixed with icing to bind it all together. This just seems like WAY too much sugar for my liking. Mr. AA isn’t much of a sweet tooth, so I tried to find a way around this by purchasing one of these silicone moulds that will bake your cake into spheres (hence eliminating the icing altogether). I thought this was a rather brilliant solution. The outside of a standard cake pop is made from “candy melts” – something that isn’t even remotely vegan. The next best thing? Melt some chocolate. Easy peasy.
To make the process a little quicker, easier and gluten-free-friendly, I started by using an Orgran cake mix. This back fired on me a little – the gluten free gal I shared them with thought they were great, but this was hands down one of the worst cakes I’ve ever tasted. It was rubbery in texture and fairly bland. You could tell it was made with water and the sugar and chocolate flavours just weren’t strong enough. The cake mix also didn’t rise too well, leaving my spheres a little flat and lop sided.
So… I went ahead and made two more batches of cake batter from scratch. I used the “basic chocolate cupcakes” and “simple vanilla & agave nectar cupcakes” from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World. These worked brilliantly – they rose the right amount and tasted amazing.
- Use a cupcake recipe rather than a cake recipe for the batter.
- Don’t be conservative – fill the pods to the top.
- The holes in the top half of the silicone tray are for releasing steam. Don’t try and poke your sticks through there.
- Place the silicone tray on a metal tray or it’ll flop around and you’ll make a mess with your batter.
- After cooking, leave to cool for a couple of minutes before peeling off the top half of the silicone tray.
- Leave to cool a little longer before removing the spheres and popping onto a cooling rack. If you’re having trouble removing the balls, poke a sharp toothpick into the sides to help loosen them.
Right. Next! I was told by more than one person that the best way to get your stick to stay in there comfortably is to freeze the balls, melt some chocolate, dip the stick in melted chocolate and insert into frozen balls. The freezing probably doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it helps. Trust me. It means your cake won’t fall apart in your hands when you’re trying to push the stick in and the cold temperature will set the chocolate fairly quickly.
Now that the sticks are in, it’s time to cut out the “dish”. You can skip this step if you’re making regular cake pops, but who would want regular cake pops when they could have DEATH STAR CAKE POPS. Am I right?
Whether you want to freeze these for a little while again or not is totally up to you. If it’s a hot day, I’d recommend it. If not, grab your paring knife and get started. I hope this part is fairly self explanatory, as I didn’t take any photos or video of me doing it. But basically a small, sharp, pointy knife will go a long way in making this easy for you.
Time to put these back in the freezer (yes, again). At this point, you’re probably thinking I’m a little insane, so I’m just going to point out two things. 1/ I really really love Mr. AA and 2/ I worked on these 3 nights in a row after work. They didn’t come together in a few hours… So yes, they will require some love, time and effort.
The next step is to melt some chocolate. You don’t need a special pot for this – I used a small pot with some water in it and a ceramic bowl on top. The golden rule is: don’t let the boiling water touch the bowl. If it does, your chocolate will over heat and be ruined to the point of no return.
You’ll need a chunk of polystyrene for this – I recommend making a series of holes in it in advance with a skewer or screw driver. Leave it in the freezer.
Cover each cake pop with melted chocolate by dipping it into the bowl and twirling it around. Tap on the edges of the bowl until all the excess chocolate drips off, then stand it in the polystyrene in the freezer. Repeat for each individual cake pop. This process is a little slow and painful, but worth it.
- If you’re using dark chocolate, you won’t have any issues. If you use white, chocolate, however, you’ll find that it doesn’t melt down quite as thin. In fact, it’ll still be fairly thick and difficult to work with. Whisk in a little canola oil to help thin it out. If you don’t, your bowl will be full of cake that has been torn off by the thick chocolate. It might make you cry. Or swear. Or both.
You’re nearly there…
I painted these guys with some cheap paint brushes, as I don’t have air brushing tools. It worked fine, but you’ll need to leave the base coat to dry for a few hours before painting on the smaller details.
- Don’t take these out of the freezer and try to paint them on a really hot day. Condensation will keep building up on the chocolate making it near impossible to paint – especially since the paint is water soluble.
I used this silver food paint, which claims to be both vegetarian and gluten free. As far as I could tell, it’s also vegan – however ingredient E110 states “May have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children”. Probably not the best thing to be putting into your body, but I made an exception for this special occassion.
There wasn’t enough difference between the light & dark shades of silver paint, so I mixed some black food colouring into the dark silver which made it show up a lot better against the light silver, but it also reduced the colourfast-ness of the paint and resulted in silver lips while eating. Oh well. It’s ok to look like a space man once in a while!
So there you have it – a lengthy tutorial on a special Star Wars dessert.
*This is not an official endorsement; I’m just being silly.