October 22, 2011

Cardamom White Chocolate Mud Cake Pops For Diwali

I
’ve always been a bit of a late bloomer almost all my life it seems, doing things much later than I should perhaps have done them. Not that I’m complaining because I know that it might have “late” by general standards but it was usually “right” for me. Take for instance my food blog. I started writing my food blog only to discover that the average age of many of my fellow bloggers was probably the mid to late 20s which I had last seen a long time ago! I bought a camera and started serious photography when it seemed most dSLR owners I knew were in their 20s. This was fine with me as we couldn’t have afforded a dSLR back then, and I wouldn’t have had the spare time for photography either.
It’s been the same with certain food trends, and it isn’t because I don’t read. They just seemed to escape my personal radar. When cupcakes were taking over the food scene, I wasn’t aware of it. By the time I caught on cupcakes weren’t fashionable anymore.
Then came the craze for the French macaron. While the food world was going “Ooh la la” over them, I was under my own little rock. I managed to get in on the macaron making before all the excitement died down but was sadly disappointed in them. Sure there’s a thrill in waiting with one’s heart in one’s mouth, hoping desperately to see the little mounds of batter rise in the oven and develop “feet” but after that there’s not much to it than mouthful of cloyingly sweet egg whites+ sugar+ almonds that you cannot even taste!




And then came Angie Dudley’s (Bakerella) cake pops! This time I was right there when it was happening but they didn’t excite me much. Perhaps it was because I’m not much of a cake fan and also that I couldn’t find some of the basic stuff required like lollipop sticks and decorating material. It seemed a little too much work to bake a cake only to take it apart and then put it together again.
No connection here really, but I was just thinking that life would have been so much easier for Humpty Dumpty (yep, the guy who fell off a wall and came apart) if he had been a cake pop. We could have patched him up and had him almost as good as new for a more (or less) adventurous life!
Getting back to cake pops, I was finally persuaded to give them a chance. I have been seeing some very pretty looking cake pop all over food blogdom and then my good friend, Finla, bought Angie Dudley’s Cake Pop book and went cake popping with very lovely results. Finla and I were having one of our chats when we decided we would get together and make some cake pops for Diwali. We’re not celebrating anything here this year, but it seemed a nice idea to make something sweet to post on this blog for the festive season.
On a recent trip to Bangalore I picked up some lollipop sticks (and loads of other baking stuff), so that meant I had one more excuse to travel the cake pop road. Now cake pops are nothing but cakey truffles. Cake crumbs are mixed with buttercream which are shaped in to balls (or other shapes of choice), refrigerated, stuck onto lollipop sticks and then dipped in melted chocolate or candy melts. They can be further decorated depending on the end result desired.
Pretty easy stuff, huh? That’s what I thought, but I hadn’t taken my warm, humid tropical environment into consideration. I had started out wanting to make Diwali lamp/ diya shaped pops which would have been just right for the Diwali season. My lamp pop plans had to be shelved for the time being as I had to work with soft cake pop centres and chocolate coating that started showing signs of melting once agin, on their own! To cut a long and boring story short, let’s just say that I ended up making regular round cake pops!



Most people seem to use box mixes to make the cake for cake pops. I don’t blame them as dipping the pops is work enough. We do get boxed cake mixes here these days, but they’re mostly imported and quite expensive. And I’m for some reason biased against boxed mixes so I decided to make my cake from scratch.
I’m one of those people who is not overly fond of buttercream so I thought if I could find a reasonably moist cake then I would need to use much buttercream and make a sweet cake even sweeter. My daughter suggested trying a “white” cake so I settled on a White Chocolate Mud Cake which is a reasonably moist cake. It’s a great cake if you like white chocolate, and tastes even better if you add lemon zest to it. You can bake this cake and cover it with white chocolate ganache (I think dark/ milk chocolate ganache would be good too) or even whipped cream.
I added cardamom to the cake as I felt it did something for the “blandness” of white chocolate and if you’ve not tried it before, white chocolate and cardamom really go well together. I adapted the original recipe a bit and halved it for making pops. If you want to make a cake then double the quantity of the ingredients and use a 9” round cake tin. Also increase the baking time to between an hour and an hour and a half depending on when the cake is done.
Cardamom White Chocolate Mud Cake 
(Adapted from Exclusively Food)


Ingredients:

3/4 cup chopped white chocolate
100gm butter
½ cup milk
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
¾ tsp baking powder
4 to 6 pods cardamom, powdered
1 tsp lemon zest


Method:

Place the chopped chocolate, butter, milk and sugar in a large saucepan over low heat and stir frequently until the butter and chocolate have melted. Take the pan off the heat and stir the mixture till smooth. Let it cool to room temperature. Add the vanilla and the egg and mix well. 
Stir together the flour, baking powder, cardamom and the lemon zest and add to the chocolate mixture in two batches, stirring well after each addition.
Pour the batter into a greased and floured 7” round cake tin and bake at 165C (325F) for about 45 minutes to an hour or till a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let the cake cool completely. If not using the cake for making pops immediately, wrap the cake in cling wrap and refrigerate for upto 3 days.
Now that we have the cake, the first step to making cake pops is to crumble it. It seems funny to go all the way and make a cake only to take it apart, but hey for cake pops, that’s the way the cake crumbles!



Most people who make cake pops seem to use buttercream to bind the cake crumbs and I’ve seen a couple of people using ganache with chocolate cake. For reasons already mentioned, buttercream wasn’t the binder of my choice. It also helped that I ran out of butter, and so had the shop nearest to me. What I did have was cream (25% fat), so I used that. This worked well as it meant my cake pops weren’t going to be tooth tingling sweet.
I had some great plans of shaping as well as using some other coating but that met with failure. As I don’t get candy melts here, melted chocolate was my choice of coating.  Oh and if you should want to make cake pops, but cannot find lollipop sticks just place the coated cake balls in paper cases. Same taste, different look.
And if you want to make those colourful and different shaped cake pops and you live in India, beg or threaten your family or friends who live abroad to bring you candy melts and edible food pens and stuff when they visit you next, because that's what I'm going to do. They might just end up deciding not to visit you at all, but that's a risk one has to live with!
Before you go further you might want to check out Angie Dudley’s cake pop tutorials on her blog and her cake pops video, and this cupcake pops making video by Jaden Hair (Steamy Kitchen).
Making The Cake Pops  

Ingredients:  

Cake from above
200ml cream (25% fat)
Chocolate moulds, if moulding pops into shapes
Dark or milk chocolate for coating cake balls
Lollipop sticks/ paper cases
Sprinkles to coat the cake pops
Styrofoam blocks or something similar to hold cake pops 


Method: 
Crumble the cake into fine crumbs in a big bowl. Add the cream, first half the amount and then as much as needed. Stir with a spoon, adding just as much cream is needed until the crumbs will hold their shape when shaped into balls.
Shape this mixture into 1 1/2" balls or shapes of choice. If using the chocolate moulds, lightly grease the moulds and press the cake mixture into them. Place these in the freezer for about 20 minutes to half an hour at least. You can keep them overnight, but keep them at room temperature for about 10 to 15 minutes before coating. Unmould the shapes before dipping.

In the meanwhile, melt the chocolate over warm water (or in the microwave). Use a deep container for this so the balls can be dipped easily. First dip the tip of the lollipop stick into the melted chocolate and insert it onto a cake ball, about 1/3rd deep. Repeat with all the cake balls/ shapes. 


Now dip the cake pop into the melted chocolate, using a spoon to pour the chocolate over it to coat it well. Lightly tap the pop against the side to remove excess chocolate. Place it in a holder (Styrofoam block) and let the chocolate set a bit before covering with sprinkles. Repeat with all the cake pops.
The cake pops can be served in stands or by placing them in glasses filled with sugar or sprinkles. Keep the pops refrigerated till needed if you live in a warm tropical country like I do! 


If you’re planning to serve the cake pops in paper cases, then use a fork to dip the cake balls in melted chocolate, let the excess drip off and then just gently let them slip off the tinesof the fork into the paper cases. Let the chocolate set slightly then decorate with sprinkles or chocolate buttons.

Some of my tips for almost failure-proof cake pops!

1.       Make sure you add only enough binding (buttercream or cream) as needed to the cake crumbs. Even if your recipe specifies a certain amount, add it in batches till you get the right consistency or your pops will not stay on the lollipop sticks and slide off.
2.      If your mixture is too moist and this does happen, just add more cake crumbs (if you have any, that is) and adjust to required consistency. A better idea would be to be judicious with the binder.
3.      Keeping the shaped cake balls in the freezer makes them easy to work with. If they’re too cold, the chocolate coating will not be smooth but lumpy. So keep them at room temperature for about 15 minutes before coating them.
4.       If they’re outside too long , the cake balls will turn soft and become difficult to coat. Put them back in the freezer for a little while and then dip.
5.      Make sure your melted chocolate isn’t too warm or the coating the cake balls will be difficult. Remember to place the ball in the chocolate and spoon more chocolate on it. Swirling the cake pops in the melted chocolate might cause them to end up in the chocolate leaving the lollipop stick in your fingers!
6.      Wait till the chocolate sets a little after dipping the cake balls before you add the sprinkles, or everything will come of the cake balls in big blobs! This is experience talking.

Check these links for more tips-FAQs/ troubleshooting cake pops. And do see these really pretty cake pop ladies that Finla made (and how cake pops should look when they’re made well).

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