Cake pops — we all love them! They are the perfect bite-sized treat for any occasion, especially when you want to celebrate someone or something special… and we’re pretty sure Valentine’s Day checks both of those boxes! The problem? Cake pops look super simple, but in reality, they can be a little tricky to pull off, especially if you’re wanting a great taste, texture, and look. We put together a few tips to help your batch of Valentine’s Day cake pops turn out smooth, dense, and delicious!
1. Battle of the Cakes: Box Mix vs. Scratch Baked
First, you need to decide on your base cake recipe. I wanted red velvet cake pops (because, Valentine’s Day!), so I grabbed a box mix of Duncan Hines Perfectly Moist Red Velvet cake mix. That’s right: I said a box. Usually, I am an all-from-scratch kind of girl, but with cake pops, I throw that discretion to the wind and opt for a box mix instead. If you’re a baking purist, of course you can make your cake mix from scratch — but for the ease of speed and texture, I invite you to hop aboard the box-mix train for this particular baking endeavor! Overall, there are so many sweet, enjoyable elements with cake pops that you won’t be missing much flavor-wise with a box mix. Plus, there are some great ways to “dress up” your mix to make it the perfect dense, chewy texture you’re looking for. That leads us to our next tip:
2. Elevate Your Box Cake Mix
When I use box mixes, I like to swap out some of the ingredients for something a little richer. Instead of adding water, I like to use milk. Some people even swap the water with buttermilk (which is a GREAT substitution in red velvet, by the way), soda, or coffee! Next, I add an extra egg. It adds more moisture and fat (yummy, and a great cake pop texture enhancer) as well as a little extra protein. And lastly, I often swap out the canola or vegetable oil for melted butter. You can do some, all, or none of these! They’re just fun options to take a simple box mix to the next level.
3. Hand Rolling vs. Using a Baking Mold
A while ago, I bought a sphere baking mold just for cake pops. (The one I have is still available on Amazon here!) I have always used it to hold my hand-rolled, fully baked cake pops in as they chill in the refrigerator. However, for my Valentine’s Day cake pops, I decided to try using them for baking, too. To my surprise, the pops came out evenly cooked and perfectly round!
I dipped and decorated a few, and then compared them to the traditional method. Traditionally, cake pops are made by baking a whole cake, crumbling it, combining the crumbles with frosting, hand-rolling this concoction into balls, and then chilling them.
So, I established that both methods work, but which one tastes better? In my opinion, a traditional cake pop is hands-down the way to go from both taste- and texture-standpoints. Because they are rolled and combined with frosting, hand-rolled cake pops are much more rich, truffle-like, and dense. However, if you are looking for a “hack” to avoid the extra steps and mess, using a mold will undoubtedly simplify and speed up the process. The baking-mold cake pops were still yummy, just much lighter with a cupcake-like texture.
Here’s a photo of both versions of cake pops. The ones baked in the mold are on the left, and the hand-rolled are on the right. You can see that the hand-rolled cake pops are denser:
4. Use a Homemade Frosting
While I opt for store-bought cake mixes for my cake pops, icing is a whole different story. While some canned frostings can be delicious, I have found that a homemade frosting adds some authenticity and extra flavor. This is my favorite go-to recipe, but any buttercream or vanilla frosting will do! Look for a recipe that combines the basics: butter, powdered sugar, milk or heavy cream, salt, and vanilla extract.
5. Follow the Recipe
This may seem like a no-brainer, but I cannot tell you how many times I have personally botched this step. I’ve tried skipping the refrigeration process, speeding up the melting chocolate, or not waiting for everything to set properly only to be left with less-than-fortunate cake pops. I’ve lost many a pop to loose hand-rolling or under-chilling — trust me when I say there’s nothing more frustrating than watching your creation unceremoniously fall off the stick and “plop” into the melting chocolate… or be too warm for the chocolate coating to stick to…
Learn from my mistakes: Stick to the recipe! If it says to refrigerate for four hours, give them the full four hours. You’ll be glad you did!
6. Have Your Decorations Ready and Waiting
When you dip your prepared cake pops in your chocolate candy melts, you have to work quickly — you only have a few seconds to get those sprinkles on the coating before it is set. For this reason, I like a sprinkle container that has several cells. It is easy to open and close and allows you to quickly choose a different shape or color.
7. Watch a Quick Tutorial Before you Begin
With Youtube and Instagram, the amount of baking knowledge at your fingertips is infinite! I always love watching a video or two about what I’m making, especially if I am not super familiar with the recipe or the process. It will give you a good visual of what things should look and taste like step-by-step. Here is one of my favorite Youtube bakers, his cake pop video was very helpful correcting mistakes I had made in the past.
And there you have it! Seven tips that will help your cake pops turn out pretty, perfect, and polished. Ready to tackle your own Valentine’s Day cake pops? If you’re looking for a fun recipe to follow, here are a couple of my favorites:
Made for You With Love
Baking for Valentine’s Day just got a lot cuter.