21 January 2013

As Seen On TV

Let's not bury the lede, shall we? If it says "As Seen On TV" on the box, run screaming in the other direction.

Case in point: a cake pop pan. The box says "fun & easy!" and shows a tidy person's disembodied hand pouring cake batter into all the little holes. Pouring, with a measuring cup, meaning that the batter is thin and pourable.

Um, not as such.

I need to digress here. The instructions called for "one standard box of cake mix according to directions". Sorry, I don't do cake mix. Come on, cake isn't hard. It's just mixing. Back to the instructions; they included this note:

For best baking results: Use an extra egg, substitute milk for water and use half as much as the recipe calls for. Also add a pudding mix that matches your cake choice.

That little note kind of subverts the "one standard box of cake mix according to directions". And shall we mention the lack of clarity in the "use half as much" of what? Water, milk, cake mix?

After sputtering around the kitchen fuming about cake mix and the decline of Western civilization as we know it, I settled on a staggeringly easy cake recipe from the 1953 edition of The Joy of Cooking. It's the kind of recipe that gives cake mix a bad name, because all you do is dump flour, sugar, butter, eggs, milk, salt, baking powder, cocoa powder and vanilla in the mixer and beat it up for a while. It already called for two eggs, so I didn't add any, and I didn't add any pudding mix either, thank you very much. The batter was, um, not thin enough to pour neatly into all those little divots. No, I resorted to spatula smearing it into the holes.

We clamped the top on the pan and stuck it in the oven. Shortly thereafter, the girl peered through the oven window and discovered that we had many little cake volcanos - cake oozing out of all the top holes. I grumbled some more.

When the pan was out and cool enough to handle, removing the top revealed lacy thin cookies veneering the entire surface of the pan.

Happily, the little balls of cake popped right out of their divots, though many were belted at their equators. Miracles of non-stick technology, with a judicious application of Baker's Joy.

The next step was to coat them in "candy coating". Is this a thing? Oh, there was another note:

To make a simple candy coating, follow melting instructions on the back of semi sweet chocolate chip bag. Add a tablespoon of vegetable oil if coating is too thick after microwaving.

Right. I'm going to adulterate some perfectly good chocolate with vegetable oil? I don't think so. (And that tablespoon of oil? What volume of chips was it supposed to adulterate? Oh for comprehensive articulate instructions.) We forged on, dipping the cake balls into our melted chocolate. The chocolate was indeed too thick, and the sticks were too flimsy, and so we did not achieve anything like enrobement. No, our balls were dipped on the bottom and perhaps one side, and sprinkles were applied haphazardly at best.

Here's what I have to say: run very very far from the cake pop pan. And please, don't even consider buying one of the single purpose electric appliances that makes cake balls. Just make a cake. A nice plain cake, like the Hurry Up cake from the 1953 Joy of Cooking. It's easy. Your kitchen won't look like an army of sticky chocolate covered toddlers has marched through, and your blood pressure will remain within normal limits.

The worst of it? The nine year old doesn't even want to eat them.


RuthWells said...

Oh, dear. Bring the girlie to Philadelphia; we'll make something much more fun than cake pops, with a lot let hassle.

FreshHell said...

Actually, considering all this, yours turned out much better than I had imagined it would. And I don't have this kind. Not a kit just the cake pop pans. I was also wondering what the "half as much" was referring to. Pudding mix - gah. Please. I think if you're going to go this far, the company ought to just include the mix and the "coating" like an Easy Bake oven does. Why leave things to chance? I hope they at least tasted okay.

Kizz said...

Here's how cake pops were originally made/envisioned: you make the cake, cool it, crumble it up, and mix it with about 3/4 can of frosting and roll it into balls. That's what makes them both delicious and sturdy enough to stand up to dipping in chocolate. Cake pop pans seem to be made for people with an even slighter grasp on chemistry and physics than I, who think that the "hard" part of making cake balls is mixing them with frosting and rolling them into balls.

Rabecca said...

We gave a set just like this as a door prize at a PTA meeting last year. The recipient very apologetically returned it to us, whispering, "I don't really bake, so you can use this again at the next meeting."

Any kitchen item that can be used for only one thing has no place in my life. For that matter, cake pops have no place in my life. Your experience went exactly as I pictured it would go for me. What a waste of cocoa.

alejna said...

I rather like the look of them loose and un-spiked, with their little equatorial belts. Not to say that I'd go through the trouble to make them.

I'd say you made a valiant effort. And it all made for an entertaining blog post.

Heide Estes said...

Lovely, delicious rant. Sorry about the cake pops.

Anonymous said...

I've always wondered about those things. Something about the idea of easily turning a cake into a pop seemed hinky to me. Thanks for sharing your results with us. Now I know, for sure, not to even try!

Anonymous said...

Well, the end result looks cute, at least! I think mostly that is the point with this kind of specialty item.

Very American, the whole idea: poor quality, image-conscious mass quantity sweets created with a single-use item produced cheaply abroad. Makes me homesick really...

Gina said...

A couple relatives were looking to buy something like this for the girl for Christmas and asked if I would prefer this or something else and I said something else since I knew this would result in me wanting to throttle someone (or several someones) before it was all over (I hate baking).

She ended up with a mini cupcake maker & a waffle sticks maker - both of which have turned out to be awesome choices - easy enough that she can do them on her own and very little mess involved. That's my kind of baking.

V-Grrrl @ Compost Studios said...

I'm impressed you didn't get resort to stabbing yourself in the eyes with the cake pop stick, just so you would not have to deal with this any longer.

And I am with you on cake mixes, which make a cake so limp and soft and bland. I use an old recipe called Starlight Cake, which is a yellow cake version of what you posted. Rocks. My. World.

heidi said...

Thanks for saving me from this! next would you try that mole, skin tag, wart remover? (as seen on TV.) xoh

leanne said...

Thank you for confirming my suspicions that I'd much rather make cake than cake pops :)

(and I should have seen that ending coming!)

Bibliomama said...

My friend made cake pops for our Christmas party and demanded that I take a picture because she was never, ever going to do it again. I have enough trouble icing a cake in a manner that doesn't make it look like it was done by a less-intelligent baboon, so I am extremely impressed. But yeah - pans that are only for one thing don't have a place in my already overstuffed kitchen.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...


I love that not even the boys in my house would ever consider canned frosting.

Angela said...

I have exactly the SAME pan and our cake pops look exactly the same as yours (see http://www.flickr.com/photos/moonfever0/6959672074/ ) I went further and made the mistake of melting frosting as the coating, and that doesn't solidify. It just becomes a shiny, sticky mess. Haven't tried to make cake pops again, and opted for the mini cupcake maker instead (no better, but the girl loves baking gadgets/utensils).