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.
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.
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.