The title of this article is the same as a class I took at the Decorette Shop. Then, a couple days later, I decided to try my hand at home to help reinforce what I learned at the class. In this article, I will try to explain what I learned to do, and not to do. In addition, I have decided to put a lot of photos into this article; there are photos of other students work, photos of my work in the class, and finally photos of the work I have done after class to reinforce the ideas of the class. This first photo- my army of minions- is from the latter group; other photos in that group will show you the army coming together.
To start, I have to say that the class did impart a lot of information, but like all classes, it was hard to really practice; it just takes too much material and equipment to let everyone have their own space. The class started with each of us receiving a quarter of a layer of cake, and needing to convert it into crumbs in bowls that we brought using forks that we had also brought to class. Once we had the cake into crumbs, Linette (the instructor) poured some white ganache into our bowls and we stirred and cut the ganache in so that all the crumb would stick together. Once we reached that stage, we started taking some of the crumb and rolling it into balls.
The ganache is a very stiff version; it has a ratio of 1 to 4 – one part hot heavy cream to 4 parts chocolate. It needs to solidify in a short time to hold the cake shapes together. I also believe there should be a couple notes about the cake crumb, and the balls. First, the crumb must be uniform; I think a lot of the failures we saw at the class, and some I found repeating at home were because there were lumps in the crumb balls. And the balls themselves need to be tightly packed. They need to hold together through all the operations of inserting the stick, and dipping them.
At this point, we started sharing the pots of melted candy melts. The sticks need to be glued into the cake crumb – or other objects that are being dipped. So the end of the stick is dipped and then inserted into the cake crumb object. (we also had marshmallows, Rice Crispy treats, and Double Stuffed Oreos to dip and decorate). It was suggested to put the object on the stick into the styrofoam block we were using to hold the dipped objects. For the most part, I think this was a mistake; we were waiting for the glue on the stick to solidify and we still were trying to let the ganache solidify. So some student’s objects started falling down the stick, or falling apart. I laid my objects down to let the “glues” dry.
While it might seem appropriate to put the cake crumb and stick into the refrigerator to cool and lock both the ganache and “glue” tighter, we were warned that this is a no-no. Cooling shrinks the ganache and crumb slightly, and then after it has been dipped and is at room temperature again, it expands, and will crack the candy melt coating.
Now we started the dipping process. I have never liked dipping chocolate centers, and I felt the same way about dipping the cake crumb shapes. Mostly things worked out fairly well. I had a failure with the Rice Crispy treat that I think I can understand now. The candy melt needs to not be too hot. My experience with chocolate said that I had the smoothest results with the temperature in the 90 degree area. When it gets over that into 100 degrees, I had problem. In the case of the class, the white melt did not have a temperature control. I think it got too hot, and then melted the marshmallow that was holding the Rice Crispy treat together. I noticed that a lot of the classes Rice Crispy treats were also failing; one that didn’t fail did not use the white melt.
This is a photo from class; the red apple has been painted with disco powder after the red candy melt dried. Below, you can see a better picture of the orange pumpkin. The green marshmallow with black hair shows the artistic capability of the student- all their own idea. And finally in the back corner there is the start of a ghost that melted the glue and slid down the stick- probably as I said, the white candy melt was getting too hot.
The candy melt is really a chocolate based product, and so it has to be treated like chocolate; not too hot and never get water in it. However, the best way to keep an even temperature is to use a water bath, so there is a real conflict. I used water in an electric fry pan as my constant temperature. The other thing is that the candy melt needs to be fairly deep so that it can cover the dipped object. For that reason, the shape of the container is important. Linette suggested using mugs, and as the picture below shows, I used a rather tall mug for my yellow candy melt in my practice session.
Of course, the dipped object can not be laid down until the candy melt has dried and hardened. The easiest method of holding the sticks upright is to use styrofoam to hold the pops.
I tried using a couple drying racks to make a grid to hold the sticks upright, but the spacing was too loose. However, I did take a couple pictures that way, which are shown here.
Once the candy melt is dry, there are many ways to decorate it. Some of the pops show redipping in a second color. The pumpkin show using a piece of broken pretzel as a stem, and using the food marking pens to draw the face- also the face on my marshmallow skeleton. The oreo has a couple eyes glued on; there are many small pre-made items that one can buy for decorating such as the eyes. The ribs of the skeleton are pretzels that were dipped first, and after they dried they were “glued” to the stick.
I think from my practice reinforcement session, I learned that you do not want to be making all sorts of pops in one session. You only want to have a few things active at a time. Of course, in a class where they are trying to give us ideas and all, there is a wild bunch of things going on at the same time.
I am also going to still look for some better way to hold the sticks upright. I keep finding small pieces of styrofoam that were broken off the block and of course, it does not like to be swept up and dumped in the trash- it holds on for dear life.
November 2016: I had occasion to make some cake pops this month, and found myself changing a few of the things I say in this article. I had one layer of a white cake in the freezer that I used. After breaking it into crumb (I used the food processor to get an even crumb), I added a 4 to 1 part white chocolate ganache. It was not strong enough to hold the crumb together when the globes of dough were dipped into the candy melts. I ended up adding more melted white chocolate so that the balls were very firm and tight. This worked very well. I’m sorry I don’t have measurements for how much total ganache I used or for what the final ration of white chocolate to cream was. Just be certain that the balls you make are very tight and tough.
The second thing I found was that the thickness of the melted candy into which the balls are dipped works best if it is very thin. I used the paramount crystals (2 Tbs) to help thin the melt to make dipping better. There are many ways to thin the melts to make them easier to use, but Paramount Crystals seem to be the best way; they add fat into the pot. Others have used shortening, and cocoa butter, and even paraffin wax to thin the melts, although most have side effects that are absent with the paramount crystals.
I find with both my molded chocolates and cake pops that the melt seems to thicken with time as I work, and I add some crystals every once in a while to keep the melt flowing nicely.