It's the cardinal rule of kid-friendly food: Put it on a stick. If it's sweet and candy-coated, even better.
"It's on a stick; it has sprinkles on it; they want it," says Rebecca Hill, owner of Sweet Stuff baking boutique in Medford.
Since cake pops came on the scene five years ago, the trend shows no sign of growing stale. With Sweet Stuff offering its first kids' classes this summer, the confection of crumbled cake and frosting that can be molded, dipped and decorated is an obvious theme, says Hill.
"It's not so difficult that they can't handle it," she says. "It's a great project for parents to do with their kids."
Next week's workshop at Sweet Stuff invites parents to bring kids 6 and older to make and take home cake pops. Hill provides all the cake, frosting and other materials to fabricate several different styles of stick-speared sweetness. The shop stocks cake-pop supplies, makes a few dozen pops for single sales every week and takes custom orders for them.
Like bakers around the country, Hill makes baby bottles for baby showers, Elmo for children's birthdays and miniature margarita glasses (or something more risqué) for bachelorette parties. Cake pops are easy to package as party favors or display as a centerpiece, she says.
The pops' portability, moderate calorie content and cute factor have inspired a miniature movement of tiny cookies, cupcakes, tarts, whoopie pies and eclairs no bigger than a cocktail wiener and served on sticks. Hill planned her first pie-on-a-stick class for 4 to 5 p.m. today.
"Anything on a stick — I swear."
But cake pops aren't as simple as stabbing Popsicle or lollipop sticks into the sweets. The cake's consistency is paramount with the ratio of cake to frosting more important than the actual flavor, says Hill. Most experts, including cake-pop originator and blogging sensation Bakerella, advocate using boxed cake mix and packaged frosting. Hill saves trimmings from all the full-sized cakes she bakes for clients to crumble up for cake pops.
"It really depends on your recipe," she says. "They're making them more gourmet."
Dipping and decorating the cake pops is a bigger challenge than the baking. Hill's class provides tips and tricks for working with the candy coating, including thinning it with paraffin crystals, which doesn't change the flavor and maintains the shine. Crisco can leave an aftertaste, she says.
Claiming she's not a "cakey person," Jennifer McMahon of Medford has never tried a cake pop but says they got the thumbs-up for her youngest daughter's 11th birthday party at Sweet Stuff.
"(Hill) had so many different decorations that the kids could choose to personalize them," says McMahon. "She allows the children to take a little bit more ownership.
"Then it's a built-in party favor that they can take home."
Whether making cake pops for a crowd or as a summer activity with kids, allow plenty of time. Dipping four-dozen cake balls takes at least an hour. Read more in "Cake Pops: Tips, Tricks, and Recipes for More Than 40 Irresistible Mini Treats," by Angie Dudley (aka Bakerella).
Reach Food Editor Sarah Lemon at 541-776-4487 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.