Cake pops are bitty bites of sweetness

Go ahead and indulge yourself -- it's only one bite. But be forewarned: Cake pops are addictive.

I first learned of cake pops about a year ago, and now it seems these cakes-on-a-stick are everywhere, including Starbucks. (But remember cake balls? The same thing, without the stick, has been around for years.)

From instructional videos to hundreds of recipes online, you'll find cake pops for holidays, weddings, birthdays and other special events.

And thanks to the efforts of Angie Dudley, a blogger known as Bakerella (Bakerella.com), author of "Cake Pops: Tips, Tricks, and Recipes for More Than 40 Irresistible Mini Treats," cake pops are becoming more popular than cupcakes and some are easier to make.

All you need is a cake mix, ready-made frosting, candy coating or chocolate discs, lollipop sticks and colored sugars, nonpareils or candies.

Basic cake pops aren't baked in the shape of balls, but rather are crumbled cake mixed with frosting and rolled into balls. The balls are stuck on lollipop sticks, then dipped in candy coating and decorated.

Be imaginative. Believe me, these little gems can really get your creative juices flowing.

I read about cake pops a year ago August while searching the Internet for an easy dessert recipe for a fundraising bake sale. I found Bakerella's website, saw the words "cake pops" and the next day I made a batch. From the first bite I was hooked. They were luscious. I brought the second batch to the fundraiser and they sold out. From that day on I've made cake pops for picnics, parties and sometimes for no reason at all. And I always get the same reaction -- "These are great. Can I have the recipe?"

If you don't want to roll cake pops by hand, there are several electric cake-pop makers on the market. Most are available online. But frankly, using the pop maker seemed to take longer than rolling the balls by hand.

CAKE POPS

(Tested by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

This recipe is everywhere online. -- Arlene Burnett

1 box cake mix, any flavor, baked according to package directions in a 9-by-13-inch pan and cooled completely

16-ounce container ready-made frosting, any flavor

Lollipop sticks

2 pounds chocolate discs or candy coating

Colored sugars, candies, sprinkles, etc.

A block of craft foam for holding the sticks

Crumble the cooled cake into a large bowl, making sure there are no chunks remaining.

Place about 3/4 cup of frosting over the cake crumbs and mix until the cake crumbs and frosting are thoroughly combined. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate about 15 minutes or until the mixture is firm.

Line 2 large baking pans with waxed paper or parchment paper. Scoop up pieces of the mixture and roll into balls (I used a cookie scoop). Make sure the balls are firm or they'll fall apart when dipped in the melted chocolate. Place the balls on the prepared pans. Dip the end of each lollipop stick into remaining frosting, melted caramel or marshmallow creme, then push the coated end into the center of each pop. Place pans in refrigerator and chill pops about 10 to 15 minutes. Melt the chocolate discs in the microwave or double boiler (I found the double boiler to be easier). Remove a few pops at a time from the refrigerator. Dip the pops into the melted chocolate, coating the entire pop. Then swirl the pop a few times to allow excess chocolate to drip off.

Stick the coated pops into a block of foam to dry. Decorate. Refrigerate overnight. The next day, place cake pops, still attached to the foam, in a basket or bowl. Place tissue paper into the bowl or basket covering the foam.

Makes about 4 dozen, depending on size.

KAHLUA CAKE POPS

(Tested by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

I used the Double Chocolate Kahlua Cake recipe from "The Cake Doctor Returns" by Anne Byrn. -- Arlene Burnett

18.25-ounce package plain devil's-food cake mix

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

3/4 cup Kahlua

3/4 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup vegetable oil

3 large eggs

12-ounce container cream-cheese frosting

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Grease 2 9-inch-round cake pans (I used a 9-by-13-inch baking pan) with solid vegetable shortening, then dust with flour, shaking out excess. Set aside.

Place the cake mix, cocoa, Kahlua, buttermilk, oil and eggs in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds. Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat 2 minutes more, scraping down the sides again if needed. The batter should look well combined. Pour batter into the prepared pan. Bake until the cake springs back when lightly pressed with your finger, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and place on wire rack to cool completely.

Crumble the cake in a large bowl. Place about 3/4 cup of frosting over the cake crumbs and mix until crumbs and frosting are thoroughly combined. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate about 15 minutes or until the mixture is firm.

To

make the cake pops, follow the directions from the basic cake-pops recipe above. -- Arlene Burnett

S'MORES CAKE POPS

(Tested by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

8 whole graham crackers, broken in half (you'll have 16 squares)

7-ounce jar Jet-Puffed Marshmallow Creme

1 pound chocolate discs or candy coating

1/4 cup or more graham-cracker crumbs

Foam

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil.

Spread about 1-1/4 tablespoons marshmallow creme over 1 graham-cracker square. Place another graham-cracker square over the marshmallow, lightly pressing the crackers together. Push a lollipop stick between the graham crackers and into the marshmallow creme. Place each s'more on the baking sheet and refrigerate about 10 minutes.

Melt the chocolate. Remove a few s'mores at a time from the refrigerator. Dip the s'mores into the melted chocolate. Swirl a few times to allow the excess chocolate to drip off. Place in the foam. Sprinkle with graham-cracker crumbs. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Makes 8 s'mores.

-- lovefromtheoven.com

Contact Arlene Burnett at aburnett(at)post-gazette.com.

Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, www.scrippsnews.com.

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