Moms

Give yummy cake pops a seasonal look

We don't try to conceal our affection for cake balls, those little spheres of cake-and-frosting goodness that have been the craze for the past few years. So we're understandably jubilant about the new book Cake Pops: Tips, Tricks, and Recipes for More Than 40 Irresistible Mini Treats (Chronicle, $19.95) by popular blogger Bakerella (aka Angie Dudley).

Cake pops combine the cuteness of cupcakes and the yumminess of cake balls on a lollipop stick -- perfect for seasonal gatherings, parties or an anytime treat for the kids. The book contains page after page of creative pops, each more adorable than the last -- panda bears, sheep, graduation caps, baby faces, pirates, robots, aliens, reindeer, Santa hats and more.

Here's a recipe for jack-o'-lantern cake pops, one of several Halloween-inspired treats in the book (the others being green witches, black cats, ghosts and mummies).

-- Stephanie Allmon

Basic cake balls

Cake balls are bite-size balls made of crumbled cake mixed with frosting and covered in candy coating. They are super-easy to make and form the basis of endless variations of decorated cake pops, cupcake pops and cake bites.

18.25-ounce box cake mix

One 16-ounce container ready-made frosting

32 ounces (2 pounds) candy coating

Supplies:

9-by-13-inch cake pan

Large mixing bowl

Large metal spoon

Wax paper

2 baking sheets

Plastic wrap

Deep, microwave-safe plastic bowl

Toothpicks

Resealable plastic bag or squeeze bottle (optional)

1. Bake the cake as directed on the box, using the cake pan. Let cool completely. Once the cake is cooled, get organized and set aside plenty of time (at least an hour) to crumble, roll and dip 4 dozen cake balls.

2. Crumble the cooled cake into a large mixing bowl. The texture of the cake causes it to crumble easily. Just cut it into 4 equal sections. Remove a section from the pan, break it in half, and rub the two pieces together over a large bowl, making sure to crumble any large pieces that fall off. You can also use a fork to break larger pieces apart. Repeat with each section until the entire cake is crumbled into a fine texture. If you have large pieces mixed in, the cake balls may turn out lumpy and bumpy.

3. Add three-quarters of the container of frosting. (You will not need the remaining frosting.) Mix it into the crumbled cake, using the back of a large metal spoon, until thoroughly combined. If you use the entire container, the cake balls will be too moist.

4. The mixture should be moist enough to roll into 1 1/2-inch balls and still hold a round shape. After rolling the cake balls by hand, place them on a wax paper-covered baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for several hours in the refrigerator, or place in the freezer for about 15 minutes. You want the balls to be firm but not frozen.

5. Begin decorating using the jack-o'-lantern project instructions.

Tips:

You can make the cake balls ahead of time and store them in an airtight container on the counter or in the refrigerator for several days.

The cake balls will be easier to roll if you wash and dry your hands periodically during the rolling process. Dry your hands completely each time, and make sure you don't get water in the candy coating, as it can make it unusable.

You can use a mini ice cream scoop to get uniform-size cake balls.

If you don't need or want to make 48 cake balls, simply divide the cake in half for 24 cake balls or in quarters for 12 and freeze the remaining cake for later use. Remember to reduce the amount of frosting proportionally.

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