Sunday, November 20, 2011

Cake Pops, Anyone?

Raise your hand if you've ever heard of cake pops.

I first saw a cake pop at Starbucks just a few short months ago. I thought it was a super cute idea, so I kept it in my memory bank tucked really, really, really deep inside. In fact, I forgot all about them. At work one day, my co-teacher mentioned that she was going to try her hand at making the miniature treats. Oh, yeah! Cake pops! "I'm going to do that, too!" I thought.

Since my mom's birthday was coming up, I thought there was no better time than the present (pun totally intended) to try.

You'll need the following ingredients:
  • A regular cake mix (any brand)
  • Canned frosting (any brand)
  • Candy chocolate for melting & dipping
  • Sucker sticks

Here's how it works:
First, you bake a cake. I went with chocolate since it's Mom's favorite.
Let the cake cool completely. I baked the cake a day ahead of time, but covered it so it would stay moist.

Next, crumble the cake into tiny pieces. One website suggested you put the pieces into a food processor, but I just used my hands.

For the next step, I used my Kitchenaid stand mixer, but a hand mixer would work.
Add about 1/2 of a can of store bought frosting to the crumbled cake pieces. It's important not to use too much frosting, or your pops might fall off the stick! For this project, I used chocolate frosting. You can use any combination of cake and frosting.
Mix well until you get the consistency of play dough (another good tip I found in my online research).

Next, cover the cake dough with plastic wrap and chill. I left it in the refrigerator for about an hour.
Prepare a cookie sheet by placing a sheet of wax paper on top.
Once your dough is sufficiently chilled, bring it out of the refrigerator and remove the plastic wrap.
Melt a small amount of chocolate for use in helping the sticks stay put in the pop.
Next, mold the cake pops.
Some websites suggest using a spring releasing ice cream scoop to measure the dough, but since I don't have one, I just used a tablespoon and the palms of my hands.
Place each molded pop onto the prepared cookie sheet.
If you look closely, you'll notice that I pierced each pop before adding the sticks. It seemed to me that the sticks might go in easier that way.

Dip the end of the sticks into the melted chocolate you prepared and stick about half way into the pop.
You'll need to chill the pops before dipping the entire thing into melted chocolate. Since I was in a time crunch, I opted for putting them into the freezer for about 45 minutes. The refrigerator would work fine, too.
After chilling the pops, melt the candy chocolate of your choice. This chocolate will be used for dipping the entire pop, so color matters. I used regular brown milk chocolate, white chocolate, and white chocolate colored with pink food coloring. Cake decorating shops, and places like JoAnn Fabrics, Michaels, and Hobby Lobby carry pre-colored chocolate pieces. It's up to you.

When covering the pops, I used the microwaveable candy tubs I bought at JoAnn Fabrics (see photo above). Sources I found suggest using either the microwave method or the double boiler method. I followed the microwave directions on the tub and began dipping. To assist in the dipping process, I used a spoon to help coat the pop and smooth the chocolate.

Chilling the pops makes for easy pop coverage because the chocolate hardens quickly (but not too quickly). It did, however, cause a decorating issue. Since the chocolate solidifies so quickly, sprinkles don't stick too well. Depending on what you want to do with your pops, you'll have to think that through.

I've seen many different displays, from very simple to uber elaborate. I picked up a piece of rectangular styrofoam from the dollar store, wrapped it in decorative paper, and stuck the pops in. Maybe I'll get fancier for my next go 'round.
Happy birthday, Mom!

I was so excited about this experience that I purchsed this book by Bakerella, who is apparently the cake pops creator and guru.

My next project will be to create cupcake pops. I can't wait!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Document Cameras and iPhones and SmartBoards: OH MY!

Having recently tiptoed quietly into the 21st century, I am now the proud (I think) owner of an iPhone. Another of my many claims to fame is that I have a SmartBoard in my classroom! I don't know many teachers who can brag about the amount of technology available to them. I do, however, know at least a couple who have the technology at their disposal but don't know how to use it. Oh, the shame!

I attended a good, great, grand, wonderful SmartBoard training session today. I learned many things. Least forgotten of them all: There's so much I never knew I never knew.

I think I'm being a little harsh. I'm not tech-dumb. I keep up with some of the latest and greatest. My husband and I have two HD DVRs hooked up to enormous HD LED (or is it LCD?) TVs. We both have smart phones. We have iPods and mp3 players, two fully-functioning computers, I blog (how laughable) and have a Facebook. I'm fearful, though, that one day I will turn into the teacher who is behind the times and who can't keep up with the technology her students (and colleagues) use to speed by.

The problem: To me, technology is trendy, and oftentimes unnecessary. As a student, I learn best listening to a lecture, studying my notes, and conducting my own research. With the push to incorporate more and more technology into our classrooms, I find it hard to believe that there aren't at least some students who still learn best in a more traditional way.

The moral: I'll do my best to maintain a fresh perspective and positive attitude toward integrating more technology into my lessons. Truthfully, I think it's amazing what these crazy machines can do. I'm more than willing to jump on board. In fact, after my training session today, I went straight to my classroom to change my lesson plans for...TOMORROW! I adapted what I was doing to incorporate the SmartBoard. Someone super smart once told me: "If you don't use what you learn within 3 days, you'll lose it."