Intro: Wedding cake……read those words and answer honestly……is your heart racing? More to the point, are you salivating? The chances are that the answer to both of those questions was no, because the traditional wedding cake is basically, to be frank, a standard issue heavy fruit cake covered in too much sickly sweet icing. Yes, it’s very touching when the bride and groom cut it and everyone cheers and yes, lots of couples like their cake so much that they keep vast chunks of it for years to come. What has to be realised, however, is why such huge amounts have been left behind, and why the couples involved opt to just keep them in a special box. Because the alternative would be to eat the cake in question, and nobody really wants to do that.
Another, non-culinary reason to come up with an alternative to the traditional wedding cake is that it’s your chance to create a part of the day that truly feels as if it’s yours and yours alone. So many aspects of the standard wedding are ‘by the book’, that tweaking details like the cake can be a way of allowing your personality to peek through the veneer of ritual and custom. Which is all a somewhat long winded way of saying ditch the traditional cake and try….cup-cakes? A bit last year to be frank. Croquembouche? Impressive, yes, but everyone will just assume you’ve been watching reruns of Bake Off and want to show off. What about Cake Pops? The appeal of cake pops is that they’re made of cake whilst looking like lollipops, are relatively simple to prepare whilst still creating a dazzling visual impression and are versatile enough to be decorated and arranged in a manner that ties in with the rest of the day.
The first step toward making a dazzling selection of cake pops is to bake a simple Victoria Sponge.
Ingredients for the Victoria Sponge Cake:
200g caster sugar
4 medium eggs
200g self-raising flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
Drop of milk
Drop of vanilla extract
Pre-heat the oven to 170C or gas mark 5. Grease a 20cm sandwich tin and line it with non-stick paper. If you were making this as a ‘standard’ Victoria Sponge then two tins would be required, one for each layer. For the purposes of this recipe, one tin deep enough to take all the batter will suffice.
In a bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until it becomes pale and creamy. Beat the eggs and add them to the creamed butter and sugar gradually, whisking them in as you do. At this point the mixture might look a little bit as if it’s ‘curdled’ but don’t worry, this is normal. When all the eggs have been added, fold the flour and baking powder into the mixture using a metal spoon. After adding all the flour and folding to mix thoroughly and remove any lumps, add the milk and vanilla extract and mix through. Pour the batter into the sandwich tin and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes. The cooking time will vary depending on the oven, but check that the surface is golden brown and springy to the touch, and that a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Turn the cake out onto a wire rack and leave it to cool.
While it’s cooling, gather together the rest of the ingredients:
100g soft butter
60g soft cream cheese
220g icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cream the butter and cheese together using a wooden spoon. Add the sugar to the mix gradually, beating it in until it all becomes light and fluffy, and then mix in the vanilla.
When the cake has cooled, use your hands to crumble it into a bowl, working the sponge between your fingers to create the finest possible crumb. Add the cream cheese mixture gradually, working it through the crumb until it combines into one ball. Be careful not to add too much at a time or the mixture will become too wet, depending upon the moisture of your cake. The ideal texture is achieved when the mixture will squeeze together without crumbling. Wrap cling film around the mixture and place it in the fridge to chill for an hour, after which it should be firmer but soft enough to work with.
Divide the mixture into small balls roughly the size of a golf ball. You can do this by hand or guarantee consistency by using a miniature ice cream scoop. Place the balls on a baking tray lined with non-stick paper and place in the fridge to chill for 15 minutes.
While they are chilling you can prepare the coating of your pop cakes. Do this by melting the chocolate of your choice in a bowl over a pan of simmering (not boiling) water. The amount you melt will depend upon the number of pop cake balls you’ve made.
Next take some lollipop sticks (generally available from cooking equipment or craft shops) of varying lengths. Sticks generally come in 4, 6 and 8 inch lengths, and the selection you choose will depend upon your plans for the final display. Dip the end of each stick into the melted chocolate, and then insert each stick into the top of a pop cake, burying it about halfway in. After a couple of minutes, the chocolate ‘seal’ should have set, and you can pick the pop cakes up by the stick and lower them into the melted chocolate, gently swirling them to ensure they are completely covered. If you’re going to decorate the cakes using sprinkles and other sweet decorations then sprinkle them on before the chocolate firms, before sticking the pop cakes into a Styrofoam block and leaving them to fully set. If you had more elaborate decoration in mind then wait for the chocolate to set and then get to work with icing sugar and whatever takes your fancy.
Once you’ve mastered the technique you can make as many individual pop cakes as you need and use them to create the wedding display of your dreams. The aforementioned Styrofoam blocks could be decorated and used to create a tiered effect, individual pots could be filled with coloured glass pebbles and ‘planted’ with pop cakes or glass bowls could have the cakes arranged in them like flowers in a vase. When it comes to decorating and arranging your pop cakes, the only limits are your imagination.