Trading food for a snuggle with a baby

Some friends of ours recently became parents for the first time. And if there’s one thing I look back on as a lifesaver in the early days of parenthood, it was the kind people who, in exchange for holding a little bundle of baby, would bring us food that was prepared and ready to eat (or heat and eat). Finding time to sit down and eat together was a challenge for us in the early days, and anything that made mealtimes easier was very much appreciated! So, we offered to bring over a dinner and visit with the new baby this week.

It’s comfort food season around these parts, so with that in mind I devised the following menu:

All American Meatloaf

Cheddar Bacon Grits (Just the grits, though. Not the pork chops, since meatloaf was on the menu.)

Buttered Herbed Spaghetti Squash

Brussels Sprouts Salad

… and for dessert: Carrot Cake Pops. That decision was driven more by our son than anything (every other day he’s asking me when we can make a batch of cake pops). And, as he’s participating in the meal, shouldn’t he have a say in the menu too?

If you weren’t aware already, cake pops have been a growing fad. How much of a fad is it? You can now order an “easy” way to bake your own cake pops from an ad on TV! While I think it was this ad that may have planted the seed in my son’s head for making cake pops, there was no way I was going to make this easy for him. We were going old school. And after consulting a number of blogs and how-to sites, we got the basics down.

What you need:

  • One prepared cake; it can be a box mix or from scratch.
  • One batch of frosting; again, prepared, or make your own.
  • Coating for the cake pops – I used candy melts from my local craft store; they’re available in a variety of colors and a few different flavors.
  • Any decorative toppings you may want: sprinkles, dots, nuts, just about anything edible!
  • Lollipop sticks, which you can find at your local craft store. There are different lengths, and some are even reusable.
  • Some way of supporting the cake pops as they set up. I use inverted disposable cups that I’ve punched a few holes into the bottom of.

I picked up a box of carrot cake mix that did not have nuts in the mixture (not sure if these new parents had any nut allergy concerns, did not want to tempt fate). And we baked a cake.

Baked cake: check!

Next, pulverize baked and completely cooled cake in a bowl. See why it doesn’t matter as much if you’ve baked the cake from scratch?

Add frosting and mix. Again, you can buy a can of frosting, or you can make your own. I opted to buy a can of cream cheese frosting and, because carrot cake is pretty moist to begin with, used only about half the can. That would be about a cup of frosting. Some recipes suggest dumping the whole can of frosting into the bowl. I don’t think it’s a hard-and-fast rule, so long as you can form a ball with the mixture and it holds. That’s what matters.

A dollop of frosting. A lot of mixing fun.

(And, for those who perhaps plan ahead a bit, the leftover frosting in the can is an excellent dip for Teddy Grahams with your midmorning cup of coffee. Not that I would know anything about that…I just read it somewhere…)

The frosting completely blends into the cake and makes a great binding agent.

Form the mixture into balls and place on a baking sheet lined with wax paper. The general rule of thumb for size/yield: 1 tablespoon of mixture per ball will yield around 48 balls. 2 tablespoons of mixture, 20 – 24. More than that, and you may find yourself with an engineering challenge on your hands. And floor. And countertops.

Ready to chill.

Place sheet of cake balls in the refrigerator and chill for at least 8 hours.

Stickin' it to the cake pop innards.

Melt your desired coating – I used candy melts that I purchased at a local craft store – and keep warm. Dip one end of your pop-stick in the melted coating and insert into the cake ball. Just go row-by-row with this one, as you want the coating to set up before moving on to the next step: dipping! Dip your pops into the melted coating, and spin/twirl around as you like. You’ll also want to add whatever extra decorations you like at this point before the coating hardens. As these were carrot cupcakes, I chopped up some pecans and coated half the pops with the nuts. The other half I left bare.

Allow the pops to harden. I just invert a bunch of disposable cups, and pre-punch a couple of holes in the bottoms of the cups to make room for the cake pops to cure. They’re pretty much ready to eat as soon as they’ve hardened. My husband and son tested this theory.

A veritable forest of cake pops.

One thing to remember: you won’t want to refrigerate cake pops once you’ve made them. The refrigerator can lead to some drying and shrinkage that would contribute to the cake pop falling apart. Before you take a bite, even! And no one wants that.

How did the new parents enjoy the meal? Very much – or they were being very polite. And the cake pops were an easy dessert to enjoy with minimal clean-up. But they were nowhere as sweet as the little baby I got to hold and snuggle. That’s the sweetest treat of all, if you ask me.

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