holiday cake pops

gluten-free cake pops

this is a cake pop

This is a cake pop.

It’s a cake pop made by my wonderfully talented and lovely friends Jessie (also known as Cakespy) and Megan (also known as Not Martha).If you are lucky enough to know people who want to spend the afternoon with you crumbling up cake with their hands, manipulating marzipan, and making zombie santas into the evening? You know you have good friends.

This is a Rudolph cake pop, inspired by the Rankin-Bass special we three grew up on, surreal and hilarious. The holiday season brings a lot of sensory memories for me, but most of them seem to center on those Rankin-Bass specials and the songs seared into my brain. Holiday cake pops? Have to be Rudolph.

You know what else this is? A gluten-free cake pop. (Of course! We made these cake pops at our house.)

That’s not all. This is a gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free cake pop.

You heard me right — a gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free cake pop.

And it was darned delicious.

breaking apart the cake

Is it possible that anyone reading does not know what a cake pop is?

Cake Pops: Tips, Tricks, and Recipes for More Than 40 Irresistible Mini Treats, the book by the fabulous Bakerella, seems to be selling copies faster than the days are flying by. I have to admit — not being a crafty kind of person — I was mighty confused at first. Why is this book so popular? I mean, I really love Bakerella from her site. And Jessie told me that Angie (the real Bakerella) is sweeter than her cake pops, authentic, just what you’d expect her to be. So I’m happy for her. But really? Cake pops?

It’s also probably because I can’t eat gluten. Watching something so entirely reliant on gluten gain such popularity? I might have been sulking like a kid without knowing it.

Let me tell you, I have seen the light.

I love any treat that requires an afternoon of baking, patience, laughing with friends, waiting, melted chocolate, and a sense of humor. Especially the sense of humor.

Plus, to start, you have to crumble up cake with your hands.

Lu took to this immediately. She stood next to Jessie on her chair at the counter, put her hands into the bowl, and crumbled cake, very seriously, very intently. She was actually quite the help.

cake balls

These are cake balls. On their own, they are delicious. You know what they are? Crumbled-up cake with buttercream frosting mixed in and rolled into balls.

Need I say more?

chocolate-coated cake balls

Here’s the deal. Traditional cake pops call for the cake balls (after you have chilled them a bit) to be coated with candy coating. Jessie, being the sweetheart that she is, checked every brand she could find to see if it was gluten-free. She couldn’t find any at the cake decorating store without gluten. Megan confirmed this later, saying she had heard there aren’t any gluten-free ones.

We could all be wrong. If you know a brand of candy coating that is gluten-free, will you please share with everyone here?  (We are wrong! There are plenty of suggestions in the comments.)

So we decided to skip the candy coating and coat the cake balls in melted chocolate.

(Oh, and by the way, it really isn’t a good idea to melt chocolate in a pan directly on the stove. It seizes, particularly if you aren’t paying attention because your friends are cracking you up and your kid is dancing at your feet. Trust me — use the pan over the pan of boiling water trick.)

And frankly, Jessie started putting the marzipan directly onto some of the cake balls and they worked out beautifully. You can do that too.

cake pops

After baking and talking, melting and coating, coloring marzipan, and sculpting it, we had cake pops.

(And by the way, my original statement of not being crafty still stands. I didn’t make any of these, really. I provided the kitchen, the lunch, the inspiration, and the darling toddler. Megan and Jessie made these. I bow down.)

Holiday cake pops, gluten-free.

zombie santa

Behold Jessie’s zombie Santa.

Honestly, she’s amazing.

Hermie cake pops

Jessie also made this one, my favorite cake pop of all time. Do you recognize him?

This is Hermie, the elf from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the one who wanted to be a dentist.

I think this is genius.

lu eats a Rudolph cake pop

I finally understand why cake pops are so darned popular. I think they should be. They bring people together. It’s the dark of winter, dark days for some folks, complex times and sometimes overwhelming. Making cake pops with Jessie, Megan, and Lu was probably the most relaxed afternoon I’ve had in months. We laughed and caught up on each other’s lives while our hands were busy rolling cake balls, while we melted chocolate and dipped, while we marveled at each other’s talents with marzipan. It’s silly, light, absorbing work. It was just what I needed.

We couldn’t help but marveling at these cake pops, the three of us. None of us had ever made them before.

Finally, in the end, here’s the biggest surprise: these are freaking delicious. You know how some darling things, the baked goods with the biggest frills determined to make you say Ohhhhhhhhh! often taste a little stale inside, a little too sweet, a little artificial? Not cake pops.

These are fudgy and not-too-sweet, almond-scented with the marzipan, a little like a truffle, a lot like your soon-to-be favorite treat.

Lu doesn’t have much of a sweet tooth. She eats one half of a cookie and she’s done. As you can see here, she devoured this cake pop. Every morning since, when we are in the kitchen, she has chanted, “Cake pops? Cake pops?” No wonder they are so popular. Making these for your kids, occasionally, is lovely work.

And now that you know you can make them gluten-free, easily (and dairy-free and egg-free) too? I hope you make some together soon too.

We are giving away a copy of our cookbook, which contains plenty of kitchen projects you can cook with your friends and family.

Also, we are giving away a copy of Cake Pops: Tips, Tricks, and Recipes for More Than 40 Irresistible Mini Treats. You didn’t think we were going to give you the exact recipe for how to make cake pops, did you? You need the book for that. One of you could win it here.

Just leave a comment telling the story about a kitchen project you took on with friends and family, one that brought you as much joy as the food was delicious.

x-tra special celebration cake

X-TRA SPECIAL CELEBRATION CAKE, adapted from the Alpha-Bakery Children’s Cookbook

A few weeks ago, someone lovely gave me a copy of the Alpha-Bakery Children’s Cookbook. “I know it’s old, and it’s filled with flour recipes, but I figured if anyone could adapt these recipes, it’s you. I thought you might like to bake out of it with Lu.”

I was so touched. And then I wanted to go home and bake. If you are in your 30s or 40s, you might remember the Alpha-Bakery Children’s Cookbook. It’s really no more than a pamphlet, with excellent illustrations of waffles with big grins, raisins jumping into bran muffins, and chicken drumsticks playing the drums. It’s just surreal enough that I had to bake out of it. Plus, interesting recipes in kids’ books intrigue me — they have to be foolproof for the kids to make them work.

When I showed my copy to Jessie, before we began baking, she blushed and almost jumped. “I had that book when I was a kid!” She told me she had made everything out of the book, more than once. (Even the Quick Cheeseburger Pie, which I am dying to make for the 1/3 cup of pickle juice in the ingredients list.) And the “X-Tra Special Celebration Cake”? She made it all the time. “This afternoon just got three times better,” she told me.

You know what is great about this cake? Besides the fact that it’s super moist? Almost fudgy? That it’s just perfect for cake pops and birthday parties and the quickest cake fix you can imagine? It’s dairy free and egg free. Now that we’ve converted it? It’s gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, and delicious.

Gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free cake pops, coming up!

420 grams all-purpose gluten-free flour mix
1/2 teaspoon psyllium husk
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups cold water

Preparing to bake. Preheat the oven to 350°. Find 2 9-inch round cake pans in your pantry. Grease and flour them. (We use sweet rice flour for this.)

Combining the dry ingredients. Mix the flour, psyllium husk, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk them together to combine and aerate the flour.

Finishing the batter. Mix the oil, vinegar, and vanilla. Pour this liquid into the flour mixture and stir, really hard and fast, for at least one minute. (Or, you could do this in a stand mixer instead.) Pour the batter into the prepared pans, dividing them as evenly as you can. The batter will be thick, so don’t worry when you see that. Smooth the tops with a rubber spatula.

Baking the cake. Slide the cakes into the oven. Bake them until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 35 minutes.

Allow the cakes to cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then turn them over onto a cooling rack. Flip them over and allow the cakes to cool completely.

Makes 2 9-inch cakes.

Rest of Post.