Let them eat cake - on a stick. Danielle Wright discovers the cupcake's cute competitor at a Milly's cake pop decorating class.
In Auckland, we're lucky to have the most decorated cake decorator outside of America, Kirsten Housten, behind the counter and demonstration kitchen at Milly's Kitchen Shop showing us how to make the newest baking craze, cake pops.
Kirsten is in leading food crafting company Wilton's Hall of Fame. She lives and breathes cake decorating and is so enthusiastic she could probably make sticking a raisin on a toothpick seem fun and clever.
Cake pops are a cross between a cupcake and a lollipop.
These tiny bite sized sweets are taking the world's creative bakers by storm and in America they have become so popular even Starbucks sells them.
It seems that during a recession something small and sweet that puts a smile on your face is big business.
It all started when Angie Dudley took a cake decorating class and started up the website www.bakerella. com to showcase her high and low points testing out the things she learned.
While experimenting, she came up with the cake pop.
Apart from her mother, no one knew she had a "website on the side" and when, out of the blue, Martha Stewart invited her to be on her show, her incredulous boss said "For what?"
The rest is history and she is now a famous foodie blogger and best-selling author.
The good thing about cake pops is that you don't need to be a good cake decorator or baker to make them. Simply get a cake and break it into crumbs, mix it with frosting and roll it into balls. Then chill.
Once you've melted the chocolate covering (best to use candy melts) you dip your lollipop stick in a tiny bit of chocolate then insert it into your cake ball.
Dip the ball into your melted chocolate and either cover with sprinkles and decorations right away or leave to dry, then decorate.
Anything from tiny bride and groom cake pops to faux fruit or novelty Halloween pumpkins and rugby balls can be made.
As Kirsten says: "If you can dream it, you can make it."
They are very versatile and can be simple and effective if you're a beginner, or really intricate for the advanced cake decorator.
Cake pops can be used for grown up, as well as children's, parties.
If you wrap them individually in cellophane with a ribbon you could even stretch the money you make for your charity cake stall a very long way.
And once you've learned how it's done, there's no reason why the kids can't help dip and decorate: it's one time when it's okay for them to play with their food.
"Sometimes, parents or grandparents bring kids along for classes," explains Kirsten.
"The kids have no fear of getting it wrong so they are very creative. The mum or grandma, in contrast, likes the cake pops very neat and tidy."
So, what do they taste like?
Some people in the class ooh'd and ahh'd about the delicious texture, but I thought they tasted like someone had dropped the cake into the bath - cake crumbs mixed with frosting is a mess of gooeyness.
But, sometimes, it's what's on the outside that counts.
If you don't like the taste either, there's a Babycakes Cake Pop Maker available online for around US $24.99 (plus shipping), which makes little cakes in the size of balls - no gooeyness but you can't mould them into different shapes like strawberries or rugby balls: with these it's little round balls or nothing.
Cake pops are a fine canvas for your frustrated creativity. They look really easy on the internet forums, but they are quite tricky to start with so a class is definitely recommended.
My creations would have been more likely to be in the Wilton Hall of Shame, but who am I to judge these edible artworks: my children loved them.
Popping up everywhere
Classes: Milly's will be running classes during the day, in the evening and over the weekend during the July school holidays. Classes cost $65 and all the materials you need are provided.
Pop Stars: bakerella.com - everything from reindeers to Mr Potato Head on a stick. Angie's Cake Pops book (also available for the iPad) is for sale at her online store, as is a matching his'n'hers Bakerella and Bakerfella T-shirt combo. Other books on the subject include Pop Bakery by Clare O'Connell and Wilton's: Pops! Sweets on a Stick! Cake Pop makers are available from thebabycakesshop.com or amazon.com. Try amatlas.com for more sweet inspiration.
Spare Pops: If you love making them, but don't want to eat them all yourself, consider donating spare cake pops to the Hospice on designated baking days. For information see here.