While I know it’s cold and snowy in many areas of the country right now, I thought I would send some California sunshine across the states by way of my tart and tangy Lemon Poppy Seed Cake Pops! They’re simple, fun to make and are sure to chase away the winter blues.
Lemon is definitely my go-to citrus fruit for adding conventional flavor, and a little goes a long way. People are always surprised at how little lemon zest you need to really pull out that strong foundation that makes the lemon poppy seed cake pop so intriguing. The lemon cream cheese frosting does give it that extra push of flavor for lemon fans, but try a standard buttercream frosting if you are looking for a more subtle addition. Either way, this pop is always a favorite among cake pop connoisseurs. Here’s the recipe from my new cookbook, Easy As Pie Pops: Small in Size and Huge on Flavor and Fun.
Yield: 2 dozen
Lemon Poppy Seed Cake:
2 ¼ C cake flour
1 ⅛ C granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
1 ½ tbsp lemon zest
4 ½ tbsp poppy seeds
1 ⅓ C unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting:
Makes about 3 ⅔ cups frosting
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
¼ C butter, at room temperature
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp vanilla extract
5 C confectioners’ sugar
1 (12 oz) bag yellow candy melts
1 (12 oz) bag white candy melts (optional for decorative drizzle)
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan.
To prepare the cake: In a medium-size bowl, sift together the flour, granulated sugar and salt. Mix in the lemon zest, poppy seeds and butter. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla.
Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan, and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean (if necessary, cover the top with foil toward the end of baking so the top does not brown). Remove from the oven, and let cool until no longer warm to the touch.
To prepare the frosting: In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter, lemon juice, lemon zest and vanilla together until smooth and fluffy. Add the confectioners’ sugar in two additions. Beat until creamy, adding more sugar or lemon juice, if needed, for a slightly thick consistency.
To prepare the candy melts: Heat half of the yellow candy melts in an electric melter, stirring occasionally, until smooth. Add the remaining half of the bag and stir until smooth. Turn the melter setting to low and stir the candy melts occasionally until ready to use. Alternatively, if you don’t have an electric melter, you can use your microwave set at 50 percent to melt the candy. In a microwave-safe bowl, heat in increments of 15 seconds, stirring between each heating until melted.
To assemble the cake pops: In a large bowl, break apart the entire cake in sections until you get fine crumbles (should resemble bread crumbs). Add the cream cheese frosting 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time, blending well with a spatula after each addition. You will start to see “dough” forming. Stop adding the frosting once the cake dough is the consistency of play dough—moist but not soggy.
Start molding the dough into a large ball with your hands, picking out any dry pieces of cake as you form. Chill the dough for 1 to 2 hours, until firm. Remove the large cake ball from the refrigerator. Taking a small handful of dough with your fingertips, form a small cake ball about 2 inches in diameter (a little smaller than a golf ball) and roll between your hands until smooth and even.
Repeat until you get twenty-four cake balls all equal in size. Pile into a large bowl, cover and chill for 20 to 30 minutes until firm to the touch. Remove your cake balls from the refrigerator.
Dip about ¾ inch of the end of a 6-inch-long candy stick into the melted yellow candy melts. While the candy is still hot, insert the dipped-end of the stick into the center of a cake ball and use your hand to secure and position the ball on the stick.
Dip the cake ball (now secured to the candy stick) back into the melted yellow candy melts and lightly twist the stick in a counterclockwise motion until the entire ball is completely covered. Place the frosted cake pop into a Styrofoam brick or cake pop rack to let cool and dry. Repeat the above steps for all twenty-four cake pops.
To add decorative drizzle to cake pops: Melt half of the white candy melts, stirring until smooth. Turn the heat setting to low and continue to heat the candy melts for about 15 minutes. Place the white melted candy into a disposable decorating bag with a #2 round tip.
Holding a cake pop horizontally by its stick, drizzle the melted candy over the frosted cake pop, using a side-to-side motion, gently squeezing the decorating bag with one hand while turning the cake pop with your other hand. Place the stick back in its Styrofoam holder and allow the drizzled candy melt coating to dry for at least 30 minutes before handling. Repeat until all twenty-four cake pops are decorated.