How to Dip Cake Balls and Cake Pops Like a Pro: Part 2 of The Ultimate Guide to Cake Poppery

Welcome to Part 2 of The Ultimate Guide to Cake Poppery!
If you missed Part 1 where I explain how to make the best cake balls and cake pops in preparation for dipping, click HERE to check it out.

Ok, let’s begin.
Have you ever been in this scenario?

You are making some cake pops for a party that starts in 1 hour. You’ve got to hurry up and get them dipped and allow them enough time to dry before you box them up. You’ve melted the chocolate and you start dipping them only to find to your horror that they look like lumpy globby messes or they have cracked… or both! You already told your friend that you were going to bring cake pops to the party so you are committed. You have to take something so your options are to take mutant cake pops that will embarrass you or you run to the store on your way and buy a box of plain cookies. Either way you feel defeated. You just want to cry…you probably do at least a bit.

Has this ever happened to you?!
Well, no worries. It has happened to me too! But NOT ANYMORE!

Most people say that the hardest part of making cake balls or pops is dipping them. All it takes is a bit of technique know how (provided by yours truly), a Disney movie and some time and in the end you’ll have a great product every time. They will be the talk of the party and will certainly be the first dessert to fly off the table. You will feel such accomplishment as you serve your masterpieces and start hearing the “ooohhs” and “aaahhhhs”. The only complaint people will have is that there weren’t more!

Whether you have been making cake pops for a while or are brand new to cake poppery and want to get your chocolate bobble velvety smooth, you are in the right place. Below you will find everything you need to know to successfully dip cake balls and cake pops like a pro.

See my other post “How to make cake balls and cake pops like a pro” if you want to see how to make the best textured cake pops you, your friends and your family have ever had. Trust me. THIS is the only way to make a cake pop. Most people do it differently….go check it out to see why my technique is the best!

Without further ado…
Your straight forward guide on how to dip cake balls and cake pops like a pro.

First, you need the stuff…

Pure Chocolate vs Chocolate Melts/Wafers

There are two different methods you can use for dipping cake balls:

1- Use pure chocolate and temper it (that’s another post for another day…) or

2- Use a chocolate coating or “melting wafer”

The pure chocolate, as you can imagine, is going to taste better but takes much more time and talent than using chocolate candy coating. Chocolate coating still tastes good if you get a high quality brand and this is what I would recommend for you.

I use Guittard Vanilla A’Peels or Guittard dark or milk chocolate wafers for practically all my dippins. I buy these at my local commercial baking supply store, Orson Gygi. You can also buy them online at a variety of vendors. You can use any “melting” candy/wafer and it will work too but I have tried different kinds and the Guittard are my favorite because they are high quality, melt thinner and have a really good taste. Callebaut are also fantastic but are a bit more expensive and I don’t think they are necessary. The Wilton Candy Melts are quite thick when they are melted and this results in a thicker shell, which I (and many taste testers) do not find desirable. They don’t have a high quality taste either. If you can, avoid Wilton candy melts.

Here is the crown of why you should buy Guittard melts. They come in bulk (5-10 lb bags) and they can be even cheaper than the Wilton product! Nuts! But in a pinch, Wilton would do.

So, you may be thinking to yourself “How are melting wafers different than chocolate?”

Melting wafers are often not actually chocolate…. yeah, disappointing huh? It is actually a vegetable fat-based coating with added flavorings and ingredients. This fat base allows it to be melted easily without the temperament of real chocolate. The good part is that it can actually taste pretty good for not being real chocolate and it is much more fool-proof. They even come in a variety of colors.

Let’s get a little geeky here. I want to tell you about Paramount crystals. Paramount crystals are made of hydrogenated oils (hard at room temperature) and can be added to your chocolate or melting wafers to help thin it out for dipping but then hardens along with the chocolate. It acts similar to adding shortening (soft at room temperature) or a fat base (soft at room temperature) to chocolate by thinning the chocolate out and making it more smooth as stated above but since the paramount crystals are hard at room temperature it will harden right along with the chocolate. Adding shortening to your chocolate will soften your final product. A little is ok as it can prevent cracking. However, too much shortening can prevent your final product from setting up hard so using a combination could prove useful. Add paramount crystals a tablespoon at a time until your chocolate is a good consistency (dippable but not too thin). A good estimate is using ¼ cup per pound of chocolate. If you add too much you could ruin your chocolate so add a little at a time.

So, now that you know about the raw materials we move on to… the melting phase.

 

Melting the Chocolate Wafers

There are a few key fundamentals you must understand to melt your chocolate wafers successfully.

1)      Melt slowly over low heat.

Chocolate can scorch easily if you heat it too fast or too hot. After being scorched, the chocolate may taste just fine but it will not look as beautiful. It will have streaks or patches of light color throughout the chocolate once it dries because the chocolate and butter fat separates when heated too much…. not the effect we are usually going for. It sometimes even causes your chocolate to thicken dramatically.

You can use a double boiler (keeping in mind the next tip) or you can use the microwave.

Heat just until most of the candy is melted, stirring constantly if you are using a double boiler or stirring every 20 seconds or so if using the microwave. When using the double boiler, heat your water to boiling, remove from heat and then place your top pan of chocolate on the water pan. If you keep your double boiler on the heat while you are melting your chocolate you have a much higher likelihood of getting moisture into your chocolate due to the condensation, which leads to our next tip….

2)      NEVER, EVER allow moisture into chocolate. It will seize and look chunky. You will not be able to use it for dipping if this happens so don’t do it.

What is seizing you ask?

A little background first…. During the refining of cocoa beans into chocolate, all of the moisture is removed resulting in an essentially dry final product. It is actually considered a “dry” ingredient in baking taxonomy. When you take a dry ingredient and throw just a little bit of moisture into it, I bet you know what happens. It clumps up. When this happens to chocolate, the moisture is causing the sugar in the chocolate product to clump and we call it “seizing”. Fun fact.

So! Seizing occurs when a small amount of moisture is introduced into the chocolate resulting in grainy, nasty, lumpy quasi-chocolate goo. Tears usually follow.

Try it with your kids! It’s a science experiment bound for a blue ribbon!

However, if seizing does occur, DO NOT THROW IT AWAY! You can still use it but not for dipping anymore. It can make a great chocolate ganache for your ice cream or cake later if you just add some hot cream to it!

 

Coloring Your Vanilla or Chocolate {Optional}

You really don’t want to try coloring brown chocolate unless you are trying to make black….but white chocolate as well as vanilla wafers are definitely colorable. You can color your vanilla ANY color you want! This comes in handy when you have themed events or just want to have fun.

Remember what you JUST learned only 3 seconds ago about putting liquid into your chocolate? You must only use oil-based food coloring. You already know what will happen if you use the water-based food coloring. Oil-based coloring is often called “Candy Coloring” while the water-based coloring is often called “Icing Coloring”. Keep in mind that this can be brand specific so always look for the “oil” or “water” labeling in the ingredients.

When using a custom colored coating, it’s better to make more than you need and save the rest than try to match the exact same color again after you run short. So make a bit more and you can use the extra on another project or even just for drizzling.

Add a little at a time, stirring the color in thoroughly every time.

Preparing Your Cake Ball for Dipping

Your cake ball must be at the correct temperature for optimal coating. If you dip a freezing cold cake ball into hot chocolate (…not real “hot chocolate”….you know what I mean…) it will only result in tears…. and maybe a few cake balls on your wall (or through it depending on how cold they were and how good your fast-pitch is).

Another physics lesson… As hot things cool, they contract and as cool things heat up, they expand. Therefore, if you have a cold cake ball dipped in warm chocolate, as these both come to room temperature the cake ball is going to expand (busting open your candy coating) and your coating is going to contract (again, busting your coating) resulting in big cracks.

Therefore, bring your cake balls and chocolate as close to room temperature as possible before dipping but it is easiest if the cake balls are still a little firm so they don’t slide off the stick or introduce too much moisture into the chocolate. If they warm up too much, just pop them in the fridge for a few minutes. Bonus: If you are fast enough or have the skills for the two-handed/ double-dip approach your cake balls won’t even have time to warm up plus you get some pretty sweet bragging rights.

Dipping Your Cake Balls

There are a lot of ways to dip cake balls. Here are a couple. A} The simplest way is to dip and then set on a baking sheet. This is the method I prefer. Get a baking sheet ready by lining it with parchment paper. Have your melted chocolate ready to go and get a dipping tool. You can buy a dipping tool or make your own. I personally prefer the 2 prong store-bought kind because it has thinner prongs but they both work fine. I use this exact one and it works well.

I just had a prong snap off so next time I will be investing in a metal one. To make your own, just snap off the two middle prongs of a plastic fork. Voila. Easy Peasy.

Throw (gently) your cake ball into your melted chocolate. Make sure it is completely coated using a spoon if needed and then lift it out using the dipping tool. Don’t stab it…. have the cake ball sit on top of the tool. Allow the excess chocolate to drip off by tapping the tool lightly against the edge of the bowl to help it along. Then lightly scrape the bottom of the cake ball against the rim of the bowl to take off excess chocolate. This prevents that big pool of chocolate on the bottom of your dippins. Set it on your baking sheet and drag the tool out from underneath the cake ball. If you have crumbs on your dipping tool, wipe those off on a towel before moving on. You don’t want crumbs getting in your chocolate.

Disclaimer: This method introduces more moisture into your chocolate than the next method. You may find that after a while your chocolate is not as thin and ribbony as it used to be. This is from the moisture in your cake ball mixing with the chocolate. If you are fast putting your cake ball in the chocolate and getting it out then it becomes less of an issue. To fix this, you can try putting some more melts into the chocolate dip to sort of revive it. FYI.

B} Another method involves a two part process. Take a cake ball in your fingers and dip just the bottom with a very small amount of chocolate and set it on the parchment. You should not have a lot extra squishing out from underneath the chocolate. Repeat for all. Allow them to dry (fridge makes it go faster but don’t leave it too long). Once hard, place the cake balls on a rack like this one or similar. It needs to have small holes.

Place the rack on top of parchment paper on a baking sheet. Using a small ladle, pour chocolate over each cake ball covering completely. Once dry, remove from the rack. Do not throw away all that chocolate on the parchment paper. It will easily slide off into a baggy or tupperware. Save it and remelt it for dipping next time. No waste!

Honestly, you could skip the first part of dipping the bottoms if you are short on time and just put them in little candy cups after. By not having the cake pop fully covered, they will dry out faster though.

So there you have it. That’s what it takes to dip cake balls and truffles… …oh, but what about cake pops?

This is even simpler because you can use the stick as your dipping tool. You just dip it into the chocolate completely (make sure you cover a little bit of the stick to seal in the moisture), allow the excess to drip off, scrape the bottom lightly against the rim of the bowl and place it on parchment paper. Magnifique! Tip: If you find that your cake balls are sliding off your stick, before stabbing the stick into the cake ball, dip it in a tiny bit of melted chocolate and then stick it in the ball. When it dries, it will cement the stick to the cake ball. I actually always use this method now since it works so well. You can also refrigerate them so they harden just a bit. Remember not to dip them while they are too cold.

What if I want my cake pops to be completely round?

In that case, instead of placing them on parchment paper you would stick them into a foam block you can purchase at any craft store. (Just make sure it doesn’t tip over because you put all the cake pops on one side) Then you have beautifully perfect little cake pops as such.

 

{Yes…those are pop rocks. Just do it.}

If you want to really impress everyone at the party, make a cake pop shape such as stars. Instead of rolling your cake pops into balls, you will press the cake mixture into a pan and then use a cookie cutter to cut out shapes. Insert your stick and you are good to dip.

 

 

Decorating Your Cake Balls/Pops

There are a million ways to decorate your cake balls and cake pops and that’s what makes these little guys so versatile! They can be gussied up for a wedding or made into cute little creatures for a birthday party.

 

If you want to have sprinkles (or pop rocks for an extra kick in the mouth) on your cake pops like so…

…just sprinkle them on with your fingers after you have dipped about 5 of your cake balls. The chocolate needs to be wet still so they will stick.

If you want your treats to have drizzles on them…

…wait until the dipped chocolate is dry. In the meantime, put whatever color of melt you want in a good quality plastic baggie (if not, your baggie will melt and that makes a big mess). Trust me.

You usually don’t need a lot of melt. Leave the top open and place inside a microwave-safe bowl or cup. Microwave at 30 second intervals, squishing it up each time, until most of the candy is melted. Allow the rest to melt and zip the top closed.

Warning: Be careful not to get the chocolate too hot or it will melt through the plastic and burn you!

Disclaimer: Most of my warnings comes from personal experience…

Create a little piping bag by pushing all of the melt into a corner of the bag and twisting the bag just above it. With some scissors and without holding pressure on the bag, snip off a very tiny hole in the corner. Try it out to see if it is the thickness you want. If you want it thicker, snip off a tiny bit more. Be conservative. You can clip more but you can’t clip less unless you have magical powers (you can start over with another baggie if needed).

Once that is done, you are ready to pipe. Press on the bag with consistent pressure as you sweep the melt across the cake ball. Go back and forth across the whole cake ball. If you want to criss-cross it like above, just switch sides and do it again.

Wallah! Drizzler Extraordinaire!

You can also drizzle your chocolate into a shape like a festive Christmas tree!

Another fun method I really like is the swirly gigs but takes a steady hand and some practice but is so cute when it is done.

For the above, you allow your dipped chocolate to dry completely and prepare a baggie full of the same color of melt so you can pipe it. You want the size of hole to make a big enough line that the sprinkles can stick to it. Go ahead and draw your design (whatever you want!) on the cake pop and then sprinkle on the nonpareils over a bowl to catch the fallouts. You can clean up the lines with a toothpick if there are stray nonpareils. If they look loose, go ahead and give them a gentle tap to keep them in place. These are not good for rough travel because the little nonpareils will start to pop off, so be gentle. Allow to dry.

This cake pop below uses the same technique except you will use a sanding sugar instead of non-pareils giving you a completely different look! This is my favorite medium to sprinkle these designs with. Try it!

Or you can just go crazy….

But plain also looks real nice too…

If you want to add a sheen to your cake balls you can use luster dusts!

Oh, the decisions!!

Don’t forget, this works for anything you want to dip….. like oreos or other cookies.

Any questions?

Cake Ball and Cake Pop Storage

Honestly, these little confectious delights are pretty hardy. They actually last quite a while however the texture changes inside after time so I recommend eating these within 2-3 days of making them. I can’t vouch for the safety of them so eat at your own risk. If you added cream cheese as your frosting, you should refrigerate them which could result in cracks (but not always).

So as you witnessed, it really isn’t that hard to dip cake balls and pops and you can be dipping like a pro immediately if you follow the few simple rules as listed. What you really need is time since each cake ball is hand-dipped to perfection, so pop in that Disney movie, tie your apron on and get to dippin’!

Do you have any great cake ball dipping tips that I need to know? Please leave me a message below! I would really like to hear them so I can try them out.

For more awesome tips to get you baking like a pro, you can check out my website, Share Dessert Co, dedicated to all things dessert, by clicking HERE.

Thanks for reading! See you again soon!!