If you google turtle cake pops, you’ll probably find green candy-coated shells with googly eyes. Which is all well and good, except I finally got this excuse to bake something rich, amazingly tasty, and totally special. After all, it’s my wedding and if I don’t make myself some cake pops, who will?
So I needed turtle cake pops: chocolate fudge cake crumbed with caramel frosting and pecans, dipped in dark chocolate candy coating, crowned in caramel, dusted with more pecans.
They are so delicious that we’re celebrating our big day three hours early… but… I ran into a bunch of complications that furthered my cake pop education. Please be warned, if you wish to dream as big:
1. Nuts in the cake-crumb mixture make for structurally unsound cake pops. These suckers are hard to dip, more so because I wasn’t content with some piddly 1/2 cup of pecans. A good cup-and-a-half went into my mixture, making them tricky to roll, trickier to get the pop stick in the middle without cracking them, and trickier still to get them to stay on the stick while submerged/coated in chocolate.
2. Not only were these pops harder to work with, so is dark chocolate candy. The darker the candy, the thicker it is. Even thinned down with copious amounts of shortening, it’s a heavy dipping material that really weighs down a pop. Add (or is that multiply?) complication #2 to complication #1 and the result is 12 ways for it all to go wrong.
My solution: after getting the stick in the pop, freeze them long enough to get that chocolate at the base hard (doesn’t take more than five minutes). Then, instead of submerging, use a small spoon to gently ladle the chocolate onto the pop. The trick here is to use as little as you can, just enough to get the pop coated and no more. If the pop gets too heavy, the whole thing plops into the chocolate.
Then, because they aren’t stable enough to tap or twirl like we see on all those lovely online tutorials, I used a toothpick to draw off the chocolate. The end result was not the smooth finish I usually get with pops, but we’re dipping them in more stuff so I wasn’t too worried about that.
But then the caramel poses precarious problems of its own…
1. I failed to take basic science into account. The melting temperature of candy coating is much, much lower than the melting temperature of caramel. Bear in mind that my chocolate is softened with shortening, making it even less solid. You can imagine where this is going. My first trial dip was a dud, a cake pop that was almost falling off the stick. With the chocolate at room temperature, it melted into the caramel almost immediately leaving chocolate swirls in my golden caramel, and promptly fell all the way in.
2. Me being the fast-reflexed idiot I am stuck my fingers into the molten caramel to chase after the now-melting cake ball. Instead of calling my experience a burn, I like to think of it as suffering for my art. Smarter cake-pop-makers will want to have two spoons or forks available for such emergencies.
My solution: freeze cake pops for 10-15 minutes before dipping. Work in small batches just like I usually do when dipping in chocolate– 7 to 10 at a time. Then, dip decisively. Swoop like a bird of prey, in and out, let the caramel drip a bit while twirling delicately. Then sprinkle with or dunk in the pecans.
The trick is to not dip too deeply. That makes a huge caramel mess, dripping down the sides, onto everything; or worse the caramel will take the top layer of chocolate back into the caramel dipping bowl. Too little and it’s just not enough, though I bet that’s subjective. 😉
I aimed for 1/3 of the way in though most times I ended up with somewhere between 1/4-crowns and 1/2 crowns. Any deeper than half ended in disaster.
The end result? Well, I have cake pops with caramel crowns. That’s pretty sweet. And though I wouldn’t recommend a novice cake pop maker try these, it was worth the experience. If I were to make them again, I’d skip the pecans in the middle and just do the pecans on top. That makes me sad, because more pecans are always better, but my failure rate for this batch was unprecedented. Out of forty-eight pops, six were duds, compared to the last time I made 100+ pops and only had one plunker. There were also a lot of close calls on the forty-two survivors this time around.
As for eatability, they are quite messy. One fell off the stick and shattered on the table while we were out of the house. We had to use a napkin or paper towel to catch loose pecans and then usually half the pop would fall off once the first half was eaten. Part of the joys of cake pops is how easy they are to eat, and these are not. They are messy, gooey, and fall-apart tender.
But, as my new mother-in-law was proud to say, these cake pops are better than Death by Chocolate. That’s quite the compliment. And while I believe that comparing turtles to death by chocolate is comparing apples to oranges, these turtle cake pops taste quite delicious even if they are guaranteed to end up on your shirt.
And if you’re still convinced you must positively have these cake pops, here’s the recipe I would do if I were doing it again:
Turtle Cake Pops
1 box Dark Fudge Chocolate Cake Mix
2/3-3/4 can Caramel Frosting
2 lbs melting candy, Dark Chocolate
20 pop sticks
1-1/2 cups Pecan Pieces
11 oz bag of Caramel Bits
Bake cake as directed. Cool and crumble in food processor. Blend with frosting until mixture holds together. Refrigerate until firm and roll into balls.
Melt chocolates according to directions. Dip stick 1/2″ into chocolate and insert into pop. Dip, drench, or drape chocolate over pop. Let cool completely.
Melt caramel according to directions. Freeze small batches of cake pops for 10-15 minutes. Prep pecan pieces in a bowl and prepare work station for quick dipping. Take chocolate-dipped pops from freezer. Dip between 1/3 to 1/2 of pop into caramel QUICKLY, removing immediately. Twirl gently for five seconds then dip or dust with pecan pieces. Set in Styrofoam or cake pop holder until firm.
Have a lovely weekend.