I used store bought spice cake mixes and store bought cream cheese frosting. The only thing I do differently is I use unsweetened applesauce instead of oil, same measurement per box instructions for the oil. (Use oil if stacking or sculpting... it hold up better) The applesauce keeps the cake more moist and soft, and cuts down on a few calories.
I baked in 6" round pans. I drop the temperature by 25 degrees from the box instructions and bake 5-10 minutes longer until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. This helps keep the cake flatter on top so there's not as much to trim off. Once these are cooled, trim the tops so they're flat. Put a little dollop of frosting on the cake board and smear, then place the first layer of cake on the board. This helps hold it in place. Put a layer of frosting on top of this layer. Place the second layer on top of that. Now crumb coat the whole cake... spread a thin layer of frosting over the whole cake to lock in the cake crumbs. Now you can chill the cake to help set the frosting while you work on other elements.
CAKE POP APPLES
Bake the second mix and let cool completely. Crumble the cooled cake into a large bowl. Then, drop a spoonful of cream cheese frosting into the crumbled cake and stir. Some recipes for cake pops call for a full can of frosting, but I find this is way too much. I used about half a can. (You might want to remove your rings if you can...it'll get messy) Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Make balls, like you would when playing with play dough, make an indention on top to resemble the indention where stems are on real apples, and put them on the parchment lined cookie sheet. Put them in the freezer.
Next, using red melting candies (found at Walmart, Hobby Lobby, JoAnn's and online) pour them into a microwave safe bowl, unless you have a melting or fondue pot. Add about two teaspoons of shortening. You will not taste the shortening, but it helps the candies to melt evenly and prevents them from globbing up once they're melted. When using the microwave, melt in 30 second increments, stirring each time, until melted. In another bowl (that is big enough to sit the bowl with the melted candy in) pour hot water and place the candy bowl in the water. This helps the candies stay melted longer.
Put a piece of parchment on the counter next to your melted candy. Remove a few cake pops at a time from the freezer, and using a skewer, fork, fondue fork, etc., poke a cake pop in the opposite side from the indention. Since the bottom doesn't need to be candied, I used a spoon to pour the melted candy over the cake pops. Sit them on the parchment paper until the candy has set, then return them to the parchment lined cookie sheet in the freezer. Once they're all done, cover with plastic wrap and aluminum foil and leave in the freezer.
Step 1: Homemade Fondant
I use a fondant recipe from howdoesshe.com. It calls for 16oz marshmallows, but good luck finding a 16oz bag.
Follow the directions on this website, they're spot on! The second photo shows what the consistency of the melted marshmallows should look like.
This is a messy, sticky process! I work it into a ball in the bowl with the melted marshmallows. Once you've completed the instructions and have a fondant ball, put powdered sugar on your work space, then dump the fondant on the powdered sugar. Keep the sugar handy, you'll need it! Have a sharp knife handy for when/if it sticks to the work surface. Then separate about 1/3 out and place aside. Work in the brown color by kneading it. Coat a rolling pin in powdered sugar and start rolling out the fondant. Don't let it get too thin, it will tear easily. Cut it into one long strip, so it'll wrap around the cake overlapping itself, and will be taller than the height of the cake. Gently and loosely roll the strip onto a rolling bar or large dowel rod if you have one, or loosely roll/fold the strip. Then, unroll the strip around the cake. Once it's over lapped, use the sharp knife to gently cut the excess off. Now, you'll need to dip your finger in water and smooth the edges to try to make it seamless. Too much water will make it soggy and sticky and very difficult to work with. Now, you can gently cup your hands around the cake to smooth it.
Using a spatula and either a cutting tool, a knife, or anything that can score the fondant, create the vertical slats for the basket. Spread powdered sugar on the spatula so it doesn't stick, then score the fondant on each side of the spatula all the way around. Next, using a clean (new if you don't have any in your baking supplies) paint brush, dip the brush into brown food coloring (the liquid doesn't work well, use gels) pain the scores to create separation. Next, freehand wood grain onto the slats.
Using some of the leftover brown fondant, add some black and work it in. It doesn't need to be solid. Roll it out and cut it into three strips about 3/4" wide. Dab a little water around the bottom of the cake and place one strip there, smoothing the edges where they meet. Repeat in half way up the cake and around the top. You can use your finger, small spatula or a knife to gently adjust the placement of the strips.
Using some of the leftover white fondant, add green food color and work it in. Roll it out then tear off pieces. Roll each piece in your hand and use your fingers to make tear drop shapes.
Remove the cake pops from the freezer and place the best ones on the cake. You might have to use a sharp knife to trim the excess or bumps the candy made on the cake pops before placing them. Use the green fondant leaves to cover bare areas between the apples and around the brim of the basket. Next, wet and wring out a paper towel. Then dab the spots around the cake that still have powdered sugar on it.