As a kid, I loved eating Pop Rocks. I loved to pour most of the bag in my mouth then just let them sit in there as my saliva activated the “popping” and then would just open my mouth so the sound of the candy popping would be amplified. Of course I was never brave enough to eat Pop Rocks and then drink soda for fear they would cause my stomach to explode (a myth dispelled by the guys on “Mythbusters”, though they did find drinking soda and eating lots of baking soda did cause a pig’s stomach to explode so fight the urge to do that!), but I still loved eating Pop Rocks.
Fast forward to several years later (several, several years-maybe even decades- later) and a friend gives me some chocolate with Pop Rocks in it someone brought him from Germany. The chocolate bar was made by Milka (whose chocolate I love and always buy at the airport duty-free when traveling) and was called the Knister bar. Sadly this was a limited edition flavor and cannot be found in L.A., but thanks to my generous friend I was able to eat 1 square of it (which is all I had left after having to share it with other people). I didn’t know what to expect and thought that it was a strange combination. And I remembered that Pop Rocks were flavored so I didn’t think it would taste so good. I put the piece of chocolate in my mouth, let it sit there so it would start to melt, and it was amazing. The chocolate bar seems to have some hazelnut cream so already it tasted good. I mean chocolate and hazelnut, how can you go wrong? But the Pop Rocks made your mouth all tingly which was a strange sensation, but I kind of liked it. In fact, it kept making me giggle which made me love eating it even more. I had to have more of it, but all my efforts to track it down failed, so I gave up.
About 2 months ago, some friends were staying over at my place and we were looking for places to go to dinner that evening or breakfast the next day. We like the Nickel Diner in L.A. and in checking out their website, my friend came across a mention of their Pop Rock mini-cupcakes. Now they have never had these when I’ve been there (but they do have fantastic donuts which should get their own post) so when we called to ask, we found out that they don’t make them anymore (If anyone who owns or works at the Nickel Diner is reading this, you HAVE to start making these again!). So we decided we would try to make them ourselves.
Step #1-Find Pop Rocks
We thought that this would be difficult to do and our plans for Pop Rock cupcakes would never come to fruition creating more disappointment, but somehow my brilliant friend discovered that Cost Plus sells Pop Rocks so that was where we were headed. It turns out that at Cost Plus they sell a multi-pack of Pop Rocks in strawberry and watermelon flavor. We weren’t sure how that would taste in our cupcakes but we thought it couldn’t be too bad. We also picked up some Red velvet cupcake mix and frosting.
Step #2-Make cupcakes
Easy to do. Just follow instructions on the box
Step #3-Figure out how to get the Pop Rocks in there
The tricky part of this process is how to get the Pop Rocks inside your cupcake or on the frosting and have it stay “poppy”. You see Pop Rocks are filled with carbon dioxide when they are made (you can get more info and see the patent on this “gasified candy” here). When they dissolve, that carbon dioxide is released and the candy pops. Any exposure to moisture will activate the popping. In fact, if you just open the pack and let it sit out, you will start to hear some sizzling. Everything in our cupcakes would be a source of moisture, so we weren’t sure how to get around this.
We searched the internet and found some Pop Rock cupcake recipes. Some just had the Pop Rocks sprinkled on top, but we wanted the Pop Rocks either in the cake part or mixed in the frosting so every bite we took would pop. We then came across this recipe for Pop Rock cupcakes where the author had discovered that mixing the Pop Rocks with something fatty would coat the candy and prevent it from popping for a few days. This was going to be our way to get this to work.
Of course, we never plan ahead for these things and again found ourselves staring into the kitchen cupboards trying to figure out what we had that we could use rather than going out to buy something (see waffle post). And this time it wasn’t only laziness that stopped us, but we were also making these cupcakes at midnight. So we found ourselves trying to find something with no water in it, that was fatty, we could use to mix with the Pop Rocks to keep them from dissolving. I found a tub of Betty Crocker vanilla frosting, which had oil listed as the second ingredient, and gave it a try. We mixed some of the candy into it and made sure all of it was well coated with the frosting. Initially, there was a little sizzling but it soon stopped. We tried the frosting and it popped! We then wanted to see how long it would stay that way and tried it at different intervals. After 45 minutes, the intensity of the popping declined, but there was still some popping and sizzling. After 2 hours, there was only sizzling.
We realized that the frosting wasn’t fatty enough to keep the Pop Rocks from dissolving after a couple hours and we wanted to make sure that we could eat these cupcakes for a couple days and still have them pop. We then found some bittersweet chocolate that’s used to make hot chocolate and thought that might work. I mean the Milka chocolate bars seemed to keep the Pop Rocks from dissolving so this might work. We added the chocolate after the cupcakes were baked (we melted the chocolate and then mixed in the Pop Rocks). We cut a hole into the top of the cupcake and spooned in our chocolate mixture. We plugged the hole up with some cupcake, frosted it and voila! Pop Rock cupcakes!
Now we had to try them. We ate some a couple hours later for breakfast (this whole experiment had us up until 2-3 in the morning) and they were delicious. The Pop Rocks in the frosting were still sizzling but the ones in the chocolate really popped. They were great. And we didn’t even taste the strawberry or watermelon flavor of the candy. We were able to enjoy the cupcakes for a few days and they still popped (though no longer from the candy in the frosting, just from the center). I still wasn’t 100% satisfied with the cupcakes because I would like the chocolate center to be softer, but for our first Pop Rock cupcake experiment, they didn’t turn out too bad.
Lesson to be learned: Even though we made some strides in our Pop Rock cupcake experiment, there is more work to be done to get a gooey chocolate center that pops into each cupcake (so more to come). Oh yeah, and there should definitely be more foods made with Pop Rocks in them