Recipe & Review: Takoyaki & cheesy, savory cake pops

by Lala

Hubby and I are deeply dippy about Japanese food. I’ve always wanted to try takoyaki but none of the Japanese restaurants we’ve visited in South Africa serve them. I finally decided to make takoyaki at home after seeing so many YouTube clips of travelers in Japan enjoying this tasty street food, on a stick. I particularly enjoyed seeing videos of the takoyaki vendors flipping the little dough balls to get the perfect snack sized treat.

The main thing I needed to make these was a takoyaki pan. Finding something like that in South Africa where the Japanese restaurants don’t even serve takoyaki was always going to be a struggle. Years ago I’d wanted to make Danish aebelskivers, which a little balls of pancake batter filled with apples, berries or jams. They are made in an aebelskiver pan that is essentially the same as a takoyaki pan. I managed to find a stove top aebelskiver pan on Yuppie Chef for R700, but I parked it in my shopping cart because I felt it was a lot to pay for an appliance that only does one thing, which I might possibly not even enjoy.

Well about two weeks later Clicks published their Easter promos and they included a cake pop machine for only R170 or so, from Safeway’s Love to Bake range (which is my go to source for super cute birthday presents for my baking inclined girlfriends). The great thing about using this for takoyaki is that there’s no need to flip them, which looks a bit tricky to me.

Cake pop maker

This came with little sticks (cardboard), a drying rack and an instruction and recipe booklet (three or so recipes that can be customized). I’d never wanted a cake pop machine because it just seemed like a gimmicky, single use appliance that I’d use once & forget. Well now that I could use it to make takoyaki, dango, aebelskiver & cake pops, I decided to go ahead and get one, especially at that price. It’s a sturdy little machine, seems well made with good materials, a quality hinge and it’s not heavy at all. I would buy this again as a gift for friends, family etc at this same price.

I’ve read some people even use these cake pop machines to make meatballs. I love Indian Chili Bites, and this would actually be perfect for them and use zero oil for deep frying.

For the takoyaki I sort of followed the basic cake batter recipe in the booklet, but I omitted the sugar. Any basic pancake recipe will do. Here’s how to make them:

Ingredients

1 & 3/4 cups wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of salt and pepper
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup sunflower oil
Non-stick cooking spray like Spray and Cook or Pam

Here’s where you can get creative:
Chopped up squid, octopus or calamari for traditional takoyaki
Cubed cheese, ham, chicken, cooked/leftover beef mince
Chopped green onions, spring onions, ginger, garlic
Parsely, cayenne peppers…you get the idea

Method
Preheat the cake pop machine, until the green light comes on to show you it’s ready, or follow the manufacturer’s instructions depending on the features of the model you have. Spray with the non stick spray.

Sift the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Mix the wet ingredients separately and stir into the flour mix. Then fold in the additional flavourings, into the batter. Don’t overmix. If you’re using ground beef /mince meat I suggest you shape the dough around the meat like a tiny dumpling, so that it is stuffed, rather than mixing into the actual batter.

For the other types, you can mix your flavourings in and scoop about a teaspoon into each little well. A good measure is to fill it to just below the lip of the well. If you overfill, the cake pops will come out with rings around them like Saturn, meaning wasted batter, time wasted cutting them off and more clean up. I learnt this the hard way. If you use too little, the balls won’t fill out well, or look very good. Many recipes suggest using piping bags or cookie presses to add the dough. I think that is just adding more things to clean up. Spoons work just fine.

Bake the dough balls for 3 – 4 minutes. My machine has an indicator light, so I know when they’re ready but I always check them at 3 minutes.

Takoyaki or savory cake pops  machine

Once they are golden brown, pop them out using wooden chopsticks or silicone utensils…never metal because it will scratch the non stick coating. I let mine cool for a couple of minutes and then I threaded 4 on a stick.

Takoyaki savory cake pops on sticks

You can drizzle some soy sauce on them or make your own version of a sauce. I combined soy sauce with Woolworths Braai Marinade. Adding soy sauce to others like A1 Steak sauce, HP sauce or similar will be great, drizzled over or used for dipping.

Bite out of savory cake pop

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