Inexpensive and fun to make, you can’t go wrong with Popin’ Cookin’ kits. 

By Tiffany Stevens
December 05, 2019
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Candy making is a time-intensive, technical, and often messy task, especially for inexperienced sugar workers. But what if you could make legitimate candy in half an hour, using nothing more than a glass of water as an aid? What’s more, what if the candy was guaranteed to come out in cute, bite sized shapes?

Popin’ Cookin’, a line of DIY gummy kits produced in Japan, is the perfect answer for craft and cooking enthusiasts who don’t want to delve straight into the art of homemade candies. For those who grew up with an Easy-Bake Oven, these kits are a bit like that DIY cooking toy, but without the lightbulb or the need for an external heat source. And with the holidays fast approaching, Popin’ Cookin’ kits are perfect for the children (or adults) in your life who have shown an interest in the culinary arts. The kits usually cost about $4 each, and come in a wide array of styles, from miniature hamburgers and waffles to ramen and sushi shapes. Everything you need to make the candy pictured is included in each kit, save for a glass of water. 

To try out these highly popular candy making kits, I purchased two styles—donuts and bento—from the Seattle location of Daiso, a Japanese chain of dollar stores. Each took me about half an hour to complete, and while some of my gummies could have qualified for an episode of Nailed It!, the process was still fun and straightforward to follow. These kits could be completed by older children (ages 10 and up), but for young children, adult supervision is best. If nothing else, the kits have the potential to be sugary messes if not confined strictly to the included trays. 

Among the two kits I selected, the donut one was definitely the easier to assemble. Included in that kit was a plastic tray and several packages containing the various components of the donuts. The back of the box, which contains the instructions, prompts the user to cut the plastic tray into separate sections—a small triangle-shaped container for adding water, a tray for mixing dough, another tray for icing, and another for molding the donuts. After cutting the tray up, I was prompted to make up the vanilla and chocolate doughs, shape the donuts using the provided mold, and then mix up the included icings, which came in vanilla, strawberry, and chocolate. The chocolate icing is meant to be piped onto the donuts using an included plastic bag; putting the icing in the plastic bag was one of the harder parts of putting this kit together. After mixing the icings, all I had to do was ice and decorate as I saw fit. The kit includes sprinkles and cookie crumbs, so you can get quite creative with your donut toppings. 

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While the bento kit was a bit more involved, it was still relatively straightforward to complete. To make that gummy kit, I cut the triangle-shaped container from the tray and then proceeded to empty the various packages in the order laid out on the back of the box. In just a few minutes, I had created a broccoli shaped gummy, a gummy that would eventually resemble a Japanese-style omelet, and a gummy sausage shaped like an octopus by using the included gelatin packets. The kit became a bit hands-on at times; it asks the user to manipulate the gummy rice into an onigiri shape, and to shape three small balls that will eventually become a panda. The kit also instructs you to press black sugar powder onto your rice balls using the mold templates provided; if done correctly, this should provide an impression of nori around your onigiri and a panda face for your panda ball. This part of the kit was what I found the most challenging to complete neatly, however, so don’t worry if your panda face is a little askew. 

After making up the panda, Popin’ Cookin’ asks that users make up gummy fried chicken, followed by gummy spaghetti which is piped out using an included plastic bag. Once all the components have been made, you’re free to make up your tiny, sugary bento however you’d like. The egg gummy, which was made in a long rectangular mold, can be folded up to resemble an omelet, and the broccoli and sausage gummies can be carefully removed from their molds using the included plastic fork. For those curious about the flavor of the resulting candy, Popin’ Cookin’ seems to favor fruit varieties for its gummies. The omelet tasted like lemon, for example, whereas the pink sausage tasted like strawberries and the broccoli tasted like lime. The rice smelled like artificial banana, but was most likely meant to be taste like Ramune, a Sprite-like Japanese soda. 

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When making up a Popin’ Cookin’ kit, it’s important not to add more water than you’re instructed to. And you’ll be tempted for some steps, because it seems obvious that so little water isn’t going to be enough for so much powder. I especially came close to adding more water while making up the dough for the donuts  because it seemed like the small triangle of water I added wouldn’t nearly be enough for the amount of powder included in the kit. But sure enough, with enough time and kneading, the dough came together as predicted; extra water would have just left me with a mess. 

Popin’ Cookin’ is an unusual stocking stuffer, and for children and adults who aren’t familiar with Japanese treats, it may at first seem intimidating. But the instructions are easy and fun to follow, and the results are delicious, regardless of how picturesque the miniature treats turn out to be. For families who are looking for a fun yuletide activity, Popin’ Cookin’ is a sweet way to while away part of an hour, while exploring innovative products from another country at the same time.