Cake Pops 101: Tips and Tricks

cake pops

I’m slightly obsessed with bringing these fun little treats to parties. There is something so whimsical about a little piece of chocolate-covered cake at the top of a stick. And they have some major advantages at dessert time…no cutting, no serving, no mess, and usually no left-overs! People can grab them and go without even having to sit down.

If you’re interested in making cake pops, the first thing to do is read Bakerella’s book called Cake Pops Tips, Tricks, and recipes for More Than 40 Irresistible Mini Treats. I’ve read it from cover to cover and I still refer to it often when making pops. But in this blog post, I’ll break down the basic steps and provide some helpful tips of my own.

The Main Steps:
It is time-consuming to make cake pops. By dividing the work into three main steps, you can make it easier.

You can even do these steps on different days:

1. Baking the cake
2. Rolling the balls
3. Dipping the pops

 Step1: Baking the cake

For this step, prepare a 9 x 13 cake pan.  I like to spray mine with Wilton Bake Easy spray. This ensures that my cake never sticks to the pan.

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Here is my prepared cake pan.

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Use your favorite box or scratch cake recipe. I used a white almond sour cream cake which works well for cake pops. The recipe I used yields 7 cups of batter.

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Once your cake is baked, allow it to cool. Score it into four equal parts with a knife. A box mix yields 12 cake pops from each quarter cake or 48 pops from the full cake. My batter is a little higher yield, so each quarter yields about 15 pops or 60 pops for the entire cake. Note the quantity that your own favorite recipe yields the first time you make them. This will help you plan in the future.

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For this tutorial, I worked with one quarter of my cake. I removed it from the pan and let it finish cooling.

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If you are not using the entire cake, wrap the other quarters tightly in plastic wrap and then foil. You can store them in the freezer for the next time you make cake pops.

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Step2: Rolling the balls
For this step you will need:
Cake
Large bowl
Serving spoon
Creamy vanilla frosting (canned actually works best!)
Cookie sheet that fits in your refrigerator
Parchment paper
Small scoop for consistent sizing

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One of the best tips for making consistent round cake pops is to find a small scoop. This one is a 3/4 tablespoon size and it works perfectly for cake pops.

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Cut the outer edges from your cake because they can create hard lumps inside your pops.

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Cut your cake into four pieces. Pick up two of the pieces at a time and rub them together over your bowl to crumble the cake into fine crumbs.

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Continue the crumbling process with your hands or two forks until the pieces are very fine.

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I always make homemade icing for my cupcakes and cakes, but canned icing actually works the best for cake pops! This vanilla cake is very moist so I add less than a quarter can of the frosting.  The amount you add will vary based on the moisture of your cake recipe. You want your mixture just moist enough to roll into balls. Tip: Be careful not to add too much icing or your mixture will be too moist. This can make for heavy cake pops with an unpleasant texture.

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Distribute the icing evenly over your cake crumbs then mix it in. I use the back of my spoon for a smashing motion until the mixture binds together.

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This is what the mixture looks like after mixing with the back of the spoon.

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Use your scoop to get enough mixture for a well-rounded ball. Use your hand to round out the top of the mixture into the ball shape. This ensures your pops have a uniform size.

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Place the mixture into your clean hand. Tip: Clean your hands frequently and keep them lightly moistened with water. This helps to get a smooth exterior on the cake balls.

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Roll the ball between cupped hands applying firm and then gentle pressure. Do this until you are pleased with the shape of the cake ball.

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Continue until your mixture is done. Place the cake balls on your parchment-lined cookie sheet as you go.

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The finished cake balls look like this.

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Cover them with plastic wrap and foil and refrigerate them for at least 4 hours in the refrigerator. Tip: If you’ve had problems with your cake balls falling off the sticks, they may not have been firm enough. Build time into your schedule so they can refrigerate overnight. This will help them firm up before the dipping process.

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Step 3: Dipping the pops
For this step you will need:
Chilled cake balls
Microwave-safe bowl
Spoon
Foil-covered foam block
Skewer for making guide holes
Lollipop sticks
Candy color
Candy melts (I use Chocoley Bada Bing Bada Boom Dipping & Enrobing Formula)

 

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Remove the foil from the cake balls and place them in the refrigerator while you prepare the candy melts. I take them out one at a time from the refrigerator as I dip them.

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Place enough candy melts in the bowl so you can submerge each pop straight down into the chocolate and it will be covered to the stick.

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Follow the directions to melt your candy melts.  Unfortunately, the brand of chocolate I use is only available for shipping in the U.S. and Canada. It is a very thin dipping chocolate. It melts to a silky smooth consistency for easy dipping.  Chilling the cake balls and using this chocolate ensure that I never have a cake ball fall off the stick.

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Dip your lollipop stick into the melted chocolate about one inch.

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Push the chocolate-covered end of the stick into the middle of the cake ball.

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Dip your cake pop straight down into the chocolate until it is submerged and the melted chocolate touches the stick. Hold it sideways over the bowl and rotate it slowly as it drips.  Tap the wrist that is holding the pop with the free hand to encourage the chocolate to drip off.

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When it is done dripping, turn it upside down so that any excess chocolate stops dripping. Let it dry like this for a few moments.

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Clean off the excess chocolate on the stick with your finger for a nicer look.

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Pre-drill a guide hole with your skewer before placing each pop into your foam block to dry.

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I added a tiny bit of candy color to the melted chocolate between dipping each cake pop to demonstrate an ombre-effect color palette from light to dark pink. (Tip: You must use candy colors for chocolate because they are oil based. If you use icing colors, which are water based, your chocolate will seize.)

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Here are the finished cake pops. I displayed them in a low vase filled with decorative glass beads.

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Tip for re-using chocolate: The chocolate I recommended in this post is rather expensive because of the high quality. Save left-over chocolate  for your next project. Pour the chocolate onto parchment paper or plastic wrap and let it cool for 20 minutes. Peel the solid chocolate piece off and break into large pieces for storage.

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Place the chocolate pieces in a zip lock bag and label it with the date. It will re-melt perfectly for your next project!

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I hope you found some useful tips in this post and I welcome you to add your own cake pops tips in the comments!

Happy Caking!

Renée

 

Renée
Reneé caught the cake decorating bug seven years ago when she made her son's first birthday cake. Since then, she's created hundreds of custom cakes and cupcakes. Her work has been featured on various baking and party blogs. In her free time, you'll find her planning the next baking project or sharing her knowledge on CakeJournal.
Renée
Renée
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Comments

    • Renee says

      I’m sorry but I’m not sure exactly how many pops one pound would make. I usually buy a 5 pound bag and it lasts through several large projects. I’d guess one pound would make 3 or 4 dozen cake pops.

    • says

      Hi. I have not tried freezing them yet. I often bake the cake ahead of time and freeze it as a short cut in the process. Then I let it thaw slowly before the crumbling step. For that reason, I avoid re-freezing. If you are going to experiment with freezing them, I would individually wrap them first to avoid freezer burn.

  1. Angie Young says

    Do you ever have problems with the cake pops cracking after dipping or oozing from where the stick was stuck in? I have had cake pops fall off sticks (know what caused that), crack, ooze and also be perfectly cooperative. Not sure what I did wrong when I got the cracking and oozing. Any ideas?

    • Renee says

      Hi Angie. Yes, I have experienced those problems. If I have a small air bubble in my chocolate shell, it has resulted in the oozing that you refer to. I try to touch up any air bubbles before they dry with my finger or a toothpick. Perhaps you have openings where your pop meets your stick. After you dip the first time and push the cake ball on, be sure that the second (fully submerged) dip goes in far enough that the melted chocolate meets with the chocolate on the stick. This should make a strong seal. Secondly, I do experience a small amount of cracking…about 1 in 10 pops. I try to avoid drastic temperature changes with my pops.

  2. Rumbie says

    Thank you for sharing – didn’t know you could make these without those special rounded cake tins! Will give this a try!

    • Renee says

      Rumbie…you’re welcome. Yes, this is the original way for making them that Bakerella shared with the world. I think they taste much better this way than when made in those tiny pans :)

    • Renee says

      Thanks Sugar Baby. What part do you think you were doing wrong? Let me know if this method helped next time you try them :)

  3. says

    Very interesting, I guess this is the “traditional” US recipe? Any suggestion for making them less sweet? Maybe using bitter chocolate? Or and alternative to the mixing ingredient?

    Ciao
    Alessandra

    • Renee says

      Good point…yes, they are very sweet. You could experiment with a moist, but not-too-sweet muffin recipe as the cake. Then add the tiniest bit of icing needed to bind it, then dip in dark, bitter chocolate? Let me know how it goes :)

  4. says

    The candy melts from Wilton and Mercks don’t seem as smooth as the brand you use…..I often add vegetable oil to get the smooth consistency. Chocoley Bada Bing Bada Boom Dipping & Enrobing Formula looks really smooth…too bad shipping is expensive too Canada. Thanks for the tutorial….

    • renee says

      Trust me this chocolate is totally superior. It is such a pleasure to work with. You can contact the company and ask if there is a coupon code. I did this last time I bought and it eliminated the shipping costs. Good luck.

  5. Martha T says

    Great tutorial – thanks for sharing! I love Chocoley and their candy and molding formula makes amazing modeling chocolate. :)

    • Renee says

      Martha, thanks for the tip. That’s great to know for when I try modeling chocolate for the first time :)

  6. says

    Ahh thank you for this! It’s been super helpful. I’ve only made cake pops a couple of times and both times I’ve had trouble with them staying on the sticks. And, it was real painful to have to throw away the excess chocolate – but now I know what to do with it! :-D

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