15 Tips You Need For Making Cake Pops

If you've ever gazed at rows of colorful cake pops at a bakery and wondered if you could recreate them at home, we're here to tell you, you can! You don't need to be a trained baker or have fancy tools to make perfectly round, exquisitely decorated cake pops in your own kitchen. All you need is some cake, frosting, candy melts, lollipop sticks, and sugar decorations. You can even use store-bought frosting and boxed cake mix to save time; as you'll see below, we encourage it. 

Whether you're a cake pop newbie or just looking to refresh your skills, we have some helpful tips for making these bite-sized cakes on a stick. Say goodbye to crumbling, overheating candy melts, balls sliding off their sticks, cracking, and leaking. Our tips and techniques will help you make the cutest little dessert pops ever, blemish-free. Read on, and you'll be a cake pop pro in no time.

1. Use boxed cake mix and store-bought frosting to save time

Save yourself time and stress with a box of cake mix and a container of store-bought frosting — no shame here! If you're not the biggest fan of cake mixes, don't negate our suggestion just yet. Instead, consider adding ingredients to take boxed cake mixes to a new level. Simple pantry ingredients like pudding, mayo, apple sauce, sour cream, and flavoring extracts can make boxed cakes taste as good as from-scratch cakes. Thinking of making chocolate cake pops? Elevate the flavor of boxed chocolate cake mix by adding coffee to intensify the taste of cocoa.

Store-bought frosting is pretty delicious as is, but sometimes the texture may need to be adjusted to get the right consistency for your cake pops. If the frosting is too thick, transfer it to a bowl and beat it with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. You can thin it further with milk or water if needed.

2. Crumble the cake into fine crumbs

Cake pops are made with a mixture of cake crumbs and frosting enrobed in candy coating. To get the right texture for your cake pop filling, you'll need to crumble the cake into very fine crumbs. This critical step ensures that the filling will have a creamy texture and can be rolled into a smooth ball for dipping. It also ensures the filling is pleasant to eat, as there's nothing more irksome than biting into small clumps of solid cake when eating a cake pop.

We recommend rolling up your sleeves and using your hands to crumble the cake into fine crumbs. You could also use a food processor but remember to grind the cake in batches for the best results. Whichever method you choose, you want the crumb to be a very fine texture so it will hold together when mixed with the frosting. And remember, room-temperature cake will be easier to crumble than chilled.

3. Add frosting to the cake crumbs a little at a time

Getting the proper cake-frosting ratio for perfectly textured cake pop filling can be tricky. Your goal is to add enough frosting to form the mixture into a soft but sturdy ball. Too much frosting, and you'll end up with a mushy, wet cake ball that slides on the stick or doesn't hold its shape. Too little frosting and the cake crumbs won't bind together. Our advice? Add the frosting to the cake crumbs a little at a time because a little bit of frosting can go a long way.

The amount of frosting to use will depend on the consistency and moistness of your cake, but a general rule of thumb is ¼ cup of frosting to 3 cups of cake crumbs. However, if you use a boxed cake mix, keep in mind that they typically make moist cakes, meaning you'll likely use less frosting for the filling than you would with homemade cake. It's all about that frosting-to-cake ratio for the perfect cake pops.

4. Mix in the frosting with your hands

We recommend using your hands to combine the cake crumbs with the frosting. (You can always use food-grade gloves to keep your hands clean.) This is the best way to thoroughly blend the frosting into the cake crumbs; plus, it's super helpful to feel the mixture to gauge its consistency.

Start by working the frosting into the cake crumbs in a large bowl, then squeeze and push the mixture through your hands until uniform. The mixture should be smooth in texture with no trace of unincorporated frosting. There's an easy way to check for the proper texture of your cake pop filling: Roll the mixture into a small ball with your hands and squeeze it slightly; if cracks appear, you need to add more frosting.

If using your hands isn't an option, opt for an electric stand mixer with a paddle attachment to combine the cake crumbs and frosting. (Avoid using a handheld rubber spatula because it won't incorporate the frosting thoroughly.) What you see in the bowl may be a bit deceiving; it might look like the mixture needs more frosting, but there's a good chance it doesn't.

5. Break out a spring-loaded scoop to make uniform cake balls

To ensure your cake pops are all the same size, it's best to use a spring-loaded scoop to portion the filling. A cookie or ice cream scoop makes portioning the cake ball mixture quick and easy while ensuring the balls are uniform.

You'll want to keep the cake balls on the small side. If they are too big, they will be too heavy and likely slide off the stick when you dip them. A general rule of thumb is to make them no more than 1 inch in diameter. If you want to get even more exact, scoop out a cake ball, then transfer it to a digital scale — a typical cake ball weighs about 1 ounce (or 30 grams). This can help you determine which size scoop to use.

Once the cake ball mixture is evenly portioned, roll each one between your palms until smooth, place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and allow them to chill in the refrigerator while you prepare the candy coating for dipping.

6. Stick with candy melts or chocolate for dipping

Candy melts will make your cake pop dipping experience easy and breezy. These flavored confectionary discs of palm kernel oil and sugar are easy to work with, melt like a dream, and come in all sorts of fun colors. You can find these budget-friendly confections in specialty baking or craft stores — and if you happen to see them on sale, stock up as they keep for months.

When making chocolate-dipped cake pops, we prefer CandiQuik chocolate coating or melted chocolate from bars, wafers, or chocolate chips. If you live in a warmer climate, you may want to opt for CandiQuik chocolate, as it won't melt in hotter temperatures.

Whether using candy melts or chocolate, avoid getting water in them. The water will cause them to seize, making them unusable. If you find that the candy coating is too thick when melted, you can stir in a bit of vegetable oil or shortening to thin it.

7. Don't overheat the candy melts

Even though candy melts are easy to melt in the microwave, they can also burn quickly if you don't keep a watchful eye on them. We recommend heating a small batch of candy melts on medium power for 30 seconds, then stirring. Continue heating them on medium power for 10-second intervals, stirring after each session to distribute the heat. The candy melts are sufficiently melted when the mixture is free of lumps. A word to the wise: stirring the melts initially may seem unnecessary as they tend to hold their shape, but the outer discs will indeed be soft and hot.

You'll know if you overheat the candy melts because they'll turn into a dry, crumbly, grainy mess when you stir them. Unfortunately, if this happens, you'll have to throw out the batch and start again.

Once the candy coating is melted and you begin using it to dip your cake pops, be cautious about reheating. As long as the candy melts remain in a viscous state, reheating likely isn't going to be necessary.

8. Insert the sticks into the cake balls with a little candy coating

One of the most common signs of a poorly made cake pop is having the cake ball slide off its stick. Thankfully, this can be prevented with a quick and easy hack. Working with one stick at a time, dip the tip in the melted candy coating before pushing the stick into a chilled cake ball about halfway down. The candy coating will gather into a small mound between the cake ball and the stick. When finished, return the cake balls with the inserted sticks to the refrigerator to allow the candy to set.

The candy coating will form a hard, little mound that acts as a glue between the cake and the stick as it chills. This adheres them together, reducing the chances of the cake ball falling off the stick when dipping or eating. Losing a cake ball in a pool of candy coating is no fun; plus, you risk contaminating the coating with cake crumbs. And having a cake ball fall on the floor as you bite into it is akin to a scoop of ice cream falling off a cone — a total bummer. So, stick with this hack to prevent this from happening, and you'll be on your way to cake pop-making success.

9. Fully chill the cake balls with the inserted sticks

After inserting a stick into each cake ball, you'll need to thoroughly chill them in the refrigerator for at least an hour before dipping them in candy coating. This important step does two things: It firms up the cake balls so they'll be less likely to fall apart or slip off the sticks when you dip them, and it solidifies the candy coating mound, which acts like glue to hold the cake ball in place.

Using the freezer to chill the cake balls is an option, especially if you're in a rush. But if you go this route, remember to let the cake balls sit at room temperature long enough to remove the chill from the freezer. If you dip a very cold cake ball into a hot candy melt or chocolate coating, the temperature difference will be too significant, causing the coating to crack as the cake warms up and expands.

10. Use a deep, narrow cup for dipping

The melted candy coating should be deep enough to submerge the cake ball entirely for an efficient dipping process, resulting in a smooth finish. The best way to ensure this is to place your melted candy coating in a deep, narrow cup for dipping. Any small cup that is narrow and of medium height works well. Some bakers swear that a child's sippy cup works far better than anything else. We like to whip out our mini fondue melting pot for such an occasion. But even a recycled 8-ounce yogurt cup will work in a pinch.

If you only have a shallow bowl, don't fret. Place the melted candy coating into the bowl, hold the cake pop over the bowl, and spoon the coating over the cake ball until completely covered. You can also try tilting the bowl to pool the coating onto one side so it's deep enough to dip.

11. Dip the cake pops with the right technique

Dipping cake pops is simple and straightforward, but it's essential to use good technique. Working with one at a time, pick up a cake pop by the stick and dip the cake ball into the melted candy coating, submerging it all the way to the candy mound you created. If you don't cover the mound, the cake mixture may leak out as it sets. Slowly lift the cake pop straight out of the candy coating and gently tap the stick on the side of the cup while rotating the cake pop to allow excess candy coating to drip off.

It's essential to work gently when dipping your cake pops. Too much movement can loosen the cake ball from the stick, causing it to fall off or break apart. So, make sure to submerge the cake ball into the candy coating using a single, steady, controlled dip. Then, gently lift it out in one smooth motion. Alternatively, you could hold the cake ball over the candy coating and use a spoon to drizzle the coating over the cake ball.

12. Decorate the cake pops with festive decor

Cake pops can be decorated in fun ways to match any theme, making them fitting treats for many events, like birthdays, weddings, or showers. These small cakes on a stick have just enough room for you to add your own creative flair. Gather up all those half-filled bottles of sprinkles and already open bags of nuts and candies from your pantry and empty them into individual shallow bowls. Garnishing your cake pops with colorful sprinkles, funfetti, crushed candies, or chopped nuts will make them festive and tasty.

To decorate, hold a just-dipped cake pop over a bowl and sprinkle with your garnish of choice while the coating is still wet so everything adheres properly. Not only does this make the cake pops more beautiful, but it also covers any imperfections in the coating. If you want your decorations to encrust the cake pop, use the rolling method. Take a just-dipped cake pop and roll it around in the desired garnish, gently pressing until evenly coated.

13. Dry the cake pops properly

You have a few options when it comes to drying your cake pops, and which method you use will depend on how you plan to serve them. If the pops will be served stick-side up, place the pops cake-side down on a piece of parchment paper to dry. This may result in a small foot of candy coating forming on the bottom, so keep that in mind. If the pops are to be served cake-side up, press the stick of the cake pop into a styrofoam block to dry. This drying method will preserve the round shape of the cake pops, and it's also a great way to dry a large number of cake pops simultaneously without taking up counter space.

If you want to keep your cake pops as round as possible, try Main Street Sweets' ingenious drying method, as shared on TikTok. Pipe a tiny drop of melted candy coating onto a parchment-lined tray, then place the cake pop over the drop to dry. This method will allow the cake pops to dry without contorting the round shape of the pop sans foot.

14. Make the cake pops ahead of time

Don't wait until the last minute to make your cake pops. Like many baked goods, cake pops can be made ahead of time if handled correctly. Dipped and decorated cake pops will stay fresh for one to two weeks when stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. This makes cake pops an ideal dessert to make ahead for weddings, parties, or other large events. You can also store undipped cake balls in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two days before dipping and decorating them.

Wondering if you can freeze cake pops? You can, but there's a catch. We don't recommend freezing finished (dipped and decorated) cake pops. Instead, freeze the undipped cake balls — you can even freeze them with their inserted sticks. Individually freeze them on a parchment-lined baking sheet first, then transfer them to an airtight container for storage for up to 2 months. When you're ready to dip them, allow them to thaw in the refrigerator overnight, and they'll be ready for dipping the next day.

15. Display the cake pops beautifully

After working hard to make pretty, eye-catching cake pops, you'll want to display them as beautifully as possible. The most common display method is an acrylic cake pop stand. Acrylic stands have tiny holes for inserting the sticks and come in many shapes. Many come tiered, offering different heights to make your cake pops more visible. Other popular display methods include styrofoam blocks or cake dummies, which can be wrapped with pretty paper and fancy ribbons or set into a container, like a vase or a jar. If you're on a tight budget or want to keep things simple, display the cake pops on a pretty plate, perhaps with each pop set in a mini cupcake liner.

If you're giving the cake pops out as favors, buy a pack of clear goodie bags at your local craft store and place a cake pop into each bag. Then, gather the bag around the stick, about halfway down, and tie it with some colorful ribbon for a lovely take-home gift. Wrapping cake pops is a quick and easy step that requires just a few supplies for beautiful results.