How to make cake pops (a step-by-step guide!)

We love making cake pops and over the years have really honed in on a process that works for us. Regardless of flavor, we always follow the same ten steps when making cake pops. Most people have no idea just how involved cake pops are. In fact, a lot of people have no idea what a cake pop really is! Hopefully this guide will answer any questions you have and give you the encouragement to make your own!

The HippoPops step-by-step guide to making cake pops

Step 1: Bake or buy a cake

Cake pops start with…. cake! We bake our cakes from scratch but you can make cake pops with any cake, including a store-bought or box mix version. HOWEVER! If buying a pre-made cake, make sure that it isn’t already iced!

If baking from scratch, we recommend using butter-based recipes. We have noticed oil-based cakes eventually cause oil to drip down the stick (not a good look!)

To keep things easy, we tend to use the same few cake recipes as a base for our various flavors. We perfected our vanilla and chocolate bases, so we use those and then add in other flavors as needed. As an example, our Peppermint Brownie cake pop recipe uses our chocolate base and chocolate icing, and then we add in peppermint bits to give it a new flavor!

Step 2: Make or buy icing

The next step is to either make or buy icing. We make buttercream icing for our cake pops, but packaged icing works too.

Step 3: Crumble your cake

Once you have your cake and icing, you’ll then crumble the cake using a mixer or food processor. If you baked your cake, make sure it has cooled completely before this step!

Step 4: Add icing to your crumbled cake to make a cake pop dough

Slowwwwwly add icing to the crumbled cake until you reach the desired consistency. It’s easy to add too much icing, so slow and steady wins the race. You are looking for a playdough-like consistency. 

We spent a lot of time perfecting this over the years and I think we have an easy way to explain it. To put it quite simply, go slow! You’ll notice when your crumbled cake and icing are combining into a dough. Sample a piece and see how it is rolling. You are looking for a playdough-like consistency.

If your cake pop dough is too crumbly, then you’ll need to add more icing (slowly!) Continue to add icing until you can easily roll the dough into balls. When you are getting close, add the icing a teaspoon at a time because you don’t want to miss the window of perfect cake pop consistency.

Step 5: Roll your cake pop dough into balls

Once you have the perfect consistency, you’ll roll small pieces of your dough into cake pop balls. We use a cookie scoop (this one!) to divvy up our dough before rolling to make sure all are the same size. If you are being really scientific about it, our pops are about 25g each. We are very into perfectly-sized cake pops, as demonstrated by this post on the perfect cake pop scoop here!

Step 6: Refrigerate your cake pop balls

This one is important! If your cake pop balls aren’t chilled first, they may fall off the sticks while dipping. We refrigerate ours for a few hours before the next step.

Step 7: Melt your chocolate

Once your cake pop balls have chilled for a bit, it’s time to melt your dipping chocolate! Just follow the directions on your chocolate melting wafer package. We love Ghirardelli melting wafers but you can use any type of melting chocolate. We use a 1 cup Pyrex glass measuring cup in this step with small batches of cake pops because it is deep and can be microwaved. 

Step 8: Place cake pop sticks in the cake pop balls

Now that you have chilled cake pop balls and melted chocolate, it’s time to get sticks in! Grab a stick, dip the very end into the melted chocolate and then place right in the middle of a cake pop ball, about halfway down. We have found the cake pop balls stay on better with this method. Repeat with all cake pop balls.

Step 9: Dip your cake pops

After all of your cake pop balls have sticks in them, it’s time to dip and decorate! Make sure your chocolate is still warm (you may want to pop it in the microwave for about ten seconds to heat it up.) Grab a cake pop stick and then dunk the cake pop ball straight into the chocolate. Pull it right out after dipping– no need to swirl it around or double-dip it. That would lead to a thicker chocolate shell, which isn’t ideal.

Leave the cake pop over the cup after pulling it out to allow excess chocolate to drip back into it. We shake ours a bit at this stage to thin it out even more. Once the chocolate isn’t flowing anymore, turn your cake pop over and wiggle it just a bit to even the coating out. I’m always amazed at how much better this makes the cake pops look.

Step 10: Decorate your cake pops

Depending on how you plan to dry your cake pops, you will either decorate them while upright or after you have placed them head down on parchment paper. We have wooden cake pops stands and use them to store and decorate all of our cake pops lollipop-style. You can either make your own cake pops stand out of floral foam or buy one like this.

The other way you can finish off a cake pop is to plop it straight down on a piece of parchment paper. The chocolate won’t stick to the parchment, so you can easily life it off as soon as it’s dry. If you are using this method, you can wait to decorate until it is on the parchment paper. Then just sprinkle your toppings and let it dry!

BONUS STEP: Quickly refrigerate your cake pops

While this step is not needed, I wanted to include it because popping your just-dipped cake pops in the refrigerator for a few minutes not only helps them dry quicker but also gives them a nice sheen. We typically dip several together and then refrigerate the stand for 3 minutes. If you are planning on this, make sure to get your cake pops in the fridge before the chocolate melt dries.

Ok, so that’s it! Ten steps to the perfect cake pop! You are now equipped with more than enough knowledge to make your own cake pops. If you are ever stuck, though, reach out and we’ll see if we can help! Happy cake popping!

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