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vanilla cake pops on a sprinkle plate

How was your weekend? We spent most of it celebrating my friend’s birthday. I made a whole mess of treats including chocolate zucchini cake (as cupcakes), these salted caramel dark chocolate cookies, and these peanut butter M&M cookies too– it’s been way too long since I made a batch of those in particular! The birthday girl loves chocolate and peanut butter and caramel so these 3 were a no brainer.

There’s no batter time (get it? batter?) than a happy occasion to indulge in your favorite treats whether that’s a birthday, shower, wedding, you name it. My mom and sisters threw my baby shower last month and one of the treats they surprised me with was a HUGE display of cake pops. I love cake pops, but hardly ever take the time to make them. Though I did whip up a batch for both of my sisters’ bridal showers in the past few years.

See? Special occasions call for super special treats.

vanilla cake pop with a bite taken out showing the center

The difference between these cake pops and others you may have tried is that these are 100% homemade. There’s no box cake mix or canned frosting, which results in a totally unique cake pop experience. You can actually TASTE the homemade. The love, the passion, and the care that goes into creating each adorable pop.

So anyway! I first began making homemade cake pops when I wrote Sally’s Candy Addiction. In fact, this recipe is published in the book! I want to share it on the blog as well because I’ve gotten lots of questions about making from-scratch cake pops.

Today we’ll go over all my tips, tricks, and secrets to crafting the peeeeerfect pop as well as the homemade vanilla cake and vanilla buttercream used inside. There’s lots of ground to cover so let’s pop right to it. (Can’t stop with my nerdiness right now.)

vanilla cake batter in a glass bowl with a metal whisk

Since we’re leaving the box cake mix and canned frosting on the store shelves, we’ll need to take a little extra time to prep both from scratch. I always make the cake the night before, then finish the cake pops the next day. Here’s the general process:

  1. Make homemade cake.
  2. Make homemade frosting.
  3. Crumble cake into homemade frosting.
  4. Mix.
  5. Roll into balls.
  6. Dip.
  7. EAT!

Super basic recipes for both the vanilla cake and frosting, but I do encourage you to use the correct size pan for the cake. This cake is too large for a typical 9-inch cake pan. You’ll need to use a 9-inch springform pan since it rises quite high. Or you can use an 11×7 pan instead. A 10-inch springform pan would work as well.

Cake ingredients are straightforward. The basic crew like flour, butter, sugar, vanilla, milk. Same goes with the vanilla frosting: butter, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, milk (or cream). The difference between this and what you get out of a box is the taste. You can totally tell these cake pops are special and it’s because you started with from-scratch components. WORTH IT!

2 images of vanilla cake in a cake pan after baking and vanilla frosting in a glass bowl with a paddle attachment

Now it’s time to crumble the cake up and mix with your frosting.

(Crumbling the cake into the frosting sounds super weird when you think about it and that’s exactly what cake pops are– super weird when you think about it. It’s cake and frosting mixed together to form a truffle-like ball. Pop a stick in it and dunk into coating. Yep, it’s weirdly delicious and awesome and you need to embrace it.)

Left photo: cake crumbled into bowl of frosting. 

Right photo: the two mixed together. 

2 images of cake crumbled into glass bowl of frosting and cake and frosting mixed together in a glass bowl
2 images of cake pop balls on a baking sheet lined with a silpat baking mat

Once the two are mixed together, it’s time to roll the mixture into balls. And here’s my trick for doing so.

My Rolling Trick

It’s easier to roll the cake + frosting mixture into perfectly round balls if it’s cold. And what I do is roll the balls up right after the two are mixed together. They’re pretty misshapen because the cake + frosting mixture is super moist– and at room temperature. So then I chill the balls in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. After that, I give them another little roll to smooth out the sides. When they’re cold, they’re easier to smooth out and form perfectly round shapes.

So (1) roll (2) chill (3) roll again to smooth out the sides.

The cake balls need to be super chilled before dipping, so this trick gets both steps done!

2 images of cake pop balls on a baking sheet with a lollipop stick and melted white chocolate in a glass measuring cup and dipping a cake pop on a lollipop stick into a glass measuring cup of melted white chocolate

Now let’s dunk. You can dip the cake balls into pure white chocolate, which is what I prefer for best taste, but that stuff is pretty expensive. And you need a good amount for all 40 cake pops! You can use candy melts/candy coating instead. I give both options in the recipe below along with notes for each choice.

Another trick: to ensure the cake ball stays secure on the lollipop stick, dip it slightly into the coating first. Then stick in the center of the cake ball. See photo above!

And another trick: the best way to allow the coating to dry and set– without ruining the perfectly round cake pop– is to place them right side up in a large styrofoam block or even a box. I used a box, as pictured below, for this batch. I just poked super tiny holes into it. Easy and cheap.

Cake pops will be dry within an hour or so.

vanilla cake pops stuck into a cardboard box to dry

Cake pops are a genius celebration-worthy treat to make ahead of time because they freeze beautifully. I simply freeze them in a large zipped-top freezer bag after they’ve fully dried. They’re great for up to 6 weeks, then just let them thaw overnight in the fridge.

I have a few more tips for ya! I went over these in Sally’s Candy Addiction because they’re pretty important to review before you get started.

Cake Pop Tips

  1. Frosting is the best part of cake, right? Well that doesn’t apply to cake pops. Too much frosting produces a super wet and greasy cake pop– not the deliciously moist pop you were expecting. This frosting recipe yields *just enough* to barely moisten those cake crumbs. Proper ratio is imperative here!
  2. The cake balls need to be extremely cold before dipping. Make sure you have enough room in your refrigerator or freezer for them. I always chill them on a large lined baking sheet.
  3. A 2-cup glass liquid measuring cup is the perfect depth for dipping the cake pops.
  4. Tinting the coating brings a fun POP of color! I usually stick to just white + one other color. Or two colors maximum. The teal color I use here is Americolor gel food coloring in teal.
  5. Sprinkles are necessary, of course. But you already knew that.
vanilla cake pops on a sprinkle plate

Besides lollipop sticks and the correct size cake pan, you don’t really need much else to get going!

Print
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vanilla cake pop with a bite taken out showing the center

Homemade Cake Pops

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 2 hours
  • Cook Time: 36 minutes
  • Total Time: 7 hours
  • Yield: 40 pops 1x
  • Category: Cake Pops
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

Homemade vanilla cake pops with vanilla buttercream from scratch- no cake mix or canned frosting!


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 and 2/3 cups (209g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (115g; 1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (240ml) whole milk (or buttermilk)

Frosting

  • 7 Tablespoons (100g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 and 3/4 cups (210g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 23 teaspoons heavy cream or milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Coating

  • 32 ounces candy melts or coating (or pure white chocolate)*
  • sprinkles

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Grease a 9-inch springform pan.
  2. Make the cake: Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl. Set aside. Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the butter and sugar together in a large bowl until creamed, about 2 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat on high speed until combined. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl as needed.
  3. With the mixer running on low speed, add the dry ingredients and milk to the wet ingredients until combined. Manually whisk the batter to ensure there are no large lumps at the bottom of the bowl. Batter will be slightly thick. Pour the batter evenly into the prepared pan. Bake for 30-36 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. If the top begins browning too quickly in the oven, loosely place a piece of aluminum foil on top.
  4. All the cake to cool completely in the pan set on a wire rack.
  5. Make the frosting: With a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add confectioners’ sugar, heavy cream, and vanilla extract with the mixer running on low. Increase to high speed and beat for 3 full minutes.
  6. Crumble the cooled cake into the bowl on top of the frosting. Make sure there are no large lumps. Turn the mixer on low and beat the frosting and cake crumbles together until combined.
  7. Measure 1 Tablespoon of moist cake mixture and roll into a ball. Place balls on a lined baking sheet. Refrigerate for 2 hours or freeze for 1 hour. Re-roll the chilled balls to smooth out, if needed. Place back into the fridge as you’ll only work with a couple at a time.
  8. Melt the coating in a 2-cup liquid measuring cup (best for dunking!). you can use a double boiler or microwave.
  9. Coat the cake balls: Remove only 2-3 cake balls from the refrigerator at a time. Dip a lollipop stick about 1/2 inch into the coating, then insert into the center or the cake ball. Only push it about halfway through the cake ball. Dip the cake ball into the coating until it is completely covered. Make sure the coating covers the base of the cake ball where it meets the lollipop stick. Very gently tap the stick against the edge of the measuring cup to allow excess coating to drop off. Decorate the top with sprinkles and place upright into a styrofoam block or box (as explained above). Repeat with remaining cake balls, only working with some out of the refrigerator at a time. The cake balls must be very cold when dipping!
  10. Coating will set within an hour. Store cake pops in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Notes

  1. Make Ahead Instructions: I always make the cake 1 day ahead of time. Cover and keep at room temperature. You can store the undipped cake balls in the refrigerator for up to 2 days or freeze them for up to 6 weeks. Allow to thaw in the refrigerator then continue with step 9. You can also freeze the finished cake pops for up to 6 weeks once the coating has fully set. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
  2. Special Tools: KitchenAid Stand Mixer | KitchenAid Hand Mixer | Glass Measuring CupSpringform Pan | Silpat Baking MatHalf Sheet Baking Pan | Lollipop Sticks | Americolor Food Coloring
  3. Coating: You can use candy coating/candy melts, almond bark, or pure white chocolate. If using almond bark or pure white chocolate, chop it up before melting. Melt it down with 1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil to thin out so it’s easier to use as a coating. Semi-sweet, bittersweet, or milk chocolate work as well. Coarsely chop and melt down with 1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil to thin out. Keep warm over a double boiler.

Keywords: cake pops

Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. I’ve been wanting to try this recipe for a while. I’m wondering whether I can sub the candy melts/chips for peanut butter chips in the coating? Can’t wait to try it out.

    1. Hi Jenna, We have actually not tried that, but they should melt a bit easier than chocolate chips if you use a lower heat. Let us know if decide to give it a try!

      1. I did end up trying it, and while it was very delicious, the peanut butter chips didn’t melt to a very good dipping/coating consistency. I think if I did it again I’d try half PB chips and half white chocolate to get a little closer to the proper texture for a thinner/more thorough coating. Still, despite their clunky appearance, they were a big hit! Thanks for a prompt response 🙂

  2. I tried this recipe but when I pulled my cake out of the springform the edges and bottom were overly browned. I didn’t think I should crumble that crusty part into the cake. So I cut it closely and then removed a tablespoon or so of frosting from the recipe. I’m super bummed, wish I would’ve removed more, because my cake pops are very greasy. I feel like I likely have to start all over (and I’m a mom of three under the age of four, one is newborn, so time is very very valuable.) Is there anything I can do to remedy this situation?!

    1. Hi Stephanie! Adding more cake to the mixture should help – bake another cake and add it (always cool it first!) until you reach the correct consistency instead of starting over.

      1. In the recipe it says that you need one cup of milk but I couldn’t find were to use it later in the Instructions, we haven’t finished making them but it does taste really good

      2. Hi Gabriela, see the beginning of step 3 — “With the mixer running on low speed, add the dry ingredients and milk to the wet ingredients until combined.” Hope you enjoyed the cake pops!

    2. Aww, im sorry to hear that! I have two littles and I know what you mean about time. If you are serving them to your littles I bet they will stil like them with extra frosting. ^^ And many adults like them too! I’ve made them with a bit too much frosting as well as what I’d consider the perfect amount and people seem to love them either way. I hope that makes you feel better about it. I realize you were commenting 2 months ago…
      Happy Christmas, God bless!

  3. I don’t intend on using cake pop sticks, I’m doing something hallowwen-ey instead. How can i dip in the cake balls without using a stick? Think toothpicks are too small to use? In the end, I will stick a small fork on top.

    1. I’m going to try these, I also was thinking of Halloween for my grandkids. I’m curious how you did yours for Halloween. I’m not real crafty.

      1. Hi Shelly. Im turning the cake balls into eye-balls. Got candy eyes that i’ll glue on with chocolate. Im even painting the eye with blue food coloring. When done, i’ll drip blood (raspberry sauce) and stick a small fork in it.

  4. Sally, is there an alternative pan size I can use to bake the cake instead of a 9in spring form? I just don’t have that on hand currently.

    1. Hi Irena, you can use two 8 inch round cake pans or even an 11×7 pan instead. We’re unsure of the exact bake time for those sizes.

  5. Hello! I’ve made this recipe many times, and I LOVE THEM. But I wanted to do cream cheese frosting instead — do you know how many ounces or grams of frosting goes into the cake pops?

    1. Hi Tram! You can absolutely use cream cheese frosting instead — we’re unsure of the exact amount, but you’ll want *just enough* to barely moisten those cake crumbs. Have fun experimenting!

  6. Hi! I made this recipe before and it was amazing. However, my cake pops turned out too large and therefore too few. Do you know about how many grams of cake/frosting mixture should be used for each pop? I’d like to measure it out this time to ensure consistency and appropriate size. Thank you!

    1. Hi Mallory, We haven’t weighted each cake ball to get an accurate weight. However we do suggest that you use either your tablespoon (what we use) or even a small cookie scoop to measure them out and then roll them so that they are uniform. You can even make a few this way and see what they weigh, and then match the weight for the rest of them.

  7. This recipe for vanilla cake pops was delicious! The only issue I had was with dipping a fresh-outta-the-fridge cake pop into warm melted wafers. I made sure the melted wafers were not piping hot as suggested. Still. Sadly, nearly all of the cake pops cracked. I tried my best to camouflage the damage with designs as they were for my nephew’s 1st birthday party’s dessert table. Everyone still ate them with great pleasure, but I had to do a lot of (post) research into how to prevent cake pops from cracking to ensure this doesn’t happen again. Thank you for your recipe, though. At least the homemade vs cake box flavor was spot on. 🙂

    1. Hi Millicent, thank you so much for giving this recipe a try! The coating can crack because of the temperature difference between the coating and the cake. You can definitely help prevent that next time. If you keep the shaped cake pops a little warmer– aka don’t put in the freezer or refrigerator for so long before dipping– the coating won’t crack. OR make sure that the coating isn’t too hot. Hope this helps and we’re so glad they were a hit at your nephew’s birthday!

  8. Can’t wait to try these. Can I use almond milk as a substitute for dairy milk? I am lactose-intolerant. Thank you!

  9. This was a great recipe, easy to follow and worked well if you like the sweeter version of cake pops. Being my first time at making cake pops, I didn’t realize there are different kinds – this one, where you mix frosting and cake together so you get a truffle like consistency (definitely sweet), and the kind you just bake cake in a preset mold to get balls of cake you then dip. I prefer the latter, but this is a good and easy to follow recipe if you like that truffle like consistency.

  10. I have candy melts. The chocolate is chunking, not melting. Heating it in a plastic measuring cup in microwave.

    1. Hi Jodie, you can try microwaving your chocolate in even smaller time increments. That will help promote more even heating and should prevent the chocolate from chunking up. Be sure to stir between times in the microwave.

  11. Hi Sally! I would love to make half of this recipe for an event that doesn’t need 40 cake pops. If I cut this recipe in half, what pan would you recommend using to bake the cake in? Thanks so much!

    1. Hi Hannah! An 8 inch pan– regular cake pan, not a springform pan– should be large enough for half of the recipe.

    1. Hi Tahsa, We don’t usually include nutrition information as it can vary between different brands of the same ingredients. Plus, many recipes have ingredient substitutions or optional ingredients listed. However, there are many handy online calculators where you can plug in and customize your exact ingredients/brands. Readers have found this one especially helpful: https://www.verywellfit.com/recipe-nutrition-analyzer-4157076

  12. This cake recipe is amazing! I had about the amount of butter cream this calls for left over from a different project and gave these a go. I didn’t use all the frosting, just enough to bind it together like moist cake. My white chocolate was old and didn’t melt so I used 60% chocolate chips instead.
    They were AMAZING. I scooped them with a medium pampered chef scoop and probably ate 8-10 myself together. They were addicting.
    Thank you!

  13. Omg this was amazing! i used this for my sons gender reveal. hes now 50 years old. time flies doesnt it!!?!. my husband left us when we were young so preparing this really boosted my ego but the wrong way. somehow this recipie gave me rabies but thats ok. i think it might be becuase of the flower but it is wat it is. thanks for this amzing recipie sarah this helped my life.

  14. Just made this with the kids, and the recipe is great. We followed all the tips, which were super helpful. The cake pops aren’t perfect to look at (that’s our bad), but they taste delicious! The recipe was easy to follow, which made it especially fun to do with kids. Thanks!

  15. Hi Sally I made cake pops just last night from scratch myself I found your recipe and compared them I love your trick to hold the pops in place I just placed them on the cookie sheet which worked well but now that I know, I also used cake flour is regular flour better? Thanks

  16. Do you have any experience or thoughts on using any substitutions for prepared icing to make the dough? I’ve read about milk and would presume that a bit of butter/shortening might work to prevent added sugar (and effort).

    1. Hi Jessica, you can use store bought frosting with this recipe. You may need to tinker with the amount a bit since it’s usually a bit thinner than homemade buttercream.

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