Make Starbucks-Style Cake Pops From Store-Bought Sugar Cookies

Not only are cake pops a delicious and portable treat, they're also easy to make. Although it's a little more work than the grab-and-go option from Starbucks, the homemade version is just as satisfying and more budget-friendly. Plus, you can forgo starting from scratch by taking advantage of shortcuts like store-bought cookies and boxed cake mix to speed up the process without sacrificing flavor.

In essence, a cake pop is just a blitzed dessert that's been re-formed into a thick batter, rolled into a ball, and left to set in the fridge for a spell. Each ball then gets placed on a stick and dipped into a chocolatey coating (dark, milk, or white chocolate all work) to bring more texture and gussy up the appearance; as well, the exterior serves as a shell to protect the handheld treat and offers a blank canvas for decorations like sprinkles. 

The coffee brand offers four flavors of cake pops that you can easily replicate with a little creative thinking and tinkering. For example, to make Starbucks' birthday cake-style pops, all you need is soft, frosted sugar cookies from the grocery store. Blend them into a crumbly batter in a food processor or mixer and add moisture to the crumble with a scoop of store-bought buttercream, or a tangy block of cream cheese if you want them less sweet. Then, roll them into balls, dip, and decorate. As for the brand's three other current flavors — chocolate, cookies and cream, and peppermint brownie — swap in store-bought chocolate cookies instead to better approximate the rich flavor.

More easy ingredients for DIY cake pops

Cookies aren't the only affordable store-bought base to make Starbucks-inspired cake pops. For the chain's birthday cake flavor, yellow and angel food cake mixes (or the gluten-free versions) also make for a scrumptious base, and you can add a splash of vanilla extract for an extra pop of flavor. Or, try lemon or almond extract or warming spices can take the treat in a new direction. You could even spike the filling with rum or a rich coffee liquor to create an adult dessert. Or, infuse caffeine into your frosting with espresso powder.

For the chocolatey cake base used to make the brand's other flavors (currently, cookies and cream, chocolate, and peppermint brownie), you can use store-bought, pre-made brownies, brownie mix, or a chocolate cake mix for the fudge-y base needed for the chocolate flavor. For cookies and cream, instead of bakery cookies, you can also experiment with using sandwich cookies like Oreos, and even stir in ganache to dial up the sweetness. For peppermint brownie options, start with the fudge-y base and add in peppermint extract and decorate with crushed candy canes to mimic your favorite tastes and textures.

If you want less sweetness, there are a few swaps that can help tame the sugar. Instead of frosted cookies or cakes, you can use buttery shortbread or muffin mix. Or, focus on the filling and exchange frosting for sour cream, yogurt, or mascarpone. 

Time to get decorating

Once you're comfortable with making the batter, it's easy to get cake pops ready to present and eat. Simply roll the batter into small circles in the palm of your hand, and put onto a baking tray in the fridge to set. When ready, put sticks in the bottom of each one and dip into the chocolatey coating, arranging them on a flat surface where they can stand upright (even a pizza box works). 

This is also the time to personalize the outside of the cake pops to your liking. You can add a coating of traditional nonpareils, a hearty dusting of rainbow sprinkles for a confetti look, or mini-chocolate chips for more crunch. Or, finish them off by rolling the pops in some cinnamon sugar or drizzle with caramel and sea salt to dial up the mild confection (and evoke a now-retired Starbucks cake pop flavor). A coating of roasted marshmallow can even play up na s'mores flavored cake pop. To really surprise your party, particularly if kids will be enjoying them, roll the dipped orbs into Pop Rocks, crushed sour candy, or Nerds.