Cupcake Killer: How Cake Pops Became the Next Big Trend

Angie Dudley
Source: Bakerella
Angie Dudley

By day, Angie Dudley is a mild-mannered graphic designer who lives near Atlanta. In her off hours, she’s Bakerella, cake-pop maker, blogger, and culinary star to home bakers around the world.

As Bakerella, Dudley started a mini-revolution in baking after one of her cake-on-a-stick creations went viral and she was invited on Martha Stewart’s TV show in April 2008.

Now, about four years after Dudley first wrote about how to combine cake crumbs and frosting into petite treats, her blog gets nearly 3.8 million page views a month and she’s a New York Times best-selling cookbook author.

And the bite-sized morsels of cake and frosting, for which she is often credited with popularizing, have inspired at least one cake-pop-making appliance, the Babycakes cake-pop maker. It’s expected to be a popular gift for many home cooks this holiday season.

The Babycakes pop maker, made by SelectBrands, first went on sale in April and has since become a best-selling item for the company. It has appeared in holiday gift guides and flown off shelves so fast it’s been out of stock in some places, said Eric Endres, vice president of marketing for Select Brands. “We’ve seen a good spike for holiday sales,” he said, although he declined to provide sales numbers.

Bakerella's Snowmen Cake Pops
Source: Bakerella
Bakerella's Snowmen Cake Pops

“I guess you can say imitation is best form of flattery,” said Dudley, who does not have anything to do with the marketing of the appliance. “If I said a company stole my idea, it would be like me saying a home baker couldn’t make cake pops either.”

Dudley is an equal-opportunity cake-pops supporter. She knows that companies will always try to capitalize on good ideas, but she believes in cake pops for all.

Without really trying, Dudley, 39, has turned her passion for cake pops into a business.

Last year, in an effort to answer the flood of questions she has received about cake pops, she published “Cake Pops: Tips, Tricks, and Recipes for More Than 40 Irresistible Mini Treats,” which spent seven weeks on The New York Times best-seller list and has sold more than 500,000 copies, according to her publisher, Chronicle Books. This fall saw the release of her “Cake Pops Kit” and a note card and envelope set.

A one-woman operation, Dudley doesn’t have a bakery or a staff, nor does she take orders.

“It’s like a second full-time job,” said Dudley.

A cake-decorating class in 2007 inspired her to experiment with baking. She knew that cake balls — rounded mounds of crumbled cake combined with frosting — tasted great but were not so great looking. She started dunking them in candy coating and decorating them with sprinkles, nuts, candies and mini cookies. She inserted a lollipop stick and a trend was born.

She began turning out holiday-themed cake pops, as well as pops in the shape of pandas and bumble bees.

When a photo of one of her cake pops fashioned into a cupcake was featured on a cupcake website, the image went viral and landed her on the "Martha Stewart Show." There, she taught the domestic diva how to create her seminal cupcake pops.

“The cupcake pop sent [people] over the edge,” Dudley recalled. “People just kept emailing me. “They were so excited about them and it inspired me to want to keep challenging myself.”

As Dudley posted recipes and photos of her newest treats for her growing legion of followers around the world, the popularity of cake pops popped around the nation.

They’ve been turning up at birthday parties and bake sales, weddings and baby showers. Starbucksgot into the pop act this year, with a nod to Bakerella.

And now, this holiday season, many home bakers will be able to create cake pops a dozen at a time.

“I think it’s going to be a very popular item for consumers this holiday season,” said Mara Devitt, a partner in the retail consultancy McMillanDoolittle. “It remains to be seen if it will develop into a bakeware essential.”

But there are others that think that cake pops could overtake cupcakes as the next big dessert trend.

“I think it is going to be the new cupcake,” said Dianne Rossomando, an assistant professor in baking and pastry arts at The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y.

For her part, Dudley is just enjoying her reign as queen of the cake pops, and the fact that the world comes to her, rather than the other way around.

“I’ve never gone to any company and said would you like to feature this,” she says, adding that she doesn’t have an agent or publicist. “I tell people it’s crazy. If I had tried to [find commercial success], it wouldn’t have happened.”