Birthday cake popcorn

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Does your child’s school have a no-cupcakes rule like ours does? While I understand not wanting to deal with the sugary mess some mountains of frosting must cause, that rule still irks me every year when the Peanut gets to take a special treat in to mark her birthday.

This year I was overjoyed to find this idea on Pinterest: Party popcorn covered in white chocolate and tossed with sprinkles and M&Ms. There are quite a few versions of it out there, but this one involves actual cake mix melted into the chocolate to make it taste officially like a birthday cake. SOLD!

It doesn’t hurt that the Peanut loves popcorn like crazy. It is one of her absolute favorite treats. Once I bought the ingredients for it, we both had trouble holding off on making it until the day before. It is perhaps the most perfect school snack idea. I made a big double batch and portioned it out in clear plastic drinking cups. Not a single cup came back to us at the end of the day which means even the teachers got involved in the festivities for once.

Birthday Cake Popcorn Treats for school party snacks

Yield: 30 servings
adapted from this recipe by Baker Girl

3 batches of homemade popcorn, popped (each batch is 1/2 cup of unpopped kernels)
1 pound of white chocolate chips, divided in half and melted
8 heaping teaspoons of yellow cake mix (I might even have added a smidge more, but haven’t experimented with it yet), divided in half
M&Ms: I lucked out and used the Easter pastels for our batch
Assorted sprinkles

Pop popcorn and remove any kernels or burnt pieces. Working in two batches, place half the popcorn in a very large bowl.
Melt half the white chocolate in a double boiler/mixing bowl over a pot of simmering water until smooth. Stir in half of the cake mix until smooth. Pour the chocolate over half of the popped popcorn. Using a wooden spoon to start and your hands once it has cooled just enough to touch, mix the popcorn and chocolate until completely coated.

Pour out onto wax paper or into a wax-paper lined jelly roll pan and spread into a single layer. Sprinkle half the M&M candies and sprinkles until festive, then let cool and harden.

Repeat the process with the other half of the popcorn and remaining chocolate, candies, and sprinkles.Once it has all cooled and hardened, break into servings. I left several pieces nice and chunky and stuck together.

Note: Don’t add the M&Ms or sprinkles until the chocoate has cooled enough so that they won’t melt. But also don’t wait until the chocoalte is totally cool and hardened or they won’t stick. I gently pressed the candies in a bit to help them along and it worked great.

SUPER IMPORTANT EDIT NOTE: This method works best if you do the melting of the chocolate in 2 stages. Do NOT put the entire pound of chocolate into the double boiler all at once or you will likely have trouble. Melt half of it with 4 tsp of the cake mix and prep half the popcorn batch all the way through to the sprinkles & M&Ms stage. Then go back and melt the 2nd half of the chocolate mix and finish the 2nd half of the popped popcorn. If you melt it all at once it is quite possible your chocolate will seize and you won’t be able to recover it.




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  1. Renee says

    So cute, Tiffany! We have a no homemade treats at all rule. Everything must be store-bought. Making treats for class parties and bday celebrations was one of the things I was most looking forward to doing as a mom, and I’ve never been able to to do it because of these stupid rules :-( So sad!

  2. Rose M. says

    Do you think I could substitute yellow cake mix with Funfetti mix? Or would the little bits of color in the cake mix not mix in with the chocolate?

  3. Carol says

    When you said cake mix, do you mean the powder mix or the cake mix liquid with the other ingredients in it like eggs & oil?

    • tiffdahle says

      Hi Carol, I mean the dry mix from a box, definitely not the prepared liquid mix. Just the powder part added to the white chocolate. It will combine nicely if your chocolate is heated well enough from melting.

  4. Kaylie says

    This would be a Great Gluten free recipe by just switching out the cake mix for a gluten free version! I can’t wait to try it!

  5. Tammara says

    Love this idea I love to send new things to my sons school!!! What do you believe would hea good peanut/tree nut free snack to replace the m&ms?

  6. Michelle says

    I always add a little bit of food coloring to the melted chocolate. It makes it easier to see how evenly coated the popcorn is, makes it a little different each time, and makes it so much more fun! Especially doing a holiday theme… one color for the whole batch, or make separate colors then mix them once the chocolate solidifies. i.e. green for St, Patrick’s day, red and green for Christmas, pastel colors for Easter, etc.

  7. tiffdahle says

    Tammara, I have a friend who used regular chocolate chips in place of the M&Ms. If you could find some that are peanut-free, that would be great. Otherwise, I love Teresa’s suggestion of raisins or craisins!

  8. mccgood says

    What a great idea, and hershey mini chocolate chips are peanut free.
    I don’t have any children does anyone have a good excuse for me to try this?

  9. Mrs.S says

    This morning I was pleasantly suprised to learn my daughter’s school allows homemade treats! But the teacher prefers no cupcakes. This is fabulous, and I’m so looking forward to making it for my daughter’s birthday next week.

  10. Sonja says

    EPIC FAIL! When I added the cake mix to the white chocolate while still on the double boiler, it seized up and became like a ball of playdough!! Not sure what I did wrong. I attempted to add the stuff into the popcorn and tried to work it in! Just a disaster all the way around!

    • tiffdahle says

      Oh No! Sorry to hear it Sonja! I wonder if the chocolate was too hot? Or maybe you added the cake mix too fast? I did mine in smaller batches, stirring it in as I went. I’ve also had troubles with other recipes based on the chocolate I used, I don’t believe they are all made with equal amounts of fat/creaminess. Perhaps you had a drier chocolate. So hard to tell.

  11. Michelle says

    We just sampled this from a similar recipe last night, and we used the vanilla flavored melting candies, and put in a little bit of vegetable shortening. This smoothed it out and helped keep the cake batter from seizing up. So tasty! And with all the colors of candies, the possibilities are endless for the holidays! Orange candy with chocolate sprinkles for Halloween, leaf sprinkles for fall / Thanksgiving, etc, etc :-)

  12. Amanda says

    My chocolate also got a big ball once I added the cake mix. I will try to do smaller batches again IF I decide to try it again. I also thought about adding some butter to make it smooth out more..

    • cindi says

      Fun, was so excited to make it but yes, I realized once I added the cake mix, Everything got messy! I think it actually started to cook the cake! Anyways, I want to make again, maybe trying one of the suggestions of a bit of vegetable shortening or even a bit of butter… YUM!

  13. Sandy says

    Wow, I love the idea and can’t wait to try the recipe. I am a little disappointed at the passive aggressive comments directed at teachers and schools. I’d like to suggest you seek first to understand why those rules exist. Teachers are held responsible to keep ALL students in their classrooms (schools) safe. Homemade recipes are often delicious, but there is no way to verify ingredients and protect students with extreme food allergies. It feels awful to be the person that has to say, “I’m sorry sweetie, you can’t have that delicious, adorable treat. Here enjoy this instead.” Or even worse when you have to remove a child and sanitize EVERY surface in the room due to extreme allergies. Don’t even get me started on the use of the Epi-pen!
    While store-bought cupcakes look pretty and list ingredients, they are the WORST treat ever (along with a jug of punch!) the children never eat the actual cake and the food coloring-laden frosting goes everywhere: noses, hair, tables, carpet, in their reading books…need I continue? The jug-o-punch turns the teacher into a waitress who can NOT serve 25 drinkers at once and child #1, 2, 3 are requesting more while the teacher is pouring for child #18, and # 7 and #8 spilled theirs!
    Lastly as a parent, you aren’t privy to the confidential info from the school nurse about the cockroach bites on a child’s skin who has then brought In a homemade treat that s/he wants to serve the class….as a teacher I want to protect your child from the treats that were homemade in a cockroach kitchen!
    Talk to your child’s teacher and see what s/he recommends. Teacher have seen it all. Healthy, pre packaged individual snacks always “take the cake!” Save the fun cupcakes for a family/friends party at home.

    • says

      Thanks for the insight Sandy. At the time of posting, my oldest was in a Montessori preschool that actually encouraged homemade treats. They preferred homemade vs. store-bought. It was a small school of 20 some kids and they did have a handle on the allergy situation for the currently enrolled children. The no-cupcake rule was only about the mess it made which I understood and respected. Exactly why I was so excited to find this perfect substitution! I was always frustrated by the other families who chose to ignore the rule and sent store-bought cupcakes anyway.

      Now the Peanut is in a public school Kindergarden and we aren’t allowed to send in anything at all–store-bought/homemade or otherwise. All birthday treats have to be ordered through the cafeteria and it seems the only option is. . . wait for it. . . cupcakes. Oh the irony. Any passive aggressive tones you may have perceived are only a reflection on the complicated world we live in where kids aren’t allowed to bring in something homemade to share. I’m nostalgic for the times when I was thrilled to bring in my treat for my friends when I was little. Teachers have an impossibly tough job and I’m not looking to make it any more difficult on them.

  14. Beatrice says

    At least you can make a sweet treat for your child to take to her school. Many of the schools in California are not allowing any sweets, homemade or not. One parent wanted to bring fruit kabobs in order to conform to California’s Healthy Kids Act and she was turned away. The teacher suggested cute pencils instead. Count your blessings that you were allowed to make something as cute as your fun popcorn.

  15. Erin says

    This was a disaster but im not discouraged. The chocolate was not enough to coat the half batch and it was not smooth enough to even think about adding the cake mix. I think ill try melted coating. The sprinkles didnt stick so Im glad I held off on the M&M’s. Im determined to make this work

  16. Kathleen says

    I used ghiradelli white chocolate chips and melted in a double boiler. Wasn’t quite smooth enough so I added some half and half until it smoothed out. Came out great Make sure to only add the cake mix one tablespoon at a time and blend thoroughly before adding the next tablespoon.

  17. Brooke says

    I wish my kids school had food free classrooms due to my sons severe allergies. A snack like this (even by only coming in contact with stuff other kids touched after eating this) would send him into anaphylactic shock. :-/. But me on the other hand may have to make this for a moms only party (at another moms house of course!)

  18. says

    Its such as you learn my mind! You seem to grasp a lot about this, like you wrote the guide in it or something. I believe that you simply can do with some % to drive the message home a bit, but instead of that, this is excellent blog. A great read. I will definitely be back.

  19. shad says

    Maybe the teachers, like a lot of parents, don’t want a bunch of sugary garbage fed to the kids several times a month. Fruit ca-bobs with dip would be just as fun. Or leave the chocolate ad cake mix out.

  20. Jenny R says

    Great idea for Valentines with pink and red M&Ms :) Plop them on the pan in heart shapes and put them in Valentine treat bags to give out.

    How long does this keep for? (Can these be made a couple days ahead of time? Or the night before?)

  21. Tanya says

    I don’t understand all the fuss in schools about homemade snacks. Are you all in the U. S.? It really doesn’t matter except that it’s just as hard or harder to control ingredients when something is store bought, especially when it comes to gluten and/or nuts. So many additives contain hidden gluten products. And nuts seem to be in everything these days. Anyway, this popcorn is delicious, I’ve tried it and I wonder what it would taste like or if it would work with Angel Food cake mix or chocolate.

  22. Chris says

    My sister made something similar for me on Valentines Day… Pretzels on a platter drizzled with white chocolate and sprinkled with red/pink m&ms and sprinkles.
    The key was that it was done in a tray. We broke off pieces to eat it, but if it’s to be loose like popcorn, I think an aluminum tray would work better for mixing than a bowl.

  23. Chantal says

    I just wanted to let you know we kinda goofed up slightly. We halved the 1lb of chocolate, but actually added 8 heaping tsp to each half. So total we used 16 heaping tsp of cake mix. It was delicious and I could not imagine it with less mix!

  24. KATE JONES says

    Hi, im from the uk. We have the same rules in my 7 year old class. Last year we went to the local toy shop where they sell party bag toys, about 50p each or bags of them for £1. We got them in my sons favorite type – dinosaurs last year, cars this year – they went down a treat! Everyone was happy and no allergic reactions. Xx

  25. Lorna says

    We are UK and US citizens (dual nationals) living in Qatar – the little peninsula that juts off of Saudi Arabia. Thanks for this – I have a daughter who will eat popcorn and white chocolate but few other sweets (I might try something else for the M7M…gummies maybe or toffee) These will keep well in the cooler for her birthday party on the hot beaches of the Persian Gulf.

  26. Candace says

    Very disappointed!!!!! Tried this tonight. Got invited to last minute Easter Party. Bought everything just to make this. Chocolate seized up, and it wasn’t too hot. Now its 10 at night and I have nothing to bring but a ton of popcorn.

  27. Candace says

    So after it seized up I tried melting my remaining chocolate in the microwave and the same thing happened. So I goggled how to fix seized chocolate and it said to make sure the double boiler was turned off and not boiling, to keep the temp low, med/Low and add a bit of veg oil at a time. This worked!!!! It took a while just keep stirring. Than instead of adding the cake mix to the chocolate I added it to the popcorn mix right after I poured the chocolate on. This worked too!! Im very thankful because I was about to give up on interest recipes altogether.

  28. Coll says

    This is a great idea! Do you think that these would sit well in a sugar cone or should I just stick to the plastic cups?


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