This crazy confetti popcorn cake looks like a bunch of bags of circus treats exploded all at once, were covered in marshmallow, and then got stuffed into a Bundt pan. It’s the perfect vehicle for candies, sprinkles, and crushed goodies of all sorts, whether you’re throwing a party or just need to use up the last of a couple different jars of sprinkles. Try topping it with a pouf of cotton candy. A kid’s favorite.–Jackie Alpers
LC Best In Show Note
“It seemed like a good idea at the time…” Thus began one recipe tester’s review of this confetti popcorn cake recipe, which is essentially a devious collision of Rice Krispies treat and popcorn ball. She’d volunteered to make the cake with her friend’s 8-year-old son, who wanted to compete in his Cub Scout “Cake-Off.” She went on to explain that he thought it was a lot of fun to make because he got his hands all gooey and goopy with the marshmallow and popcorn mixture and that it was stunning to behold. In fact, it went on to win “most colorful.” As for the taste, well, it’s every pretween’s dream sugar bomb. We don’t think she was expecting anything so sophisticated as the macarons at Ladurée, but she was seeking something a touch less sweet. In other words, this cake is all about kids—of all ages—in terms of the making and the partaking, especially since there’s no baking. It’s especially handy if you happen to have a hodgepodge of almost-empty bags of munchies hanging around. Consider it a lesson in culinary creativity. (If you’re considering this for Mother’s Day, we’re thinking pastel M&Ms or jelly beans would be quite a lovely touch. And perhaps even some crushed kettle-cooked potato chips in place of the pretzels. Oh, who are we kidding? Add those in addition to the pretzels.)
Confetti Popcorn Cake
- 10-inch Bundt pan
- About 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 standard-size jar) rainbow sprinkles or jimmies
- 8 cups popped popcorn (from 1/3 cup popcorn kernels)
- 1 1/2 cups thin pretzels broken into small pieces
- 1 cup shelled, roasted peanuts (optional)
- 1 stick unsalted butter plus more for the pan
- One bag mini marshmallows (about 8 cups)
- 2 cups M&Ms plus more for decorating
- Additional candies for decorating (optional)
- To make the confetti popcorn cake, coat a 10-inch Bundt pan with butter. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons sprinkles or jimmies into the pan so that when the cake is unmolded, these extra embellishments will be on top.
- Pour the popcorn into a large heatproof bowl, removing and discarding any unpopped kernels. Add the pretzel pieces, peanuts (if using), and remaining 1/4 cup sprinkles or jimmies.
- Melt the butter in a large saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally. Add the marshmallows and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is smooth, melted, and fully incorporated. (Alternatively, you can melt the butter and marshmallows in a large heatproof bowl in the microwave.)
- Quickly but gently pour the marshmallow mixture over the popcorn mixture and use a wooden spoon or your hands to coat everything completely. You’ve got to use haste here, as the marshmallow mixture becomes quite hard quite fast.
- Add the M&Ms and stir to combine. (By way of explanation, M&Ms may not melt in your hand, but they will begin to melt in the pan if they’re exposed to the marshmallow goo when it’s just taken off the heat. Best to wait until the last moment to add them.) Using your fingertips or the back of a buttered spoon, press the marshmallow-coated popcorn mixture into the prepared pan. Loosely cover and let rest at room temperature for at least 1 hour.
- Run a butter knife around the sides of the pan to loosen the popcorn cake. Invert the pan on a serving platter and pull the pan from the cake. Decorate the cake with additional M&Ms and other candies, if desired, in case the cake just ain’t sweet enough yet for you. Use a sharp knife to cut the cake into thin slices. (As with Rice Krispies treats, this may be somewhat difficult to cut. Consider yourself warned.)
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
If you’re looking for something festive that will celebrate any holiday or special occasion where younger children will be present, this confetti popcorn cake is your recipe. It’s easy to follow and put together. I followed the microwave directions on the back of the marshmallow bag to melt the butter and marshmallows together. A wooden spoon worked well to combine all the ingredients with the melted butter and marshmallow mixture. I love that there was more than enough marshmallow mixture to coat each piece of popcorn. I used the back of a buttered metal spoon to press the cake into the Bundt pan. This worked well without a lot of mess. Running the knife around the sides of the pan to loosen the popcorn cake worked really well. This cake is salty, sticky, and sweet. While the flavor of the cake wowed my younger tasters, it was a bit sweet for my more mature tasters. But everyone agreed that the M&Ms and jimmies made the final cake look so fun! It would be fascinating to try this popcorn cake with seasonal jimmies, peanut butter mixed into the marshmallows, and different types of M&Ms. A serrated knife makes for simple slicing.
This confetti popcorn cake recipe is insane, beautiful, simple, and utterly outrageous! The idea that I’m going to mention the complex texture and flavors of this very childish treat seems almost absurd, but trust me, it’s a revelation. The options are endless—peanut M&Ms, butterscotch or white chocolate chips, macadamia nuts, cashews…someone, please stop me! I recommend letting this cool for more than an hour, if you have the willpower. I also suggest, if you pop your own corn as I did, that you make certain you fish out the unpopped kernels. Finally, a Bundt pan works perfectly, but muffin pans would also work just as well. Even if you’re not fond of marshmallows, you will love this treat. The final product is like a candy—it’s wonderful!
Where do I start? As soon as my daughters and I read this confetti popcorn cake recipe, we wanted to make it. Actually, Rita wanted to make it herself, but with her crazy school and performance schedule, I decided to surprise her with it for her sweet 16th birthday. I got all the ingredients ready, one in each bowl, to simplify the process. Once I started mixing them all in a large bowl, my mind started to wonder to NC, where I have a friend who dresses up as a clown and a fairy. All I could imagine, looking at all of the colors together in that large bowl, was her entertaining the kids, bringing them into her crazy fairyland world full of sprinkles, fairy dust, and happiness. Once back to reality, I had to melt the marshmallows with the butter. I couldn’t find a 16-ounce bag of marshmallows, so I used one and a half 10-ounce bags. When the marshmallows were fully melted, I quickly mixed in the “fairy bowl” of ingredients. This has to be done quite fast, as the marshmallow mixture hardens very quickly, so swiftly dump everything into the buttered cake pan and flatten the surface as much as you can while you make sure there are no air pockets. At this point, you’ll have a sticky mess all over! I couldn’t wait to remove the cake from the pan, but prior to turning it onto a glass plate, I used the spatula to help unstick the sides of the cake. This “magic” step made it very easy to pop the cake out onto the plate without a problem. Now it was time to decorate it with more M&Ms and sprinkles. My 5-year-old daughter chose star sprinkles as well as some other ones. (Our dog was enjoying those sweet treats falling all over the place, too.) Then she decided to grab some Dum Dums and add them to the cake. We’d chosen silly candles for it, too. By the end, we all looked at the cake and said, “This is a Dr. Seuss cake!” When it was time to light the candles and sing happy birthday and surprise Rita with it, she absolutely loved it. I’d worried she’d think it was too childish, but far from it. But watch out, this was the very first time I’ve had trouble cutting a slice of cake. Maybe I packed it too tightly. Nonetheless, we all loved the cake. It was a huge success. We expected it to be very sweet, but actually there was a nice balance to it—almost like a popcorn ball, but better. MUCH better. We immediately started thinking, what if we do it in a shallow pan as bars? For St. Pat’s with green M&Ms and green food coloring added to the marshmallow mixture? What about red, white, and blue for 4th of July? Halloween, anyone? We will certainly be making this very often! One slice, though, goes a long way and fills you up pretty fast. I used GF pretzels, plain popcorn, unsalted roasted peanuts, and plant-based colored M&Ms-like candy and sprinkles (not quite sure why I was trying to make this cake healthier!). I think next time I’ll use salted roasted peanuts to add a bit more salt to it.
Originally published May 06, 2015