What Exactly Is Popcorn Cake?

If popcorn balls were your absolute favorite Halloween treat to pull out of your trick-or-treating bag as a kid, then the trendy popcorn cake may be exactly what you need to bring back some of that childhood nostalgia. The "cake" itself is a conglomeration of treats you would typically find in a movie theater: Plain popcorn, M&Ms, peanuts, and toffee candy pieces, all held together with marshmallows mixed with melted butter, and pressed into a pan.

If you aren't a fan of peanuts or toffee pieces, the dessert is easy to customize, too. You can swap in any of your favorite candies, like crushed-up Butterfingers, Red Hots, or Reese's Pieces. To finish off the cake, some may like to drizzle the cake with a little bit of chocolate or caramel sauce before serving.

The no-bake dessert is pretty similar to Rice Krispy treats — both in terms of taste and the method of preparation — making it a great treat to serve at birthday parties, holiday dinners, or just to enjoy as a sweet treat when the craving strikes.

The cake is easy to make

To start making the cake, you'll want to pop up some popcorn. Mix the salty snack in a bowl with the M&Ms, nuts, and toffee pieces (or whatever your heart desires). In a separate saucepan, melt some butter and stir the marshmallows in until they've melted into a sticky, sweet sauce. Then, pour those melted marshmallows over the popcorn, peanuts, and candy mixture, folding it all together with a spatula to ensure every piece is evenly coated.

This mix will be extremely sticky because of the marshmallows, so you'll want to be sure to use plenty of nonstick spray. The cake is typically formed in a bundt pan, which should be liberally coated in the spray. You can also spray the spatula you're working with, or even your own hands to prevent any extra mess.

Once the marshmallow, popcorn, and candy mixture has been pressed into the cake pan, you can carefully remove it from the form using a plate and flip the pan upside down. Then, the cake can simply be served and enjoyed — no baking required.

Social media has given new life to the recipe

The history of the cake is a little murky, though it may have been invented shortly after Rice Krispy Treats became popular in 1939. Popcorn may have been swapped in if the crisped rice cereal wasn't available to make the more traditional treats. Though the cakes (along with the popcorn balls) did pop up through the later half of the 1900s, the internet gave fame to the no-bake dessert beginning in 2009.

In fact, it's once again thanks to social media that the treat recipe is gaining some extra attention these days. One TikTok video showing off a recipe achieved over 71,000 likes and commenters were excited about the treat. "We made it tonight and it was awesome!" wrote one user. Another said, "Thank you for sharing, I now have a new treat to share."

The next time you catch yourself craving a popcorn ball from the bottom of a trick-or-treat bag, satisfy that childhood nostalgia and mix up a sweet popcorn cake.