A bit of what you fancy? Try cake-on-a-stick

Cake-pops are picking up where cupcakes left off. Kate Youde reports on the latest 'guilt-free' snack

They look like a lollipop but taste like a cake. Confused? Welcome to the latest wheeze to tempt sweet-toothed Britons. Hard on the heels of the cupcake boom comes the cake-pop – the cake-on-a-stick.

The small balls of cake mixed with icing, dipped in chocolate and served on a lollipop stick are poised to storm UK high street outlets. This month, Waitrose supermarket introduced a range of five cake-pops made by the luxury baker Fiona Cairns into its stores. Starbucks started selling three flavours in March.

To add celebrity icing to the cake, Lady Gaga was pictured with a cake pop modelled in her image in London last month. The west London cookery institution Leiths School of Food and Wine is responding to the new trend by offering a one-day course on cake-pops in September.

The bite-sized treats, which originated on the US baking website Bakerella, are also proving popular for birthday parties, corporate events, wedding favours and posted presents.

Clare O'Connell, who runs the London-based business POP Bakery with her mother, Judith, and has catered for style-conscious clients such as Calvin Klein, Marc Jacobs and Topshop, said convenience was part of cake-pops' attraction. "People have said it's like portion control on a stick. It's not a slab of cake – it's one or two bites," she said.

The idea of a guilt-free indulgence has driven sales at Starbucks. Brian Waring, the coffee giant's marketing vice president, said the company offered them in response to customers' desire for "smaller-sized delicious treats, something fabulous they could enjoy without feeling guilty": each of its cake-pops contains 225 calories or fewer.

But Juliet Sear, owner of Fancy Nancy in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, who is teaching the Leiths class, said the fact that cake-pops were not substantial could prevent them being as popular as cupcakes, because they may not be a product that people "eat in".

Maria Michaelides, owner of Molly Bakes, which has supplied Selfridges with cake-pops for the past year, released the recipe book Molly Bakes Cake Pops this month. "They are more creative than cupcakes," she said. "Cupcakes only really come in one shape. With cake-pops, you can mould them into different shapes and do all kinds of wacky things." As well as creating a cake-pop Lady Gaga, she has modelled tea cups, flower pots and aeroplanes. "I think they are going to be as big as cupcakes, and cupcakes are pretty huge," she said.

The research analyst Mintel estimates the cakes and cake bar market will reach £1.6bn in the UK this year. A report this month suggests unwrapped cakes – such as cupcakes and cake-pops – will be boosted as consumers regarded them as "fresher, more fashionable and more indulgent". It adds that "moderation and indulgence" are at the fore of the snacking sector.

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