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How to Make a Cardboard Cupcake

Cupcakes nestle in their paper cases.
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Cupcakes are delicious little treats. Highly decorated with icing sugar and candy toppings, they are typically served nestling in brightly colored paper cases. The term "cupcake" dates as far back as 1828, in Eliza Leslie's "Receipts." You can make a convincing cardboard model cupcake for display purposes, as a stage prop or as a practical joke, using simple techniques and household materials.

Things You'll Need:

  • 6 Paper Cupcake Cases
  • Scissors
  • White Glue
  • Clear Adhesive Tape
  • Toothpick
  • Paintbrush
  • Ruler
  • Poster Paints
  • 2 Sheets Of Thin Cardboard, 8 By 12 Inches
  • Cake Sprinkles
  • Muffin Pan

Cake Forming

Mark out 12 4-inch squares on two sheets of thin cardboard, using a pencil and ruler. Cut out the squares with scissors. You will have enough squares to make six cardboard cupcakes.

Dip a square into a bowl of water for around 30 seconds, until the cardboard is completely soaked and floppy.

Lay the wet square over one of the depressions in a muffin pan. Gently press the center of the square down into the depression and mold the cardboard against the sides of the depression using your fingers. The cardboard will take up the shape of its mold. Press any creases in the card as flat as possible. Leave a flap of excess card all around the rim of the depression.

Mold the other squares as you did the first one, then put the muffin tray in a warm, airy place and allow the squares to dry out. When the squares are completely dry, carefully lift them out of the tray. They will retain their molded shapes.

Trim the excess card away from each molded shape, leaving a round, concave cardboard shell. Tear up the excess card. Fill a shell with torn card, heaping it up to form a mound above the shell's rim. The torn card will fill out your model cake and prevent its sides from collapsing.

Use a paintbrush to put a thin bead of white glue around the rim of the shell. Invert a second shell and place it on top of the first one, to form a cupcake shape. Press the rims of the shells together with your fingers until the glue bonds. Repeat the procedure with the other shells. Leave the six cupcake forms to dry.

Cake Decorating

Paint your cardboard cupcakes golden-brown using a paintbrush and poster paints. To make your cardboard cakes look convincing, paint the upper shell of each in a darker tone and the lower shell in a lighter tone, just as cupcakes appear when they come out of the oven. Let the paint dry.

Mix white or pink poster paint with white glue, until you have a thick paste similar to cake icing. Paint this onto the tops of your model cakes with a paintbrush. The mixture will dry to a hard, shiny finish that closely resembles cake frosting. Add cake sprinkles to your fake icing before the paint dries.

Cut a 2-inch length of clear adhesive tape and roll it between your palms to form a ball. Spear the ball with a toothpick to make it easy to handle. Paint the ball with cherry-red poster paint mixed with white glue. The paint will dry to leave a shiny, translucent, fake cherry. Ease the cherry off the toothpick. Put a dab of glue on the cherry and stick it in the center of your cake.

Slip your decorated cardboard model into a paper cupcake case. Decorate the remaining cardboard cupcakes in the same way.


Test how convincing your fakes are by sneaking one onto a plate of real cupcakes. Wait for an unsuspecting victim to take a bite.

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