Friday, August 31, 2012

Tutorial: How To Make Fake Cupcakes

A lot of people think the cupcakes I use in my Etsy photos are real. They talk about how delicious the frosting looks. My secret is that these are not real cupcakes! I decided to make fake cupcakes so I could have the same look with each photo in my shop. Plus, I didn't want icing getting all over everything (and I won't ever be tempted to eat one while taking photos, that's for sure!)

It is fairly simple to do and only requires a few items to get started. You can customize a lot about it as well. I had a lot of these items on hand already. I only spent money on the spackling and expandable foam. That was around $11 total.

I went searching for a tutorial when I first knew I wanted to make a fake cupcake. There are some great tutorials out there but I felt there weren't enough photos with them. There were only a few before and after shots. I wanted to show people each step of the process, so they knew if they were doing it right or not. Plus, I read a lot of comments on each post and found that people were having problems. I decided to experiment and I found the perfect way to make them.

Let's get started!

You will need: 

  • A cupcake pan (preferably one that you won't use to make real cupcakes again!)
  • Cupcake liners (you can choose whichever ones you would like)
  • Round cardboard circles that fit inside of the cupcake liners (measure the bottom of your liners and then cut out cardboard circles)
  • Styrofoam Cups (1 or 2, depending on how many icing colors you will want to mix)
  • Plastic bags (big enough to fit a good amount of "icing" in)
  • Paint colors (1 to paint the cupcake and 1 or 2 for icing)
  • A paintbrush
  • Stir sticks (craft sticks, an old spoon you won't use anymore, something to stir with!)
  • Icing tips (look online to see which way you want your icing to look, then get a tip that will make that icing pattern)
  • Lightweight spackling (I used Premium Grade Patch n Paint)
  • Expandable foam (I used Great Stuff Window and Door Insulating Foam Sealant)

 Step 1: 
Place the cupcake liners in the cupcake pan.

Step 2:
Place a cardboard circle in the bottom of each cupcake liner. The cardboard is to ensure your cupcake has a flat surface to sit on and it doesn't topple over. The foam may expand to create lumps on the bottom if you skip this step! Make sure to put the circles in the bottom.

Step 3: 
The can of expandable foam should have a plastic attachment hose/nozzle. Attach this and get ready to spray the foam in the cupcake liners. It comes out really fast, so don't be alarmed. It will fill up the cupcake liner quite fast as well. Don't put too much in. Once you see it is half way full, let go of the sprayer. It should expand from there to be a pretty normal size cupcake. You may have to experiment with this. I had to spray one to get the hang of it, then I was able to spray the other cupcakes with ease.

Above is how it should look after you just spray the foam in the cupcake liners. It will start expanding fairly quickly after this, so leave it alone for a while.

Step 5: 
Let the expandable foam dry overnight. This gives it time to expand as much as it needs to and dry. It may feel ready to go after a few hours but it is wise to wait overnight. If you paint it or add "icing" too soon, the foam beneath may collapse. The photos above are after the cupcakes have set overnight.

Step 6: 
After your cupcake forms have dried overnight, it is time to paint them. Use a white, cream, brown, or black to paint the foam base. The idea is to make it look like a cupcake, but you can use crazy colors if this is just for fun. Since the "icing" will be on top, it is only really important to paint the outside of the shape. You can paint the whole thing if you want to. Let this paint dry for a few hours.

Step 7:
The next step is to make the "icing". Put some of the lightweight spackling in a mixing cup. I used a styrofoam cup so it was easy clean up. It is very important that you use lightweight spackling for this. It dries quicker and it will not make the foam beneath it collapse. After you have your spackling in a cup, add whatever color you wish your icing to be, then mix thoroughly. 

Step 8:
Take a plastic bag and put the icing tip in the corner of it. You should then cut a small part of the corner off so the icing tip can fit down but not all the way out of the bag.It should be a snug fit. If you have a pastry bag this may be easier.

Step 9:
After you have your icing tip in place, you can then fill the bag with your spackling mixture. This is easiest if you fold the edges of the bag back and shovel the mixture in. That way it doesn't get all over the top of your bag. After the mixture is in the bag, you are ready to ice your cupcakes! You can do this however you know how. You may want to watch a video online if you aren't familiar with it.

Step 10:
Decorations! I chose to add some blue glitter on top of my cupcakes. However, you can really decorate them with anything. While the "icing" is still wet, the glitter stuck to it just fine. If you want to add beads or other heavier objects, I would wait until the "icing" is dry and then glue the items in place. Since these cupcakes are not perishable, I would not really use real food or sprinkles as decoration. You don't want bugs to get those.

That's it! You now have beautiful cupcakes. 

If you have any questions, feel free to ask! I would love to help other people make these. It didn't take very long to make them, and I will have them for a very long time. I made these in May and I am still using them in my Etsy photos. They hold up very well to being moved around. It's very easy to place cupcake toppers in them as well. 

Good luck!

8/19/14 Update:  I was able to remove the icing from this tutorial to make better looking icing for product photos. It was really easy to do! If you are unhappy with how your icing turns out the first time you make a cupcake just wait for it to dry completely. Wait a few days even. Then peel it off of the cupcake base. I should have used a larger icing tip. Here are some photos of newer icing made using a larger tip. 


  1. Thanks for the tutorial! Can't wait to try this!

  2. Thanks for the tutorial. Really useful and lots of fun to make!
    I made some for a display I am doing for a cafe and uploaded my own take on the experience!!bloggin/c1lsj

  3. Hi thanks for sharing this! :) how many cupcakes would these 'ingredients' make? :) I want to make around 70-100 and was wondering if you could help me estimate the cost? Thanks so much!

  4. This was an excellent tutorial and your right with alot of pictures thank you for all your steps along with the pictures. Very nice I can not wait to try it...

  5. heyyo~ what other products/brand would you recommend for the lightweight spackling? cause.. the hardware stores in my area doesn't even know what are they, let alone sell them. XD

  6. Thank you everyone for your kind words about the tutorial! I wish I had responded sooner but I did not get notification that there were comments! Where are you from Tanit? Maybe you could order something online? I am not sure how many brands there are for light weight spackling. I just used what I found in my own hardware store. I'm in the US in North Carolina. I just made a few cupcakes with what I had available. I still have a ton of spackling and foam left over. You can purchase replacement nozzles for the spray foam if you decide you want to make more later. For 70-100 cupcakes I might buy a few cans of foam and a few containers of spackling. You can make it go a long way if you make the cupcakes small. I recently re-did some icing on the ones that are pictured here. It is easier if you have piping bags and larger icing tips. I hope this information helps everyone!

  7. any tips on making fake muffins? the challenge comes down to the texture difference between cupcakes and muffins.

  8. This is a great tutorial, can't wait to make them, thanks for sharing,
    best wishes from Michelle

  9. thanks for all the helpful tips

  10. Does the spackling wash out of the tube or should you use a separate tube from those you actually bake with?

  11. I used a cupcake pan that I planned on never using for making real cupcakes again. I didn't want to risk it! I used the cupcake liners so that I wouldn't have to try and wash the spackling out of the pan. I'm not sure if the spackling would stick to the pan or if it would be easy to take out after it sets. Either way, I would definitely use an old cupcake pan. Maybe you could find one at a thrift store!

  12. Could I make these to use for my daughters first birthday pics as a prop?

    1. You sure could! As long as she did not try to eat them (they would be toxic).

  13. Megan,
    I loved your tutorial, thanks for sharing.
    I have tried it, but always get the frosting
    on the inside cup cake holder.
    Do you know how this can be prevented?
    Thanks, Glenda

    1. Hi Glenda! Thank you for your comment. I'm glad you love the tutorial!

      I did not have a problem getting the frosting on the actual holder myself. Once it dries you might be able to peel it off of the wrapper maybe? I was able to take off a whole icing top because I wanted to try re-icing the cupcake. Or you could cover the wrapper with something else while you are icing then remove it once you are done.

      Let me know how it turns out!

    2. Thanks so much, I will give it a try.

    3. Hi this is the first time making icing. I can't understand why my icing melts flat. I am trying to do what your doing. I want my icing to stand up not fall down. Also what kind of tip do you use.

  14. Use a less expensive liner over your shiny liner and remove it when everything is dry.

  15. 66666666666666666666666666666666666666665

  16. Wonderful tutorial. Thank you. I like seeing the step by step instructions.
    I was wondering just what size decorating tip you used in your final cupcake photo?
    Thank you.
    I have several cake stands so I will be making several of these faux cupcakes for Christmas for a table center piece display

  17. SO excited to see this tutorial because the purpose I want to use these for is to photograph cupcake picks! I knew I could use spray foam for the "cake," but I had feared the spackle would be too hard for the picks to push through. Did you just kind of go in between the layers of spackle or will it actually push through? Hope you're still responding to questions!

  18. Great tutorial, anyway you can put the icing on and for it to be unable to be removed?

  19. Hi,when the spray foam dries is it hard,tnxs.