How to make Cupcake tree ornaments

Ask Karen question:

Hi Karen,

Love your site.  I want to make fake christmas cupcakes to decorate my tree with.  Do you know how?


Karen Answers:

NO.  I have no idea how.  Not a clue.  I’m at a loss here, drawing a complete blank.  However, like it says on my homepage If I Don’t Know, I’ll Figure It Out.

So I did.  I searched the Internet, sat and stared thoughtfully out the window, and tapped my head with a pencil.  Using all of those tricks I formulated a plan.

Make the “cake” out of a can of  Great Stuff expandable spray insulation foam. (found this idea on the Internet)

Make the “icing” out of a bucket of premixed drywall compound.

Using these 2 ingredients, some items from around the house, plus some do-dads for decoration you’ll have cupcake ornaments that will look exactly like cupcakes.  They will not look like “ornamental” cupcakes. They will not look like fake cupcakes.  They will look like edible cupcakes.

But you probably shouldn’t eat them.  I don’t mean to tell you what to do, but if it were me … I wouldn’t eat them.  What with being made out of poison and plaster.

This is incredibly easy to do but because of the sheer size of the pictures I’ve decided to post this as a Part I and a Part II.




Drywall Compound

Great Stuff expandable foam insulation

Muffin tin/cupcake tin

Paper Muffin/cupcake cups

Acrylic Paints

Piping Bag and tips

Electric Handmixer

Kitchen Bowl

Decorations (sparkles, Mini ornaments, beads) for top of cupcake

To make the cake portion of the cupcakes:

Get your Muffin Tin



Get your Paper Muffin Cups

They sell really nice decorative ones that even have designs on the bottom.  This is great because if you’re hanging your ornaments from the tree you’ll be able to see the bottom of the cups on the ones you hang up high.




Pretty, eh?



Some paper cups also come with these cute tooth pick thingees.



Line your muffin tins with the paper cups.



Grab your Great Stuff Expandable Foam

This size can will make around 40 cupcakes.



Remove the spray nozzle from the can and attach it to the nozzle.

Then all you do is slowly and carefully spray the foam into each paper cup.

After a little while I figured out that going around the cup in circles creates the best cupcake.



See that centre cupcake?  The one in the green paper?  It’s too full.

I knew the “Stuff” would expand, but wasn’t sure how much, so this first round was trial and error.  That cupcake in the green paper?  It’s there to represent “error”.   The ones to the left and right of it are the right level to fill your cups up to.



Remember, cupcakes aren’t muffins.  They’re smaller.  You don’t want them too huge, because you still need to put icing on them. You will be tempted to fill them higher.  Resist temptation.

Here’s a small illustration of how the “Stuff” expands.

Initial spraying … about 3/4’s full.



10 minutes later …



Another 10 minutes later …



Let your foam set for a minimum of a couple of hours.

I let mine set overnight.

Once they’re set you can pull them out of the muffin pan and start to paint them if you want.

When the insulation dries, it’s completely white and shiny.  You can leave them like that, or you can paint the cupcakes.  I painted mine to make them look as though they were really baked vanilla cupcakes.

So instead of looking like this …



They look like this!



As you’ll see, you really only need to paint the edge of the cupcakes.

I painted this entire cupcake for illustrative purposes.  ‘Cause I’m nice like that.  Plus painting cupcakes is my idea of fun.

But for a lot of your cupcakes you’ll only need to paint the edges.  Many of your cupcakes may end up too tall, so when they do, just cut the tops off with a serrated knife.

Like so …



… this way you only have to paint the edge of the cupcakes.

To paint them just use some folk art paints. I used a base layer of a pale and darker yellow mixed together.



Get most of the paint off of your brush then just brush all the way around the cupcake. It’s O.K. if you don’t have full coverage with the paint.  In fact it’s better because it gives the cupcake some dimension if some of the lighter foam colour comes through.

Be careful not to get your paint on the paper.


Finally mix together some dark, golden yellow.  Add a bit of dark brown to a lighter yellow if you need to.  Just a *tiny* bit of brown.

A “kiss” of colour you could say …



Add the darker golden colour as a highlight to the bumps and ridges on your cupcake.  This will make it look as though it’s a little bit more browned/burnt in those areas, just like a real cupcake.



O.K.  Now that your cupcakes are formed and painted you’re ready to move onto the final step.  Throwing them at people.  Wait, no.   Icing and decorating them.


*  Great Stuff is incredibly sticky and if you get it on your arm it will require scrubbing with hot, soapy water, drenching with acetone, a splash of Goo Gone, and another treatment with acetone.  Finally,  remove your arm with a hacksaw.  In other words, be very careful with the Great Stuff.

* Do not overfill your paper cups.  3/4s full and that’s all.

* Don’t attempt to pull them out of the muffin tins before they’re dry.

* Keep plenty of paper towels handy.  And by handy, I mean pre-ripped off of the roll, sitting right beside you.  You’ll need them to wipe the goo off of the nozzle when it accumulates there.

Tips may or may not be based on real life experiences.

Tomorrow … Part II.  Icing and decorating.

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  1. Shauna says:

    How cooooool!! I am so making these with the kids…I think I’ll do this part by myself. Unless of course the second step isn’t kid friendly either, than I’ll make them by myself 😀 I want to make them and put them in the china cabinet on the cake server.

  2. Renee says:

    Too cute! Can’t wait to see them decorated!

  3. Katie says:

    Oh wow… I am amazed at how cute this looks! Not that I’m surprised of course 😉 Can’t wait for part 2!

  4. Zina says:

    Karen, you RAWK. I love fake food. I knit cupcakes. I knit sushi. I have crocheted cherry pie. Now I’m gonna make me some fake cupcakes. I’ve no idea what to do with them, as I’m planning on a white and crystal tree this year, but I’ll come up with something.

    Hopefully they have the expandable foam stuff in the UK.

    • Karen says:

      I’m sure they will. It’s for filling gaps and cracks in house foundations and such. ~ karen

      • Zina says:

        That’s probably exactly how I’m going to have to describe it. The hardware store guy and I have got this weird charades thing we do fairly regularly while I try to describe what it is I’m looking for and he tries to translate my American into English. He always gets a peculiar look on his face when I come in. He’s probably dreading the latest installment of charades.

  5. mbb. says:

    this is amazing. and making me wish that could actually have a tree to decorate this year. alas, travelling during the christmas season is making that impossible – on the list for next year!

  6. I think I’ve said it before, but I have to say it again — You are a GENIUS!!! Can you come up with more food themed christmas tree decorations? I just showed this to my husband and he said he wants the whole tree to be food decorations 🙂 Your next challenge!

  7. Susan says:

    I appreciate the fact that you are willing to share the “real life experiences” with us. Some folks would just let us learn the hard way. You’re the best!

  8. Jules says:

    Great idea for kids! Im going to make a bunch of these and let them decorate them and take them home…great idea Karen! Thanks!

  9. Jamieson says:

    Curious: if you want to hang them from a tree, when would be the best time to insert a string?

    • Karen says:

      Jamieson – That part’s coming up tomorrow. And I don’t actually use a “string” to hang them on a tree. Although hanging them from a string would have been cute. Very grade 4. ~ karen

  10. Jamieson says:

    Also, while I imagine it goes without saying but in this madcap webworld you never just know…

    !!Do not bake the cupfakes!!

    PS: perhaps you could do a little experiment for us viewers at home (in someone else’s oven if you’re smrt) and let us know what happens if you DO bake them? I’m curious. But not nearly curious enough to actually do it. I’m more curious to see if YOU would actually do it.

  11. Jennifer H. says:

    Wow! Not even sure what I’m most impressed with — the painting, perhaps? Should I ever have a mind to make cupfakes, these’d be the ones for sure.

  12. deborahinPS says:

    Oh no! Another flipping project to accomplish before the holidays…you’re killing me Karen. In a good way though 🙂

  13. Brittany says:

    Cute cute cute!! Can’t wait to see part deux!

  14. Evalyn says:

    This is soooo cool. I was just toying with ideas for my yearly gift ornament, a traditon by family has come to know and dread. Can’t wait for the icing and decorating steps!

  15. Evalyn says:

    Not to mention, one more thing you can do with spay foam! Heh. I become addicted during a house remodle, and my life has not been the same since. In a good way, of course.

  16. I am seriously going to make these! What an adorable idea for your own tree or even as a gift!

  17. Julie shinnick says:

    Oh yet again Karen! Am looking forward to next installment! Am already making a shopping list in my head for Bunnings! (oh I think that is Home Depot in northern language! lol)

  18. Alexia says:

    Hi! I clicked over from…..someone’s site. Anyway, despite the fact that I would never attempt these because I have zero patience for two-part projects and waiting – these cupcakes are super cute (yes, I read part two first…) and reading your instructions is even better!

  19. zerenitza says:

    I did the fake cupcakes as you described but they shrunked and wrinkled; any suggestion?

    • Karen says:

      Uh OH! I haven’t checked mine since Christmas. There are foams you can buy that are shrink resistant. I’m guessing you didn’t use one of those, LOL. If they’re shrunk and wrinkles, I don’t think there’s any reconstituting them. To prevent them from shrinking the next time, I’d shellac or lacquer them. Something that will coat them and prevent them from drying out and shrinking. 🙁 ~ karen!

      • Autumn says:

        I, too, made them and had them shrink and shrivel badly after 36 hours! I tried again, making sure to use shrink-resistant faom, and the same thing happened. I called the company that makes the foam, and they said that since the paper liners were not a stable surface for the foam to cling to, it shrunk as it set.

        • Karen says:

          Huh! Good to know! I checked on mine last week (in the basement with the Christmas stuff) and they’re all perfect. I suspect you weren’t using enough foam. If you fill your liners up a bit more it should be fine for you. Thanks so much for finding out the problem! Good job. ~ karen

  20. patti meyers says:

    This isn’t really a comment about the cupcakes although they are looking very real. Can’t wait to see them decorated.

    I have a can of the foam stuff that I bought to plug up the hole in the bottom of a Bsmall outdoor fountain. The silver reflection ball and the water pump are broken but I thought it would make a cute bird bath. But I need to keep the water from draining out. Do you think the foam will work? Thanks for reading my question.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Patti! I actually have no idea if this would work or not for keeping out leaks! If I were doing this myself, I’d use marine silicone to do the job. It’s just cheap and you can get it at any hardware store. ~ karen!

  21. Melissa says:

    referring to Zerenitaz comment:

    I just made mine last week….but I was sure to allow lots of time in between stages. As a matter of fact, some of mine shrank after painting them. With that in mind, I hope they don’t drink later….Ughh!! However, maybe it’s best to let each stage dry a night or two. Before starting the next. It really depends on the weather in where you are making them, I must add. From what Karen suggested, it took much longer for where I live. I guess all in all, a good preventive measure……Just a thought!

  22. Claire says:

    Had a thought…if you don’t like the look of the icing cracking, you can use Durabond 90 as the icing. It’s a stronger, harder form of drywall compound that doesn’t shrink or crack when drying. Plus, you mix it up yourself from powder form so you can make it thinner or thicker (note, thicker dries FAST, also SUPER FAST if you use hot water. 15 mins, tops.)

    • Karen says:

      Hi Claire – I just dragged my cupfakes out of the basement to see how they stood up over the past year. Perfect! No shrinking, no cracking, no weeping. ~ karen!

    • Melissa says:

      thank you for sharing this….options are always GREAT, especially with different weather for each of us. Appreciate it!

  23. Monica says:

    Hi! I am in the middle of making another batch of these for a Christmas gift for my SIL who LOVES cupcakes and decorating. I made mine so that they will sit in a cupcake stand and they can be interchanged with the seasons/holidays for a fun filled gift that can be enjoyed all year long. I did several batches and found that the can of ‘Great Stuff’ “Big Gap Filler” is the best to use for this project. I tried 2 other types and one kind of deflated after 24hrs and the other didn’t expand enough to give the shape of a round cupcake, it looked more like a drop biscuit in a cupcake liner. So, “Big Gap Filler” is best! Secondly, if you are planning to do as I did and put them in a cupcake stand that has individual holders, you NEED to keep the cupfakes IN THE CUPCAKE TIN at least 12hrs. so that they don’t bulge out the sides too much. I weighed my liners down with 1/2″ metal washers my hubby had in the garage. I found some sturdier cupcake papers that didn’t require a pan to bake in and they held down in the pan without needing extra weight. After painting the cupfakes, I used a ‘light weight’ spackle for the ‘frosting’. I literally picked up all the different spackle containers and bought the one that was light as air. I added a couple of drops of pale yellow acrylic paint to give it a ‘buttercream’ look. I then sprinkled white glitter on top and inserted a ‘stir straw’ that was cut down to about a 1 1/2″ length. I inserted the piece of straw into the top of the frosting so that it was just below the frosting level but you could still see it. I am making cupcake wrappers to go around the cupfakes that look like football skins (my SIL LOVES NFL football) and I’m using curling ribbon in her fav. team colors that are tied to a paper football pick that I found at Hobby Lobby. That will be inserted into the straw at the top of the cupcake. This way she can make her own cupcake wrappers to decorate how she wants for Valentines Day, Christmas, Birthdays…whatever. And because I put the straw on top, she can insert whatever ‘pick decor’ she wants that will fit the theme. :0) (FWIW- it’s been cold and rainy where we live when I was doing this project. I kept the can of foam in the house to keep even temperature then sprayed the foam into the liners in the garage and then brought the trays back into the warm house to ‘cure’.)

  24. Rhoda says:

    Help!! I used Great Stuff and it did just fine…at first… but now the bottoms have sucked in and they are not flat anymore!! I left them in the muffin tins while they cured thinking that was the correct thing to do. Any ideas what I have done wrong???

    • Karen says:

      Rhoda – Great Stuff seems to react differently in different areas. Leaving them in the tins is the right thing to do. Out of curiosity, does it matter if the bottoms aren’t flat? It is that it looks bad, or you need it to sit flat on a shelf? ~ karen

  25. Rhoda says:

    Karen, thanks for your fast reply! As for the bottoms, they look pretty bad. It would be obvious as I want to make ornaments out of them. I thought about just adding another liner over the first but the Great Stuff has really drawn up all over. I have them in an air-conditioned house(central VA area) so humidity is low. Just weird I guess..I will not give up!!
    Thanks again!!!

  26. Kathryn says:

    I love your site, and the cupcakes esp. I am trying to make them and am having some difficulties I hope you can help me with. I made two pans to begin with, a total of 24. I left them for about 48 hours before removing them. Unfortunately, they seem to have kept expanding, out, not up! so they have pushed the side of the liners out. Also, the bottom of the liners are puckered. I really want to make these, so I hope you can tell me what I am doing wrong. Also, it is hard to get the liners to stay down in the pan like I would like. Thank you so much for any help you can give me.

    • Karen says:

      Kathryn – It sounds like you used too small of a liner for the size of your muffin tray. Your foam will expand to whatever width/size the muffin container is. Once it reaches the sides of the muffin tray, it will go up because it has no other way to go. You can use washers or anything heavy in the bottom of the muffin liners to keep the bottom flat. If you go through the comments, I remember one reader doing something to keep the bottom flat that was brilliant. I just can’t remember what it was, LOL. Good luck! ~ karen

  27. heather says:

    Thank you so much for this!! I have a cupcake theme kitchen and i have bought fake cupcakes to have as decor on my cupcake stands but now i can make my own!!! You are awesome!

  28. cheryl says:

    thanks so much for info can’t wait to start grand daughter wants cupcake kitchen badly, i love great crafts

  29. amy says:

    You could put a washer in the ottom of the cupcake for counterbalance

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  31. Jessica says:

    Hello! I just would like to know if these are heavy or plastic like. I found adorable cupcake ornaments and I wanted to try and make them. They are squishy like a sponge. Thanks in advance

    • Karen says:

      Hi Jessica! These ornaments end up being feather light. So light that I’ve suggested putting a little weight, like a heavy washer, into the bottom of the cupcake paper. They aren’t squishy, they cure fairly hard, but they aren’t heavy or hard like plastic. ~ karen!

  32. kath says:

    When made would they be safe for children to play with? I’m thinking not!

  33. Aimee says:

    Has anyone tried painting these later with acrylic paint not mixing with the drywall? Also I’ve seen bathroom caulk used as ‘icing’ Its already in a tube and is white. Not sure how heavy it is tho. I want to make these as a fun summer decoration project for my nieces. Paint them and glue on the ornaments. Good idea or too messy? any suggestions or advice is great! This is the cutest idea by the way!

  34. Chris says:

    Hi – I love your idea of using spray foam to make cup”fakes”! I work for a company that makes spray foam and am trying to figure out if there is a place for spray foam in the arts & crafts market. How often do you use spray foam? Where do you go to buy it? Do you plan to use spray foam on any projects in the future? I would love to hear your feedback. Thank you!

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