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Close up of cupcake bar
Photo courtesy Lucy Beaugard

Build a Cupcake Bar

Put away your cake order and start a new, hands-on birthday tradition.

Birthdays and cake go together like Bert and Ernie—you rarely see one without the other. It’s as if you can’t quite celebrate your child’s big day without the perfect cake. But what if you could combine a party activity while having your “cake” and eating it too? This is where the cupcake bar comes in handy. Imagine a full spread of premade cupcakes and all the fun fixings. Each child can decorate their own special treat while celebrating the birthday boy or girl. Let the kids get a little messy, then pop in a few candles before singing the birthday song. Here’s what you”ll need to create a cupcake bar.

The Table Push a long table up against the wall for the cupcake bar. Older kids can take turns standing around the bar to decorate their cupcakes. Be sure to cover the table with a plastic or paper tablecloth for easy cleanup. For a party of little ones, sit everyone down around the table to decorate. Throw a plastic tarp or tablecloth on the floor beneath the table for another cleanup shortcut.

Tableware Supply extra plastic spoons and knives. This allows the kids to decorate their cupcake with a mix of different colored icings without dipping a knife full of blue icing into the bowl of yellow icing. Also, consider having kids decorate their cupcakes over a sturdy paper plate or tray with a good lip around the outer edge. This will catch loose sprinkles and stray frosting blobs. For younger kids, you might consider taping the plate or tray to the tablecloth.

Cupcakes Make them yourself from a mix or scratch, or order a batch unfrosted from your local grocery store or bakery. Allow for oops moments and seconds by making two or three cupcakes for each guest.

Icing Provide a rainbow of icing for maximum creativity. Find a simple recipe for white icing or buy a few tubs that can be separated and individually colored with food dye. The choice to pre-color the icing or allow the children to create their own fun colors is up to you. Scoop icing into zipper bags and snip off a tiny corner to use as piping bags.

Sprinkles Whether they are rainbow, chocolate, iridescent, glitter, or confetti, sprinkles are a must. Craft stores and cooking or baking stores are a great source for unique sprinkles. Consider dividing decorating supplies into multiple cups or trays and taking them out of the original containers, to avoid long reaches and possible spills.

The Extras Picture the scene from the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory in which Wonka sings while flaunting scoops of candy. See it? Then you know what this bar should look like. Think candy coated chocolate, red hots, licorice ropes, gummy candies, mini marshmallows, Lemonheads, Skittles, or whatever the birthday child loves. If you need to add some healthier options, include fruit slices, berries, and nuts (if there are no allergies).

A Sprinkling of Tips

Family Food

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