Organizing a Cupcake Decorating Party: A Complete How-To

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I don’t want to brag, but I’m somewhat of an expert at organizing cupcake decorating parties. I once helped organize one at my son’s preschool, and I got so into it that some of the other parents have since asked me to organize similar parties for the birthdays of their children, even the ones who are above preschool age.

I’ve picked up a lot of tips and tricks on how to organize festive and delicious cupcake decorating parties over the last few years, and, in this post, I’m going to share some of the best ones with you!

DIY Cupcake Decorating Party

First, an overview of some important elements to consider before any cupcake decorating party.

As long as you nail these steps (and some of my recommendations in the “cupcake decorating tools” section in this post), you can’t go wrong.

Have The Best Cupcake Pans

best baking pans

For cupcake decorating parties that include guests over 10 years old, you’ll want to have pans at the ready so the older guests can bake the cupcakes themselves.

If you don’t have at least a few cupcake pans already, your party will be a great excuse to purchase a few!

Have the Best Cupcake Recipes

Collecting delicious cupcake recipes to make in your cupcake pans is the next step in organizing a good party. Here are 10 of my favorite cupcake recipes:

Protip: Each of these recipes comes with instructions for the cupcakes themselves and for frosting. It’s a good idea to allow guests to mix and match cupcake/frosting combinations as they please so that they can all create cupcakes that are truly their own.

Assign Tasks By Age

If the group of guests at the party is mixed in terms of age, delegate tasks based on the ages. For example, children under six should probably only be given “helper” tasks where they watch the people making the cupcakes and maybe pitch in their ideas on what to do. Elementary school-aged children should have jobs like measuring ingredients, stirring batters, and decorating cupcakes with frosting, but probably nothing that involves dealing with the hot oven. Older children should help make the batter itself and take the cupcakes in and out of the oven.

It helps to set up stations where each age group can take care of what they need to do and include the necessary materials at the respective stations.

Tips For Cupcake Parties

The following tips are especially good ideas for all-child cupcake decorating parties.

Pre-bake Cupcakes

There are two reasons why it’s a good idea to have the cupcakes pre-baked when the kids arrive at the cupcake decorating party. First of all, you don’t want to have little kids around a hot oven for obvious reasons. Second of all, kids have amazingly short attention spans when they get together in a large group, and you need to be able to tend to the kids during every second of the party.

Have Everything Ready

Again, children’s parties need to be entertained by an adult at all times. That means that, unless you have a helper on hand who wants to set everything up while you play duck-duck-goose or something with the kids, you should set up everything before the party.

It’s best to set up everything in stations. For instance, have all your frostings at one table, all your sprinkles at another, other toppings (like crumbled cookies, berries, or candies) at another, and cupcake boxes (like the one in the “cupcake decorating tools” section below) at a fourth.

Decorate with a Cupcake Theme!

Cupcake-print party napkins, paper plates, tablecloths, and more are surprisingly easy to find at party stores or online. They’re generally colored with bright pastel shades, so getting ahold of some and decking out the party space with them is a great way to create a festive atmosphere that kids will love! You can also play bouncy pop music during the party to complete the mood.

Cupcake Decorating Tools

Regardless of what ages you’re organizing the cupcake decorating party for, there are a few tools that are always good to have. A few of my personal favorites are:

1. Piping Bags and Tips

These piping bags are the easiest way I’ve encountered to distribute frosting with no mess and still have it look great. After preparing the frosting and fastening the plastic nozzles on one end of the two included silica bags, just transfer it to one of the bags. Cinch up the open end of the bag with one of the included stretchy rings and screw one of the six distinctly-patterned stainless steel tip onto the nozzle. You now have a frosting dispenser that you can use by squeezing the contents out of the bag bit by bit out of the nozzle. The stainless steel tip you chose will determine the pattern of the frosting you squeeze out, and the set even includes three textured frosting scrapers you can use to correct any mistakes or imperfect squeezes the user might make.

I love this model in particular because the silica of the bag is totally odorless and the outside is easy to get a good grip on, but the inside is smooth enough to make both frosting distribution and cleaning up afterwards a snap. The set also includes a lot of tips even though it’s very cheap.

Note that you’ll probably want one of these sets (meaning two piping bags) for every four party guests.

2. Sprinkles

Brightly colored sprinkles, or “jimmies,” as New Englanders call them, are an essential for decorating cupcakes. Once the frosting goes on, people may want to use sprinkles to top their cupcake off with a personalized design or may just go ham with the sprinkles by adding a thin layer of them. They might want to go with one color or apply a rainbow of every color. Whatever they want to do, this set of eight sprinkle colors has got them covered. Most rainbow sprinkles have a deeply unnatural color that I think looks unappealing, but the colors in this set are a bit more subtle and, in my opinion, festive.

Also note that the listing this set is in also includes lots of other themed sprinkle sets.

3. Paper Cups

Adding a little color to a cupcake decorating party is always a good thing, and these rainbow-print paper muffin cups are an excellent way to do it. They’re oven-safe, so you can slot them into your cupcake pan and add the batter to them directly before starting to cook. The exterior is moisture-proof and totally non-stick, too, so releasing them from the pan will not be a problem. They’re even safe for the microwave and the steamer, which is a neat feature. 200 pieces come in each package, so just one should be enough to cover you for your entire party.

4. Rose Gold Sprinkles

It might say “sprinkles” on the package, but these edible cupcake decorations are quite different than the rainbow sprinkles you typically see. First of all, the light pink, princess white, and dusty yellow colors give them prettier than most sprinkles. Second, they have a different shape; some of them are long and skinny, some are star-shaped and some are larger spherical pieces that are basically tiny hard candies. The overall result is an elegant-looking mix that is perfect for sweet sixteens, Valentine’s Day, bridal showers, baby showers, and weddings.

Note that the photos in this Amazon listing are a bit misleading. You should check the photos in the product reviews if you want to see what the sprinkles actually look like.

5. Cupcake Box

Your cupcake decorating party guests are probably going to make way more cupcakes than they can eat, so I like to have cupcake boxes like this one ready and waiting for all of the extras. Not only does it allow people to make and decorate as many cupcakes as they want, but the filled up boxes can also serve as great souvenirs to send your guests home with once the party is done!

Cupcake Party Themes

Especially for kids 11 or above who appreciate a little more of a challenge, choosing a theme that makes the cupcake party into a more engaging activity is a good idea. Some examples of fun themes are:

Cupcake Wars

There’s nothing like a little healthy competition to spice up a cupcake decorating party. You could have each guest cook a cupcake to submit to the “judges” (usually the adults at the party) for consideration. You can divide the guests up into teams if there are a lot. The winning guest or team gets a prize!

Rainbow Cupcake Party

Assign each team (or individual guest) a different color and have them make a cupcake that uses that color as much as possible. You should provide them with food coloring and sprinkles of their color, and you should try to provide them with a fruit of their assigned color if possible. Once all the cupcakes are made, mix them together on plates to create a rainbow cupcake cafe that everyone can eat.

Special Ingredient

This theme is similar to the rainbow cupcake party, but, instead of assigning each team a color, you will assign each one a special ingredient that they have to use in their cupcake. This theme, inspired by the competitive cooking TV show Chopped, is especially good for older teens who want a real challenge.

Fill Your Box

Like I mentioned, I like to provide cupcake boxes for guests to fill with their uneaten cupcakes. Giving each guest (or each “team”) a box that they have to fill with 12 beautifully designed cupcakes is a fun activity because it adds a sense of purpose to the party-goers’ cupcake-making experience. You can even collect the boxes at the end to be judged based on aesthetics!

Cupcake decorating parties are always a huge hit with children. The best part is that the nature of the party eliminates the need to prepare much food beforehand, so you can pour all your effort into theming the party well and making sure everybody has a good time. Whether it’s for a birthday, a graduation, or a rainy day, you really can’t go wrong as long as you follow this guide.

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