Super-Star Cupcake Tree

Introduction: Super-Star Cupcake Tree

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This instructable consist of two components... how to make the delicious cupcake itself and a cupcake tree display unit for showing off all the cupcakes.  If you are only interested in the cupcake, you can skip the sections on building the display unit and go directly to the cupcake recipe.  My sister, Ren'ee, was recently asked to bake two-hundred cupcakes for her daughter's Elementary School graduation as she is a really fantastic cake maker.  The room in which the school refreshments were to be served was far too small to simply have a table with all two hundred cupcakes laid out on a table with all the kids and parents attending.  They wanted to place the cupcakes on a narrow bookcase in the school's library and required a display unit that could hold the cupcakes and would be safe for displaying the cupcakes with lots of little kids.  So, the task of designing a cupcake tree fell to my dad and me.

My sister picked a patriotic theme, which would also work great with Fourth of July and other summer-time parties.  A cupcake tree is a specialized display stand that is built to hold cupcakes in multiple tiers and is specially used for large groups.  You can buy a cupcake tree, but even in their cheapest form, they were too expensive for the very limited Elementary School budget.  The cheapest cupcake trees are made of cardboard and typically can only hold twenty to forty cupcakes... not the necessary two-hundred plus cupcakes.

Ultimately, we built three cupcake trees with a star on top of each one that lit up with LED battery lights.

Please note: The video is in 3D.  Wear Red/Blue Cyan glasses for full effect.  May appear blurry without glasses.

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Step 1: Cupcake Tree Supplies

For each cupcake tree, you will need the following supplies.

Step 2: Build the Base

The base will hold the center PVC pipe in much the same way as an umbrella stand or a Christmas tree stand does.  In fact, we originally intended to use a Christmas tree stand for our own display, but we were not certain if our display would be returned.  Instead, we used two large blocks of wood with a hole that would allow a tight fit of the PVC pipe.  The hole goes right through both pieces of wood.  You can either glue, screw or nail the two pieces of wood together, or alternatively use a thicker piece of wood.  If the stand is still too unstable after inserting the PVC pipe, simply add another piece of wood to raise how much of the pipe is held up by this base.

Step 3: Cut Out the Star

Cut out two stars using either Styrofoam board or a thick cardboard.  The stars should be at least two foot square or bigger to allow room for placement of the LED lights.  It is actually much harder to draw a perfect star than you might think, especially when it is such a large star.  It involves lots of mathematics of dividing up a perfect circle drawn with a compass (which is hard to do when a standard compass is too small for this size star). My suggestion is to simply enlarge this image of a star to the size you want, then trace it onto the Styrofoam board and cut it out.   Or, you can do what I did and just guess and make a slightly lopsided star.  (No one other than my mother would comment about it, so don't worry).

Next, you will want to punch a tiny hole for the LED lights to fit through the back of one of the two stars.  If your string of battery powered LED Christmas lights has 20 Lights, you will want to punch 20 holes evenly distributed over the star as shown.  Make sure the LED light fits in the hole tightly.  Punch additional holes for twist-ties to hold the wires onto the star so the lights are fixed.   Next, take the end of the PVC pipe and use duct tape to tape it to the back of the star.  Note: If the duct tape does not hold, you may need to drill a hole through the PVC pipe and the star and use a screw to affix the star.  How much room you will have to tape the PVC pipe depends on the size of your star and the size of the battery pack.

Finally, tape or glue the second star over the back of this star to cover up all the electronics. Make sure the on-off switch is in a place you can reach it before taping the back on.  If the switch is in a hard to reach place, leave the back of the star off until your ready to light the star.

Step 4: Stacking the Boxes

The next step involves creating the shelves for the cupcake tree.  You can have as many layers as you would like for your tree, as long as the PVC pipe in the center is taller than your stacked boxes.  For our display, we used either two or three tiers, one box for each tier of the cupcake tree.

Take your largest box for the bottom shelf.  The box should be big in width and height, but not more than a foot deep.  Use a strong sturdy box for the bottom.  Cover your box with any decorative gift wrapping paper appropriate for the party your cupcake tree will be displayed for.  Turn the box upside-down so that the opening of the box is on the bottom and the bottom of the box is at the top.  Punch a hole the diameter of the PVC pipe right in the center of the box.  Take a sheet of Styrofoam board and punch a hole right in the center of the Styrofoam board.  Place the Styrofoam board face up so the two holes align and glue or tape it to the box.  Do the same for each subsequent layer using smaller boxes and smaller pieces of Styrofoam board for each subsequent layer.  The boxes do not have to be attached to one another as they will simple sit stacked one on top of the other.  This makes it easier for transporting as all the pieces separate.

Put the Base you made in step 2 under the bottom box in the center so the holes line up.  Put your PVC pipe with the star through the center holes of each stack layer.  The PVC pipe pole keeps the shelves from moving.  Make sure the pipe is firmly held in the bottom wooden base so the tree can not fall over.

Step 5: Final Cupcake Tree Decorations

After you finished assembling your cupcake tree, it is ready for some final decorations.  You can wrap the PVC pipe with garland or tinsel or wrapping paper.  Streamers can be added to the star or designs added to the shelves of the cupcake tree.  

Step 6: Cupcake Decorations

Supplies for Decorative Toothpicks
An additional simple decoration we added to each cupcake was a very simple star on a toothpick.  Since we had 200+ cupcakes, there was not time to do individual decorations for each one. Instead, taking a sheet of metallic card-stock paper, we printed a star pattern onto the paper using an inkjet printer.  Shine SILVER - Shimmer Metallic Card Stock - 8.5 x 11 - 92lb Cover - 25 PK

Cut out each star, and with a dab of glue, glue two stars together with the toothpick in the center. Each page does 30 stars

Step 7: Cupcake Recipe

  • 1 Box of Cake Mix - Any favorite cake mix will do
  • 1 Box of Instant pudding- Should be flavor that matches cake mix.  If your using strawberry cake mix, use strawberry pudding.
  • 1/2 Cup of Milk
  • 1 Stick of margerine
  • 1/2 Cup of water
  • 4 Eggs
Mix the ingredients in a bowl with a blender.  The batter will become very thick.  Use an ice-cream scoop to scoop the mixed batter into your cupcake trays.  Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees and bake the cupcakes for approximately 18 minutes.  You can test to see if the cupcakes are done using a toothpick.  1 batch makes 24 cupcakes.

Step 8: Fill With Jam and Icing / Frosting

After the cupcakes come out of the oven, fill a pastry bag with strawberry or a favorite jam.  Cut the tip of the pastry bag and insert it into the top middle of the cupcake.  Squeeze to fill the cupcake with the jam.

Ingredients for Icing (frosting)
  • 1 cup of Crisco
  • 1/2 margerine
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 lbs of 10X Confectionery Sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
  • Food coloring of choice
Mix the ingredients above in a bowl with a blender until the contents are not lumpy.  With a confectionery bag or a spatula, top your cupcakes.  Add decorative toothpick to top.

Step 9: Setup

When you are ready to setup your cupcake tree, simply stack the boxes largest to smallest with the wooden base under the bottom box.  Insert the PVC pipe through the center of the boxes such that it is inserted into the wooden base.  Turn on the LED light in the star.  Place the cupcakes using alternating colors on each shelf of your cupcake display. 

Now you can enjoy a delicious cupcake and be proud that your a cupcake super-star!

Step 10: One Last Step!

One last step!  Don't forget to visit to read about more great things created by DarkRubyMoon!

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