“Cupcake War” Inspired Lesson

cupcake-wars-4fac6002be1a0 (2)Students love the variety of food related shows that are on TV. One of the most requested is the Food Network show, “Cupcake Wars.” I personally don’t like to have competitions be graded but rather to be fun and to win bragging rights or a prize.


8.3 Demonstrate industry standards in selecting, using, and maintaining food production and food service equipment.

8.5.10 Prepare breads, baked goods and desserts using safe handling and professional preparation techniques.


  • Watch cupcake wars a class or two before your scheduled competition. Episodes are available on YouTube and Amazon; just search for your favorite.


  • Sprinkles, food coloring, piping bags
  • Fruits: strawberries, lemons, raspberries, bananas
  • Spices: cinnamon, cardamon, nutmeg, cloves, apple pie spice
  • Canned goods: pumpkin, honey, jams, preserves
  • Candy: chocolate chips, white chocolate, Andes candies
  • Dried fruits: dates, raisins, craisins, dried blueberries, dried bananas
  • Nuts: peanuts, macadamia nuts, pecans

Background for Teachers

  • Judging
    • I never like to personally judge culinary competitions because this is a great way to get other teachers and community members into your classroom to promote culinary arts! So I float around going from group to group helping out slightly and/or answering questions. I also like to
  • Time considerations: In my mind there are three scenarios you could do depending on the time you have for the competition.
    • Boxed cupcake mixes (choice of flavors, students could mix things in)
    • Students bring in their own homemade cupcakes, unfrosted
    • Students make everything in class
      • 60 minutes for competing 1/2 hour for judging & clean up
      • Highly recommend students work in groups 2-4 especially if you expect them to clean up as they go.
  • Variations:
    • Mystery ingredient that students need to include in their cupcakes (my favorite mystery ingredient is avocado)
    • Theme inspired e.g. wildlife, romance, healthy, beach themed
    • Several “rounds” or “face-offs” like class winner against another class winner
    • Presentation: offer a selection of plates, platters, and doilies
  • Other
    • Some students get really stressed about competitions so I don’t like the added pressure of the competition being graded. I have never had a problem with students not rising to the occasion and giving it their best.


  • Explain that students will be judged on taste, texture, presentation, creativity.
  • Students need to make 3 cupcakes (one for each judge)
  • Suggest that students plan out on paper what they are making before they start and assign roles to each person.





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4 comments for ““Cupcake War” Inspired Lesson

  1. Gail DeGruccio
    February 2, 2015 at 5:58 pm

    I have done a Cupcake Wars unit with my 8th grade classes for about five years, very similar to the plans outlined here. It is always a high point of the rotation. We have "celebrity judges" on competition day (other building staff members, from the front office to cafeteria workers to other teachers or administrators), and the winners in each rotation go on to a Final Throwdown held the end of May, right before school lets out for the year.
    This unit provides cooperative work from the kids, creative "outside the box" problem solving, math, reading,etc etc. it's a winner. I would encourage any FCS instructor to include it to their curriculum.

  2. Michelle Haines
    July 28, 2015 at 9:08 am

    Thank you for this detailed lesson plan. I tried it for the first time with my 9-12 Principles of Food Preparation Class and it was a HIT. I had 3 classes with 6 lab groups in each. I had 18 completely different renditions of cupcakes that knocked my socks (and the judges) off! I encourage other FCS teachers to try it!

  3. Theresa barr
    October 4, 2015 at 7:18 pm

    How did you fund the project?

    • K.Graybill
      October 4, 2015 at 8:31 pm

      I fund this lab from my food budget. However, my students are very good at supplying anything I cannot find at the local grocery store.

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