Graduation Cupcake Ideas

  • 01 of 04

    Graduation Cupcake and Dessert Ideas

    Cupcake Tower
    Graduation cupcakes, candy and cakepops add sweet pizzazz to any party spread. Photo by Jackie Burrell

    Graduation is a big deal for a family. Naturally, you want to celebrate in style! But whether you party at a restaurant, on the college quad or your own backyard, you'll want to do a memorable dessert, and these adorable cupcakes and dessert ideas are perfect for the purpose.

    You'll find everything you need on the following pages, from the how-tos for making your own colorful cupcake towers or display stands to recipes, cupcake toppers and other grad-themed desserts, including cake pops,...MORE chocolate pops and - because we're just that trendy, right? - a push-up dessert that's the new hot thing on the party scene.

    Let's get started! Page through for the how-tos for everything you see in the photograph above ​or use the quick links below.

    • DIY Cupcake Towers & Display Stands
    • Cupcakes & Toppers
    • Push-Up Cake Pops, Candy Pops & More
    Continue to 2 of 4 below.
  • 02 of 04

    DIY Cupcake Towers & Display Stands

    Cupcake Tower
    Ribbon finishes the edges of a simple DIY cupcake tower. Photo by Jackie Burrell

    It's easy to make your dessert buffet eye-catching with these quick tricks for varying the heights of your serving platters.

    • Cupcake Towers: These show-stopping towers (pictured above) elevate a simple cupcake spread into a buffet centerpiece by offering tiers of sweets. You can buy them, of course, but they're ridiculously easy to make, using nothing more complicated than cake rounds, ribbon and soup cans, and some simple step-by-step directions. To buy one ready-made, check the...MORE cake-decorating aisle at your local craft store or culinary boutique, or look online for a wide array of styles (compare prices here).
    • Raised Platters: This riff on a cupcake tower, pictured on the previous page, is even easier to make. Glue two 14-inch cardboard cake rounds together. Cover with a circle of decorative paper, trim the edges with grosgrain ribbon, and glue the finished "platter" to the top of a heavy, stable base - in this case, a gold-painted vase from the craft store.
    • Platforms: Simply place two or three low, sturdy boxes on your bare buffet table, toward the back, then drape a tablecloth(s) over the entire thing. When you arrange your platters of food, places several on the boxes and several on the table itself to stagger the heights and make it easy for guests to reach the food in​ the back.
    Continue to 3 of 4 below.
  • 03 of 04

    Graduation Cupcakes & Toppers

    Cupcake toppers
    Photo by Jackie Burrell

    There are some wonderful recipes out there for cupcakes - from chocolate-peanut butter to red velvet and vanilla creations and even a perfect little blackberry muffin that needs nothing more than a lemony frosting to make it party-ready. But add these easy, DIY toppers and they become instant  frosting-festooned graduation celebrations.

    Graduation Toppers

    Make your own sweet cupcake toppers with heavyweight scrapbook paper and a pair of craft punches in two sizes - a scalloped circle and a...MORE slightly smaller, plain one. It's an easy concept: a pair of layered circles, with a toothpick to secure it to the cupcake. Add "Congrats," the year or a graduation icon to the smaller circle, and voila - that cupcake is ready to take a bow as a graduation dessert.


    Mini-graduation caps look adorable backed with a medallion of gaily striped paper, using the same technique. You'll find mortarboard stickers and - even better - 3-D fabric versions in the sticker aisle at your local craft store.

    Fondant Diplomas

    Fondant is as easy to handle as play-dough. Use a rolling pin to flatten the fondant into small white rectangles, then loosely roll each rectangle up to form a diploma. Tint a small amount of fondant a contrasting color, and cut narrow, ribbon-like strips to "tie" around the diplomas. Let the finished diplomas sit out overnight to dry, then top the cupcakes with the fondant creations, no more than an hour or two before serving.

    Continue to 4 of 4 below.
  • 04 of 04

    Push-Up Cake Pops, Graduation Pops & More

    Push-up Cake Pops
    Sweet "graduation caps" and push-up cake pops share space on the dessert buffet with classic cupcakes. Photo by Jackie Burrell

    Whimsical touches are what make a dessert buffet truly memorable, so fill out the rest of your graduation sweets table with more than cupcakes. Add a basket of strawberries - chocolate-dipped, if you want to go all out - and confections like these.

    Push-Up Cakes

    These push-up pops have become the party trend du jour. It's a riff on those frozen push-up pops we all enjoyed as kids, but swanky caterers are translating the concept into elaborate, layered desserts that are easy to make ahead....MORE "Dressing" the dessert in a graduation cap is just icing on the cake. You'll find the instructions, recipes and more ideas here.

    Graduation Candy Pops

    Bakerella blogger Angie Dudley is the culinary genius who put cake pops on the map, and her graduation caps-on-sticks are equally adorable. The ones above use small Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Ghirardelli chocolate squares and colorful, narrow strips cut from sour gummy worms to play the role of tassel.

    Colorful Marshmallows

    When San Francisco dessert caterer Shauna Sever started serving colorful, homemade marshmallows on a whim, she made a startling discovery. People loved them even more than the swanky tarts and fabulous little cakes on the dessert table - so much so, that now she has a cookbook out, "Marshmallow Madness" (Quirk Books, 2012). Try the basic vanilla marshmallow recipe she has posted on her blog, then go wild with the cookbook, which includes chocolate, creamsicle, coconut, apricot and even bubblegum flavored sweets in a riot of colors and shapes.