How to Make an Animal Cell Cake in 10 Steps

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We love using NOEO, by Logos Press, for our science curriculum.  This year we are working our way through the Biology 2 program.  This curriculum lays out a weekly lesson plan for 4 days a week.  I like to use the fifth day to add in fun activities related to our unit, such as this animal cell cake project.

Recently my children learned all the parts of an animal cell.  My goal was for the kids to memorize the main organelle names and their functions.

We read the pages in our science books and completed a coloring worksheet, but Hannah and Ben still had a hard time really remembering the organelles.

It can be tough to remember hard words with jobs that you can’t visualize in your head.

I saw a few ideas floating around Pinterest about making a large-scale animal cell project.  Some people used play dough and some people used large styrofoam balls.  

I decided to make an edible animal cell cake project.  My kids seem to learn through their stomachs.  Even if the lesson was a flop, at least there would be cake for dessert. Thankfully, the lesson ended up being pretty powerful.

How to Make An Edible Animal Cell Cake Project

sweet animal cell project written above an image of the cake with open science encyclopedia
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The first step in making an animal cell cake is baking the actual cake portion.

We baked two vanilla round cakes the night before we assembled our animal cell model. This allowed the cakes to be cool and ready to decorate when it was time for our science lesson.  

Hannah is our resident baker.  I gave her the gluten-free recipe and she got to work. Baking is an excellent practical application for reading comprehension, measuring, and multiplying fractions.

Next, I brought the kids to the grocery store and we wandered the candy aisle using our imagination while we tried to find candies that at least somewhat resembled the various organelles shapes.  

I recommend buying the smallest size package of candy possible.  My kids were very smooth, putting large packages of candy in the cart while exclaiming that these peanut butter cups looked just like a nucleus.  Before I knew it, we had almost $40 worth of candy in the cart!  

That candy is still tempting me from the pantry.  Learn from my mistake and buy the candies in single-serving packages whenever possible.

Once we had our cake and candies ready, it was time to assemble our edible animal cell cake project.

memorize animal cell organelles with candy written in front of candy (red vines, sweet tarts, m&ms, mike and ike, reese's peanut butter cups, twizzlers, sprinkles, jelly beans, and yellow frosting)

To Make an Animal Cell Cake You Will Need:

Note:  You can use any candy you want to represent the various organelles. These are just the candies that worked well for my family.

  • Round cake, frosted with plain white icing
  • Yellow icing (cytoplasm)
  • Red Vines (cell wall)
  • Pull ‘n’ Peel Twizzlers, orange (golgi complex)
  • Pull ‘n’ Peel Twizzlers, red (endoplasmic reticula)
  • Peanut butter cup (nucleus)
  • Circle sprinkles (ribosome)
  • Sweet Tarts (lysosome)
  • Mike and Ike (mitochondrion)
  • Jelly beans (vacuoles)
How to Make an Animal Cell Cake listing which candy models each organelle for this project

Steps to make an animal cell cake:

  1. First you will need to bake a round cake and frost it with plain white icing. Let it cool completely before decorating.
  2. Next, spread a thin layer of yellow icing around the entire cake.  This symbolizes the cytoplasm.
  3. Now, wrap Red Vines around the perimeter of the cake.  You may need to cut a Red Vine to fit smoothly.  The Red Vine border represents the cell wall.
  4. Next, place a peanut butter cup in the middle of the cell.  The outer chocolate layer represents the nucleus and the creamy peanut butter center acts as the nucleolus.
  5. Pull apart the Pull ‘n’ Peel Twizzlers to separate the orange and red vines. Tightly wind the orange pieces to create the Golgi complex.  We nicknamed the golgi complex the ‘Amazon Warehouse’ as a way to remember that the golgi complex stores and distributes the substances made in the cell.
  6. Loosely wind the red vines to represent the endoplasmic reticulum.  The endoplasmic reticulum was quite a mouthful for my third grader.  We nicknamed the endoplasmic reticulum the ‘highways’ because it transports material around the cell.
  7. Place a few circle sprinkles around the yellow frosting and along the endoplasmic reticulum.  The sprinkles represent the ribosomes.
  8. Next, place a few Sweet Tarts around the cake.  The Sweet Tarts represent the lysosomes.  We called the lysosomes the ‘bodyguards’ because they destroy invaders.
  9. Add a few Mike and Ikes to represent the mitochondria.
  10. Lastly, we added a couple of jelly beans to represent the vacuoles.

Once the edible animal cell cake project was complete, I quizzed my kids on the various organelles.  

I named an organelle and gave them one M&M if they could correctly identify it and another M&M if they could tell me the job.  After a few rounds, they both had the organelle structures and functions memorized.

Candy and cake are powerful motivators.

How to make an animal cell cake written below an edible cell model

Cell Book Resources

I highly recommend the Usborne Science Encyclopedia and Usborne Complete Book of the Microscope.  

These books came with our NOEO science curriculum and I am so happy they did. Both of these books show the animal cell organelles in beautiful illustrations.  

We referred to these books frequently while we were creating our animal cell cake.

Have you ever made an edible animal cell cake project?  Tell me how in the comments! 

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9 Comments

  1. I like this idea. We made a cell out of Jell-O but it didn’t end up being very edible and the candy bled colors into the Jell-O so it didn’t look as nice. **Don’t forget animal cells do NOT have a cell wall. That is a plant cell. Animal cells have only a cell membrane. 🙂

    1. We used all of the organelles covered in our middle school science curriculum. It does include most organelles, but does not include the cilia or flagella – although those could be easily be added.

  2. OMG THIS IS SOOOO COOL! I’m going to do it in Science class to make my teacher give me a good grade cuz he’s kind of weird. BRIBING FOR LIFEEEEE!!!!!

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