Typography Cupcakes: An Edible Type Tutorial

Edible Typography Image

When planning the holiday party for The Society of Typographic Arts, I overzealously blurted out “TYPOGRAPHY CUPCAKES!” when asked if there was anything I could contribute. I was sure as heck that someone out there in this design world had embarked on such a project before, so it would be just a matter of googling to find that certain someone and their accompanying tutorial.

Boy, did I overestimate the design world’s appetite for edible type.

I did happen to pull up a lot of rounded-edged comic-sans-looking baking decorations, and that was definitely not the route I wanted to pursue. After several weeks of frantic searching, my friend Tamara Grusin of Peepwire sent me this link to the blog of the talented Crystal Ross of Gateaux Rose. As you can see, she’d made some tasteful and tasty cupcakes with elegant typography decorations. I told her about my conundrum, and she responded with helpful hints about making the letters. It wasn’t easy, but they turned out great–and were a HUGE HIT at the holiday party!

So in case you wanted to give this a go, I’ve included step-by-step instructions. Wow your design and type nerd friends at your next festive gathering! ( Just expect to stay up all night making them!)

Making the letters

  1. First, I gathered the necessary recipes. For the Royal Icing, I went with an Alton Brown recipe. For the cupcakes and buttercream frosting, I went with–who else?–Martha Stewart!
  2. Then I headed over to Michael’s craft store for the supplies. I picked up a Cupcake Decorating Kit, which came with 5 different tips and some plastic pastry bags. I also grabbed some mini cupcake tins (I decided to keep them finger-food sized for the purpose of a party), some mini cupcake cups, and gel food coloring pots.
  3. For the royal icing and buttercream frosting, I added the very slightest amount of food coloring. Technicolor frosting is unappetizing to me… might as well get a sheet cake from the local grocery chain. Not very chic.
  4. Make the royal icing the night before the cupcakes. The recipe calls for egg whites, vanilla, more powdered sugar than is probably fit for human consumption, and food coloring. Adding the powdered sugar slowly to the egg whites, you’ll come up with a consistency that is fit for piping.
  5. I printed the alphabet on card stock–with some glyphs thrown in for fun–then taped down parchment on top of it. I found that using a decorative, bold font works best–in this case, Council by Emigre.
  6. With a very careful hand, I traced each letter with the the smallest pastry tip in the set. This is key for the most control.

First, trace the outside edges.

Tracing letters with icing

Tracing the letters with icing.Then fill in the center.

Letters made with icing

Let the letters dry overnight. In a pinch, you could let them dry in the oven for about 20 minutes set to low.

Making the cupcakes and the buttercream frosting

The cupcakes and the frosting recipes are pretty straightforward: in lieu of sifting the dry ingredients, I used a fine wire strainer and shook the ingredients together.

Cupcake Ingredients

Again, with the frosting, just the lightest touch of food coloring.

Buttercream Frosting

I broke my hand mixer while making the batter! 🙁

Mixing cupcake batterI filled the cupcake tins using a pitcher. The cupcakes themselves bake pretty quickly–10 minutes–so as you can see, it can be easy to get carried away and make A LOT of them!

Frosting the cupcakes

With the next largest pastry tip in the set, lightly frost each cake, making a circle and and finishing with a light push on the tip. (This part was really fun!)

Frosting the cupcakesCupcakes all frosted!Finally, with a very careful hand, insert the letters into the frosting.

Typography Cupcakes by Lillian

TA-DA!

Typography Cupcakes, Finished ProductLillian and her Cupcakes

Last two photographs shot by Lucy Hewett.

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial, and if you give it a shot, send me pictures of your results!

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7 Comments

  1. Posted December 15, 2010 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    Nice work, and great post!

    It’s unlikely that I’ll be making these cupcakes any time soon, but I sure did enjoy eating them! I think the first one I grabbed was “%”. Because, really, how often do you see a cupcake with a percent sign on it?

    Sorry to hear about your hand mixer. 🙁

  2. Posted December 16, 2010 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    Great job Lilian! I love the color fo the letters – very Martha!

  3. Rose
    Posted December 17, 2010 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    Oh. M’Goodness.

    These are gorgeous.

    My favorite part, what I would say is the most elegant part, is that the letters stand up! So delicate.

    We are cupcake decorators in the house, particularly my gf. She makes animals, kinky cupcakes and cupcakes that look like a plate of spaghetti. She’d be quite interested in this typography thing. Although she’d probably spell profane words. But if it’s pretty enough, people might not notice. And these are pretty enough.

  4. Posted February 29, 2012 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

    Excellent flair for writing.

  5. Posted May 29, 2012 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    When fully made, store with lids on at room temp for a day or two. If made up to the ganache step (before frosting) you can screw lids on and store in the fridge for 3-4 days, then frost right before gifting. If you’d like to fully prepare them a day or two ahead of time, I would actually reverse the filling and topping. Core out the center of the cupcakes and fill with frosting. Place the “cap” of the cupcake back over the hole and then top the entire top with ganache and a sprinkling of candycane. Store at room temp for 1-2 days or refrigerated for 3-4.

  6. Reine
    Posted January 14, 2013 at 11:53 pm | Permalink

    Did you have any trouble pulling the letters off the wax paper? The skinny parts of the letters? I’ve tried this method with melting chocolate and the chocolate becomes too fragile to work with this skinny. What do you think?

    Thank you! Truly appreciate the tutorial.

  7. admin
    Posted January 15, 2013 at 7:03 am | Permalink

    Actually, it was quite easy! A couple of the skinnier ones snapped, but I made sure to build them with enough height and thickness, and it was actually a cinch.

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