Learning about Color Theory with Cupcakes

Color Wheel Cupcakes

Today Otter had a lesson in color theory. We made a color wheel featuring primary, secondary and tertiary colors out of cupcakes and frosting! I like scheduling in activities like this into our homeschool, especially on Friday. It’s a great way to wrap up the week and something to look forward to all week long.

Here’s what we used:

  • white frosting in 2 tubs
    • We used Betty Crocker Whipped Fluffy White Frosting. I recommend having 2 tubs on hand in case you need to mix up some extra primary colors in order to have enough frosting to mix up the other colors.
  • cupcakes made from a cupcake mix
  • 6 bowls / small plates to mix frosting in
  • several spoons (a fresh spoon for each new color)
  • food coloring (you need the primary colors red, blue and yellow)

First, Otter whipped up a batch of cupcakes during lunch. He LOVES to cook and bake.

Chocolate cupcakes!!!!!

After the cupcakes cooled he got started on the project! He mixed up 3 small bowls of red, yellow and blue frosting.

Frosting and food coloring

Frosting in primary colors

We set up 9 cupcakes on a plate and frosted the first 3 in the primary colors:

Hey, look! It’s a smurf cake!

The next step was to start mixing the secondary colors. Otter started with a mixture of red and yellow first. Note: you aren’t going to get a deep, rich red using food coloring unless you put in a million drops, so we settled for a pinky sort of red and worked with that.

Mixing red and yellow to make orange

Then he mixed his new color with yellow to make a tertiary color – an orange-yellow:

He continued mixing colors until he completed the color wheel!

First (primary colors):

red, blue, yellow

Then (secondary colors):

red + blue = violet
red + yellow = orange
blue + yellow = green

Then (tertiary colors) :

violet + red = violet-red
orange + yellow = orange-yellow
green + yellow = yellow-green


Afterwards he was free to experiment with the frosting to mix up any colors he desired to frost the rest of the cupcakes.

This is a great hands-on activity for any age. It looks pretty, tastes good and teaches a bit of color theory (so mark it in your homeschool planner as art, or home ec. or both, lol).

So we made a bit of a mess, but…

Cupcake mess!

We also made a great memory (and a yummy dessert, lol)!

Here are some additional color theory activities or resources:

Paper towel color wheel activity

Color theory worksheet

Interactive color wheel