Cake in a Can Birthday Surprise DIY

How to do you turn a can of fruit into a yummy frosted cupcake in a pop-top can surprise? Is it magic?

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Cake in a Can Birthday Surprise DIY

Nope, just a little craftiness. = )

My niece and nephews all share birthdays in September, and because of the start of school, we are normally never able to celebrate in person. Last year I sent them all a “birthday in a box” filled with everything they would need to have their own mini-party celebration. This year, I decided to actually mail a birthday cake surprise…. in a can!

Have you ever baked a cake in a can? I’ve seen it done on Pinterest before, but I actually wanted to send the whole can, and make it a surprise to open the can with the cake inside.

The trick is to start with a can that has a pop-top already, and to use a safety can opener that doesn’t leave a sharp edge. This is the exact can opener I used, but I know you can find it in different brands as well. It safely and easily removes lids, leaving a smooth edge that is suitable for resealing with a plastic lid, or in this case, attaching back on the can. Canned fruit is a good choice to start with, and I wanted to make sure the cans I used had pop-tops. I used 15 oz cans of peaches and fruit cocktail. I emptied out the fruit and saved it for lunches later, and cleaned and dried out the cans to use for baking. Make sure to use a can that started with food in it, so that you know the metal is safe to bake in.

The other key trick is to remove the lid from the BOTTOM of the can, leaving the pop-top intact. And don’t forget, save the bottom lids!

How to make cake in a can birthday surprise @clubchicacircle

After the cans were clean and dry, with bottom lids removed, I made sure to coat them with cooking spray.

I mixed up some Funfetti cake mix together and filled the cans about 1/2 full. I baked them in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown.

Then, before popping them out of the can, I let them cool in the cans first. I popped them out, using a knife around the edges if necessary, and then let them cool completely.

Part two of my cake in a can DIY is the crafty part. I cleaned and dried out the cans again before assembling my birthday cake surprises.

Cupcake in a can assembly steps Part 2

I put fun colored sprinkles and sugar cupcake candy decorations on the bottom of the can. Note: I put the cupcake candy decoration upside-down so that it would be at the top of my can when opened.

Then I squirted in chocolate icing on top of the sprinkles at the bottom of the can. I used enough to cover all of the decoration and fill the bottom.

Then I placed the cooled cake back into the can, with the bottom of the cake showing.

Finally, I placed the lid back on and used clear packing tape to secure. Because I was putting food back into the can, I didn’t want to use glue to reattach the lid. The tape was safer.

Now, you can send off a can with a cute birthday label right? I created four different free printable birthday labels that you can download and print here:

Free Printable Cake in a Can Happy Birthday Labels

cake in a can with free printable labels

Print out the labels, cut them out, and wrap around the finished cake cans. I used pretty washi tape to secure, but clear tape would work too.

Then all the birthday recipient has to do is pop the top and enjoy the cake! Surprise!

Cake in a Can Birthday Surprise

I mailed one off to my niece, and told her I wanted to Facetime with her while she opened her surprise. Her facial expression was priceless. She really thought I send her a can of beans!

When she popped the top, she was pleasantly surprised and gobbled the cake right up!

While I was testing out the cupcake-in-a-can surprise, I had my tween and two of her neighbor friends test it out for me first.

cake in a can yummy craft surprise for kids

I gave them each a can and a fork and the result was a two-thumbs up!

cake in a can surprise treat for kids

This was a fun birthday surprise to make and to send. And clean-up was easy too. Once they were done with the cake, I simply just needed to recycle the can.

birthday cupcake in a can DIY

Try out this yummy birthday surprise craft for someone special. So easy to transport and enjoy!

Looking for another fun way to upcycle something ordinary and fill it with a tasty treat? I love these Strawberry Treat Cups from Crafts by Amanda that started as ordinary red plastic cups. So cute and clever!

strawberry-cups-craft idea

Happy crafting!

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Pauline Molinari

I'm the crafty maven, and I'm on a mission to spread craftiness. With a fine arts degree, over 15 years experience in children's publishing, and a savvy, stylish, sassy tween daughter, I come armed with perspective and passion to inspire tween girls and their mothers to be crafty together. 

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  72 comments for “Cake in a Can Birthday Surprise DIY

  1. September 17, 2013 at 1:53 pm

    I think you are the smartest person I know! What a clever and wonderful idea! I can imagine the smiles this brings! I’m checking out my calendar now to see who I can send one too!

    • September 17, 2013 at 7:15 pm

      Thanks Anna. You are pretty special yourself!

  2. Cindy R
    September 17, 2013 at 6:35 pm

    That is cool!!

  3. Suzanne Meriden
    September 18, 2013 at 6:36 am

    Love this!!! You guys are amazing!

  4. Cindy
    September 19, 2013 at 6:09 am

    I think I’m going to make this for my daughter’s teachers birthdays!

  5. Cindy S
    September 19, 2013 at 7:04 am

    How many cans does one box mix make?
    If I wanted to make these but only 1 at a time, how would I do that? Could I store the mix already made in the fridge or what?

    • September 19, 2013 at 10:02 am

      One cake mix makes about 5 cans. Yes, you can save already made mix in the fridge for a short period of time.

      • Cindy S
        September 19, 2013 at 3:06 pm

        Do you know how long? I have approx a month between birthdays.

        • September 20, 2013 at 9:41 am

          I wouldn’t leave batter in the fridge for more than a few days, but you may want to just consider making a small batch of batter, and keep the dry mix in your pantry in a container. I’ve done that before, and that will last much longer.

        • Lisa
          September 24, 2013 at 3:42 pm

          Yu could also bake the cakes and store them without the can in the freezer for several months.

        • Melodie Notter
          October 18, 2013 at 6:35 pm

          YYou could make the cakes ahead of time and freeze them afterwards then thaw out when ready to send your birthday can. Just a thought so you wouldn’t have to leave batter in frige.

  6. September 20, 2013 at 6:59 pm


  7. Danielle
    September 21, 2013 at 7:09 am

    LOVE this idea. How did you mail it? Did you put it in a box first or did you just wrap the can?

    • September 21, 2013 at 9:56 am

      I found a box the perfect size to mail my birthday surprise can to my niece. Unlike the sponge cake postcard, I didn’t want to chance sending this one in the mail without it being packaged in a box.

  8. September 23, 2013 at 12:33 pm

    This is just the cutest idea!!! I love it!!!! What a fun way to serve and eat cake!!! And I love the birthday “can” labels, they are adorable!!! Very cute idea!!!! πŸ™‚

  9. September 25, 2013 at 8:44 am

    This is SUCH A GREAT IDEA!!! My niece and nephews live out of town and all of their birthdays are within a month of each other, too. I really can’t wait to try this out and send it to them! Thank you so much for sharing!!

    • September 25, 2013 at 10:14 am

      Thanks Danielle for the great comment! Your niece and nephews will love it!

  10. Susannah
    October 18, 2013 at 6:25 pm

    I would like to recommend that one consider not using a pop-top can (especially for children) to avoid the difficulty of pulling open the pop-top, but most importantly to avoid the sharp edges on the lid and inside rim of the can. Little fingers (and adult fingers, too) will be tempted to wipe out all the yummy sprinkles and frosting. Using the safety can opener to open the top would be a safer choice. Just a thought. Such a great idea for that special surprise!

    • October 19, 2013 at 6:09 pm

      I helped my daughter pop the top, but didn’t experience any sharp images from the can. My kid testers were so focused on eating the cake out of the can with a fork. = )

  11. Julie
    October 18, 2013 at 7:58 pm

    This is the most creative idea I’ve seen in a long time. I can’t wait to try this. You are BRILLIANT!!!

  12. Mary Starostka
    October 19, 2013 at 1:25 am

    I would love to make some of these and send them to my son who is deployed. How well do they hold up when mailed?

    • October 19, 2013 at 6:08 pm

      They held beautifully while being mailed. Great idea! As long as you secure back up properly, you should be fine. Mine were filled from top to bottom with cake and frosting and then sealed back up.

  13. Anneke
    October 19, 2013 at 5:26 am

    AWESOME idea!! Can you also add a lid on the can, so the cake stays more fresh after baking? πŸ™‚ And what kind of lid can you use for it? πŸ™‚ Can you save this for a long time, more days/weeks or do you need to eat it quick after baking?

    • October 19, 2013 at 6:07 pm

      I actually replaced the exact lid that the can with and taped it back in place to secure and keep the cake fresh. The trick is using a safety can opener that lets you open a can without any sharp edges.

  14. Anneke
    October 19, 2013 at 5:58 am

    Can you Only use ready-to-use-icing or make your own icing with some ingredients… I dont know what you can use for this? and then add it between the cakes? πŸ™‚

    • October 19, 2013 at 6:06 pm

      Absolutely, you can use your own homemade frosting. I would just put it in a piping bag, or a sandwich bag with the tip cut off so that you can easily squirt it in the bottom of the can. Great idea!

  15. Marta
    November 4, 2013 at 7:42 pm

    These would be great fun for a baby gender reveal party. Use pink or blue icing and baby type sprinkles.

  16. Hanna
    November 8, 2013 at 8:02 pm

    If you plan on making your own icing or fillings, remember that things like butter and cream cheese and fresh fruit can go bad fairly quickly when not refrigerated. I’d be cautious not to give anyone food poisoning. Maybe don’t send those ones abroad; stick to ingredients that can survive non-refrigerated trips on a truck in the middle east (hot climate zones) to send to loved ones stationed there. (The cans are not re-disinfected, re-heated, or re-sealed, so they won’t preserve food the way a can usually does.)
    Just being safe. I love the idea, though. It could also work well for packing lunches (i.e. my own!)

    • November 10, 2013 at 4:27 pm

      Good point Hanna. Thanks for your input.

  17. November 9, 2013 at 6:02 am

    Wow! Thank you! I can’t wait to try this! πŸ™‚

  18. Megan
    November 14, 2013 at 4:53 pm

    AH-MAZING!!! Was looking for cute craft ideas for my Junior’s Troop and came across this! They are working on their Simple Meals badge and will need an idea for a dessert. We are sooo doing this! I love that you can mail them, too. I don’t live near family but would love to send these to my nieces and nephews. Greatest…Aunt…Ever!!

  19. Anita
    November 18, 2013 at 2:08 am

    Love your ideas πŸ™‚ sister had a cake in the can, a few cakes postcards are ready to travel to the birthday girls. Best wishes from Croatia.

  20. Mary
    November 21, 2013 at 3:37 pm

    Can not wait to make these. I think I would use some decorative duct tape to seal the can and decorate can with duct tape..

  21. Andrew
    December 3, 2013 at 1:05 am

    I just discovered this wonderful page the other day and decided to do these for my daughters bday party… I layered the cakes because, frosting! πŸ™‚

    I decided to prank my girl and her friends though, by leaving the original wrappers on the cans. Unfortunately, I failed at that, as I’ve pranked my girls a bit too often so they didn’t fall for it lol. They knew there must be something nice in the cans, but they were still pleasantly shocked to see the little cakes in there. Thanks for posting this πŸ™‚

  22. December 10, 2013 at 3:42 pm

    This is awesome!! I’m not a fan of cake, but I would love to try eating it in a can!!

  23. Candace
    December 29, 2013 at 1:58 pm

    I love this. I’m going to make them for girls birthday and I’m gonna mail it to my best friend who moved away. Thank you for sharing.

  24. Judi Johnson
    January 3, 2014 at 2:07 pm

    I am still confused from time you baked and sealed them and mailed them what is time frame they are still edible. What chance of them spoiling in a week or two or less?

  25. Alison
    January 14, 2014 at 10:16 am

    Love this idea. Going to do this for my granddaughter, but I’ll cut the cake in half and do the sprinkles/frosting 1/2 way down the can for an additional fun surprise.

  26. Jessica G
    January 20, 2014 at 5:19 am

    You are brilliant! This will be the perfect crownpiece for my college daughter’s birthday care package!

  27. January 21, 2014 at 5:17 am

    This is one of the coolest presentation for a personalized birthday cake I have ever seen! I will have to try this out. How creative! πŸ™‚

  28. Karla
    February 7, 2014 at 7:05 pm

    This is so cool!! I think it would be fun to use for party favors too!!!

  29. February 10, 2014 at 1:25 pm

    This idea is super cute! I love the how surprise of opening it and seeing a cake!

  30. Judy Johnson
    February 13, 2014 at 5:10 pm

    Would it be possible to make this a layer cake in a can? This sounds wonderful – I can hardly wait to try it!

    • February 14, 2014 at 10:28 am

      Ooh, sounds interesting! I will have to try that!

  31. Jacie
    February 16, 2014 at 9:17 pm

    These are wonderful! You are a very sweet person to share this idea.
    I’m sending these in the mail to my siblings.
    Love how you attached the print outs. Came in handy!
    Thanks sooooo much for sharing your wonderful idea!!!

  32. nancy
    March 18, 2014 at 11:02 am

    ohhh how cute : )

  33. April 18, 2014 at 3:49 pm

    I found you on StumbleUpon. This is beyond FAB. I love both options and the expression on the kid’s faces is priceless. Thank you for a great idea.

  34. April 23, 2014 at 11:48 pm

    The children’s faces as they eat the cake is the best part of this post. What beautiful smiles they all have. It’s amazing what a little cake can do to our moods. πŸ™‚

  35. Holly
    April 24, 2014 at 12:02 pm

    Hey there Pauline ! Love your little official cake testers. Seems as they love that “job”. This is such a great idea. If I use an electric opener, do you think that would be a problem? Or a good old manual one??? The recipient would be opening from the top. I would be the one that had to use caution with the top, or in this case, bottom.Let me know your thoughts. Thanks again. ~ Holly

    • April 28, 2014 at 10:46 am

      Hi Holly,
      Just be careful on the edges when using an electric opener. It should be fine as long as you tape it back up carefully, and then the recipient can still open it with the pop top on the other side.
      Hope that helps.

  36. April 26, 2014 at 5:03 pm

    So cuteeee, I love it!

  37. michelle
    May 20, 2014 at 11:02 pm

    Love this idea!! Plan to do this for my daughter’s mustache party this sunday, ( need 25) lol, but I think that is a lot of cake per child. Do You Think it Would Work With A 10 or 8 oz can?

    • May 21, 2014 at 10:37 am

      absolutely! My daughter couldn’t finish here whole cake can. A smaller can would work just the same, just the printable I designed would be too big, but you could decorate with fun paper or tape.

  38. Mandy
    May 30, 2014 at 6:07 am

    Hi. Love the Idea.. but one question. Has anyone made these ahead of time? how long will theses store and best method of storing. I have a birthday party to plan for and wanted to maybe make these about 2 days early.

    • June 1, 2014 at 12:37 pm

      2 days should be fine. I made these, and mailed them to my niece and nephews for their birthday, and it took 2 days to get to them. They arrived perfect and still yummy as ever!

  39. Hannah
    July 2, 2014 at 5:36 pm

    This is so cool! I never would have thought about something like this. I definitely have to try this!

  40. chris
    September 27, 2014 at 10:44 am

    I totally love this idea and plan on sending some cake off to my nephew in college. You are a genius πŸ™‚ Also, my mom has been baking breads in coffee cans for years and years. Who knew?!!

  41. November 27, 2014 at 3:51 am

    Such an amazingly, cute idea. Thanks for sharing!

  42. Chanda
    July 26, 2015 at 6:49 pm

    This is brilliant. Thank you so much! They turned out great! Thank you for the labels too!

  43. Katie
    September 1, 2015 at 10:20 pm

    I am so excited to do this for my daughter’s birthday at college. I think I’m going to cut the cakes in half and put more frosting in the middle. Make a canned layer cake! πŸ™‚ Kids love the frosting!

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