My school-aged daughter recently celebrated a birthday and I wanted to be able to bring something to share with her class at school.  Like many schools these days, her school respects allergy concerns and has banned food items for parties. Since I couldn’t bring in an edible cake or treat, I wanted to devise a “cake” that served small goodie bag trinkets instead.

 Punch Box "Birthday Cake"

What came to mind was a popular game for trunk-or-treat events – the punch box.  A punch box is typically a piece of cardboard with holes cut out that are covered with tissue paper.  Trick-or-treaters punch through a piece of tissue to reveal a prize.  Why not transform this idea into a “birthday cake”?

Punch Box "Birthday Cake"


For easy of construction, I made my Punch Box “Birthday Cake” out of plastic party cups, tissue paper, and rubber bands.  I used one cup per kid in my daughter’s class and used a box that was suited to arranging the cups to get a layered cake effect (i.e. twelve cups around the bottom and six cups on top).  I fashioned some candles out of construction paper and voila – an inedible, yet fun cake.

The Punch Box “Birthday Cake” was a hit and netted compliments from teachers (including the art teacher!) when I walked into the school.  I’d love to hear your ideas for non-food birthday celebrations.

 Punch Box "Birthday Cake"

Punch Box “Birthday Cake”

18, 16oz. colorful drinking cups
18, assorted trinkets, stamps, or small toys
18, 10-inch by 10-inch squares of tissue paper
18, rubber bands (at least 1/8th inch wide and ~2.25 inch diameter)
One, 5-inch x 7-inch x 10-inch box
Wrapping paper
Duct tape
Construction paper (optional)


Note: These instructions make one “cake” serving 18 children.  To accommodate a larger group size, increasing the number of cups, trinkets, tissue squares, and rubber bands by one per child. A larger box or multiple boxes will be needed to accommodate the extra cups.

Place one trinket or toy in each cup.  Place one piece of tissue paper over each cup opening and secure with a rubber band, sliding the rubber band about halfway down the cup.  Wrap the box as if it was a present, then secure twelve of the cups to the short sides (three cups per side) with a bit of duct tape and (side of cup to side of box). Secure the remaining cups with a bit of duct tape to the top (bottom of cup to top of box).  Tie a ribbon around the top cups and a ribbon around the bottom cups and box to secure in place.

To use, each kid gets to punch through the tissue paper on top of one cup to claim their prize.


I found that hot glue was not a great choice as the cups were a bit too heavy and I was a bit too impatient to hold each cup in place.  The ribbon is necessary to make the “cake” look pretty and keep the cups aligned.

When using the punch box, place on top of a table or use a larger piece or wood or cardboard under the bottom layer, otherwise enthusiastic kids can knock the cups right off the package.