I'm a former middle school science teacher who has made and graded hundreds of plant and animal cell models over the years.
Make an Edible Animal Cell Model
Three-dimensional models—especially when edible—are a fun and easy way to learn about animal cells. Not sure how to begin this project? You'll find step-by-step instructions to bake a delicious, scientifically-accurate animal cell cake below. My guide has you covered from mitochondria to lysosomes, and following these instructions will ensure an A+ animal cell project!
1. Gather Your Supplies
You'll need a handful of affordable supplies, both edible and non-edible. You can see the materials I used to make the cake below, but feel free to switch up the candy types to fit your budget and taste.
- Round cake pan
- Cooking spray
- Mixing bowls
- Oven mitts
- Funfetti cake mix
- Vegetable oil
- Food coloring
- Mike & Ikes
- Candy belts
- Circular sprinkles
- Candy fruit slices
2. Bake the Cake
If you're using Pillsbury's Funfetti cake mix as I did, you'll need to combine the cake mix with the following ingredients:
- 3 eggs
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 1 cup water
Once your cake batter is smooth, add a few drops of food coloring to mimic the pink color of many animal cells' cytoplasms. When your cake batter is an even color, pour it into a square cake pan and bake it in the oven at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. You'll know it's ready if you poke a toothpick in the middle and it comes out clean.
To create an edible nucleus without having to buy extra candy, simply set aside a spoonful of cake batter and use it to bake a small cupcake. The cupcake will fit perfectly on top of your animal cell cake!
3. Frost the Cake
To make sure your animal cell cake is scientifically accurate, you'll need to dye your frosting two different colors. One color will be used to create the cytoplasm, which is represented by the top of the cake. The second color will be the cell membrane, represented by the sides of the cake.
Don't forget! If you chose to bake a nucleus cupcake, you'd also need to prepare a small amount of frosting dyed a third color.
You can use many tools to frost your animal cell cake, but I recommend using an actual frosting palette knife if you want a smooth, professional look. They cost about $6 and are incredibly useful in the kitchen. If you don't want to use one, try using the smooth edge of a butter knife, the back of a large spoon, or a small spatula.
4. Add the Organelles
Organelles are the "mini-organs" found in every animal cell. Each organelle has a different function and physical appearance. Together, they work to keep the cell alive. I've made a chart showing the breakdown of specific organelles and the edible materials I used to represent them below.
Cupcake with green frosting
Purple Mike & Ike
Green candy belts
Pink candy belts attached to the nucleus
Purple candy-fruit slices
Blue Mike & Ikes