Fact: The life of a nerd is far more fun than the life of a normal person.
Additional fact: Cupcakes make life better.
Syllogistically speaking, if nerds’ lives are more fun, and cupcakes make life better, nerdy cupcakes = EXPLOSION OF FUN AWESOMENESS.
Believe me when I say I have tested this theory. I am a nerd. And I have made, gifted, and eaten many, many cupcakes. I even spent a year working for one of the world’s most famous cupcake shops. I know what I’m talking about.
If you intend to make (or even purchase) some nerd cupcakes, please allow me to extend a virtual-but-hearty slap on the back. Well played! Let’s go over some cupcake design ideas and cupcake decoration tips to make this experience as deliriously pleasurable as possible.
Nerdy Cupcake Ideas
Let’s start with inspiration (that’s how every nerdy pursuit begins, is it not?). Might I recommend giving your Hubs a video game theme? Even the poor souls amongst us (my pitiful soul included) who don’t actively play video games still love them. Video games play a key role in nerd culture, lexicon, and lore.
The most popular video game-related cupcakes and cakes typically have Mario or Pac Man themes, so if you’d like to go for the crowd pleaser, cupcakes replicating characters or elements from these games would make for a safe bet.
You might also consider going for a particular console theme (as was done with the fetching XBox controller cupcake to the right), though goodness knows nerds can get political once consoles are added to the general discussion.
What I’d really like to see is some Fallout cupcakes, or better yet, Starcraft cupcakes positioned in a manner replicating the final moments of a famous battle. If you do that, I’ll buy you a beer. Or a glass of milk. Maybe some Ovaltine. Your pick.
Comic Book Cupcakes
Nerds and comic books. What’s not to love? Batman cupcakes are hot these days (of course), but Spider Man and the Avengers are hardly unpopular.
The great thing about comic-themed cupcakes is you don’t have to be a particularly-skilled cupcake decorator to pull off the theme. Some ideas for the decorating-impaired:
- Evenly-spaced black polka dots on smoothly-iced cupcakes (to replicate comic print)
- Color-themed cupcakes (e.g. blue and black for Batman, gold and red for Iron Man, etc.)
- Cupcakes with comic book figurines set on top (foolproof!!!)
- Spiderman cupcakes with simple spider web designs (all you need to be able to do is draw circles with icing and handle a toothpick without hurting yourself)
Spider Cupcake How-To
As they acted as the gateway drug to my internet nerd lifestyle, I am particularly fond of webcomics, and bet you are, too (you had better be... or else we’re not on speaking terms anymore). The great thing about using webcomics as a nerdy cupcake theme is that many of them have very simple artistic style, making the cupcakes much easier to decorate.
Take XKCD as an example. Can you draw stick figures? Great! You can create some killer awesome XKCD cupcakes!!!
Honestly, sky’s the limit on the webcomic cupcake front; there are countless webcomics, so you have countless options!
Social Network Cupcakes
It’s silly to think that social networks are a ‘nerd’ thing, but... many people seem to think nerds are particularly good with social media (LIES!!!), so I’ve decided to include some examples.
Because people like to think highly of themselves when they use Twitter, Twitter-themed cupcakes are particularly common, however I’ve seen the occasional Facebook cupcake in my day. What I recommend is going for the more obscure networks if you want to come across as more nerdy (though you also run the risk of framing yourself as a hipster nerd- yikes!).
Like social networks, smartphones are additional mainstream things that folks tend to associate with nerds. While I would like to argue that some of my nerdiest comrades have old brick and flip phones, I still feel obliged to share some smartphone cupcake ideas with you.
iPhones, being the most iconic smartphone to date (Shut up Android people. SHUT UP.), are an obvious choice. App icons make for excellent (and often easy to replicate) individual decorations you can put on cupcakes to re-create an iPhone interface feel on a dark-colored platter. I recommend dipping the cakes themselves in melted ganache to give you a smooth surface and a dark background, then embellishing with colored and rolled-out-and-layered fondant shapes resembling famous app icons.
Slightly more nerdy smartphone-themed cupcake ideas involve the use of QR codes. Bonus points if you use QR codes to rick roll your guests.
Web Browser & Tech Platform Cupcakes
While social networks and smartphones are mainstream, heated discussions about web browsers typically only surface in nerd circles and tech platforms (man, do people ever get worked up over my preference for Wordpress over Drupal!!).
The Drupal cupcakes to the left are particularly impressive and surprisingly simple to make. All you need is some stiff buttercream applied to the cupcake in a lopsided swirl (what I like to call the “turd cake” icing style), some runny blue icing in which you can dip it, flat white candies, and thick piping icing for the detail.
Should you want to expend less effort, however, you can simply color small batches of icing for different cupcakes to create a set of decorated cupcakes themed around the top web browser colors (orange for Firefox, red for Opera, blue for Internet Explorer or Safari, and multicolor for Chrome).
Let us return to a subject near and dear to my nerdy, awkward heart: anime!!! Though harder to properly execute (given that anime characters are so very stylized), anime cupcakes make for excellent nerd cupcakes (or dare I say... otaku cupcakes??).
Cupcakes of this sort are probably best made with rolled, colored fondant that you cut with an exacto knife (this will enable you to more accurately recreate the complex faces of your favorite character).
If you feel lazy, don’t worry! Just buy some small figurines and plonk them on top of generously-iced cupcakes. Your nerdy friends will be doubly happy to have cool figurines to take home (and may also be pleased to not eat the face of an idealized character).
Doctor Who Cupcakes
As a proud Whovian, I absolutely must recommend making some Doctor Who cupcakes (hey... Whovians are often nerds- let’s be practical here).
Though I am a huge fan of the TARDIS and Dalek cupcakes pictured to the right (very smart- all you need to do is add paper!!), I would also be delighted to see a set of Doctor Who-themed cupcakes decorated with various accessories worn by different Doctors (bowties, scarves, fezes, leather jackets, etc.).
While everyone loves movies, nerds love them PROPERLY. Besides, it takes nerd-like devotion to become a true movie buff. Though one can easily go with a movie-themed set of cupcakes (popcorn, film reels, etc.), there is a lot of nerd cred to be earned from really nailing the essence of one particular film.
I therefore recommend going for cupcakes themed around your favorite movies. You don’t have to be particularly fancy. As you can see with the cupcakes below, one can simply glue a small pirate flag on a toothpick and stick it in a store-bought cupcake to create a set of cupcakes appropriate for a cheesy pirate movie-watching marathon.
Rock Band Cupcakes
Just as it takes nerd-like devotion to be a proper movie fan, it also takes a nerdy demeanor to be a proper music fan, hence music-themed cupcakes are a must on the inspiration front.
I can say from experience that classic rock band-themed cupcakes tend to be the most popular options. They’re more likely to be universally-beloved (or at least not entirely detested) than those referencing contemporary bands.
Pro tip: Bring really good cupcakes to the next concert you attend and arrive very early. That’s how I ended up backstage at a Flaming Lips concert once. True story.
Math and Science Cupcakes
Should you want to make nerdy cupcakes but lack cake decorating aptitude, make some math cupcakes. Pretty much anyone can pipe plus, minus, multiplication, and division signs onto a bunch of cupcakes (I recommend dipping the tops of cupcakes in a smooth, super-viscous icing or melted ganache so you have a smooth surface to work with).
Science cupcakes are also a great option, as you can do a terrible job icing anything and just call your creation some sort of obscure organelle. As you can see in the picture below, tasteless use of Red Vines, sprinkles, and straws can go a long way.
While many people associate sports with jocks, some of the nerdiest folks I know are HUGE sports fans. It’s all about the stats! The physics! The player history!
Let’s face it, though we may have not done so well in gym class back in high school, true sports fans have to have some mad nerd skills. So don’t rule sports-themed cupcakes out entirely.
Still not inspired? Just make your cupcakes obscure and witty- like these chip-and-guac-themed cupcakes to the right.
One thing I love most about about nerds is that they are full of surprises and march to the beat of their own drum. Though video game / technology / comic / entertainment-themed cupcakes can certainly be nerdy, the nerdiest cupcakes are totally off the wall.
So go on. Surprise us. I dare you.
Now that we’ve gone through a bunch of ideas, let’s get to the nuts and bolts of cupcake creation. Even if it is your full intention to buy whatever cupcakes you’d like to eat/give/serve, I still entreat you to consider making and decorating your own batch. Nothing beats homemade goods, and cupcakes aren’t all that hard to make.
If you aren’t fully comfortable baking on your own, feel free to buy a mix and some canned/tubed icing. That said, my Moroccan lemon cupcake recipe is surprisingly simple....
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- Beat eggs and sugar until blended, add the canola oil and mix again until blended
- In a separate bowl combine the flour, baking powder, and salt, then incorporate into the wet ingredients
- Add the milk
- Add the lemon juice, zest, and vanilla
- Divide the batter amongst 12 cupcake cups
- Bake for 40 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean (note: cake tester = knife / toothpick / whatever!)
- Let cupcakes cool before icing
- 2 eggs
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup canola oil
- 1 cup flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup skim milk
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- zest, from one lemon
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
What do you think?
Cupcake Decorating Tips
As I’ve made clear above, you do not have to have a lot of skill to create some great-looking cupcakes. Sometimes all you need is a lot of icing and some action figures. Utilize the table below and your personal comfort level to choose decoration materials with which you feel the most comfortable.
Cupcake Decorating Materials
Cream cheese icing
Tubed icing for writing
Powdered sugar-based icing in a piping tube
Working with Fondant
Though I have classified fondant (a sugar paste that feels a lot like stiff Play Doh or Fimo clay) as an “advanced” cupcake decorating material, it can actually be surprisingly easy to work with, and if you buy it ready-made, you don’t even have to worry about getting the consistency right.
If you buy fondant, I recommend buying white blocks and coloring them with gel-based food coloring (this is more cost effective and gives you more control over color). After you unwrap your fondant, knead it a bit to make it easier to work with (it can be a bit stiff at first), then add food coloring with a toothpick and continue to knead until the color is fully incorporated. Continue to work in more colo until you have reached your desired shade.
I recommend working with very small batches as (1) fondant is frickin’ EXPENSIVE, even when purchased in giant, bulk tubs from restaurant suppliers, (2) you will reduce waste, and (3) you will be able to incorporate colors more quickly.
Fondant can be rolled out and cut into various shapes or molded into small figures like clay. To add a bit of of shine to your final product, I recommend dusting some edible glitter onto your finished fondant product (sparingly) before adding it to a cupcake.
Which is your favorite type of nerdy cupcake?
Have Fun with Those Nerdy Cupcakes!
I hope I’ve left you feeling inspired and well-equipped to create some nerdtastically awesome confectionary treats.
My final advice to you:
Don’t worry about getting the cupcakes to look perfect
Know your cupcake decorating level and plan accordingly- you do not have to be an incredibly-skilled icing piper to create cupcakes that look like they were made by professionals
Please do share additional nerdy cupcake ideas and tips in the comments below. I’d love to hear about your own creations or crazy cupcakes you’ve seen out in the wild.