Play Food Craft Activity: Afternoon Tea

Make a realistic looking afternoon tea out of household sponges, cloths, and a few craft items.

DIY Pretend Food Craft Activity for Kids

The final result makes an excellent play food prop which can then be incorporated into role-play activities. The great thing about this is that it’s relatively easy even for lower ability children to create some realistic results, which really helps with their confidence. I recently did this activity with a group of 3-5 year-olds at a charity coffee morning, so it’s tried and tested! If you want to take it further, older children may wish to add a little extra detail depending on their skill level.

Opportunities for learning:

  • Colour mixing
  • Practising brush skills
  • Fine motor development
  • Role playing and confidence building
For more ideas on how you could incorporate the cakes into your teaching, take a look at 10 Ways to use play food to develop key skills.

There’s quite a lot here, so to make it easier to follow, I’ve split the activity into four parts. Either do them in order or pick and choose as you please:

Strawberry Sponge Cake & Cake Stand (Afternoon Tea – Part 1 of 4)
Battenberg Cake & Sandwiches (Afternoon Tea – Part 2 of 4)
Iced Chocolate Cake (Afternoon Tea – Part 3 of 4)
Salt Dough Scones, Macaroons & Biscuits (Afternoon Tea – Part 4 of 4)

Part One

Strawberry Sponge Cake

Craft materials needed for the sponge cake.

What you’ll need:

  • Two circular bath (or car) sponges. I used cream and pink ones. However, you could paint the sponges if you wanted.
  • White and red paint.
  • Sponge spreaders.
  • PVA glue.
  • Glue spreader.
  • Shaving foam.
  • Empty yoghurt pots.
  • Cling film.
  • Beads / Pom-poms / painted conkers for decoration.

By the way, I’d also recommend wearing an apron or some old clothes because this activity can get a bit messy!

Making the fillings

Making pretend icing from shaving foam and paint.

1. Firstly, for the cream, mix shaving foam, PVA glue and white paint together (you could use a plate or an empty yoghurt pot for this).

2. Next, paste the white mixture onto the top of the circular cream sponge.

3. To make the jam: Mix some shaving foam, PVA glue and red paint together. Again, use either a plate or an empty yoghurt pot for this.

4. Now paste the red mixture onto the top of the circular pink sponge.

5. Place the cream sponge on top of the pink sponge. The more paint you use here, the more that will ooze out like jam and cream!

6. For the iced topping: Mix shaving foam, PVA glue, white and a little red paint to make a pink mixture. Experiment until you get a colour you’re happy with.

Make a filling for the pretend cake.

7. Now that you’ve made your pink mixture, paste it onto the top of the cream sponge. Adding more mixture to the edges causes the topping to drip down. Here, the pink icing in contrast to the cream coloured sponge is particularly effective.

Decorating the cake

8. We want to make the top of the cake look really interesting, so find some items that you could make to look like cake toppings. Here, I’ve used painted beads to look like strawberries, but you might have some better ideas. How about painting conkers or using pom-poms, perhaps even some colourful pasta?

9. Allow the cake to dry thoroughly in a warm place. This can take a while depending on the temperature of your room (mine took two days to dry completely). Remember to put it somewhere safe as you don’t want to get paint on anything valuable. Avoid touching the cake before it’s dry too as you don’t want fingerprints on it.

Add icing to the play food cake.

Finishing touches to our play food cake

Finally, to finish off your cake, you could try adding birthday candles to the top sponges. In addition to this, you could even add some glitter to the top of the cake to make it sparkle. Have fun and be creative!

Play food / pretend birthday cake with candles.

IMPORTANT: The candles are just for decoration. Do not light them!

Making a stand for your play food

You’ll want to show off your play food, and this is a quick and effective way of making a stand to put them on.

What you’ll need:

  • Clear plastic plates (2-3).
  • Clear plastic glasses (wine / cocktail).
  • Glue gun.
  • A pack of doilies.
  • Scissors.

Making a cake stand to display pretend food.

1. Using a glue gun, carefully attach the base of a clear plastic wine or cocktail glass to the centre of a clear plastic plate (remember – never use hot glue guns near children).

2. Cut a doily from the edge to the centre.

3. Make some small cuts around the centre of the doily to allow some room for the glass stem to pass through.

4. Now glue another plate on top of the cocktail glass. Make sure it’s in the centre, otherwise the stand will be unstable.

5. Finally, position another doily on the top of the plate, ready to display your Afternoon Tea cakes.

Part Two

Battenberg Cake & Sandwiches

Craft materials needed for Battenberg cake.

What you’ll need:

  • A pink and yellow cleaning sponge
  • A yellow cleaning cloth (or yellow felt)
  • A ruler
  • A pair of scissors
  • PVA glue and a spreader
  • A pot for the glue
  • A plastic plate or sheet to dry the work on

Cut the pink and yellow squares

1. First, place a ruler onto the pink sponge and mark out 3.5cm squares with the pink felt tip. These will form the square sponge pieces inside the cake. 

2. Cut along the line. Then measure and mark out 3.5 cm squares. Cut out four pink squares. Repeat steps 1 and 2 to create four yellow squares using the yellow sponge.

3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 to create four yellow squares using the yellow sponge.

Cut sponge into squares.

Assemble the cake

4. Measure the thickness of the sponge (mine was 1cm). Now, on the yellow felt, use a ruler to mark out a strip with the yellow felt tip pen.

5. After you’ve marked your strip, cut it out carefully. This will form the outer layer of our cake.

Assemble play food battenberg.

6. Using plenty of glue, spread it onto each inside edges of the four squares and squeeze them together. Hold for a few seconds and then place them onto a plate/sheet to dry. Make sure you don’t have any excess glue, otherwise it might stick to the surface.

7. Once the four squares have dried slightly, spread some glue liberally along the thin yellow strip and place it around the edge of the four squares. Cut off any excess from the yellow strip.

Pretend battenberg cake.

8.  Leave it to dry – ideally overnight.

9. Finally, repeat the process to create another slice.

Part Three

Iced Chocolate Cake

Craft materials needed for pretend chocolate cake.

What you’ll need:

  • Two round bath (or car) sponges.
  • A sheet of paper.
  • A pencil.
  • A ruler.
  • Scissors.
  • Some white, red, blue and yellow poster paint (or acrylic paint).
  • PVA glue.
  • Glue spreader.
  • Shaving foam.
  • Sponge brushes.
  • Empty pots (a yoghurt pot for example).
  • Cling film.
  • A plastic plate or sheet to dry the work on.

1. To begin, place one of your round sponges onto a sheet of paper, and draw around it with a pencil. Now cut out the paper circle.

Cutting circles.

2. Fold the paper in half, then fold it in half again to make a quarter. This is what we’ll use as a template.

Folding paper.

4. Now use your template to cut the sponge into halves, then quarters. I used a ruler as a guide to cut the lines straight (this will need to be done by an adult).

Cut sponge into quarters.

5. Mix together equal amounts of red, yellow and blue poster paint with some PVA glue onto a plate or in a pot to make a chocolate brown colour. (If you are using acrylic paint, you don’t need to use glue at this stage).

Mixing colours.

6. Next, using a sponge brush (or paintbrush), paint the two inside edges of the cake slice.

Turn green sponge a nice chocolatey brown colour.

Repeat the last step for all eight sections of the cake.

7. To make the cake filling, mix shaving foam, white poster paint (or acrylic paint) and PVA glue together using a glue spreader on a plate, or inside a pot.

8. Now, using a small sponge brush (or paintbrush) paste the mixture on top of the slice. Then, place another quarter slice on top. It doesn’t matter if it oozes out a little, as this is the fake cream between the slice. Then, paste a little more mixture on the top to create the icing.

Repeat these steps to create the three remaining slices of your cake.

9. To paint the outside edges of your cake, use the chocolate brown coloured paint you mixed earlier. If any of the white filling gets covered, don’t worry – this can be added again later (when dry).

10. Finally, place a red pom pom cherry on top and add a red line of the paint/glue mix around the centre to look like jam.

Finishing touches to play food cake slice.

Repeat these steps for the other 3 sections of your cake.

Leave to dry in a warm place overnight (drying times may take longer in cooler conditions).

When your cake is completely dry, you can add more paint for the jam/cream if you think it’s needed.

Extension Idea:
To make more chocolatey looking cake, I sliced these sponges in half. I then decorated the top with cut up painted paper straws, to look like swirls of chocolate. After that, mixed a dark chocolate colour, using red, blue, yellow and a little black paint with glue for the outside and left the inside white.
Play food chocolate cake sitting in the sun.
Part Four

Salt Dough Scones, Macaroons & Biscuits

What you'll need to make salt dough scones and biscuits.

What you’ll need:

  • Measuring cups 1cup and 1/2 cup
  • 1 cup of Plain Flour
  • 1 cup of salt
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • Mixing bowl and spoon
  • Pastry Board
  • Rolling pin
  • Pastry cutters
  • Heart cutter (heart could be cut freehand)
  • Two rulers or thin books of the same depth
  • Two chopping boards or books of the same depth
  • Spatula
  • Non-stick baking tray

Making the play food salt dough

To make the salt dough, pour the 1 cup of plain flour, 1 cup of salt and 1/2 cup of water into a bowl and mix.

When fully mixed, turn out the dough onto a board and bring the mixture together with your hands.

Mixing salt dough ingredients.

Play Food Scones

First, place two rulers or books of equal depth either side of the dough, and roll with a rolling pin. This will ensure the scones are an even thickness. (1)

Rolling salt dough at an even thickness using rulers.

Next, using a fluted cutter cut out two scone shapes. Use a spatula to lift the dough shape and place onto a non-stick baking tray.

Using a cookie cutter to cut salt dough.

Play Food Macaroons

Again, we’ll need something to make sure the macaroons are all the same thickness. I used two rulers either side of the dough for this, alternatively two evenly sized books work just as well. Roll out the mixture with a rolling pin and use a small round circle cutter to cut out tops and bases for your macaroons.

Again, use a spatula lift the dough shape and place onto a non-stick baking tray.

Play Food Biscuits

Here we can use the same method to make the biscuits, so place the rulers or thin books either side of the dough, and roll with a rolling pin.
This time, I used a fluted round circle cutter cut out biscuit shapes.

To make the shapes in the middle, I used a heart-shaped cutter. Just press gently into the biscuit, but not all the way through, then, using a spatula lift the dough shape and place onto a non-stick baking tray.

Making heart shapes in the middle of salt dough.

 Cook the play food on 120 degrees for 1-3 hrs (depending on the thickness of the dough). Leave the play food to cool.

Painting the Play Food Scones

Mix white paint, PVA glue and shaving foam and paint one inside of the scone shape. Mix red paint, PVA glue and shaving foam and paint one inside of the scone shape and place it on the white mix. The more mixture you use, the more drips and oozing. Leave to dry.

Assembling play food scones.

Painting the Macaroons 

Mix a range of colours to paint with glue to the top and base of each the macaroons. Cut a circle of coloured sponge to fit inside the macaroon, and glue it to the base and to the top, and press it together. Leave to dry.

Assembling play food macaroons.

Painting the Biscuits

Using a small brush, and red paint mixed with glue paint the heart centre.  Then just leave them to dry.

Painting the heart shape in the middle of a pretend biscuit.
Pretend food afternoon tea made from craft materials and sponges.