Skip The Cake, Throw A Donut Party And Donut Decorating Contest

DIY Birthday Party Idea: Donut Decorating Contest

I’m not a big fan of cake, my son doesn’t like cake at all, and since developing a lactose allergy, I can’t eat most frostings. Needless to say, we pretty much don’t eat cake… ever. I did make a few awesome themed birthday cakes when my kids were really little, but I never ate them, and there were always leftovers that none of us wanted to finish. Eventually we began skipping birthday cake in favor of new delicious birthday dessert traditions.

We now celebrate Carter’s birthday with chocolate fondue or cookies and Natalie’s birthday with donuts and ice cream — no one complains… well, except for my young niece who was expecting birthday cake at a birthday party. In fact, Natalie’s donuts and ice cream party has become something the whole family looks forward to each year.

They’ve even started texting me their donut order and ice cream preferences in advance!

Family Donut Themed Birthday Party For Those Who Don't Like Cake
Carter and I don’t like cake and I can’t east most frostings, so when our kids were little we started new dessert birthday traditions. Carter celebrates with chocolate fondue or cookies, and Natalie celebrates with donuts and ice cream — and no one in the family minds at all!

A New Twist On The Donut Party

This summer we took an epic family road trip to Portland, Washington, and back home to Rocklin in only four days so we could see Dead and Company on their summer tour stops at Moda Center and the Gorge Amphitheater. We spent Thursday evening and all day Friday in Portland, and our first stop was VooDoo Doughnuts, which was right around the corner from our spectacular, historic hotel. Don’t tell anyone, but in the short time we were in Portland, we actually visited VooDoo Doughnuts twice! The kids (and Brian) were in awe of all of the different toppings and weird flavors available and we tried a lot of them!

On the drive to The Oasis Campground in Washington, we got to talking about Natalie’s birthday. Inspired by our crazy VooDoo Doughnut experience, I asked her what she thought about putting a new twist on her birthday donut party. What if she had a “decorate your own donut” party? We could buy plain donuts and a whole bunch of different toppings and have everyone decorate donuts at the party? There could even be a donut decorating contest with prizes!

The minute I suggested the Decorate Your Own Donut Party she was onboard. To help pass time in the car, we began brainstorming a list of toppings and possible prizes, and debated on the type of donuts to buy and what type of donut icing or frosting we were going to use.

  • We decided to buy plain unglazed raised donuts, donut holes from our local donut shop. We also wanted a variety of regular donuts on hand to eat in case the decorated donuts got too weird. We skipped the cake donuts because again, we’re not big cake fans.
  • We decided to go with the same prizes we do at most birthday parties — iTunes cards. Everyone plays games, even the adults, when iTunes money is at stake.
  • Unlike VooDoo Doughnuts, we decided to skip the cake-like frosting and go with homemade donut icing in chocolate, maple, and a plain glaze — yay, more work for me.
  • As far as topping go, we planned to hit up my sister’s frozen yogurt shop to buy all sorts of toppings and the grocery store for anything else we may think of.

We had a plan and were looking forward to getting home to plan the family birthday party!

Donut Decorating Birthday Party
Our Donut Decorating Birthday Party spread all ready for the family. Everyone participates in party games when iTunes gift cards are the prizes!

Tips For Hosting A Decorate Your Own Donut Party

Hosting a Doughnut Decorating Party is perfect for birthday parties, slumber parties, holiday parties, or classroom parties (I did this for Carter’s first grade class Halloween party using pumpkin donuts). It’s also a fun activity to set up for kids to keep them busy if hosting a big brunch! After hosting a few different styles of donut parties, I’ve learned a few things and have some tips!

Some of the items I link to use affiliate links. While I never link to anything I don’t personally love, and it never increases your cost, it is how I keep the lights on for this site.

Donut Party Invitations

The first step to hosting a donut party is inviting your guests. You can make your own invitations, simply text your family the date and time, create a Facebook event, or even use this donut party invite on evite!

But, if you want to buy some pretty donut party invitations, you can find several different designs on Etsy, there is also this donut themed invitation and this one from Minted.

Donut Decorations

We loved the paper donut decorations we made for our donut party and you can never go wrong with A LOT of different sized balloons in your party color palette… But for next year, we’re going to change up our decorations, or add more because I saved the paper donuts we made.

Donut Decorating Contest
My sister Kimberly, Natalie, Carter, and my mom Linda — winners of our donut decorating contest for most colorful, most tasty, most creative, and most weird.

Donut Party Supplies

You’re going to need supplies other than food and drinks. I despise doing dishes, so we usually go with disposable party plates, cups, and utensils. I highly recommend you do the same because donut decorating can get messy!

  • You’re going to be tempted to buy donut themed party plates like these pink sprinkle paper plates and these white sprinkle napkins, and while they may be super cute, we skipped the pretty plates for white plates so the donuts would really shine. Be sure to get extra plates. You’ll want a few to put frosting covered knives and spoons on and guests will want to collect toppings on, before decorating their donut.
  • We went with solid pink paper cups and napkins, again keeping the focus on the donuts and brightly colored toppings.
  • Buy disposable bowls and plastic knives and spoons. Guests will use the bowls to mix different colors and flavors of frosting and the knives and spoons to mix and spread the frosting. Guests can also use the spoons to scoop toppings out of the containers and bowls.
  • Cover your table with a plastic tablecloth, especially if guests will be mixing their own frosting colors with food coloring.

Donut Party Food And Drinks

The easiest type of donut party to host is a donuts and ice cream party. All you have to do is pick up a wide variety of donuts in the morning from your favorite donut shop, arrange them on a tray (or a few trays), and stick them in the refrigerator until dessert time. You then simply add a scoop of ice cream to the center of each donut and serve immediately — and it’s even easier if you provide an ice cream bar with 3-4 different flavors of ice cream and let guests serve themselves!

Doughnuts Topped With Ice Cream

If you want to host a Decorate Your Own Donut Party, it’s a bit more work because you need to get the donuts, frosting/icing, toppings, decorating tools, and more!


Natalie’s birthday donut party is her family party, so it keeps the size small. This year, because one of my sisters’ family was on vacation, we only had 10 guests. But I still bought three dozen plain raised donuts, two dozen donut holes, and two dozen mixed variety donuts because donut decorating was the main activity of our party.

  • For parties with younger children, go with cake donuts. They are firmer, sturdier, and hold more toppings — you know little ones like to pile them on!
  • The raised glazed donuts are our favorite, but because we didn’t want the added sweetness of the glaze, I ordered plain raised donuts from our local donut shop the day before the party.
  • Guests will want to eat donuts while decorating donuts.
  • Guests will have multiple donut decorating ideas, and may want to decorate more than one. Our guests created 2-3 donuts each.


I made chocolate icing, maple icing, and a plain glaze from scratch for our donut party, and to be honest, while they were delicious, it was a pain in the butt to manage the consistency and the heat (for donut dipping) throughout the party. In the future, for donut decorating, we’ll buy regular cake frosting. I now see why VooDoo Doughnuts uses that style frosting.

  • Skip all the different colors of frosting and just buy chocolate and a ton of vanilla/white frosting.
  • Stir maple syrup into 1-2 containers of white frosting to give it a rich maple flavor.
  • Purchase 1-2 packages of food coloring and provide bowls and stir sticks so guests can make their own frosting colors or even mix toppings into their frosting.


If your party will have multiple donut themed games, it is best to limit the donut topping choices to help kids make decorating decisions and finish their donuts faster. If the donut decorating contest is the main feature of the whole donut party, you’re going to want a wide variety toppings.

  • Brainstorm all different flavors of donuts — s’mores donut, chocolate chip cookie donut, nutella brownie donut, strawberry cheesecake donut, maple bacon donut, Cinnamon Toast Crunch donut, Fruit Loops Donut, etc. — and make a list of toppings needed.
  • Visit your local frozen yogurt shop to purchase only toppings, being sure to keep each topping in a separate bag/bowl.
  • Visit the bulk foods/bulk candy section of your grocery store and browse the bins for potential donut toppings. Get creative and think outside the box. Savory, nutty, even spicy flavors can be great options.
  • Hit the cereal isle of the grocery store and maybe the cracker isle for a few last topping choices.
  • On your way to the register, grab a couple bottles of hard shell or Magic Shell ice cream topping. It’s perfect for that bit of drizzle over the top of a decorated donut.


While eating donuts and decorating donuts your guests are going to get thirsty! Be sure to have breakfasty, donut-friendly drinks on hand: think orange juice, apple juice, cranberry juice, hot tea, and coffee… a lot of coffee.

We skipped the milk because many of us don’t drink milk, but I am in love with the cuteness of these mini milk jugs and mini juice bottles from Sweet Lulu.

Donut Party Games and Activities

At Natalie’s Donut Birthday Party, we held a donut decorating contest with four chances to win in the categories of most colorful, most tasty, most creative, and most weird. We provided a ton of toppings and three flavors of icing/frosting, and spent the whole party making our donut creations in an effort to win $15 iTunes Cards. It was perfect for a small group of older kids and adults.

Next year, I want to do four different prizes instead of four of the same prize:

If throwing a donut party for young kids, limit the decorating options more to speed it up. Have each guest decorate only one donut and add a few other donut themed party games and activities to get them up and moving around.

Here are a few donut themed party activities:

  • Replace the bean bag toss with a donut toss: Instead of bean bags, use these cute cute plush donuts to throw through the center hole of a large donut like this jumbo pink donut pool float.
  • Hold a donut eating contest: See who can fit the most donut holes in their mouth at one time, or who can eat a donut the fastest. Up the difficulty level by hanging the donuts from string and using no hands.
  • Set up a donut shop photo booth for silly pictures.

Donut Party Favors

No party is complete without a party favor! You can keep it simple and send guests home with their donut inside a super cute donut party favor bag like this one I found on Etsy. Or, if you want more traditional party favors for kids or t put in goody bags, check out these options:

And that’s it!

That’s everything you need to host your own donut decorating party… have fun!

Many links on this site are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on a link and purchase the item, I may receive a small affiliate commission — it costs you nothing extra but helps me keep the lights on and the hosting for this site paid. All affiliate links on this site use "/aff/" in the URL to denote that it is an affiliate link. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising” and in following the rules of the Amazon Associates Program Operating Agreement. Yes, that means I am also an Amazon Associate and earn a small commission from qualifying Amazon purchases referred from links on this site.