Media & Techniques

It’s a Piece of Tempera Cake!

Do you think choosing the correct paint to is easy? I don’t! I wish choosing paint was a piece of cake, but I find it takes a lot of trial and error.

One art supply I have a love-hate relationship with is tempera cakes. The consistency is between tempera and watercolor. I have great success with watercolor paints in lessons and like having enough little palettes that student can each have their own.

When it comes to Tempera cakes, however, I have been experimenting with different brands to find my sweet spot, and I am still torn!

Round Tempera Cakes


I started out with the round tempera cakes. I order them in bulk and snap in a new cake whenever one runs out. I like this kind because they are slightly translucent, the trays are easy to use and store, and the colors look pretty good.


What I don’t like is the dull, chalky texture that is left after the paint drys. I prefer something with a bit more sheen. I also dislike how much water can pool in the bottom of the trays, making for some interesting paint spills.

Square “BIGGIE” Cakes


These come in square form in little plastic containers. A colleague suggested to clip off the plastic top and pop them into a 9×13 cake pan. It easily fits 12 colors. I like these paints because the color is very bold. They are creamier and seem to be thicker and cover better. Another plus is that, because they are separate, I can just take out the colors that we need. Or, if a student needs a certain color, they can take it out of the pan and put it right beside them so they can easily reach. This is super handy!


The cake pans are a little heavy for students, so they can’t really help with passing them out. For this reason, I would opt for plastic pans next time. Also, these colors are SO bold sometimes they cover Sharpie outlining and can get a little dark if students use too much.

The Verdict

In the end, I use these fairly interchangeably. Sometimes I’ll choose one over the other based on what other type of media we’re working with. Both types are an investment. However, I find once I buy them, I don’t need to replace them for at least a year or two. Plus, I can buy individual replacements for colors we go through more quickly.

So tell me, do you love tempera cakes or hate them? How do you use them in the classroom?

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.


Jessica Balsley

Jessica Balsley is AOEU’s Founder and a former AOEU Writer and elementary art educator. She is passionate about helping art teachers enhance their lives and careers through relevant professional development.

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