MANY SHOWS REQUIRE or suggest the presence of food onstage. Often that food is only seen, never eaten. In those situations, developing your own fake food props can be the most cost-effective and durable option.

Fake food lasts longer than real food and can be preserved and reused for years when stored correctly in plastic storage bags or bins. Additionally, realistic fake food props can be created with simple products found at hardware, grocery, and craft stores for a fraction of the cost of buying commercially made fake food.

Creating fake food is an exciting endeavor for individuals of any skill level. You just need the desire to experiment and explore. Below is a great starter project for creating berry pies you might use in productions of Into the Woods or Beauty and the Beast.


Salt dough

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 cups salt
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons alum
  • Cooking spray
  • Amber shellac
  • Denatured alcohol

Pie filling

  • Candle gel wax
  • Candle crème wax
  • Cranberry concentrated candle dye
  • Red concentrated candle dye
  • Fake grapes
  • Glossy wood tone spray paint
Press the salt dough mixture into the bottom of a pie pan, and flute the edges. Remove it from the oven when the dough is white and dry.
The crust is ready to remove from the oven when the salt dough is white and dry. Photo courtesy of Tammy Honesty and Karestin Harrison.


Traditional salt dough recipes have less salt and no vegetable oil or alum. This recipe uses both to keep the dough from cracking as it’s rolled into shape. Heating the dough on the stove makes it less sticky and easier to roll.

Heat your oven to 250 F. Spray a 4-inch pie pan with cooking spray.

Mix the dry ingredients for the salt dough in a saucepan. Add the water and vegetable oil. Heat the mixture over low heat until it is the consistency of mashed potatoes, stirring until there are no clumps.

Using a plastic spoon, scoop the mixture onto a lightly floured surface. Knead it until it is smooth and thick. Form the dough into a ball. Use immediately or refrigerate in an airtight container.

Using a rolling pin, roll the dough in a circle until it is less than 1/8-inch thick and roughly 6 inches in diameter. Place the dough in the pie pan, pressing it into the bottom.

Flute the edges of the crust by pushing your thumb from one hand between the thumb and index finger of the opposite hand. Repeat every 1/2 inch. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes. (The dough will puff less when baked at this lower temperature.) When the crust turns white and dry, remove it from the oven.

Once the crust has cooled, coat it with amber shellac to give it a golden-brown color. Let it dry, and flip the crust from the pan. Turn the pie pan upside down on a cookie sheet, and place the crust on the outside so the dough holds its shape. Put it back in the oven to thoroughly cook the bottom for 5 to 10 minutes. If you have time, you can let the bottom of the crust air-dry instead.

Once the crust has cooled again, coat the bottom with amber shellac. Be sure to add more shellac to areas that would have browned more in the baking process.

To dry the bottom of the pies, place the pie pan upside down and the crust on the outside of the pan so the dough holds its shape.
To dry the bottom of the pies, place the pie pan upside down and the crust on the outside. Photo courtesy of Tammy Honesty and Karestin Harrison.


Gel candle wax is tintable, durable, and has a realistic weight for pie filling. When crème wax is added to gel wax, it gives the gel wax more structure and reduces the number of bubbles so that the wax will set faster. Adding a dash of color from a concentrated candle dye will tint the entire wax mixture. If budget is an issue, you can tint the wax with crayons instead.

Melt a 4-inch by 4-inch block (or equal parts) of both the gel wax and crème wax in a saucepan on low heat to create a “cherry” filling. Use a thermometer to monitor the temperature of the wax, heating to a maximum of 220 F.

Once the wax melts, add cranberry and red concentrated dye shavings until you reach the desired color. Pour the molten wax into the crust. Place round plastic grapes in the wax, submerging some and placing some in small groups.

Use a thermometer to monitor the temperature of the melting wax.
Use a thermometer to monitor the temperature of the melting wax. Photo courtesy of Tammy Honesty and Karestin Harrison.


While the wax is curing, place 3/4-inch strips of salt dough on the top of the pie to create a lattice. For a touch of additional realism, weave the strips of dough. Return the pie to the oven. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until the salt dough hardens and turns white. Remove from the oven and cool.

Coat the lattice and filling with a layer of shellac diluted by denatured alcohol: 1 part amber shellac to 2 parts alcohol. To add more definition to the “baking” process, spray glossy wood tone around the edges of the pie crust and lattice. Add more shellac around the fluted edges where more browning would occur during baking.

Add coats of shellac until the pie is hard and can withstand the wear and tear of your production.

Safety precautions

  • Don’t pour molten wax down the drain.
  • Never leave melting wax unattended.
  • Don’t overheat the wax.
  • Keep wax away from open flames.
  • Always keep a fire extinguisher nearby.
  • Always use a potholder when handling hot pots.

Additional recipes and photos can be found in The Fake Food Cookbook: Props You Can’t Eat for Theatre, Film, and TV by Karestin Harrison and Tamara L. Honesty.

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