My Chemistry Project Taught Me Something…

When a teacher assigns a project, some kids get really excited. They don’t like the idea of putting work into it, but they immediately dart their eyes around the room hoping their best friend makes eye contact with them and gives a nod, agreeing to be their partner. Others just like the idea of having a project and not a test. I am neither of those people. I like working alone more than in groups, and I’d prefer a quick half hour test over a month of stress, slow progress, and procrastination :/

So when I was assigned a chemistry project this past spring, I was less than enthusiastic. We were able to pick our own chemistry-related topics. My partner and I chose to do a presentation on baking cupcakes. We made 5 batches of cupcakes and each had a different amount of baking powder.

Because we had to relate it to chemistry, we first looked up the role of baking powder and other ingredients in the baking process. We found out that both beating eggs and creaming sugar with butter creates air bubbles in the batter. Baking powder breaks down and releases carbon dioxide. A combination of these things is what makes the batter rise into a luscious, domed cupcake 🙂

We measured the height and mass of the baked cupcakes. We also took pictures of the inside and of course tasted them! (Cuz who bakes 30 cupcakes and doesn’t eat any? Even if they are distorted recipes for a chemistry project…)

These cupcakes were made according to the recipe we used.

The base recipe called for 1 tsp baking powder. Surprisingly, those were not our favorite cupcakes! We preferred the cupcake with half as much baking powder as suggested by the recipe. The batch with only 1/2 tsp baking powder made a richer, denser cupcake. The batch with 1 tsp just had too many air bubbles in our opinion. Maybe that’s what you look for in a cupcake, but we really enjoyed the cupcakes with less baking powder.

The batter for this batch of cupcakes contained half as much baking powder as was directed by the recipe.

It may be that our original recipe was just not a very good cupcake recipe to begin with, but since doing this project I have cut back on baking powder in some recipes and it turns out good!

Too spongey and too many air bubbles!

If you have a recipe that’s almost perfect but not quite, this may be something to consider. Try adjusting the amount of baking  powder and if you do, be sure to let me know how it turned out!