Monday, 7 November 2011

Weird science

I have come to realise that there is quite a bit of science to baking. If you do not have the right fat to sugar ratio, the cupcakes will not rise accordingly. If you don’t have the right dry to wet ingredients ratio, the cupcakes will not cook properly. There are so many rules to baking that one must abide by in order to come out the other side with successful bake goods.

Last week, I made rainbow cupcakes. I realise how contradictory I may sound, given that in a few blog post ago I was saying how I like to avoid food colouring whenever possible. And let’s face it, rainbow cupcakes are the epitome of food colouring! But nevertheless, I made rainbow cupcakes. Yes, I am a walking, talking contradiction. But look how totally cute my rainbow cupcakes turned out.

So how does one make rainbow cupcakes? Well I just made my usual vanilla cupcakes and divided the batter into six small bowls. I then added the various colours of the rainbow (using Wilton’s colour gels) to each bowl, i.e. purple, blue, green, yellow, orange and red. I then had to carefully spoon each coloured batter into each cupcake patty. The trick here is to only put enough batter to cover the surface of the patty and the layer of batter before it. I used my index finger to smooth out each coloured batter – if you are going to try this at home, make sure you are super-duper careful as you do not want the coloured layers to mix. So when the cupcake patties went to the oven, they looked a little something like this:

In my not so scientific brain, I assumed that the cupcakes would rise and cook evenly. That is, as the cupcake cooked in the oven, the cupcake batter would rise and the coloured layers would stay in tack and rise and cook accordingly. I am not sure whether I am explaining myself very well, so here is a diagram of what I thought would occur in the oven baking process:

I was wrong – so, so, so very wrong. The cupcakes did not cook evenly at all. Instead, when you cut open the cupcakes, it looked like an explosion of colour. To be precise, the cupcakes looked like this:

So why is this the case?! As one of Brendyn’s smart engineer friends explained to me (that’s right Mitch, you have earned the title of “one” of Brendyn’s smart friends), the batter on the outside cooks faster than the batter on the inside as it has greater exposure to the heat generated from the oven. Given that the outside cooks faster than the inside of the cupcake, the outside batter rises which caused the middle batter to drop. Once again, not sure if I am making much sense, so please refer to the below diagram of what actually occurred in the oven baking process:

And this explains the explosion of colour. Weird science …


  1. Yesssssss

    Shout out on the internet's awesomest cupcake blog. I gotta call my mum.

    But now it's just a matter of time before someone tells me my cupcake-outside-bit-cooks-first theory (we're working on the name) is wrong.

    Anyway, those cupcakes make science look sexy for some reason I can't... quite...

  2. I love the diagrams - so cute. But I have a feeling I would like the rainbow cupcakes even more - uneven colour or not, they look delicious! (And possibly food-colouring-high-enducing)

  3. Mitch - For the record, cupcakes make everything sexy!

    Katy - Thanks! They were very yummy (despite being food-colouring-high-enducing)!