Cupcakes and science

Hi!!! Long time no see. It’s almost AP/IB exam time so everyone is frantically trying to wrap up the year. I’m a freshman so I’m not taking any APs or IBs, but the stress is definitely in the air. The projects, essays from my classes have pretty much cut out any cooking time, with one exception: Science.

 (if my teachers were Nemo……)

For our “final” in science, the teachers assigned us an independent project. Basically, us students get to choose a topic and create/perform an experiment, then write a lab report. It took me about three seconds to come up with a topic: Baking- I wanted to create my own baking powder. My teacher, chemist and foodie, was more than willing to help. YAY!!!

Before I could start, I needed to do some research on baking powder, here’s what I found:

  1.  It consists of four parts: Baking soda, monocalcium phosphate monohydrate, sodium aluminum phosphate and cornstarch.
  2. Basically, each mixture needed baking soda (check), cornstarch(check), an acid that reacts instantly and an acid that needs heat to activate

Obviously, I couldn’t just buy some  industrial acid. I went for the most common food grade acids: citric, tartaric and acetic acids as “fast acids” and glucono delta lactone as a “slow acid”. It still took three weeks to find them


they eventually arrived and we got some pretty strange packages and with some stociochemistry to figure out how much acid is needed to neutralize the base, I could get started.


Prep work done! Now for the cupcakes

White is baking powder, red is Tartaric acid, green is citric and yellow is acetic
White is baking powder, red is Tartaric acid, green is citric and yellow is acetic
Massing the cupcakes
Measuring volume

I measured and compared the heights and density (mass/volume) to quantify rise and here’s what I came up with

Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 11.21.37 AM

Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 11.21.48 AM


Clearly, the cupcakes with baking powder rose the most, but the tartaric acid mixture was second. As for taste, out of the 15 people who tried the cupcakes, 13 said they all tasted the same, so no worries there.

Anyways, sorry for the long post. I hope you enjoyed all the science behind cooking. Have a great week!





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