The Science Behind Baking

I love baking it makes me happy and I can eat what I make. The science of how the cake rises and cooks is interesting to me; along with how the chemicals mix and react to each other.

Baking is a science more then its cooking. Most of what makes a cake a cake is the chemical reactions that pull together different ingredients into one delicious meal. If you don’t like chemistry because its boring, or you just don’t like it, you should bake. It’s chemistry that you get to decorate and eat! It is terrific for birthdays and other special events that make people happy.

Because baking is a science, too much baking soda, or over mixing and over use of baking powder can either make a moist cupcake or a cupcake that resembles a hockey puck. Sugar is important too. It doesn’t just sweeten the cake, if sugar isn’t in the cake the browning and the structure of the cake would not be the same. It would be dull, and bland, because sugar caramelizes and it gives sweetness. Without sugar it would not be able to brown and have the characteristically caramely sweet flavor that we love. Sugar also weakens the agents in the batter and makes it tender.

Eggs and butter are very important too. Like all the ingredients they have a part in the process; the eggs’ protein and water is what binds the batter together. It’s better than just water, milk or oil, because when you mix the egg, it mixes with the dry ingredients to make a thick batter that allows bakers to form cakes into different many shapes and sizes—unlike dense cookie dough. The butter is what holds and carries flavors, and makes recipes lighter because it holds air bubbles that makes the finished cake more airy.

Baking powder has an acid and a base in it, and when you add water to it causes a chemical reaction that releases carbon dioxide into the batter, which is held in place by the egg protein and the gluten in the flour—and that is how a cake rises from the dead!

Here is one of my favorite cake recipes. You can make it into muffins, or even split it into two bowls before you pour it into the baking pans. Then, add black food coloring to one layer, and orange for the other for Halloween parties! My mom also likes to use whipped cream in place of half the butter to make frosting.

Have fun decorating it, you could even try to make the spider design; if you do I would love to see photos.

Basic Whipped Cream Cake

1 1/2 cups chilled whipped cream
3 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Heat oven to 350.

Grease and flour baking pan 13x9x2 inches or 2 round layer pans 8 or 9×1 1/2 inches.

In chilled bowl, beat until stiff. Beat eggs until thick and lemon colored. Fold eggs and vanilla into whipped cream.

Stir together remaining ingredients; gently fold into cream-egg mixture until blended. Pour into pan(s). Bake oblong about 45 minutes, layers 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool.

Frost with your favorite icing when it is completely cool. Here’s a tip, always have more icing available than you think you will need.

1 thought on “The Science Behind Baking”

  1. Daniel, I really love how you’ve described the chemistry and effect of each ingredient. I’m going to share this with my grandson (8 yr old). He loves to bake and is all about science.
    Thank you for writing this article, and doing it so well.
    Madon Dailey

    Reply

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