Science Behind Cupcakes


Imagine taking a bite of your favorite ooey-gooey, chocolate fluffy treat, topped off with a mound of vanilla buttercream with sprinkles: a cupcake! Did you ever stop and think if the cupcake would taste or look the same without all the correct components, or what would happen if you put the wrong ingredients in the batter? Most cupcake batters consist mainly of flour, eggs, sugar, baking powder and soda, milk, and more. Each ingredient plays a significant role in the process of making the cupcake, and makes the satisfying result of a cupcake. Most people say, “Cooking? Baking? Same thing!” Although they both involve using ingredients to make something edible and yummy, they have very different concepts. In cooking it is easy to improvise if you mess up or forget an ingredient, however it is very difficult to do so when baking. In this article, I will show you how each ingredient contributes to the cupcake and how to improvise with ingredients when needed to do so.

When you start to make a cupcake, a few ingredients come to mind. Flour, eggs, milk/butter, and sugar each have a function in the cupcake. Flour is one of the main, or base ingredients needed to make the cake and is only used in the batter; not frosting. The binding ingredient, more commonly known as eggs, helps to combine all the ingredients together smoothly. Cupcakes can be made with both butter or milk. The fat in both the ingredients gives the cake moisture. Along with all of those important ingredients, of course sugar is needed to make the cupcake sweet.

Recipes can easily get misread or changed when a cupcake is being made. After some testing, I found out that every ingredient is needed in order to make a proportionally correct cupcake. If there are no eggs in the batter, after it is baked, you open up the oven to see some wacky results. The center of the cupcake forms a big dip in the cake. This is because eggs are the ingredient to help the cupcake batter hold shape in the oven. The cupcake, after it has been baked, will be very delicate and will most likely crumble if not taken out of the pan properly.

Salt and vanilla extract are both ingredients that are overlooked in many cupcake batters. When adding flavoring to your cupcake, salt is essential to balancing out the the sweetness in the cupcake. Although vanilla extract doesn’t add a noticeable flavor to the cupcake, it is one of the reasons your kitchen smells like heaven after your batch of cupcakes is taken out of the oven. Even the smallest ingredients can contribute to making your cupcake even better!       

Although every ingredient is needed to make the cupcake, easy substitutes can be made for dietary needs or lack of ingredients. One of the most common diets is lactose intolerant. To make a dairy-free cupcake, rather than using regular whole milk, almond or soy milk can easily be substituted for a dairy-free cupcake! Another easy substitute for a common 

Related imageingredient, flour, is almond flour. I can think back to at least 15 times that I was in the middle of making cupcake batter and said, “Oh no! I only have one egg, and I need 3!” Don’t worry, this mistake is easily fixable! For each egg not used, you’re able to replace it with ¼ cup of applesauce. Next time in the kitchen, you can make a dairy-free or eggless cupcake, no problem!

When baking a cupcake, you think of mixing the ingredients, placing it in the oven, and bam! A delicious cupcake is ready to be covered in frosting and eaten! The process in the oven is not even close to as simple as that, using a chemical equation of NaHCo3 + H + — Na+ + H20 + CO2. Woah! That is very confusing. As the oven temperature increases, gas bubbles in the cupcake form and the heat causes the protein in the egg to change from liquid to firm. This helps to expand the cupcake, which is why you only fill the cupcake liner one-third full. Oil, another important ingredient, keeps the cake from drying out in the oven. In other words, oil keeps the cake gooey and delicious.

The ingredients that make cupcakes rise are baking soda along with baking powder. Without either one of these important ingredients, the cupcake will sink while baking. This creates a very noticeable crater in the center of the cupcake. Baking powder and baking soda are some of the many essential ingredients needed for success.

Many people like using only egg whites in their batter, opposed to both egg whites and egg yolks. The use of only egg whites makes for a lighter, fluffier cupcake. This chart shows the results of using different ingredients in the cupcakes. The top right cupcake is made using egg yolks, which looks more dense than a cupcake with only egg whites would be. I personally like using the whole egg, but if your looking for a light fluffy cupcake to make for a birthday party, an egg white cupcake is perfect for you!

Cupcakes are my all-time favorite treat to make at home, and they are especially fun to make with your family or a group of friends. There are so many fun recipes and different types of innovating decorations! Many additional ingredients are usually added to create different cupcake flavors. Cocoa powder is added to vanilla cupcake batter to create a classic favorite, chocolate cupcakes! Lemon is another common flavor used to make cupcakes. Because of the acid in the lemon juice, usually the lemon flavor in the cupcake is artificial. An easy add-on ingredient to make lemon cupcakes is lemon extract, similar to an ingredient used in tons of baked goods, vanilla extract. Unlike lemon cupcakes, strawberry flavored cupcakes are made with natural ingredients. Cut-up strawberries, water, and sugar can be combined over the stoved in a pot, and stirred to make strawberry puree, or a creamy liquid. This makes for a delicious, fresh strawberry cupcake! Last but not least carrot cake, a classic, is made adding shredded carrots into the batter! Lots of ingredients are added to cupcakes to give them innovating flavors, but these ingredients may affect the outcome of the cupcake. This is why it is super-duper important to follow a recipe if it is your first time making the cupcake.  

Cupcakes are known to be small fluffy cakes, covered in creamy frosting and eaten with your hands. The chemical process is much more complicated than most people realized, but an easy treat to make if you follow the recipe closely! Although it is all kinds of fun to make cupcakes from scratch, if it is too overwhelming for you, you can always use a boxed cake mix as an easier route! Anyways, I hope you try new kinds of flavors and ingredients next time you make a batch of these yummy cakes!!