Cupcakes are mostly made of four elements
November 30, 2009 10:54 PM   Subscribe

There must be something about cupcakes and the periodic table of the elements. Not sure who did it first, but now it is ubiquitous. Then of course there is The Periodic Table of Cupcakes, which is a whole other matter.

The periodic table as cupcake was mentioned previously, but the example given was hardly appetizing.

A bit of googling suggests that SAACS (Student Affiliates of the American Chemical Society) are behind a lot of this.

Cupcakes can also teach you about DNA and RNA (crazy entertaining, have no idea how accurate). Note however, that a cupcake is not classified as a mineral.

inspired by this photo via digg, but let's pretend I found it via FoodieFriday.
posted by Deathalicious (18 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Why didn't I think of this when I was failing Chemistry in the 11th grade? Study aid, snack, and extra credit all rolled into one package.
posted by dchrssyr at 12:04 AM on December 1, 2009

My wife and I, both molecular biologists, had a chromosome cake at our wedding, with the 22 autosomes ringing the edge of the cake. The X and Y sex chromosomes on top were drawn as if in reverse anaphase, with the centromeres drawing them together.

The non-scientist guests asked what the hell was up with the cake. The scientist guests complained that the sex chromosomes were not to scale. Yeesh.
posted by benzenedream at 1:33 AM on December 1, 2009 [9 favorites]

Just popping in to approve of this title. Also: who let in all these elephants?
posted by DU at 4:51 AM on December 1, 2009

Speaking of cupcakes... Why is it that I can bake a cake and cupcakes from the exact same ingredients and the cupcakes invariably taste better? Sometimes strikingly better.
posted by Splunge at 6:14 AM on December 1, 2009

Why is it that I can bake a cake and cupcakes from the exact same ingredients and the cupcakes invariably taste better?

Higher surface area (== frosting) to volume ratio.
posted by DU at 6:19 AM on December 1, 2009

Why is it that I can bake a cake and cupcakes from the exact same ingredients and the cupcakes invariably taste better?

- Smaller volume leads to more more surface area, which in turn creates more of that sweet, slightly caramelized goodness on the outside.
- Higher surface area also means more frosting (as DU mentioned).
- Individual cups means more consistent cooking. No worries of the middle being undercooked or the sides being overcooked like a cake.
- Individual cups means each cupcake is hugged while in the oven. Consistent hugging means love really is the secret ingredient.
posted by explosion at 6:26 AM on December 1, 2009 [12 favorites]

Also, you eat cupcakes with your fingers so there's no metallic or plastic taste/mouthfeel from a fork.
posted by DU at 6:36 AM on December 1, 2009


In addition to what I will humorously call the "DU Postulate" the reason that cupcakes taste better is twofold:

1. IF they are baked in paper or foil they will retain their moisture.

2. Greater surface area for browning reactions.
posted by Severian at 6:56 AM on December 1, 2009

on postview... damned... I was beat by explosion.
posted by Severian at 6:57 AM on December 1, 2009

You guys would overthink a tray of cupcakes.
posted by absalom at 8:04 AM on December 1, 2009

Is it just me, or does is anyone else really bothered by the fact that the periodic table of cupcakes isn't, you know, periodic? It's really just a bunch of catagorized lists smushed together. (But damned if i don't want a creamsicle cupcake now!)
posted by homuncula at 8:11 AM on December 1, 2009

Er, I meant the table in this link, of course. The recreations of the actual periodic table of elements with cupcakes all appear to be scientifically correct AND delicious.
posted by homuncula at 8:19 AM on December 1, 2009

The scientist guests complained that the sex chromosomes were not to scale.

A little effort into eating cupcakes would have fixed that problem. Should have offered glasses of milk and grant funding.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:49 AM on December 1, 2009

Another thing: As cupcakes cook quickly because of surface area and need less structural integrity than a large cake, you are more likely to pull them from the oven when they are moist and evenly cooked.

A large cake needs to cook through completely. Invariably, the edges will be more cooked than the center, which needs to cook through, lest it collapse in on itself (or worse yet, be wet and uncooked).

And, of course, you get the spectrum of textures. A sugary, perhaps very lightly caramelized skin breaks way to reveal a tender inside. If you try for that much on a larger cake, you'll likely burn the edges. And even if you do get that effect, eating the cake with a fork ruins it. You'll be biting the cake from the side, rather than the top like in the cupcake, and rather than cutting into it with your incisors (the most texture-sensitive teeth for mouthfeel), you'll place it on the center of your tongue and let the molars handle it.

Also, in my opinion, most cupcakes are more generously frosted than traditional cakes, especially in the new, Magnola-style boutique cupcukes.
posted by mccarty.tim at 8:49 AM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Despite their trendy nature these days, I love cupcakes. Always have. And because of the fact that they're popular, I can now find a moist, delicious cupcake to buy if I don't feel like baking. I generally prefer to bake my own, but before the cupcake wave hit, supplies were often limited to Sunny Doodles and those dry yellow cake ones you find in supermarkets.

I first saw the periodic table motif done in cupcakes over on LiveJournal, where some high school students made one for their chem class. It's a great idea. But I love taking one thing and representing it in cake/cupcake form.
posted by cmgonzalez at 9:48 AM on December 1, 2009

A DNA cupcake rack.
posted by Kronos_to_Earth at 10:47 AM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

One more reason cupcakes taste better: The paper allows the batter to stick, possibly causing more lift in the baked cake. (See angel food cake for precedent.)

And they're cuter, which always helps.

I love this post. It's so nice I'd favorite it twice. Cupcakes and the periodic table, two great tastes that taste great together.
posted by fiercecupcake at 11:30 AM on December 1, 2009

I am so making my chemistry students do this. "Want me to round that 49.4 up to a 50, Jimmy? Well, let me tell you how you can help that happen......". Also a great intro to Mole Cookies.
posted by Go Banana at 1:33 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

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