The Science Behind S’mores Cupcakes

Science Behind the Crust

The crust contains graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and melted butter. The graham cracker crumbs contain graham flour, which contains whole wheat. This means gluten is very present in graham cracker crumbs, allowing for more structure in the crust.

The sugar sweetens the mixture, as well as  slightly limits gluten formation, though some may still be needed for the bonding of the crust.

The melted butter, made up of fat, protein, and water. This emulsion also inhibits gluten formation somewhat. This is due to the fat breaking down and shortening gluten strands.

The graham cracker crumbs and sugar combine into a dusty mixture, while the melted butter bonds all ingredients together. The liquids dissolve in the sugar, moistening the combination of graham cracker crumbs and sugar to create a uniform mixture. This mixture is then placed into the bottom of cupcake liners and baked for 7 minutes on 325 degrees. The mixture is heated primarily by radiation from the oven, but some level of conduction from the metal pan as well.

Science Behind the Chocolate Cupcakes

There are many ingredients that contribute to the chocolate cupcake portion of the recipe. Dry ingredients are listed first- flour, sugar, Hersheys Special Dark Cocoa, baking soda, salt.

The flour is present in this recipe to contribute gluten formation, however a whole-wheat or other hard flour is not used, so as to keep the cake fluffy and not chewy and tough.

The sugar is both used to prevent gluten formation and contribute a sweet flavor to the recipe. The sugar limits gluten formation by bonding with water, taking it from starches and proteins in flour.

The Hersheys Special Dark Cocoa is what makes the chocolate cupcake, chocolate. The cocoa powder helps to keep the cake tender and flavored well. In addition, the combination of cocoa powder and vegetable oil results in a moist chocolate cake, due to the bonding between the oil and the powder.

The baking soda is crucial in helping the cake to rise. Unlike baking powder, however, it needs an acidic component to assist with leavening within the recipe, which is where the buttermilk comes in. The baking soda, along with the buttermilk, make up the leavening agents in this recipe.

Salt not only helps to season in these cupcakes, it can also contribute to the denaturation of proteins in other ingredients, such as the egg needed in the recipe as well. Salt can also help to release aroma molecules from food, contributing to the smell and taste.

These dry ingredients are combined prior to the wet ingredients. This is so specific reactions do not begin before they should. One example of this is the combination of baking soda and buttermilk as a leavening agent. If this reaction were to occur too soon, the resulting cupcake would be different than what is desired.

Some of the wet ingredients are then added- egg, buttermilk, and vegetable oil.

The egg in this recipe helps with the structure, as the proteins within it denature and coagulate to form new structures and contribute to the overall structure of the end product.

The buttermilk, as mentioned above, combines with baking powder to make up the leavening agent within the chocolate cupcake. This causes the formation of air bubbles in the batter and causes the cake to rise in the oven.

The vegetable oil, as mentioned above, helps to moisten the cake in combination withe the cocoa powder. It also helps to release aroma molecules in the cake to improve taste and scent. As a fat, it also partially inhibits the gluten formation in the cake, keeping it light and fluffy.

The other wet ingredients added are vanilla and boiling water. The vanilla is added for flavor and to enhance the flavor of other components of the recipe. The boiling water is used to boil off some of the ethanol present in the vanilla. The addition of boiling water to the other ingredients aids in the denaturation of the proteins by heat.

After all wet ingredients are added, they are mixed prior to adding the vanilla and boiled water. The purpose of doing this is to denature and coagulate the proteins in the egg prior to adding the heat from the water. The vanilla and boiled water are mixed and then added. This is to alter the alcoholic content and weaken flavor in the vanilla prior to adding to the cupcake batter mixture. After adding, the batter is mixed again, to combine all ingredients and alter the egg proteins once more before baking. While baking, like the crust, the cake is cooked via radiation and slightly by conduction.

Science Behind the Marshmallow Frosting

The marshmallow frosting is only created using three key ingredients- egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar.

The egg whites of the frosting hold a large amount of protein. When heated and mixed, these proteins denature and coagulate, helping to form the structure of the frosting. Also, when air bubbles are incorporated, the egg whites can also act as a leavening agent and help to lift the frosting.

The sugar in the frosting helps to flavor it, as well as help to denature the egg protein. The sugar dissolves in the liquid of the egg, thus disrupting its structure.

The presence of cream of tartar in this frosting is to help to contribute to the leavening and lift that the egg whites are producing, as well as also helping to denature the protein in the eggs whites. This is due to the acid present in cream of tartar.

The sugar slowly dissolves in the liquid of the eggs, while the acid in the cream of tartar works to denature the proteins within the eggs. After mixing the ingredients, the mixture is placed in a saucepan over simmering water. The heat helps to coagulate the proteins in the eggs and helps the sugar to dissolve further, creating a smooth consistency. This heat is present via radiation, as the water below simmers to create steam which heat the saucepan above. The mixture is then whisked to incorporate air and alter the consistency further, which also occurs after it is removed from heat and beat with the whisk attachment for 5-7 minutes.


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