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Cupcake Conversions, Bench to Bakery Mark as Favorite (49 Favorites)

ACTIVITY in Observations, Physical Properties, Chemical Change, Physical Change, Dimensional Analysis, Measurements, Matter, Chemical Properties, Mixtures. Last updated January 29, 2024.


This activity will help to reinforce the importance of scientific measurement and apply it to the introduction of chemical reactions. Using an example of baking a single batch of cupcakes, students will plan for a larger production scale in a commercial bakery. This will help to introduce the idea of producing a reaction at the lab bench and converting it to mass production. In addition this activity investigates how chemistry is used in everyday life and challenges students to consider potentials errors that may occur when completing chemical reactions in the kitchen.

Grade Level

High or Middle School

NGSS Alignment

This activity will help prepare your students to meet the performance expectations in the following standards:

  • MS-ETS1-2: Evaluate competing design solutions using a systematic process to determine how well the meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.
  • HS-PS1-5: Apply scientific principles and evidence to provide an explanation about the effects of changing the temperature or concentration of the reacting particles on the rate at which a reaction occurs.
  • Scientific and Engineering Practices:
    • Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking
    • Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information


By the end of this activity, students should be able to

  • Convert measurements from English to the International Units of Measurement (Metric).
  • Scale up measurements for a standard recipe to a larger quantity.
  • Identify and discuss potential problems encountered with scaling up a product from bench to bakery (small to larger quantities).

Chemistry Topics

This activity supports students’ understanding of

  • Measurement
  • Dimensional Analysis
  • Matter
  • Mixtures
  • Observations
  • Physical Properties
  • Chemical Properties
  • Physical Change
  • Chemical Change


Teacher Preparation: 10 minutes

Lesson: 60-75 minutes


  • Student Handout
  • PowerPoint Presentation


  • No specific safety precautions need to be observed for this activity.

Teacher Notes

  • This lesson can be used in part or in whole. The activity is broken down into two tasks. Depending on how in depth the teacher wishes to get the activity can take one to three 45 minute periods.
  • The time of preparation for a teacher will increase if he/she wishes to bake examples of overbaked, under-baked, unrisen, or limited/missing ingredient cupcakes for the students, or bring in the ingredients to look at, to help jump start their thought process.
  • To reduce time for preparation it is suggested that teachers use the PowerPoint presentation to illustrate the ingredients and what might go wrong while baking.
  • This activity can be used in a number places in different units of the chemistry curriculum.
    • This can be used to introduce conversions and dimensional analysis using references that students understand.
    • This can be used to introduce the scientific method in the way that students will see science as a series of problem solving or trouble shooting issues.
    • This can be used to introduce students to the ideas behind physical properties/changes and chemical properties/changes.
    • This can be used to introduce students to stoichiometry as the link connects to an activity which uses a cookie recipe.
  • Conversions are an essential part of chemistry, going from larger to smaller units. Students need to know how to convert in chemistry, but unfortunately many of them don’t understand how to convert within the metric system. It is essential that students understand the International Unit of Measurement (Metric) since only three countries in the world use the English standard units (the United States of America, Liberia, and Myanmar). It is important to use the units of measurements that the rest of the world uses when trading on an international scale.
  • In this activity, students will tackle the real-world problems associated with taking a successful product from a small-scale production and a commercial or industrial level of production. The rationale for this approach came out of observations at a Dow Chemical facility and the process of troubleshooting that is needed to move a product through this process. Students may need guidance in coming up with ideas and scaffold support.
  • The teacher can do a lot with this activity. It starts out with students having to make conversions for a recipe between the English standard and Metric. Teachers can discuss the physical properties/changes and the chemical properties/changes that occur with the preparing and baking of the cupcakes. Teachers may take this to the next level by having students discuss the problems that will occur with upscaling the product from one batch of 24 to 200 for sale (see the trouble shooting bullet below). Finally the teacher can extend this to the issues surrounding stoichiometry and limiting factors (see links below).
  • AACT Resources for Conversions:
  • Troubleshooting: The following ideas should come up when looking at problems needed to upscale the cupcakes to mass production.
    • America Test Kitchen explains issues with scaling up (free trial for 14 days)
    • Refer to the notes within the provided PowerPoint presentation for additional visual examples and explanation.
    • Cooking Temperatures:
      • Not every oven is the same temperature (just because it says 350 oF doesn’t mean it is 350 oF).
      • There will be a difference in cooking time for small batches vs. large batches.
      • There are gas ovens and electric ovens.
      • Convection ovens use a fan to distribute the heat evenly whereas those with a heating element don’t do the same thing.
      • Some ovens have uneven zones of heating.
    • Mixing:
      • A whisk for one dozen won’t work with a larger batch.
      • Type of mixers used.
      • Hand mixing vs. electronic mixer.
      • Packing flour vs. leveling off the flour in a cup.
    • Ingredients:
      • Age of ingredients (older baking powder doesn’t work as well as new baking powder since it has about a 6 month shelf life).
      • Sifted vs. un-sifted flour.
      • Type of flour used (baking flour has a little cornstarch added to it to make it smoother).
      • Egg size impacts the product (small eggs, medium eggs, large eggs)
      • Type of oil used (Canola, Vegetable, Corn, or Olive Oil).
      • Milk (whole, 2% or 1%)
      • Can there be substitutes for eggs or oil? Mayonnaise is a mixture of eggs, oil and a little lemon so can this be used?
      • Can the cupcakes be made gluten free?
      • Generic vs. Brand name ingredients?
    • Cooking Utensils:
      • Aluminum vs. steel pans.
      • Color or darkness of pans.
      • Seasoned pans vs. non-seasoned pans.
      • Corrugated bottoms vs. flat.

For the Student



All consumer products start as a small batch to formulate ideal qualities but are scaled up to mass production for consumer purchase. In this process troubleshooting is essential to maintain quality and consistency of product.

You will take on the role of a successful baker who has an award winning recipe for cupcakes which is going to be scaled up to commercial baking. To achieve this end goal you will look at conversions from English units to Metric units and then standardize all units to grams regardless of ingredients. Finally you will look at issues on a microscale of production and see how they would affect macroscale baking of the product.


  • Convert measurements from English to the International Units of Measurement (Metric).
  • Scale up measurements for a standard recipe to a larger quantity.
  • Trouble shoot problems encountered with scaling up a product from bench to bakery (small to larger quantities).

Activity 1

  1. Read the recipe for a vanilla cupcake below:

Vanilla Cupcakes

The following recipe yields 20-25 cupcakes.


  • 2 cups of flour
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • ½ cup of unsalted butter, softened
  • ¾ cup of sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup of whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

Directions for baking:

  • Preheat oven to 375oF; line muffin cups with papers.
  • Beat and mix butter and sugar until it becomes a light and fluffy homogenous mixture. Beat in eggs one at a time.
  • Mix baking powder, salt and flour.
  • Add the flour mixture alternating with milk; beat well.
  • Stir in the vanilla.
  • Divide evenly among pans and bake for 18 minutes.
  • Let cool in pans.
  1. You live in a global society and you realize that this recipe should be out there for the rest of the world. Unfortunately, the rest of the world (except for the United States, Liberia and Myanmar) doesn’t use the English Standard of measurement. They all use the International System of Measurement, or the Metric scale. Please convert each of the measurements below from English Standard to Metric.
    1. How many grams are in 2 cups of wheat flour if 1 cup is 120.00 grams? Remember to use dimensional analysis to solve this problem.
    2. How many grams are in ½ teaspoon of salt if 5.00 grams of salt are in 1.00 teaspoon?
    3. How many grams are in 2 teaspoons of baking powder if 4.60 grams of baking powder are in 1.00 teaspoon?
    4. How many grams are in ½ cup of unsalted butter if there are 227.00 grams of butter in 1.00 cup?
    5. How many grams of sugar are in ¾ cup of sugar if there are 200.00 grams of sugar in 1.00 cup?
    6. What is the mass of 2 eggs if the mass of an average egg is 2.00 ounces? There are 28.50 grams per ounce. You must first convert from the number of eggs to ounces and then the number of ounces to grams.
    7. How many grams of milk are in 1 cup of milk if there are 473.176 mL of milk in 2.00 cups and the density of milk is 1.027 grams/mL? You must first convert the cups of milk to milliliters and then convert milliliters to grams using the density. Remember use dimensional analysis.
    8. How many grams of vanilla extract are in 1 teaspoon vanilla extract if 1.00 teaspoon is 0.15 fluid ounces and 1.00 fluid ounce is 28.35 grams? You must first convert the teaspoon to fluid ounces and then the fluid ounces to grams. Remember to use dimensional analysis.
    9. Convert the baking temperature of 375 oF to Celsius.
      1. Why Celsius? Watch the Temperature Guys video to understand the difference between the two scales.
      2. Use the following formula for the conversion:
        T (°C) = (T(F) – 32) x 5/9
    10. Successful bakeries don’t just make one batch of anything. In order to be competitive this recipe must be scaled up. How much of each ingredient would be required to make 200 cupcakes? Fill in the table below with your scale up information.
Ingredients Amount Calculated (g) for Single Batch or 24 Cupcakes Amount Calculated (g) for 8.33 Batches or 200 Cupcakes
Baking Powder
Unsalted Butter
Vanilla Extract

Activity 2

Scaling up is not as simple as taking the basic ingredients and then multiplying by a factor to get the total quantity. So many variables can affect the outcome.

  1. Using the graphic organizer below, brainstorm at least three issues that could arise when baking cupcakes (i.e. what could go wrong) at the micro-level (home/test kitchen).
Heating Ingredients Mixing Pan Selection
  1. Using the graphic organizer below, brainstorm at least three issues that could arise when baking cupcakes (i.e. what could go wrong) at the macro-level (commercial bakery).
Heating Ingredients Mixing Pan Selection
  1. Share your thoughts with at least one other person in class.Fill in ideas that you didn’t have in your graphic organizer.
  2. Be prepared to share your ideas during the teacher lead discussion.
  3. Answer the following questions:
    1. After listening to other students and watching the slide show summarize your findings in a concise set of directives to the bakery manager to:
      i. Ensure that the final product (the 200 cupcakes) maintains its quality and consistency.
      ii. Provide the final recipe, in grams, to the bakery manager.
    2. Putting yourself in the role of the bakery manager explain why you will still need to do testing to ensure quality control.