Baking Math – Marbled Pumpkin Bundt Cake

Today in school we spent a day learning about how to teach Math in school, what new approaches we can take to make it more engaging for the students in elementary school, and how to look at math in a whole new way to get even the most math-averse interested (like myself). My experiences with math are not so great – I always felt like I was never fully getting it. I struggled through school with math, and luckily I was able to do quite well in the only math class that mattered for my career, “Math for Elementary School Teachers,” so that I never have to take a math class again.

That is, until I myself am a Teacher, and have to actually teach math to students. Me – the person who greatly dislikes the subject more than any other subject in school. I’ll have to be responsible for instructing and helping students understand math concepts.

The only math that actually makes sense to me is in baking and cooking. If I could have just become a Home Economics teacher I would have, but I wasn’t sure about whether or not a position would up somewhere, I would probably have to become an English teacher first (which would have been ok). So, I am becoming an elementary school teacher, something that I have wanted to become since I was little. Math is being used in the kitchen constantly, it is in every recipe, and at every table (think, how much do I need per person? Will I have enough?) Many people wouldn’t even think about math while cooking or baking, but if you look carefully there are a lot of math skills involved. I think that my love of cooking and baking has greatly helped my math skills. I have probably been cooking since I was about 13, putting roasts in the oven while my parents were at work so dinner would be ready when they got home, meaning I would have to measure out the oil, spices, and put it in the oven at a certain time so it would cook for long enough. I highly suggest allowing your kids to help in the kitchen!

You might be amazed at how many math skills you actually use on a daily basis while you are in the kitchen.

Math In the Kitchen

Ingredients:

  • Measurements – fractions, 1/2 cup, 1/4 cup etc.
  • Dividing recipes, half, thirds, doubling recipes
  • Equivalents (ingredients, measuring, substitutions)
  • Number of ingredients needed (How many eggs, how many ingredients total?)
  • Money – how much money will it cost, how much money will I need, How much will it cost Per Person?
Conversions:
  • Conversions from tablespoons and teaspoons to cup, to millilitres to grams, ounces to litres etc.
  • Converting temperatures from fahrenheit to celsius (degrees)

Oven:

  • Time
    - how long will each dish take, how long will a batch take, when should you put on the next ingredient etc.
    - how long it will take to cook, time vs. weight (pounds per hour etc)

Temperature:

  • What is the boiling point of water? The melting point of butter? How do you temper chocolate?

If you don’t know the correct measurements, a great meal can quickly turn bitter (literally), if you have too much salt, or not enough sugar.

Cooking/Baking also helps children with literacy! Think: Reading the ingredients, reading instructions, new vocabulary (Sauté, Barbecue, Boil, Braise, Sear, Separate, Kneed, Chop, Grate, Incorporate, Beat, Simmer, Add, Mix, Pre-Heat)

How about learning about cultures? History: World food, Ethnic foods – Where do certain ingredients come from, what type of Food do Italians eat? Japanese?

Problem Solving?

“We are going to make a half batch of cookies. This recipe calls for 2 1/4 cups of flour. How much flour do we need?”

Becoming a teacher has allowed me to think outside of the classroom – learning takes place everywhere, and everything you do can be a learning experience (Already sounding like a teacher!) I will definitely be throwing in some baking themed equations into the curriculum once I’m a teacher, and sharing my baked goods with the staff, of course.

I really think some of my math skills have been helped by my love of baking and cooking. Next time you look at a recipe think of all the math involved in the making of it – You’ll be pleasantly surprised that you’re learning math!

Speaking of baking and measuring, I put together a new Fall recipe, my first of the season. I had to do it – pumpkin is Everywhere! I can’t get away from it, so I may as well embrace it. I love pumpkin in all ways, sweet or savoury. You can make it a regular pumpkin bundt cake, but I decided to give it a little drama with a marbled chocolate effect. Welcome Fall!

Marbled Pumpkin Bundt Cake

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup canola oil
  • 3 eggs – room temperature
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, or whole wheat
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 and 1/2 or 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 2 tsp. Pumpkin Pie Spice (or your own blend)
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin puree (if using fresh, make sure excess liquid removed)
  • 2 tbs. cocoa

In a large bowl, of a stand mixer preferably, combine sugar and oil until well blended. Add the eggs, one at a time – beating well after each addition.

In another medium sized bowl, combine flour, baking soda. Add to egg/sugar mixture alternating with pumpkin, beating until thoroughly combined. Add cinnamon, nutmeg, pumpkin pie spice and make it as spicy as you like.

Reserve 1 or  1 and a 1/2 cups batter, and place the rest evenly into a greased bundt pan. With reserved batter, whisk in the cocoa (more or less depending on how chocolatey you want it) and drop by spoonfuls on top of batter in the pan. Using a knife, cut the chocolate batter into the batter below swirling as you do it.

Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes or until knife inserted comes out clean. Cool for a few minutes before inverting on to wire rack. You can turn it right side up, or leave it ‘upside down’ to see the marbling effect.

6 Comments on Baking Math – Marbled Pumpkin Bundt Cake

  1. Britta
    September 30, 2012 at 6:52 PM (2 years ago)

    This looks absolutely delicious. hahaha! I am totally going to remember your baking + math analogy come February when I will be taking Math courses myself (ahh, scary!)

    Reply
    • Alicia
      September 30, 2012 at 7:24 PM (2 years ago)

      haha good luck with the math courses!

      Reply
  2. Marilee
    October 1, 2012 at 11:45 AM (2 years ago)

    This looks just lovely. ^_^

    Quick question — do you mean the whole nutmeg ground up, or just a portion of it. How much nutmeg would that be if using already ground nutmeg? I ask for my sister who will surely want to make this and I already anticipate her question in advance.

    Thank you and good luck with your schooling.

    Reply
  3. Kate
    December 24, 2013 at 5:15 PM (4 months ago)

    Hi-
    This looks and smells amazing as it’s baking in my oven, but I just realized that I never put in the sour cream! When does it get mixed in?
    Thanks and good luck teaching.
    Kate

    Reply
    • Alicia
      December 28, 2013 at 11:46 AM (4 months ago)

      After adding the pumpkin! Sorry – Thank you!! Hope it turned out =)

      Reply

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