How Baking Relates to Maths

It seems unusual to see mathematics in the same sentence as baking doesn’t it? 

While baking and mathematics seen together sounds unusual, it’s a fact that baking relates to math.

What does a cook need to make a moist and luscious chocolate cake?  Maybe eggs, flour, chocolate, cocoa, baking soda, milk, butter and sugar; sounds about right doesn’t it?

So what if a cook took a small bowl of each of these ingredients and mixed them together in the attempt to make this cake?

The result would probably be a big bowl of a messy, chocolate coloured slosh, nothing like a smooth, thick cake mixture.

What if cook went a step further and baked this concoction?  The result would not resemble a nice chocolate cake and definitely wouldn’t taste like one.  There would be lumps of ingredients all through this baked ‘thing’.

What if the cook measured out the ingredients into individual quantities set out in a chocolate cake recipe?  The result would be a lovely moist chocolate cake, exactly what the cook wants.

So how does a baking recipe relate to math?  Firstly, there’s measurement, usually measurement done in fractions such as a ¼ cup of flour or ½ cup butter.

Then there may be measurements as well in grams.  These measurements can be expressed in mathematical terms such as 200g of flour written in the form of percentage would equal 0.20, which can then be expressed as 20% of a kilo of flour.

Mathematics is also used to double a recipe or make a smaller quantity of the recipe.

Then there’s the method or instructions that tell the cook exactly how the ingredients in the cake should be mixed and when they should be added.

A recipe for baking can be compared to the order of calculations in mathematics.  For example, a maths problem such as 3 + 2 x 6 could yield two different answers.

Reading left to right the answer to this sum is 30.  This answer is incorrect because to complete this sum, we need to follow the order of calculations, the rules in which order the sum should be calculated.

So applying the order of calculations where multiplication is done before addition we end up with an answer of 15.

Following a recipe can be compared to a mathematical formula where if the mathematical formula is not followed correctly, the wrong answer would be the result.

If a recipe is not followed in the right way, with the right measurement of ingredients, mixed and added at the right time, then baked for the right amount of time,  the result in baking may be anything from a cracked to a sunken cake.