Any day is a perfect day for the nice, neat math in one of our favorite snacks, the cupcake. Back in the 1800s, cupcakes were called “number cakes,” because the recipe used 1 cup of butter, 2 cups of sugar, 3 cups of flour, and 4 eggs (plus some milk and baking soda). The world’s largest cupcake crushed those numbers, though. Baked by Georgetown Cupcake in Washington, DC, it weighed 2,594 pounds. The recipe included 500 pounds of flour, 300 pounds of butter, and 100 pounds of cocoa powder, along with 200 dozen eggs! The question is, how many people did it take to eat it?
Wee ones: If your cupcakes use butter, sugar, flour, eggs, and milk, how many ingredients (foods) do they use?
Little kids: If you’re 4 feet tall and the world’s largest cupcake is 3 feet tall, how much taller than the cupcake are you? Bonus: Which is longer, the distance around a cupcake, or the distance across it? Look at any circle to figure it out!
Big kids: If your recipe instead uses 2 cups of butter, twice as many cups of sugar, and twice as much flour as sugar, how many cups is that so far? Bonus: How many eggs are in 200 dozen, anyway?
The sky’s the limit: If 1 person can lift 100 pounds at most, how many people would it take to pick up this 2,594-pound cupcake?
Wee ones: 5 ingredients.
Little kids: Just 1 foot taller. Bonus: The distance around a cupcake is longer.
Big kids: 14 cups of ingredients, since you add in 4 cups of sugar and 8 cups of flour. Bonus: 2,400 eggs.
The sky’s the limit: 26 people, since 25 people could lift only 2,500 pounds.
Laura Bilodeau Overdeck is founder and president of Bedtime Math Foundation. Her goal is to make math as playful for kids as it was for her when she was a child. Her mom had Laura baking before she could walk, and her dad had her using power tools at a very unsafe age, measuring lengths, widths and angles in the process. Armed with this early love of numbers, Laura went on to get a BA in astrophysics from Princeton University, and an MBA from the Wharton School of Business; she continues to star-gaze today. Laura’s other interests include her three lively children, chocolate, extreme vehicles, and Lego Mindstorms.