Research-themed baking

Have you baked research-themed goodies? I was recently thinking about this after seeing this tweet from Dr. Becca

That is some impressive baking! I have never made a whole cake in the shape of a Daphnia though now I think I need to. I have made this apple pie, featuring two species of Daphnia (the native D. dentifera and the invasive D. lumholtzi, though I didn’t make the latter’s helmet as impressive as it really is). The vents on the pie are, of course, little algae and parasites. (I mean, really, what else could they have been?)


I also once tried to make a set of parasite cupcakes. One of the parasites we work on in the lab is a tightly coiled bacterium that is a beautiful pinkish red color. My thought was that I’d make cupcakes, frost them with pink frosting, and then arrange them in a coil. I hadn’t made colored frosting before, but I just made a white frosting and put red food coloring in. This seemed to work well, but when I went to get the cupcakes in the morning to bring them to the lab, all the red coloring had oozed out of the frosting overnight, which definitely did not give the proper effect!

Some people are quite good at this research-themed baking. The blog notsohumblepie features beautiful petri dish plate cookies, as well as lab mice, electrophoresis gels, and gingerbread scientists in lab coats. Then there are the amazing pancakes made by Nathan Shields, which include grasshoppers, mosquitoes, nudibranchs, and sea urchins. This post from The Scientist also features some neat research-themed baking (including several creations from notsohumblepie. ht: Jeremy) And, while these holographic chocolates don’t feature Daphnia, they should.

This led me to turn to twitter to ask people to contribute pictures of research-themed baking. Chris Solomon (@CT_Solomon) submitted this picture of a cake that reflects a whole lake browning experiment:


And here’s another ecosystem-themed one, featuring a conceptual diagram from the thesis of Lauren Kinsman-Costello (@LKCBiogeochem):


DocM (@gypsyecologist) has made quite a few research-themed cakes, some of which are pictured here:


The top one is a Neosho madtom and the bottom is a southern redbelly dace. And then there’s this vegetarian fish calzone (also from @gypsyecologist) which is really impressive!


Another very impressive fish contribution came from Tye Kindinger (@tyekindinger):


These cookies were to celebrate her labmate’s defense; the four letters on them are species codes her lab uses (e.g., PAAR is for Panulirus argus).

And, finally, Andrew Hendry sent this one along, of some fish brownies. Yum!


Have you made research-themed baked goods? If you know of links to other posts featuring research-themed baking, please link in the comments!


43 thoughts on “Research-themed baking

    • Hey! I recognize those! Andy’s postdoc and I baked these for a surprise for Andy reaching Full Professor status. A significant loss of connectivity quickly ensued…

  1. I don’t have a picture but a students in my advanced stats class once made “R” cupcakes. Every cupcake had a different R command (lm, glm, nnet, rpart, etc) on them!

    And it was not a visual, but I once composed an edible botanical puzzle for a botany lab potluck. The following foods were arranged in order:
    mango, broccoli, squash, yams, blueberries, roasted chestnuts, corn/maize
    The question is what food comes next?

    • I’m stumped! I can’t even figure out the ordering principle, much less guess which specific food comes next.

      The degree to which I’m stumped is reflected in the ridiculous possibilities I’ve checked out. Are they in alphabetical order by genus? (nope) Are they in reverse order of time since domestication (nope–yams were domesticated a long time ago, just as maize was)…

      #overthinkingit, I’m sure.🙂

      • One of your two guesses is actually very close …

        And no you’re not overthinking – this is a weird mix of botanical nerdiness and a totally non-scientifically meaningful pattern.

  2. Two more via Twitter:

    (Don’t let Terry McGlynn see that one, he’ll drool all over his keyboard)

  3. I made a soil cake for a labmate who graduated last year.

    Oe/i horizons (leaf litter): chocolate leaves
    Oa horizon (humus): crumbled oreos
    A horizon (organic mineral layer): vegan chocolate cake
    B horizon (mineral layer): spiced apple cinnamon cake (to mimic our sandy soils at the University of Michigan Biological Station…we normally don’t see an E horizon at this field site)
    Soil macrofauna: gummy earthworm

    • I ate some of that cake! Not only did it look beautiful, but it was really tasty! This also reminds me that Jasmine’s thesis gave me another idea for a post, which was co-opting technology from other fields to use for ecological studies.

  4. Pingback: Friday links: a botanical brainteaser, hippos as invasive species, tau > pi, 2>55, and more (UPDATED) | Dynamic Ecology

  5. This was such a timely blog! Last week I submitted my PhD and this blog inspired me to bake my own thesis inspired cake. Here it is. Note: I didn’t study phoenixes (!) but I did study birds and fire and the symbology of life after PhD seemed quite appropriate.

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