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The layers of the Earth. Image Credit: Discover Magazine

The layers of the Earth.
Image Credit: Discover Magazine

Amy Oyler and her daughter Kat go on many science adventures as part of Kat’s homeschooling educational program. Amy writes up their experiences on her blog, The Scientific Mom. Here’s are some excerpts from one of their recent adventures, Baking with Geology!

BAKING WITH GEOLOGY!

Back in April, Kat and I began our big geology project. We learned a lot about the geological history of Arizona and even took our lessons to the field!

The Earth’s crust is divided into four major layers: the crust, the mantle, the outer core, and the inner core. The crust is approximately 5-30 miles thick, being the thinnest at the oceanic layer (up to 5 miles thick) and the thickest at the continental layer (up to 30 miles thick). The mantle is approximately 1,800 miles thick and is made up of not-quite-solid not-quite-liquid rock. The outer core is approximately 1,400 miles thick and made up of liquid iron and nickel. The inner core is approximately 900 miles thick and made up of a solid, incredibly dense ball of super hot iron and nickel.

Now these are all pretty basic things that we read when learning about the layers of the Earth, but what does it really mean? How do you get a grasp on those distances, those layers, and what that even looks like? For this question, we had to get in the kitchen and make ourselves a cake!

A LAYER CAKE OF EARTH

Our layer cake was inspired by this recipe, given by the Department of Earth Sciences at Clemson University, South Carolina.

Materials Needed:

This is where you get to have fun and be creative! Think about the layers of the Earth and what they are made of. Where can you find liquid rock? What about rock that is flexible and plastic like? Where can you find fossils? Maybe you can play around with adding fossils into the layers of your cake for your kids to dig out. Whatever you decide, be prepared to have fun and get MESSY!

  1. Sponge cake mix (or any sturdy cake mix) and the ingredients needed to prepare it
  2. Small cake ban or bread pan (we used a bread pan)
  3. Non-stick cooking spray
  4. Newspaper or foil to cover your work surface with
  5. Something to use as a liquid layer (we used both icing and butterscotch pudding)
  6. Food coloring
  7. Something to act as rocks and bedrock (we used nuts)
  8. Something to use as dirt (we used cookies)

Procedure:

  1. Prepare your cake batter according to the directions on the box. Pour a thin layer (approximately 1/2 inch in your bread pan. If you choose to do so, you can add a few drops of food coloring to color your layer.
  2. Bake your half inch cake at the temperature that is recommended in the instructions for your cake mix. We baked ours for 10 minutes, using the toothpick test to make sure it was done.
  3. When your cake is done, dump it on to your work surface and add another half inch layer of batter. Color this if you choose, and bake it again for approximately 10 minutes (or until done). Repeat until you have 3 layers of cake.
  4. Now it’s time for decorating! One of these layers will be the inner core, another will be the mantle, and the final layer will be the crust. It’s up to you to decide what goes in between all of it! Color your frosting, add pudding, add some chopped nuts or marshmallows for your rocks and fossils. Get creative and get messy!

The final step of course, will be the most fun, as you and your kids get to dig into this gigantic cake of Earth!

For more fun geology science activities like Mapping the Tectonic Plates, Igneous Meltdown, Sedimentation Station and Under Pressure, check out Amy’s full post on The Scientific Mom, Baking with Geology!

If you liked this post and want to see more of Amy and Kat’s adventures on MAKE, let us know in the comments!

Andrew Terranova

Andrew Terranova is an electrical engineer, writer and an electronics and robotics hobbyist. He is an active member of the Let’s Make Robots community, and handles public relations for the site.
Andrew has created and curated robotics exhibits for the Children’s Museum of Somerset County, NJ and taught robotics classes for the Kaleidoscope Learning Center in Blairstown, NJ and for a public primary school. Andrew is always looking for ways to engage makers and educators.


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