Friday, July 6, 2012

Periodic Table of Elements Cake

I know everyone is waiting on pins and needles to hear about our summer reading, but I've received a request for information on my son's birthday cake. Never one to disappoint, here are the details.

My eldest son loves science, but he somehow thinks my cake making can defy the laws of physics. Deciding on a cake each year can be a bit of a compromise. After rejecting several impossible designs of computer games he likes, I finally suggested we find another passion of his and we settled on the periodic table.

Since he is at Scout Camp on his actual 14th birthday, we celebrated tonight. Ryan has a couple friends over and I am feeling extremely short.

And here is our Periodic Table Cake:

After trying to decide if I should cut up a couple regular cakes into little squares or just buy a small square pan, I bought the pan. With a 40% off coupon at the craft store, it cost me less than $6. Best decision ever. If I did it again I would buy two and finish baking twice as fast!

One cake mix, adapted with the White Almond Sour Cream recipe (once you try it, you'll never go back), made 6 batches in the pan and was enough squares to make all the elements plus extra. 6x24=144. You need 118 for the periodic table and some will be ruined when you try to pop them out.

There are no directions on the pan for adapting regular recipes' cooking time. My oven did fine with about 1 teaspoon per square, 350 degrees for 11 minutes, then 10 minutes in the freezer before popping them out. Don't forget to keep a cookie sheet under the pan, check for done with a toothpick, and spray the pan before each batch.

After they cooled, I piped an outline, with regular store bought buttercream frosting, around each square. Then I colored the rest of the icing 6 different colors and watered them down until they were syrupy consistency. I dolloped the colors in the center and they spread easily with the back of the spoon to the piped outline. I also watered down chocolate frosting for the transition metal elements. (A total of 7 colors, I just counted on a periodic table to see how many of each color I needed)

Some of the icing didn't harden as well as I liked, if I were to try again I might experiment with melting the icing for 5-10 seconds in the microwave instead of watering it down?

After letting it sit overnight to let the frosting set as much as possible, I used a copy of the periodic table to pipe on each element symbol and close approximation to its number. I was worried it would dry out, but after almost a full day they tasted just fine. Extra fine because of the WASC recipe I mentioned earlier.

Then I found a space wide enough, put down wax paper and laid out the cakes in the periodic shape.

It was a HUGE success!


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Evil Summer Scheme 1

I wouldn't be myself without some evil schemes for summer. It's a full time job, however, as my kids keep growing and entering different phases so my evil plans need to adapt constantly. There are a couple of evil plans I've implemented this summer. Both are adapated from previous schemes and I really like how they've worked so far. I'm posting them in the hopes some other evil scientist, or mother, could find something useful in them, too. I'll post my weekly chores today and our reading program tomorrow.


 I like to do one thorough cleaning and pick up as needed the rest of the week. It makes sense to do it on Saturday, which is why I do it on Monday. I've always had trouble with distributing chores evenly and making sure everything gets done well. The kitchen might be an hour, maybe 3. The bathrooms could take 5 minutes or an hour depending on who used it. Um, I mean how dirty it is.

Anyway, I took everything I usually do on Mondays when the kids are at school and wrote it down in very basic steps. For instance the kitchen would include: clear table, clear cupboards, unload dishwasher, load dishwasher, wash table, wash stools, wash cupboards, granite polish countertops, wash cupboard fronts, etc.

When I was done, I had a little over 50 steps to a finished house, which I printed onto strips and laminated.
I put them in a jar and the kids take one out without looking so there is no picking and choosing and complete that job. When they're done they pick another until the jar is empty. I did this last summer and it worked wonders! This year I color coded them into "initial chores", "mid-clean chores", and "finishing chores" so someone wouldn't pick "vacuum carpets" before "pick up toys".

When I do my Monday cleaning during the school year on my own it takes up to 6 hours. When the kids and I do it together it takes closer to 3. Please note that it took 15 years of chore giving hell before my kids made cleaning with them FASTER than cleaning without.


  • All the kids work the entire time.
  • Little things that kids tend to forget are done because it is an individual job like clean under the couches" or "wash back window"
  • There is no arguing over the fairness of the jobs. You do what you pick and then you pick again.
  • If your kids are competitive like mine, they hurry so they've picked the most jobs that week.


  • Sometimes your younger kids pick a chore you'd rather an older kid did like "clean the toilets" or "wash the dishes". 
  • You do have to make sure some of the kids don't skate past a job or it makes later jobs more difficult. The kids are getting better as they hate coming back to a job they felt they'd completed. (So is that really a con, they are getting better at doing the jobs?)
  • You have to monitor so the kids don't lose the cards.

Anyway, here are the kids cleaning. The youngest usually helps either myself or one of the older kids with the jobs they pick.