Fun Family Learning: Cupcake Core Sampling

How can we know what’s underground if we can’t see it? One method is core sampling.  I wrote a post about my experience taking sediment samples from the bottom of Long Island Sound, and this is just one example of a real life use for core sampling.  An easy way to model core sampling at home is with cupcakes.

class 056

A sediment sample from the bottom of Long Island Sound. Note the distinct layers.


  • cupcake pan and liners
  • cake batter
  • food dye
  • frosting
  • clear straws


All you need to do is whip up your favorite cake batter and separate it into about 5 bowls.  Use food coloring or a natural dye to make 5 different colors, then spoon each color into your lined cupcake pan.  Be sure to vary the layers so each cupcake is different.  Bake the cupcakes, then allow them to cool and top them with your favorite frosting.

Use a clear straw to take core samples.  Children can choose to use a coordinate system for their holes or may prefer to wing it.  As they pull up each sample, they should note the colors present.  After they’ve taken samples, they can guess what the cupcake will look like or even draw a picture.  Then cut the cupcake in half and see how what it looks like.  Did you drill enough holes? Were the layers in the order you expected? Finally, go ahead and eat the cupcake!
  • Use a foil or opaque cupcake liner and cover the whole top with frosting so you really can’t see any of the colors.
  • Bake strawberries, blueberries or chocolate chips into the cake to play the role of fossils.
  • You will need to make the batter very dark so the layers will be obvious in the straws.
  • The layers will compress a little as you push down on the cupcake, so you may not be able to tell their relative thickness.

You May Also Enjoy:

This post is part of my Fun Family Learning series.  Please let me know what you think about it and feel free to request a future topic!



Filed under Food, Fun Family Learning, Natural Learning, Recipes

2 responses to “Fun Family Learning: Cupcake Core Sampling

  1. Okay, this is such a cool idea. Love it!

  2. Very cool. Will tuck this away for when my girls are older.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s