Introduction: Toasted Marshmellow Patterned Cupcakes With LASERS!
**Thumbnail was a failed experiment using improper settings. The Einstein picture is more representative of this method**
Hey everyone! The goal of this tutorial I'll be showing you the method I came up with to create awesome high resolution cupcake decorations using the power of lasers! And most importantly, it tastes and smells like a s'more!
The basic idea is that by rasterizing a high powered laser quickly over the surface of a cupcake you can selectively vaporize some of the icing. This also slightly chars the surface of the cupcake, causing a change in color (toasted marshmallow!) By modifying the speed and power of the laser you can vary the depth of the image as well as the contrast.
This basic method works for any baked good that can be iced, and is limited only by the size of your laser engraver. I chose cupcakes since I expected (rightfully) to have to do a lot of experimentation before I manged to make the idea work.
I hope you enjoy! Let me know if you have any suggestions to improve this method!
Step 1: Ingredients!
What you need for this project is:
- 2 egg Whites
- 1 cup of Sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
- 1/4th cup of Corn Syrup
- 2 cups of Mini Marshmallows
- Food Coloring (optional)
- Cupcake Tins (optional
- 1 medium sized bowl
- Muffin Tin
- Small Sauce Pot
- >5 Watt Laser Engraver (I used a k40)
You will also need ingredients to make the cupcakes themselves. That's not relevant to this method, however I used a white cake mix which took 3 eggs, 1/2 cup of oil and 1 cup of water.
Step 2: The Iceing!
The main focus of this project is the icing. My original goal for this project was to use a basic meringue to take the image. That method actually worked exceptionally well, and if all you care about is appearance I highly recommend it. However, it tasted terrible. The burnt plastic like flavor overwhelmed the cupcake. They also couldn't easily take food coloring.
So, I moved to something far better at taking a char, marshmallows!
The recipe for the icing is fairly simple.
- 1 fill a small sauce pot 1/8th of the way with water
- Bring the sauce pot to a boil
- Mix the 2 egg Whites, 1 cup of Sugar, 1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Extract, 1/4th cup of Corn Syrup, and 2 cups of Mini Marshmallows in a medium sized bowl.
- Place this bowl over the sauce pot and reduce head to low
- Stir until all ingredients melt. Roughly 7 minutes
- Separate icing into various containers and add food dye.
- Allow to come to room temperature.
Step 3: Dipping!
Once your icing has cooled you're ready to dip your cupcakes!
- Separate the pure icing into various containers to be colored separately. If you want a tie-dye look, intentionally under mix your food dye slightly.
- Swivel the top of each cupcake's rim around the bowl. I found this to be the best method to get full coverage without making the icing layer too thick.
- Twist the cupcake when pulling it out of the icing. This avoid the suction from the icing ripping off the top center of the cupcakes. If you consistently have a problem with this, reheat your icing slightly or switch to spreading on the icing with a knife.
- Place the cupcake in the freezer for 30 minutes (optional). I've found that the image the laser imprints is much more detailed when the icing is cold.
You can control exactly how thick you want your icing by the temperature you dip it at. The hotter the icing the thinner the layer. I dipped most of my earlier cupcakes at far too warm a temperature which caused them to drip off the side, as can be seen in the freezer image. I recommend waiting till the icing cools to nearly room temperature.
Step 4: Laser Time!!
Now we get to the good part! Its time to engrave our images onto our cupcakes! The exact method and settings will vary slightly depending on your machine. In terms of power it will depend on the contrast you desire. I found the colored icing didn't need as much power as the white icing, which is unsurprising.
This is the point I would typically warn you to "have proper ventilation". However, in this project im not sure if its necessary .It smells like a roasting marshmallow!
- Import your image into Inkscape.
- Scale your document to 65x65mm (rough size of a cupcake).
- Scale and position your image.
- If using diether (various shades) save the image as svg. Otherwise convert it to bitmap and save.
- Import image into laser engraving software (i use k40 whisperer).
- Move laser head to directly above the top left hand corner of the square which would circumscribe the cupcake.
- 16-40% power (on 30 watt laser cutter) (less for better quality, more for more contrast)
- .003in scanline
- Dither:ON (multiple shades, for pictures) (optional)
Step 5: Conclusion and Things to Avoid
The biggest mistakes that can be made in this project are having the speed too low and the power too high. As you can see the "science" image suffers from this where the charring doesn't just pattern the cupcakes surface but starts burning it. That set of cupcakes also had far too many marshmallows in the frosting causing it to be rather liquidy (which some people like but I think just makes a mess). However if you keep your power setting to less than 30% and use the recipe provided you shouldn't have to worry.
If you liked this project please consider voting for it in the science of cooking challenge. I wasn't able to submit this until right before the deadline so every vote is a big help.
Hope You Enjoyed!