Flour, Eggs, CAD. Baking Goes High-Tech.

Cake Design, flickr.com/photos/tracyhunter/

I bet you didn’t know that Tuesday is National Cheesecake Day. And I bet you also didn’t know that here in the United States there are over 50 national “baking something or other” days. There’s National Chocolate Cake Day, National Carrot Cake Day, even a National Cream Cheese Brownie Day.

But modern-day baking isn’t for wimps. Or for people who don’t know how to use CAD software. That’s right. Baking has become a very high-tech business. So in honor of National Cheesecake Day and for bakers everywhere, here’s a look at some of the cool ways people and computers are interacting to bring us state-of-the-art confections.

Computer technology, specifically CAD tools, have infiltrated virtually every aspect of the cake decorating business. From the cake shape, to stenciled designs, to color printed photos.

Simple to use software allows you to pick and modify the number of tiers, the shapes, fondant designs and more. And just as you might use CAD to design a mountain bike, CAD software for cake allows you to drop items in, replicate them with one click, and save popular modules for future uses. You can also utilize printing software such as Deco that will print any image using edible sheets, icing sheets and decorative chocolate stencils.

Not ready to invest in software yourself or intimidated by online cake decorating instructions that focus on frosting tips and pastry bags with couplers? Create A Cake offered by Brides.com keeps the professional quality without requiring an art or engineering degree. Right on the website brides can design their perfect cake, selecting the color, decorations and accents. Change your mind? No worries, the software lets you easily edit.

Most cake design software also lets users mix and match ideas from different sources, allowing for a free flow of creativity – and ease of use.

To lazy to make your own cake? No problem. Check out the BakeBot – a PR2 robot system and brainchild of MIT grad student Mario Bollini that bakes autonomously.

Developed using Willow Garage’s PR2 robot which can bag groceries, do housework, handle beer bottles and even recently “learned” to read, the BakeBot bakes cookies all the way from locating the ingredients in front of it on the table to putting the cookie in the oven.

After putting on its apron, the BakeBot begins by examining the table using a laser scanner and camera to locate the cookie sheet and butter. It identifies all the other ingredients and supplies by color and size. The robot then follows a coded version of the recipe that takes it through mixing the ingredients, scraping the cookie dough onto the baking sheet, and patting it into a large cookie. Along the way, a compliant controller is used for mixing the batter and scrapping out the bowl. The controller is also applied to opening the oven door.

The BakeBot is not the only cooking robot. There is the pancake making Motoman SDA10 robot in Tokyo; a ramen-wielding robot chefs in Nagoya, Japan; and a food robot in China that allows users to program recipes into its internal computer. And now, students at China’s Yangzhou and Shanghai Jiaotong universities have developed a robot which can make about 300 traditional dishes such as Gao Bao chicken.

Now, if we could just get Bollini to hook up with the cake design folks. A robot that can bake a nice chocolate-chip cake with buttercream frosting installed in my kitchen sounds just the ticket.

Photo Credit: Tracy Hunter on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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