Exhibit Sets Out to Prove Jellyfish Cupcakes Can Be Delicious

Could jellyfish be the food additive of the future? That’s the question an ongoing exhibition in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is posing through an unusual conduit: cupcakes. 

Jellyfish populations are exploding across the world’s oceans, causing major issues. They clog the pipes of nuclear reactors and other coastal power plants, and they can kill off large populations of fish, both by stinging them and by using up all the nutrients in the water.

This fall, Massachusetts art gallery Le Laboratoire Cambridge is exploring the myriad problems that will face a world filled with jellyfish in an exhibit called “The Trouble with Jellyfish.” As part of the exhibit—which also includes a clever simulation of how fish feel in jelly-clogged waters—the gallery’s Café ArtScience is serving up a potential solution in the form of cupcakes laced with jellyfish. 

David Edwards, a Harvard professor and founder of the exhibit space, introduced the topic of jellyfish as a food source in his Harvard class "How to Create Things & Have Them Matter.” The students, in turn, came up with the idea of using jellyfish—creatures whose bodies are mostly water and collagen—as an egg substitute in cupcakes.

However, it was up to Café ArtScience pastry chef Renae Connolly to make the technique work for customers. The goal, she tells mental_floss, was to take
a product that would normally just be trash” and turn it into a useful baking aid. She bought dried, salted jellyfish from Chinatown (jellyfish is a common dish in Cantonese and some other East Asian cuisines) and rinsed the jellies in water for 24 hours to remove the salt and excess flavorings. Then, she blended the unsalted jellies into a gel-like paste to use as a leavening and binding agent in cake. 

While the initial idea was that jellyfish could one day become a tasty egg substitute for home cooks, “it’s still kind of a work in progress,” Connolly warns. She describes her first attempt at jellyfish cupcakes as an “epic fail.” As soon as she opened the oven door, “BOOM, they all deflated immediately.”

But with a lot more experimentation, she was able to create a successful set of mini-cakes that she says were tastier than you might imagine. “They were just a delicious cake—no ‘jellyfish’ taste perceivable,” she describes. “It’s not too hard to mask any slightly savory flavor with a little vanilla and cupcake flavoring." 

Through her many trials, Connolly has confirmed that jellyfish might be a workable future food solution. Normally, when cake batter is made the night before, the butter separates out from the batter. But the jellyfish's "gel" acted as a stabilizer, preventing the butter from separating out, while their collagen added texture. 

Still, there may be other barriers to eating away our jellyfish problems. Some critics note that the jellyfish species experiencing the most population growth aren’t the same ones traditionally eaten in Asian cuisine. But perhaps those less-tasty varieties of jellies, though they may not be suitable as stand-alone dishes, could still serve as effective food additives. 

“The Trouble With Jellyfish” runs until January 2, 2016, at Le Laboratoire Cambridge.

All images courtesy Le Laboratoire Cambridge

Quick True/False: World Capitals
Bain News Service - Library of Congress, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
10 Pats Born on St. Patrick's Day
A photo from the 1919 wedding of Princess Patricia of Connaught to the Hon. Alexander Ramsay.
A photo from the 1919 wedding of Princess Patricia of Connaught to the Hon. Alexander Ramsay.
Bain News Service - Library of Congress, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Need some St. Patrick's Day conversation fodder that doesn't involve leprechauns or four-leaf clovers? Ask your friends to name a "Pat" born on St. Patrick's Day. If they can't, they owe you a drink—then you can wow them with this list of 10.


Princess Patricia was the granddaughter of Queen Victoria, who gave up all of her royal titles when she married a commoner. She was born at Buckingham Palace on March 17, 1886.


The Dallas star was born on March 17, 1949. And here's a totally random fact about Duffy: His nephew is Barry Zito, former MLB pitcher for the Oakland Athletics and the San Francisco Giants.


Pattie Boyd
Larry Ellis, Express/Getty Images

Pattie Boyd is well-known to lovers of classic rock: She has been married three times, including once to George Harrison and once to Eric Clapton, who both wrote a couple of the most romantic songs in rock history in her honor (including The Beatles's "Something" and Clapton's "Wonderful Tonight"). Boyd was a model when she met Harrison on the set of A Hard Day's Night in 1964; the pair were married two years later. They divorced in 1977 and she married Clapton, Harrison's close friend, in 1979. She also had an affair with Ronnie Wood of the Rolling Stones toward the end of her marriage to The Quiet Beatle.


Belfast-born Pat Rice is a former footballer and coach who spent the bulk of his career with Arsenal F.C. (that's "football club," a.k.a. soccer to us Americans). He joined the Gunners in 1964 as a mere apprentice, turning pro a couple of years later. He became captain in 1977 and left the club for a few years in the early 1980s to go to Watford, but returned after he retired from playing in 1984. In 2012, after nearly 30 years with the organization, he announced his retirement.


Patty Maloney is an actress with dwarfism who stands just three feet, 11 inches tall. She has appeared in many movies and T.V. shows over the years, including operating the Crypt Keeper puppet in Tales from the Crypt. She also played Chewbacca's son Lumpy in The Star Wars Holiday Special.


Michael C. Hall and Mathew St. Patrick in 'Six Feet Under'

Ok, so Mathew St. Patrick is the stage name of the actor, but he was born Patrick Matthews in Philadelphia on March 17, 1968. You probably know him best as David's boyfriend Keith on Six Feet Under.


He may not be a household name, but the recording artists Patrick Adams writes for and helps produce certainly are. Adams has been involved in the careers of Salt-N-Pepa, Sister Sledge, Gladys Knight, Rick James, and Coolio, among others.


It's possible you look at Patrick McDonnell's work every day, depending on which comics your newspaper carries. McDonnell draws a strip called Mutts featuring a dog and a cat named Earl and Mooch, respectively. Charles Schulz called it one of the best comic strips of all time.


 Singer/Guitarist Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins performs onstage during Live Earth New York at Giants Stadium on July 7, 2007 in East Rutherford, New Jersey
Evan Agostini, Getty Images

Yes, you know him better as just plain old Billy Corgan: he's the face of the Smashing Pumpkins, engages in public feuds with Courtney Love, and maybe once dated Jessica Simpson. He made his debut on March 17, 1967.


Patricia Ford is a retired model probably best known for her Playboy photoshoots in the 1990s.


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