Any chance I’ll blow myself up?

Does glycerin pose any of the risks of its cousin nitroglycerin do you mean? Not unless your buttercream contains sulfuric acid and you’re planning on a nitric acid filling, since that’s what it takes to “nitrate” glycerine into a high explosive. That’s exactly what a young Italian chemist by the name of Ascanio Sobrero did (though obviously without the cake-baking step) in 1864, almost literally blowing his face off in the process. Though he didn’t realize it at first, what he’d created was one of the world’s all-time most dangerous substances, a compound so unstable it couldn’t (and still can’t) be handled safely in its pure form. Even by today’s standards nitroglycerin is among the world’s most powerful explosives. A mere 10 mililitres, on detonation, converts into 100 litres of gas, which doesn’t sound all that intimidating until you consider that that gas is moving at over 17,000 miles per hour. It took Alfred Nobel to tame the nitroglycerin beast, which he unfortunately only managed to do after his highly unstable “Swedish Blasting Oil” caused several calamitous accidents (one of which killed his own brother). In time he hit upon a mixture of nitroglycerin and silica which he sold under the brand name “dynamite”, and rapidly became one of the richest men on Earth. Out of guilt over the lethality of his trade, he left most of his estate to establish the Nobel Prize. Interesting indeed that the money the prize winners receive is not only provided to them (posthumously) by the inventor of dynamite, the funds themselves are in fact the interest on Nobel’s (some say ill-gotten) gains.

2 thoughts on “Any chance I’ll blow myself up?”

  1. Wow. This is probably one of the greatest entries I’ve ever come across while looking up buttercreams. You learn something every day.

    1. Hi Bakette! That’s very high praise indeed. I have a lot of fun going off on these odd little historical tangents. I’m glad you had a good time with it.

      – Joe

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *