Life Among the Philistines

As I mentioned in my morning’s post, a lot of people have historically had trouble making true buttercreams at home. The upshot of that has been that starting roughly thirty years ago, home bakers pretty much quit trying to make them altogether. The tragedy of that is that nowadays most people don’t have the faintest clue what a real buttercream tastes like. No wonder, outside of an expensive wedding cake, they’ve probably never even tasted one.

This sad state of affairs was brought home to me one day about three years ago, when I threw together a quick batch of buttercream for one of our neighbors here in Louisville. Her quickie cupcake icing recipe had failed her, she said, and her son’s birthday party was just hours away. As the Dudley Do-Right of baking, I sprang into action and appeared at her doorstep half an hour later, a quart-sized container of fresh-made buttercream in hand. She seemed terrifically excited until she dabbed her finger in and tasted it. Her face fell and she looked up at me and said “Oh. This tastes like butter.” She forced a smile and a thank you and we both walked away disappointed.

Thinking back on that episode, it really wasn’t her fault. She grew up in Berkeley where they seem to have a thing about butter…like it’s bad for you or something. She’d never tasted a real buttercream in her life, and butter as it happens is what real buttercream tastes like. The pity is that the dietary scolds of the world have trained our internal alarm bells to go off at the taste of real butter…as though the imitation frostings of the world, or those made of shortening or cream cheese are somehow better for you. Some of them may be a bit lower in fat ounce-for-ounce, but because they aren’t as satisfying, we end up applying them to cakes with a trowel in layers an inch thick. The same effect can be created with a mere 1/4 inch of the real thing…with fewer calories, about the same amount of fat, and no artificial ingredients.

Oh Lord, when with the heathen learn?

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