Thursday, March 6, 2008

Where Do You Stand on Butter vs. Better vs. Whipped?

I've always loved frosting. A good chocolate frosting, to be precise. The actual cake it sits on top of, not so much. Because for me, it’s the frosting that makes or breaks a cake. If the frosting is good, then the cake will at least have something to compliment it. If the frosting is bad or less than satisfying, then it really doesn’t matter how good the cake is; the overall taste has been tainted.

When I was a child, I once asked my parents for a giant bowl of frosting for my birthday. I didn’t even want the cake. Just the frosting, and maybe a couple of candles. To my surprise, that is exactly what they gave me, and the next day I understood why. The resulting stomachache I got from eating all that super sweet frosting forever cured my need for an entire bowl of it. At last, I finally understood the purpose of the cake. It was to cut the taste of the frosting. From then on, I never ate frosting without some form of cake attached.

Which brings us to the point of this article: what is the best form of frosting for a cake? Many people seem to enjoy the light airiness of a whipped cream frosting. Famous NYC bakeries like The Cupcake Café cater to this type of taste. Their cupcakes are beautifully crafted and designed, but the cake is usually refrigerated so it tends to be rather dry. This would be okay if the frosting atop it had a creamy sweetness to counter the cold, almost stale interior. But a whipped cream frosting doesn’t have any weight to it, so the heaviness of the cake tends to overpower it, leaving the consumer gasping for more substance. (At least this consumer does.)

The other kind of frosting currently popular at bakeries is known as “Better” frosting (not to be confused with good old fashioned “Butter” frosting, which is my personal favorite). Better frosting is somebody’s idea of a healthy combination of a whipped cream and butter frosting, with the result that neither expectation is fully satisfied. Most grocery store bakeries tend to use “Better” these days unless you are adamant about requesting a pure butter frosting. (And even then you’re taking your chances.)

Then comes the cream of the crop: Butter frosting. Pure butter, confectioner’s sugar, a little vanilla, and lots of other flavorings make this traditional cake frosting my all-time favorite. And I’m talking about the homemade variety; not the canned version, which has a metallic aftertaste I find less than appetizing on my various cake creations. This type of “manufactured” frosting also shows up on products made by Entenmann’s, or any of the other snack cake companies, where you can practically taste all the preservative s and other chemicals more than the flavor of the frosting. They are poor excuses for the creamy coating that only a butter frosting can provide.

But that’s just me. Where do you stand on the controversy of Butter vs. Better vs. Whipped?

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