Would You Like Butter With Your Cake?

I got a call from a lady whose daughter is allergic to a few things, one of which was milk, so we were talking about whether I'd be able to make her wedding cake or not. During the conversation she mentioned that the bride could eat the cake and icing from a local grocery store, and she knew that it had butter in that. I told her that no, it actually didn't (I know they use a whipped crisco-creme icing from a tub), and she said that she could also eat their pound cake. That kind of threw me, because if she could eat pound cake then she should be able to eat butter, but if she's allergic to milk she shouldn't be able to even do that, right?

(This particular bakery shall remain nameless, but if you live in the area you'll know immediately who I'm talking about. Enough said. If you're not from the area, all you need to know is that this particular grocery store has a bunch of local fans who shriek about how great the cakes from this place are, and I've spent the time that I've lived here gritting my teeth when people talk about their "whipped cream" icing. I know that it's whipped shortening, but you can't tell people that, they don't want to hear it. I've had their cake at a few kids' birthday parties, and I have to say it's barf-a-licious. I wouldn't buy one.)

So on with my story... I know that most grocery store bakeries use cake mix and shortening-based icings, but I did assume that butter is involved in part of the baking process. It's cake, after all, so there should be butter in it SOMEWHERE. I thought that this needed some investigation.

I happened to be at a big warehouse store that night, so I checked the labels on the cakes in their bakery. No butter in sight in ANY of their cakes or icing, only palm oil and other shortenings. Another warehouse store did have a butter pound cake, but the butter was prominently listed on the label like it was some kind of a selling feature, or a treat for the customer. Huh?

So I took the plunge and went to actually buy a pound cake from the store we had been talking about (shudder). A quick check of the label showed that it didn't have any butter in it, just soy and cottonseed oils and natural and artificial flavorings (butter flavor, I assume.) What the heck? We're talking about pound cake, people. That NEEDS to have butter in it! I also checked their iced cakes, and there was no butter listed there either. Hello, crisco-creme!

I brought the thing home, and did the unthinkable...I tasted it, and spit it out into the garbage can about five chews later. It was like a nasty, dense twinkie kind of flavor, and even a half hour later I still have a chemical taste in my mouth. Even my husband, who has never been known to refuse a baked good regardless of its origin, took one bite and threw the rest of his piece out. My daughter said it tasted like salt. I'll probably be able to get rid of it by giving it to my son, who's a teenage food vacuum, but if not, the birds will be getting some so-called cake this afternoon.

I'd always been kind of surprised when people came to tasting appointments and acted like this was the only time they'd ever had cake and icing that tasted good, but now I understand. It's a sad state of affairs when people think of grocery store cakes and mixes as the standard...Now excuse me, I need to go brush my teeth, I can still taste that "cake."
 Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC in Richmond VA, and cake supplies online at www.acaketoremember.com and www.acaketoremember.etsy.com