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Kids Icing Kids

February 14, 2011

My kids are not going to grow up normal. It’s a statistical fact. Young Master Fussy doesn’t watch movies, commercial television or listen to popular music. Instead this past weekend he read the entirety of James and the Giant Peach, watched a couple hours of old Fat Albert episodes and listened to some very early Talking Heads albums.

It was a good weekend.

Today, he’s going into school and it’s Valentines Day. Naturally there will be a Valentines Day party in his classroom. Being a fan of consumable gifts, we bought a mess of cards from Friendly’s that will entitle his school chums to a free double-shot cone apiece. And even though she doesn’t go to his school, he earmarked one of them for Albany Jane.

But let’s talk about this party for just a minute or two. They are going to decorate cookies with icing and sprinkles. There will be red juice and perhaps some other festive treats. All of the parents volunteered to bring in something. And more than anything else, I wanted to bring the icing.

The last time I went to the store to get icing for a school party I was shocked.

I don’t know if you’ve looked at the ingredients of a tub of icing lately, but it is long, and filled with all kinds of things that don’t generally make it into my shopping basket.

Here’s just one example, Duncan Hines Creamy Home-Style Frosting, Classic Vanilla:
[Note from the profussor: boldface added for emphasis]

Sugar, Vegetable Oil Shortening (Partially Hydrogenated Soybean and Cottonseed Oils, Mono- and Diglycerides, Polysorbate 60), Water, Corn Syrup. Contains 2% or Less of: Cornstarch, Salt, Colored with (Titanium Dioxide, Yellow 5, Red 40), Natural and Artificial Flavors, Rum, Caramel Color, Preservatives (Potassium Sorbate), Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Citric Acid, Sodium Citrate.

That translates to 1.5g of trans fat for every two-tablespoon serving. The kids are young. Their arteries can probably take it. What I can’t wrap my mind around is adding yellow and red to a product that is supposed to be white. What are they canceling out? The mind boggles.

The thing is, icing is incredibly easy to make. So I wanted to try a little experiment. We took the leftover tub of store bought icing and let Young Master Fussy have a taste test between that and a simple homemade version.

Real butter and vanilla triumphed over the artificial stuff. This was very encouraging news.

Here’s what I did to make a double batch of the stuff (from Joy of Cooking)
–       Softened one stick of organic (salted) butter at room temperature
–       Beat it together with four cups of powdered sugar
–       Then smoothed it out with three ounces of organic whole milk
–       Finally added two teaspoons of real vanilla extract
–       Done

Really, it couldn’t have been easier. It’s not even cooking. It’s just mixing. And the funny thing is that without all the preservatives, it lasts just as long as the shelf-stable stuff once that has been opened. Duncan Hines says to cover and refrigerate for up to two weeks. Joy of Cooking says the above recipe can keep at room temperature for three days or up to three weeks refrigerated.

Granted, my vanilla icing isn’t bright white. I’d call it white, but it does have a little tinge of yellow from the butter, and a little tinge of brown from the vanilla. But my pink icing is beautiful. All it took was a couple of drops of organic beet juice, which came from a small batch of baked beets. It contributes only color, and there is no detectable vegetal flavor at all, just glorious and radiant pink icing.

It’s great for kids.

And while I have no idea what kind of cookies they will be icing, which artificial colors are used in the sprinkles, or if the red juice is actually juice at all, I can rest assured that the icing is good. That’s important for me. Mostly because the store-bought icing really seems like it’s the worst of the worst.

Plus knowing Young Master Fussy, he’s likely to decorate a cookie and just scrape the icing off with his teeth. Especially if the icing is good.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Stevo permalink
    February 14, 2011 10:27 am

    I agree, store bought icing is a science experiment, it hardly qualifies as food. As you pointed out, buttercream is easy to make and tastes better to boot.

    • Jenny on the Block permalink
      February 14, 2011 10:35 am

      So here is my conundrum. Because of fear of food allergies at my children’s school, we are not allowed to bring homemade treats into school. All treats need to be store bought, with the ingredients, calories and other related nutrition information on the box. So while I totally agree with you on the frosting question, I am required to go the grosser (and way more expensive) route of buying my treats. Like it or not.

  2. February 14, 2011 11:17 am

    I think you get dad of the year for this. That tub icing is very convenient, but it is so full of junk.

  3. Tonia permalink
    February 14, 2011 12:04 pm

    Wow Dan. There is hope for the next generation. :-) I totally agree. I mean really, it takes no time at all to make real frosting or a cake for that matter. There really is no excuse not to. Brownies? 5 minutes if you use the Baker’s chocolate one bowl recipe. And, ONE BOWL. :-)

    And, as far as the schools go, I can’t believe a school would rather have the fake stuff. Kids never had food allergies back in the day? C’mon. I don’t buy it. And what, no kid sneaks stuff at school? How are the schools monitoring that? Are the teachers really reading all the labels of everything children put into their mouths? Silly.

  4. Phairhead permalink
    February 14, 2011 12:56 pm

    Does he sing along w/ The Talking Heads as well?

  5. February 14, 2011 6:49 pm

    Whatever happened to Talking Heads anyway?

  6. Catherine permalink
    February 14, 2011 10:38 pm

    Thank you for giving me a smidge more courage to speak up and say ” why don’t we make it from scratch so its a little tastier?’ There is ease and there is expense and there is the way we teach our kids to eat. My boys (8 & 6) eat lots of garbage and lots of good stuff and any excuse I can take to move the weight to good stuff I will. Thank you

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