Cooking Catastrophe Stories: A Different Kind of Cake

When I came to America from my native Germany at age 19, I soon realized there were many things to learn besides a better grasp of the language. One of them being to cook with similar yet different ingredients.

Another thing I learned about were home parties, where women invited their friends to listen to a sales pitch about products such as jewelry, Tupperware, and other household items a woman might be interested in purchasing. After the sales pitch, the hostess would serve refreshments.

I found this system of selling these products intriguing, so I booked a jewelry party at my home, where I would be the hostess and serve a snack.

I decided to make a delicious German butter cream cake. The frosting for this cake is made with butter and either chocolate or vanilla pudding, mixed together until very creamy. I decided to go a step further and make little square of cake with half of them spread with vanilla frosting and decorated with chocolate frosting, and the other half done in reverse. They sure looked pretty!

When I brought the cakes out for my guests to enjoy, I watched their faces as they took their first bites. Knowing they would love the cakes, I couldn’t wait to see their reactions. What I saw was not what I had expected, however. The women had strange expressions on their faces as they put their forks down.

I took a piece and took a bite to see what the problem was. I’m sure my face formed a similar expression as my guests faces had. The frosting was awful. I couldn’t figure out what I had done wrong, but my sister-in-law soon solved the puzzle for me.

Being unaware that margarine and butter in this country is sometimes salted, unlike in Germany where both are always salt free, I had used regular butter in my frosting, causing it to acquire an unpleasant salty flavor.

I quickly explained to my guests what had happened. After all, I didn’t want them to think that German cakes tasted awful – or that I was a terrible cook.

Coffeyville, Kansas