Blue Jeans and Buttercream – Ranting, and Raving

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(Tube cake decorated with four different frostings, strawberries, and topped with a strawberry rose piped full of chocolate ganache – more on this later in the post)

Why is it, when I consider myself of average build, I have such a hard time finding jeans that fit?

I pose that question philosophically, to no one in particular. My real complaint is much more specific, and concerns only women’s clothing. That complaint is this: The numbers. Mean. Nothing.

I wear my pants a little large, and always have – I like ‘em loose, don’t judge. Lately, however, my go-to size 8′s have been causing some issues. I’ve been finding everyday tasks far more difficult to complete with only one hand as the other hangs on to my belt loops, or while I waddle mother-goose style just to keep my rear-end from presenting itself to the world. Yeah – you know you’ve got a problem when you don’t have to unbutton or unzip, ever. (I see you there, about to suggest I get a belt… don’t. I have one, but it doesn’t solve my complaint. On with the complaining!)

So, I went out and bought new jeans. Well, thrift-store new, that is. I believe in recycling, besides which I choose to spend my money on food, rather than fashion. So sue me.
Miraculously, I pulled from the shelf 2 pairs of jeans, both of which fit me to a tee. Their sizes are 9, and 4. The 4′s are slightly looser.

9, 4, 8
(From left to right: size 9, size 4, size 8)

That’s messed up.

Seriously people, how hard is this? We have these things called inches, and centimeters, which have been so handy as to help us construct modern civilization as we know it, and yet women’s apparel companies have decided to make up their own set of numbers, the equivalent of which would be a child’s made-up language consisting of nothing but gibberish that no one understands.
At least with dress sizes, a size 4 will be at least similar across the board, but when it comes to anything else there seems to be little or no rhyme or reason. Sure, now I can say I’m a size 4, but I’m also a size 9, and 10, and don’t even get me started on tops (where my range is anywhere from a small to a large depending on brand). These numbers mean nothing to me!
All I ask is that women’s clothing manufacturers take a queue from mens pants, and from the rest of society, and use actual forms of measurement. Tell me it’s a pair of 30-32′s, and sure I’ll have to try them on to know if they’re comfy, but at least I know they’ll button across my hips!
Amen!

Whew.

Now that I’m done with the ranting, on to some of the raving.

As The Sister’s wedding approaches – a small family and friends ceremony of approximately twenty-five people, which I will cater, photograph, and I suppose be Maid of Honor for – I’ve been testing the recipes I’ll be using to be sure I don’t make a mess of the big day.
Though I don’t want to spoil too much of what is to come, I will say I’ve been trying out several different frostings. I will be needing one chocolate and one vanilla, and they have to be light enough to not weigh down the cake, as it will be light and airy.

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(I frosted it as a pie chart, using the majority of my personal favorite, followed by second favorite, and so on. The rose in the center is also a warm up for the wedding, as instead of a bride and groom atop the cake there will be two edible roses piped full of ganache)

First, I made a Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream (from MarthaStuart.com). Although Martha’s was lovely, it wasn’t quite chocolaty enough, and ended up just about as heavy as a traditional buttercream would be without the meringue. In the future I would add more chocolate, and possibly some cream of tartar to keep the meringue fluffy. Or I would just follow this recipe: Ina Garten’s Food Network recipe, which does both of those things.
While too heavy for my purposes, it didn’t stop me from eating it by the spoonful. In fact, there was quite a bit of frosting that went mysteriously missing… I wonder how that happened.
Next in the chocolate category was this Chocolate Whipped Cream Frosting, from Epicurious.com. This was perfect as far as not being too heavy, plus it had a good dark chocolate flavor. My concern here was that, being whipped cream, the frosting wouldn’t hold up for very long. Because of this I decided to use only half of the called for heavy cream, making the chocolate even more pronounced. Reducing the cream did not make the frosting significantly heavier, but allowed it to hold up perfectly well for several days with refrigeration. In fact, not only did it not melt al over itself, but it kept a lovely spreadable smooth consistency. This was the winner all ’round.
(Also, although I would have loved it personally, for the purposes of the wedding I omitted the called for espresso powder).

Then came the vanillas. The first one I made was a Vanilla Buttercream from Tasty Kitchen. Unlike every other recipe I found, this one calls specifically for granulated sugar, not powdered, claiming that with enough beating of the butter and sugar all graininess would go away, leaving a far superior frosting.
I can’t tell you how long I creamed that butter and sugar, but still no luck – when I ran my finger around the edge of the bowl (which I scraped down frequently with a spatula) it still seemed grainy. Finally, knowing the butter would eventually melt and I would throw a tantrum, I gave up and put it in a jar in the fridge.
The next morning I took a taste, to see if the flavor was indeed good, and by the grace of all that is sweet and good the frosting had transofmed into being completely smooth, creamy, and sans the grains. I don’t know how it happened, but – Hallelujah!

For comparison, and just for good measure, I also made a basic vanilla buttercream, using powdered sugar, from ApronDays.blogspot.com. This turned out perfectly fine (and again, disappeared by the spoonful), but was far too sweet for my purposes. More of a holiday cookie topper than a wedding cake garnisher, in my opinion. Plus, due to the sheer volume of sugar, it was ‘grainier’ than the first. Not a bad grainy, though… more of a classic buttercream grainy.

Since the first vanilla recipe was still just as heavy as any buttercream, I went ahead and added some whipping cream to lighten it, and reduce its sweetness slightly. This worked perfectly to get it to the consistency I needed. Additional changes I would make would be reducing the sugar slightly, and adding the scrapings of 1 vanilla bean pod.

So, after a great many testings, and tasting’s, I can officially say I have consumed more butter and sugar in the past three days than I have in probably the past 3 months combined. I’m not even a fan of buttercream, because while I’m eating it and my eyes are rolling back into my head as I enter a euphoric sugar-coma, my mind is screaming ‘No! You’re eating butter by the spoonful! Stop! Agh! There’s now a pound of butter in your stomach! Agh!’ - somehow, this inner turmoil doesn’t stop me.

My mother has taken this opportunity to remind of ‘The Butter Monster’… a monicker she so aptly gave me after an incident where she found me, barely old enough to walk, having gotten hold of the butter and lathering it all over my face and arms.  Yes, there are pictures, and no, I’m not proud. Well… maybe a little.

Fortunately for me, I only made a small amount (1 – 1.5 cups) of each frosting. Unfortunately for me, that’s still 4-6 cups, and if I keep this up I’ll be going jeans shopping again. Or returning to my trusty size 8′s… curse you, butter/sugar/dark lord/tastiness! No, the frosting is our friend… my precious!
Okay, perhaps equating myself to Smeagol is taking it a little far.

Still, just as much as I love sweets, and pride myself for being able to consume ice cream by the gallon, I also love fresh produce and quality proteins. I can’t keep up this buttercream fiasco much longer before the cravings for salad and meat kick back in – *sigh*.

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