Tuesday, August 17, 2010

In Germany only monkeys and children eat with their hands

A good friend of mine from school asked me to come talk to group of high-school aged German exchange students about American culture. He knows I have a soft-spot for exchange students and love an opportunity to be a ham. Given the option to talk to a captive audience about anything I wanted, as long as it was American I excitedly starting putting together a powerpoint about American food culture.
I've read enough of those books about what we should eat, watched enough Hell's Kitchen, and browsed enough cookbooks and foodblogs to know enough about food culture to talk for an hour without much trouble, but knowing that I was following a magician who came to talk the week before I felt obligated to do something to prove to these kids that I was cool too, and what better way to win over teenagers than with food.
My first hand experience with Germans taught me that while we do share a fondness for french fries, one thing Germans don't understand is the American tendency to make anything a finger food. How better to demonstrate that than with a cake they would have no choice but to eat with their hands? I asked a couple of friends what cupcake was most "American" and the response was clear: funfetti. After talking about how American food culture is centered around pre-prepared and pre-packaged foods I couldn't very well serve them cupcakes made from scratch, although I really wanted to scratch that "try something new" itch that comes around from time to time. And if I couldn't make cupcakes out of all real ingredients, I decided I may as well try something I'd heard about before but had never done. Cupcakes out of no real ingredients.
All of the "diet baking" sites online share one recipe in common: diet soda cake. The ingredients are simple:
1 box of cake mix
1 diet soda
Bake like the box tells you.  

Since I was using funfetti cake I used Diet 7up and was pleasantly surprised by the results. Although the cupcakes were a little sweeter than I would have liked, they were moist and came out of their wrappers easily. I decorated them in the most American manner I could think of, which was vanilla frosting and sprinkles on half and a patriotic red, white, and blue frost job on the other half. All in all the kids seemed to enjoy them, despite the fact that they had to handle their cakes to eat them.

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