State Senator Danny Burgess wants to have his cake and eat it too.
Burgess (no relation to the author), represents Plant City, which is the heart of Florida’s strawberry industry. So he can’t be blamed for sponsoring a bill that would promote fresh, Florida-grown strawberries, but he must bear responsibility for trying to make strawberry shortcake, which is barely a dessert at all, the official state dessert, when better options could have been chosen.
The bill (SB 1006), has moved swiftly through the legislature, with the Senate – shockingly – passing the measure last week without opposition, as if they were blissfully unaware of the inadequacy of strawberry shortcake as a legitimate dessert. A House version of the bill has one more committee stop before being heard by the full chamber, and if the House passes the bill, only Governor Ron DeSantis can save Florida from this culinary embarrassment with a veto.
The legislature’s desire to acknowledge Florida’s robust strawberry industry is admirable. But choosing strawberry shortcake as the method for doing so is not. Yes, Florida is the No. 2 state when it comes to strawberry production — with nearly 10,000 acres of strawberry fields — and Plant City is known as the Winter Strawberry Capital of the World because it grows more than three-quarters of the nation’s winter strawberries. With such deep roots in strawberry production, it is perfectly reasonable for Burgess and his fellow lawmakers to want the delicious fruit embodied in Florida’s closing act of a three-course meal.
But strawberry shortcake? It’s a low-tier dessert, at best.
This is the problem with strawberry shortcake. It’s barely qualifies as a “dessert” at all. It’s not even technically a “cake.” It’s just a pile of shortcake, strawberries and whipped cream, which has to be assembled at the last minute because the whole mishmash becomes a soggy mess within seconds of construction. How many times have otherwise perfectly polite dinner guests had to carefully hide their eye rolls when their host or hostess informs them that strawberry shortcake is the final course of a meal? Answer: too often.
That’s because dinner guests know that people only serve strawberry shortcake for dessert when they can’t be bothered to dump a box of Betty Crocker brownie mix into a cake pan and bake it. And strawberry shortcake isn’t better than other strawberry-based desserts that actually take effort — and love — to make. Let’s be honest, given a choice between strawberry shortcake and strawberry cheesecake, nobody with any agency is picking the shortcake.
Lawmakers could have just as easily nominated Florida-based Publix brand strawberry shortcake ice cream as the official dessert, which although it tastes like strawberry shortcake, at least you’re also eating ice cream.
Still not satisfied? Desperate for compromise? Fine. Just throw some sweet, Florida-grown strawberries on top of the state’s official pie and enjoy the best of both worlds.
In summary: Strawberry shortcake is the cat of desserts — few people want one, and those that do usually regret it.
Which brings us to the final point.
Pie is already a dessert. And Florida already has an official state pie: Key lime, which has served admirably as the state’s de facto dessert since 2006. It took 18 years of fiery, meaningful debate in Tallahassee before lawmakers finally made it official. Key lime pie earned its status because it reportedly originated in Key West, Florida in the late 19th century. No other states can lay claim to Key lime pie. It’s ours. It belongs to us exclusively, and its delicious.
The Conch Republic Key Lime Council, based in Key West, is working on a compromise to make strawberry shortcake the official “cake” of Florida, rather than the official “dessert.” The group created a Change.org petition in opposition to Burgess’s so-called “berry good” bill. Thus far, the group has amassed nearly 6,000 signatures in their crusade to defend the legacy of Key lime pie. Among their arguments:
- Key Lime Pie is a native Floridian dessert that originated in the Florida Keys, and Strawberry Shortcake is a non-native dessert that originated in Europe.
- The current world record Key Lime Pie title is held by Florida. The Philippines holds the world record Strawberry Shortcake title.
- Key Lime Pie reminds people of sun, sand, and tropical breezes, and Strawberry Shortcake reminds people of the early 1980s cartoon character “Strawberry Shortcake” owned by a Canadian corporation.
While I don’t necessarily agree that strawberry shortcake deserves to be the official state cake, we can all agree that it has no place whatsoever as Florida’s official dessert over Key lime pie.