Alton had this to say:
"You know what: Icing is not a gel. By definition, icing is not a gel. Because a gel—we get that word from gelatin, which implies coagulated proteins, so it is not. Technically frosting is a condensed syrup, so I would argue with TSA that they were out of their freaking mind."I admire Alton quite a bit. His TV shows are both entertaining and informative, but in this case, Alton is clearly wrong. While it is true that the word gel does have its origins in the gelatin , the word has expanded it's meaning well beyond those limited origins. As was noted in the link above, hair gel as a word arose in the late 1950's, and many hair gels are not protein based. Further, Paul Flory in his Introductory Lecture ($) to the 1974 Faraday Discussions noted that there were 4 different types of materials that were considered gels"
- Well-ordered lamellar structures, including gel mesophases
- Covalent polymeric networks; completely disordered
- Polymer networks formed through physical aggregation; predominantly disordered, but with regions of local order
- Particulate, disordered structures
Lastly, it is possible that the frosting on these cupcakes was in fact a gel, as royal icing has egg whites in it. Egg whites have lots of water, but also the protein albumin, meaning that even under Alton's limited definition of gel, it would be a qualify.