As much as I would love for my baking projects to always go smoothly, reality is far from it. Failures happen, disasters are faced, and lessons are learned. This is the story of the midsummer failure cake, and other stories of my more recent baking failures.
A natural consequence of sharing photos of the sweets I make is that friends and family start to submit polite baking requests.
Well, I suppose “OMG I WANT” is about as polite as it gets when someone is suddenly overcome with an intense craving. I admit my responsibility in provoking these feelings in people (follow me on Instagram at your own risk).
I love making people happy, and few things are as quick to bring on the smiles as whipping out a plate of gingerbread truffles.
But as much as I enjoy baking, it doesn’t come without its bouts of anguish. Oh, my faint little heart has been through a lot in my attempts to bake things perfectly. Not to mention forgetting to breathe while trying to transport a delicate cake to a party.
And sometimes my projects fail completely. It sucks every time that happens, but usually I can figure out what went wrong and try again. However, when you’re hustling to get a dessert ready for delivery, a failure isn’t just a lesson learned, it’s a fucking disaster.
The Midsummer Failure Cake
Midsummer this year we were invited to a friend’s house to celebrate. As is tradition, I was in charge of the strawberry cake.
Mistake number one was when I decided to try a new recipe for the occasion. The idea was picture perfect – a tiered sponge cake layered with a white chocolate strawberry mousse, covered in frosting and decorated with fresh strawberries.
The sponge came out perfect, the mousse was looking good, it was during the assembly that everything went straight to shit. As I took the cake out of the spring form on the morning of the party, I quickly became aware of the fact that my mousse had not set. It was squeezing out between the layers of cake and pooling around the base of it at an alarming speed. I had spent three days making the different components of the cake, and we were scheduled to be at the party in an hour. There was nothing I could do but try my best to cover up the mess with fresh strawberries and hope it would at least taste good.
Related: Strawberry & Peach Midsummer Cake
Imagine then how I felt when we got to the party and I found that the parents of the host – who run a successful and famous bakery in England – were visiting. They’d been informed, with enthusiasm, that I was the passionate baker who would be bringing dessert. As my failed cake was finally unveiled, I could hardly believe the irony of what I was looking at. Not only was it set in a puddle of mousse, during transport it had also incurred three tectonic cracks across the top.
Related: Strawberry Cheesecake Truffles
We had to use spoons to scoop it out of the spring form and serve the gloppy mess in bowls. It was one of the ugliest and most delicious cakes I’ve ever made.
This is the only photo I got of the cake, and it honestly makes it look a lot better than it was. Notice the big cracks across the top?
That time I tried to make vegan Toffifee
My most recent baking failure was when my sister asked me to make her a vegan version of Toffifee (caramel and nougat candies). Easy, I thought. Nope, ridiculously tiring. Allow me to illustrate with photographs how this one went.
True to its usual turn of events, it all started so well. The caramel didn’t boil over, I expertly filled the little aluminum forms without much spill, and dropped a perfectly roasted hazelnut in each one.
With finesse, I dripped melted nougat over each caramel. It was at this point that my curiosity induced me to peel the aluminum off of one of the caramels. Only it didn’t peel off. The caramel was stuck to the tantalisingly cute heart shaped form like a tongue to a frozen pole.
Cue lengthly slur of cursing.
I had a day to salvage this and get it right before I was meeting my sister to deliver the candy. So I decided to give it a second attempt. I ran out and bought new ingredients and a praline form sure to circumvent any efforts from the caramel to attach itself.
And sure enough, I got the sweets out of the form without problem – success! In the fridge they went, ready for delivery the next day.
I woke up the next morning to find that my Toffifee had decided to unite in an amoebic form. And in its team effort, it was reluctant to release its sticky grip from the parchment paper beneath it.
Nevertheless, I handed over the single-celled Toffifee to my sister with instructions to use a knife, blunt force, and perhaps the aid of a freezer. I figure the effort for the reward is worth it, because at least it tasted really good.