Tuesday, 27 July 2010

My cake-making misery


I feel strongly that one should share one's failures as well as one's triumphs...so instead of leaving you thinking that this is the sweet cake of a happy baking session shared with the Teacakes I feel that I must share with you what really happened.


This was not meant to be a cupcake with a dollop of white cream frosting and jelly beans on top. It was meant to be a hydrangea cupcake, or a whole plateful of hydrangea cupcakes, to take along with us when we go visiting tomorrow. I thought that the person we are to see, who has always loved flowers, might be as delighted by their appearance as I was.

But it was not to be. The troubles started when we were making the chocolate cake mixture. When I plunged the hand-held mixer into the mixing bowl and pressed the power button, I somehow forgot to hold onto the bowl and immediately the mixing bowl spun wildly about the whisk, before ricocheting across the room and splattering the ceiling, walls, photo frames, carpets, doors, and even Zebra-girl's armpits (she'd raised her arms up in horror as the mixing bowl had started to fly) with brown cake mixture. Deep breath. Clean up operation completed, armpits de-caked, and education given about why it isn't suitable behaviour to lick one's sister's armpits, what was left of the cake mixture went into the oven and I began to make the cream cheese frosting.


Ingredients waiting to be mixed, I firmly held on to the bowl (I was wise the second time) and then pressed the power button...seconds later my beloved hand-held mixer blew up...just one loud bang and it was gone. I have loved this mixer - it will whisk meringues, blend soups and chop nuts....it is my cooking companion several times a week and makes me happy whenever I get it out from the cupboard and plug it in. Its brushed stainless-steel body feels heavy and reassuringly good quality. Its presence has opened up whole new culinary avenues for exploration that weren't available to me before owning it. Another deep breath. Feelings about the defunct blender put firmly to one side I turned my attention back to the ultimate goal: hydrangea cupcakes.

I decided to experiment with frosting techniques before adding any colouring. So with the super-duper device for frosting that my mother-in-law had lent to me last week, and a dozen different nozzles at my disposal I set to work. I piped, I primped, I weaved...and then I changed nozzles and wondered why no matter what I did I was only capable of producing the ugliest cupcakes I'd ever seen in my entire life. I went through every nozzle and tried every consistency of frosting...but still cupcake beauty eluded me. Thus far I have presented you with tasteful macro shots that hide the true horror of how these cakes actually look....but now here they are in all their utter ugliness (you might think these look hideous...but in real life they look a great deal worse). I feel quite fascinated by just how repellent they are:


Not a single cake that looks the way I had intended. If you look at one of them more closely you can see that in fact it looks like I have recreated some strange ocean coral. When I was small I had a piece of Staghorn Coral from the Great Barrier Reef (this was 1984, before people became aware of how damaging it was to remove bits of the reef)...this one reminds me of that. I was never tempted to eat the Staghorn coral...just as I haven't been tempted to eat this cupcake.


Eventually I turned the icing pump over to the Teacakes, handed them a bag of jelly beans and implored them to make something prettier than I had managed to.


With their lovely enthusiasm and oohs and ahhs of delight at the different colours and flavours it didn't take too much effort on their part to better my attempts. Sometimes one can try too hard.

Florence x

Ps. The cupcakes tasted as bad as they looked. Salvaging where one can, Mr Teacakes and I have been picking the jelly beans off and discarding the cakes this evening...I think this makes them almost healthy...sort of a diet version of what could have been.

23 comments:

  1. Oh poor dear Florence. However, I am still chuckling about cake mixture in the armpits - how to raise one's arms higher in even more horror I wonder?

    ReplyDelete
  2. When cupcakes go bad... poor you. How disappointing. They didn't look terrible to me - glad you ate the jellybeans regardless.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I was going to say it's what's on the inside that counts, but I guess that's not true in this instance....
    I don't think they look terrible though--actually kind of fluffy and cute :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. thank you so much for sharing this! It's nice to know I'm not the only one who's prone to baking disasters :)

    One time, I made two loaves of banana bread. They came out of the oven looking beautiful and brown; I felt so proud of myself. Then I turned one of them upside down to get it onto the cooling rack and the middle gushed out into this weird banana puddle! Don't know what went wrong but definite fail

    ReplyDelete
  5. Me again...once my dad made 2 dozen mini-loaves of pumpkin bread. I asked him why they were all in the trash and he said "I forgot to add the baking soda (powder?)" -- they were harder than rocks. For an engineer who measures and checks everything three times that's a pretty big fail, haha.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I don't think they look bad at all! And what's more important is how they taste - and I'm pretty sure you can't go terribly wrong with chocolate!

    ReplyDelete
  7. lol! Bad baking days happen. Try a new recipe next time so the cupcakes aren't so bad. So far as the decorating goes, I like to use a 104 petal tip. Start on the outside of the cupcake and make small half-circular swooshes all the way around the outside of the cupcake, then move on to another ring on the inside, 3 more on top of those, and a few standing up. I get really full, pretty hydrangea cupcakes that way - if it makes any sense! Seriouscakes on youtube has great videos and recipes.

    ReplyDelete
  8. oh dear what a shame. the jelly beans look like an inspired recovery to me though x

    ReplyDelete
  9. I was thinking about those hydrangea cakes at the weekend when somebody gave me an identical bunch. Do you think they are actually possible? Good for you for trying though. I am making my way through a cake that I cooked in a pyrex bowl as it was meant to be a ladybird. It got completely stuck when I tried to take it out of the bowl and crumbled into a mess. Sigh.

    ReplyDelete
  10. oh dear Florence! I think only you could make baking disaster sound so tragic! very sad about your mixer too - I use mine all the time though I have thought about getting one of the big kitchen aid types. Are you going to try the hydrangia cakes again? I thought the white practice cakes looked nice - quite weddingy ... xx

    ReplyDelete
  11. Oh bless those poor little armpits - sorry I did giggle when I got to that part.

    I guess the most important part is in the eating - did they taste nice?

    maybe try again??

    Nina x

    ReplyDelete
  12. Poor you. I hate it when cakes go wrong, makes me quite miserable. But those hydrangea cupcakes look fantastic.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I always feel inadequate when I try to pipe anything - I just can't seem to do it. Still, you did better than I did when I produced one batch using chocolate icing and a brand new massive wide piping nozzle, and my ever lovely BIL declared they looked like something a dog might leave behind ...

    ReplyDelete
  14. Bless you Florence...it's such a relief to know you're not totally perfect. I mean that in a good way. I laughed my head off at the armpits! Lots of love, Amanda xxx

    ReplyDelete
  15. Oh dear...Mishaps are OK, though, and they make you appreciate the rest of your cooking much more, don't you think?

    ReplyDelete
  16. Hahaha! I have to say, your wonderful storytelling is so entertaining for us that didn't have to go through the painful experience. It truly sounds like the daily adventures in my kitchen. So, are you picking up a bouquet of flowers today for your friend?

    ReplyDelete
  17. Oh no! And it was such a nice thought to take cakes with you on a visit.

    I've given up on icing anything. It never comes out how I want it to look. I tried to make one cake decorated to look like an aero-engine compressor fan (my partner is an aero engineer and was graduating with his PhD, so it's not as random as it sounds) but it just looked like a drawing you'd be disappointed by if it had been done by a three-year-old. Instead, if I'm icing something, I spoon it on, spludge it about a bit and then eat it before anyone can comment.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Sorry to say that's the best laugh I've had in ages! Even my 6 yo laughed, it sounds like something I'd do!
    You score big points for even attempting those cakes, I get nervous doing butterfly cakes!

    ReplyDelete
  19. thanks for sharing! I was planning to make those hydrangea cupcakes for a bridal shower next month. Guess I better do a trial run! Or at least have some jelly beans on hand!

    ReplyDelete
  20. Thank you so much for your commiserations and for sharing some of your own baking disasters.

    I will look at the YouTube link later today, Jana - thank you so much for that.

    Julia - I do hope you're not suggesting that I am a dramatist!!!

    Florence x

    ReplyDelete
  21. Oh, I feel your cupcake pain Florence.... EVERY time I try to master the art of icing it goes the way of the coral, I have tried patience, perseverance and even wild abandon, but sadly have not yet managed to achieve icing greatness!
    Henceforth I shall be the proud champion of the messy finish, the "I don't care, its all about the flavour" method. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  22. Does this make you feel better:
    http://uklassinus.blogspot.com/2008/08/next-time-ill-try-cookies.html ?

    ReplyDelete

Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a message - it's always really lovely to hear from people.

I now tend to reply within the comments section, so please do check back if you've asked a question or wish to chat.

Florence x