Recovering from baking mistakes

Rum balls

Last weekend I made desserts for the wedding reception. The bride (the daughter of one of my best friends) wanted a dessert bar but allowed me free rein in what I made, which turned out to be a blessing. I had the entire spread planned out when I hit a snag. Disaster struck as I was turning out a spice cake made in the (usually) stunning Crown Bundt Pan - only half the cake came out of the pan. 

Since I was making the desserts at my friend's house hundreds of miles from my generously stocked pantry, I did not have sufficient resources to make another cake. What I did have was a bottle of bourbon, some chopped nuts, and plenty of confectioners' sugar. That inspired me to make Gale Gand's Rum balls, creating something tasty from the crumbs of the ruined cake. As it turned out, I received as many compliments on those rum balls as I did for anything else on the dessert table. 

That led me to thinking of ways to salvage baking mishaps, either by creating something different than originally planned or by some other form of rescue. I have churned a custard that wouldn't properly set into ice cream and used the crumbs from another failed cake to top frozen raspberries in an impromptu gratin (a riff on Jacques Pépin's Warm raspberry gratin with sour cream). 

If you have a sunken cake, you can fill the center with berries and whipped cream, or cut it into pieces and make a trifle with it. Over at the King Arthur Flour website, I encountered the story of a resourceful woman who had difficulty making a pie crust. Her solution was to sprinkle cinnamon sugar in the bottom of a buttered pie pan, tear the pie crust into pieces and scatter them (along with more butter and sugar) into the pan, top with the pie filling, and bake. When it was done, "she inverted it onto her serving dish, topped with brandy, and lit it on fire...As she always said, if it comes out wrong, turn it upside down, call it something French, and serve with flair!"

What are some ways that you have recovered from a baking (or cooking) disaster? 


  • Christine  on  9/13/2017 at 12:15 PM

    I can think of two stories from my own kitchen. I once accidentally made ganache filling for truffles with unsweetened chocolate which is far too bitter for my tastes. (Thankfully I realized before dipping them.) I really hate throwing food out so I racked my brain and decided I could try adding some confectioners sugar and use a mixer to whip it into frosting and it worked! The second was a batch of creamy ice pops that froze with a terribly icy texture. They sat in my freezer for weeks because I didn't want to eat them, but I also didn't want to ditch them. I finally decided to defrost them in the fridge and poured the mixture into my ice cream maker. I ended up with possibly the best ice cream I've ever made and I now make that recipe as ice cream on purpose! Incidents like that definitely have increased my kitchen confidence.

  • hillsboroks  on  9/14/2017 at 12:44 PM

    Last summer I was trying a new recipe for Rhubarb-Raspberry Jelly using liquid pectin, which I have rarely ever used. I went to a lot of work to get the juice from the rhubarb and the raspberries and thought I followed all the directions carefully but after I sealed it in the jars and it cooled I realized it hadn't set properly. Instead of reopening all the jars and going through the process again with more pectin, which I didn't have on hand and would have entailed another trip to the store, I decided that just changing my label description was the answer. Instead of labeling these jars as jelly they became "Rhubarb-Raspberry Syrup." And boy is it delicious on pancakes and waffles! I may make it on purpose next year.

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