I’ve been helping my mother in the kitchen ever since I can remember; I made my first recipe with her when I was seven, and most of my baking skills come from experience rather than instruction.
I think I got a reputation as a good baker mostly because I’m a prolific one, and I’m not afraid to try a new recipe or develop one myself. Just because I enjoy a baking challenge doesn’t mean that I haven’t had my baking ups-and-downs.
I’ve committed the usual rookie mistakes such as over-mixing, or not bringing my eggs to room temperature ahead of time. But to be honest, the majority of my mistakes have usually been oven-related. Cooking times in any recipe can always vary depending on the oven. Investing in an oven thermometer was a revelation. (Thanks, Anna Olsen!)
I’m also kind of a klutz so I’ve been known to spill all manner of ingredients, bend spoons, stain clothes, and yes- drop an entire carton of eggs on the floor.
People who know me personally will remember why I’m wary of microwaves because they’ve heard the story of how I lit a stick of butter on fire because I stuck it in the microwave to melt without removing the foil first. (Please remove the foil.)
My favorite baking mishap, though, happened during university when I served on the editorial board of an arts magazine. We were trying to organize a bake sale to raise more funds to make our publication super pretty. No problem for an experienced baker like me, right? I even went so far as to commandeer a friend’s kitchen for the day and organized a baking assembly line to get things done faster.
What I didn’t bargain for, though, was the fact that we were using cake mixes from a box.
Now I’m not above using cake mixes (see here or here for some ideas on how to fancy them up) but at the time I was a D.I.Y. kind of gal that had been taught by a pretty traditional baker. I had honestly never baked anything from a box before. But again, no problem! Right?
I don’t know if I messed up the ingredients, or something went wrong with the mixing, or if I had merely been distracted and done a bad job of supervising. What I do know was that my team was in charge of muffins and what came out of the oven did not resemble muffins at all. Well, they were shaped like muffins- kind of- except much, much smaller.
One of the girls turned to me, “I thought you said you knew how to bake?”
“I do! I swear!” I cried. “These are just…pocket muffins.”
“Pocket muffins. You know, muffins that you can just grab, stuff in your pocket and go. Perfect for a small snack.” (See? I was into marketing even then.)
She frowned. “I thought we were making the regular size?”
I need to cover. Fast. “Yeah but think of how many more of these we can sell because they’re smaller! They’ll make us more money!”
They did not. The “pocket muffins” sat on the table a day later at the bake sale, untouched, surrounded by more human-sized baked goods. It dawned on us that maybe we should have tried one of them.
We shouldn’t have. They were hard, and kind of chewy like a granola bar, and the dehydrated blueberries included in the mix had somehow liquefied and hardened again into these nasty little lumps.
The squirrels in the quad, on the other hand, loved them.
It wasn’t one of the highlights of my baking career, that’s for sure, and I’m sorry to say that I didn’t glean much baking knowledge from the experience. I did learn, however, that there is room for error in any baking endeavor, no matter how much experience or training you have. The most important thing is having the ability to roll with the punches and have a good sense of humor.
But I am happy to report that I’ve never been able to duplicate that pocket muffin recipe.
Ok I shared mine, now you share yours! What was your biggest baking or cooking disaster? Bare it all below, or email me and we can keep it between us.
Wanna see some of the recipes that have worked out for me? I’ve archived them all here, plus I have a whole roster of ideas waiting to be made on Pinterest. You can find where I get my cooking inspiration here and here, and if you’re new to this blog you may want to check out my philosophy on coping with stress here. (Spoiler alert: it’s baking.)