It’s The Thought That Counts: A Galleria of Failed Cakes

The fact that I was relatively pleased with my “pile of gold poo” pyramid cake attempt says a lot about my past track-record in cake baking. My husband’s barely-concealed glee and snarky comment says a lot about the birthday cakes he has suffered through in the 12 years we have been together.

To let you in on the inside joke before I post the final version of the pyramid cake in a couple of weeks time, here is my galleria of failed cakes past. [I might add that generally speaking, the cakes got eaten, so they did at least pass my “basic edibility” test].

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2007 – birthday cake for husband

This effort from 2007 was perhaps the first cake I baked for my husband (at least it is the first in our photo collection – and no, I don’t know why I have taken photos of all of my crap cakes, it surely can’t be because I was proud of my efforts but rather in an attempt to document the past – I was after all, a Historian at the time of many of these). If memory serves, I did it because at the time I was working at a health-food store in the USA and I was obsessively vehemently opposed to hydrogenated fats and high-fructose corn-syrup. As it was impossible to find any ready-made cakes sans those ingredients in the States, I made my own “healthy” cake (sans icing). Needless to say this is the saddest birthday cake I think I have ever seen and I am not even sure if my husband appreciated the effort. And look how young he was – 25 seems like forever ago now.

 

Chris shop bought cake 2010
2010

This shop-bought cake from 2010 is probably testimant to the fact that I was pregnant at the time and feverishly revising for my comprehensive exams. It probably tasted a lot better than the 2007 one too.

 

 

Chris birthday 2011
2011 – ghoulish effort

No, it wasn’t Halloween; it was February. The cake reads: Happy Birthday 29. It was a German-chocolate cake (my husband’s expressed favourite). I am not sure why the icing looks like a pile of cat vomit. Or why the only food colouring I had to hand was bright green. Or why it is so badly written (though I think it might be because I didn’t have an icing bag and used a plastic bag with the corner cut off). I think it tasted okay and I may have tidied it up a bit  put it on a plate before giving it to him.

Malachy Elmo cookies 2012
2012 – Elmo Cookies

I have never attempted to make a cake for M’s birthday (except for this year), mainly because I didn’t want to make him cry, and because in the States you can get awesome personalised and themed cakes from any good grocery store (not like here in the UK where overpriced and vaguely-stale marzipan-iced character cakes are all you can find all the rage in the supermarkets). I did however, make Elmo cookies for his Elmo-themed second birthday party. I think he may have helped (though not enough to explain the rather crap end product – again with the Halloween, what is with those bat-mouths?)

Chris gingerbread birthday cake 2013
2014 – M’s inspired gingerbread man cake

When M was three, I let him choose a theme for my husband’s birthday cake. He chose “chocolate-gingerbread-men-marshmallows” so that is what we made. A chocolate cake with gingerbread men and marshmallows on it. M actually helped this time (mainly by eating gingerbread men and marshmallows) and I must say that it looks a lot better than the ghoulish German-chocolate one I made all by myself.

Kim birthday January 2015
2015 – Grandma’s Phone Cake

This year, M wanted to make Grandma a cake too. His idea was for a “phone cake” (presumably because Grandma loves her phone so much) and this was the result. You can’t really tell but the little smartie-type things are in the shape of numbers. This is cake decorating at its finest.

 

 

 

February 2015 (81)
2015 – A “Road Cake”

Also this year, M wanted to make Daddy a “Road Cake.” Like a black tarmac road with Hotwheels cars on it. We didn’t have a rectangular cake tin. The idea was to do a bit of black icing across the top for the road. I added the whole tube of black food colouring to the icing but it only turned a murky brown, so we shoved some chocolate smartie-type things left over from Grandma’s phone cake and a Hotwheels car on top and called it good. M still speaks of the “road cake” to this day.

 

 

I don’t have a photo of it, but I think the prize for the worst cake I ever made goes to the cake I made for a summer fete during the university holidays when I was about 19. I worked as a cleaner at a local nursing home and took my whole family to the fete to be supportive. I am not sure if they were originally planning to attend or not, but I do remember having a rather frantic conversation with my mum and instructing her to make sure she bought my cake from the cake stall because (for some reason that is still unknown to me to this day) it had grains of uncooked rice in it. I am not clear as to how I discovered this, seeing as I didn’t eat the cake before giving it to the fete. Perhaps I sampled an offcut? Either way, my poor mum dutifully bought the cake back from the cake stall and over the course of eating it we found that it was indeed full of little grains of uncooked rice (though my family being who we are, that didn’t dampen the enjoyment of the eating).

So there we have it, a long list of sub-par cakes. Not much for my pyramid cake to live up to now is it? I am going to go out on a limb and say that I reckon this pyramid birthday cake will be the best cake I have ever made.

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Inedible Rock Scones

This really is as bad as it sounds. I thought I would be creative. Last night I Googled something along the lines of “the chemistry of biscuits” thinking that if I figured out the basic ratios I could just wing it and make an edible biscuit out of what we had in the cupboard (the main problem at the moment being that we don’t have any nice, soft, brown sugar).

I didn’t find what I was looking for in my Google search and was too tired to really understand what I did find. Today I thought “fuck it” and just threw some things in a bowl. I wrote down what I was doing in case my biscuits/cookies turned out to be so wonderful that I could share the recipe with other people.

They didn’t. They weren’t even edible. Instead of not wasting food by turning it into delicious cookies, I threw away perfectly good food in the form of inedible rock scones. I used: flour, oats, two eggs, honey, golden syrup, the remnants of the bag of raisins and apricots M halfheartedly ate before spitting apricot all around the room in a flap that it tasted funny, vanilla flavouring, and baking powder.

I mixed everything together and patted the dough into promising little balls that seemed the right consistency for something at least. I wasn’t going for gourmet. Just edible.

As I put them in the oven I had the horrible thought that I hadn’t added any oil – no butter, no nothing – to the mix. Oh well, they were on the baking tray now, and surely they would turn into something edible (I was going on the basis of one of A Girl Called Jack’s recipes – but then she did use oil).

M was excited when they emerged from the oven. He said “mmm… this is nice” as he ate it.

I tried mine. “It’s not nice though is it? It is quite horrible really” I said as I got the sickly taste of golden syrup and a slight burning that I assume was the baking powder, in the consistency of a scone-come-rock-cake.

“No, no it’s not really very nice” he conceded. “Maybe we can buy some chocolate and make some chocolate chip cookies?” he asked hopefully.

Yes. Maybe we can. And this time we will follow a recipe. Mary Berry I ain’t.

Banana Bread Fail

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In draft form this post was called “Banana Bread (Finally!)” but the end result was so poor I had to retitle the post. I liked this recipe because it is whole wheat, sweetened with honey and uses oil instead of butter.

I always buy bananas intending to eat them because you know, they’re good for you, but I never do eat them because I don’t like bananas. My husband hates bananas (more than I dislike them) and (understandably) gets irritated at the sight of brown bananas that I promised I would eat this time. He does like banana bread though (go figure) so to stop the accusing looks and also to try to sneak some goodness into M’s diet I decided to cook some banana bread and use up our brown bananas.

I had been meaning to make banana bread for a few days now, before the brown bananas got past the point of no return, but with everything else to do (I know, my life is so hard) by the time it gets to the evening I am worn out and I kept not doing it. Today while M was at nursery (and L consented to lie in his travel cot in the kitchen watching me/listening to Radiohead’s OK Computer) I finally got it made and in the oven.

So where did it go wrong? Well, me being me I used vegetable oil instead because I didn’t have the other oil. I also think the recipe is in US cups and I used UK cups (but – mathematically challenged as I am – I assume the ratios would be the same? I’m pretty sure that’s wrong though and will invest in a set of US cups this summer when we go back for a holiday). That probably would have been okay if not for the biggest mistake of forgetting to measure the banana before I chucked it in and then adding another one for good measure because all three bananas in the house looked brown and dodgy. I added a bit of flour at the end as the mix looked a bit sloppy, but not too much flour as who knows it may be supposed to look sloppy? This folks is how I manage to ruin recipes.

I have added a photo of the end result. I had hoped that it would be edible, if not delicious, but it is neither. It is burnt on top, sunken, raw in the middle, and smells strongly of old bananas. My husband just got home and I gave him a sad cuddle. He asked what was wrong and I pointed in the direction of the sunken brown/black mass on the dining room table. He said “did you follow the recipe? If you follow the recipe it would work.”

Yes dear. I know. I did intend to.

There is also a pile of washing up and the laundry has crept up a couple of loads above absolute zero.

Bugger. Am not domestic goddess.

I did play with L today though and got lots of baby smiles which was lovely, but I really wanted some cake to eat and don’t have a Plan B. I also managed to waste food (most notably the honey) when the plan was to NOT waste the bananas. I will try this recipe again another day, properly, because I still like the recipe. I will have to wait for the next batch of bananas to go brown first though.