life’s not always a piece of cake.

On my right hand, I can count the most memorable desserts in my life. 

I ate one of these this past year in 2010. 

During a monthly office visit at a local veterans’ hospital, Janice— a fellow foodie and preceptor—shared with me a slice of her famous three layer German Chocolate Cake.  I took one bite and my tongue felt as if it had instantly entered chocoholic’s heaven.  It was light and buttery.  Smooth but strong.  Sweet and bold.  I knew this was something special, even before realizing how famous this cake actually was.

In a sense, it was the dessert that defined Jan and her cooking style.  A little like Julia and her beef bourguignon. Everyone raved about it.  Each slice sold for $6 at bake sales.  Most people claimed a slice before the sale actually started, just to make sure that they had a peice or two.  

And so, I wanted to recreate this masterpiece.  I wanted to delve head first into chocolate and coconut and pecans and share this same heavenly experience with my family.

I wanted to make this German Chocolate Cake for mom on her birthday.

Unfortunately, life isn’t always a piece of cake.  Because somehow I misread the recipe.  In fact, I misread an entire sentence.  

“Place wax paper on bottom of cake pan.”

Oops.

“Oops” is an understatement.  In fact, if Nicole hadn’t been there, I probably would have broke down into a fit of tears. 

But really, it’s impossible to cry when your sister is trying to console you while also snapping pictures, because “this totally makes good blogging material,” all at the same time.  So instead, I just scraped up the pan, threw everything into the trash, and grabbed my purse.

“Nicole?”  I said matter of factly.  “We are driving to a bakery.  We are going to get mom a beautiful piece of cake.  And then we are going to Starbucks and we are getting a latte.”

I’m not saying that I’m giving up on this cake.  In fact, I’ve just begun.

Valentines Day is February 14.  I will make this cake every single weekend if I have to, until it tastes and looks like that favorite dessert that I remember so well.

In the meantime, I am very thankful for my favorite little bakery down the road. 

And I am very thankful that they make a spectacular German Chocolate Cake.

You know what else I’m thankful for?  A family who loves me through tears and moods and life. 

A family that continues to make me smile. 

A family that is always there for me.

A family that doesn’t take life too seriously.

A family who loves me through all the crumbs and cake. 

Happy Birthday to Mom!  And I promise you the most beautiful of homemade German Chocolate Cakes in the year of 2011.  😉

Question: Have you ever made a major cooking flop?  How did you react?  I’ve noticed that most of my flops have involve baked goods.  And I”ve got to be honest, I definitely overreact in such a situation! 😉 

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26 thoughts on “life’s not always a piece of cake.

  1. Aw bummer, that stinks! It’s so great that you turned it into something positive, though! I am terrible about letting the little things get to me, and that includes baking/cooking flops. I made snickerdoodles before Christmas and I got SO upset when they turned out, well, less than pretty. I mean, they had the right texture, which is the important part, but I really wanted picturesque snickerdoodles! Anyways, I pitched a fit and said that I was never baking again, yada yada….then I woke up the next morning and baked some more 🙂

  2. Aww I’m, sure you will master that German chocolate cake soon enough! That’s so sweet of you to buy one for your mom in the meantime!

    I have had a few baking flops…nothing too serious. but definitely cakes that have stuck to their pans and filling that has leaked out and made a mess!

    • Not to worry. Once it’s perfected and the results are as beautiful as I remember, I will most definitely share the recipe. 😉

  3. Two huge mistakes come to mind. The first is when I made soup (I think I was in high school at the time) and the soup was so bland and not salty enough. At the time I didn’t know just how far even one tsp of salt goes, so I put in a whole cup. Needless to say, it was inedible no matter how I tried to doctor it. The second was when I didn’t know what “confectioner’s sugar” meant and used regular granulated sugar in frosting instead of powdered sugar. The result: very gritty frosting.

    • I’ve done the confectionary sugar vs. granulated sugar mistake before as well! I had no idea two types of sugar could make such a difference before that moment. Lesson learned. 😀

  4. I almost never used to make mistakes…but that was before I ended my decade-long stint of vegetarianism and took it upon myself to learn how to cook meat. I don’t know which cut is for stews or steaks or stir-fries, I don’t know how long to cook anything, and I had NO idea that cutting (especially the tougher cuts) across the grain made such a huge difference!

    Also, when I was in college, my friend and I had an enormous crush on our French TA and made him soup when he was sick and put about half a cup of ground cloves in it. Funny thing about cloves, they act as a topical analgesic, which means they numb your tongue like yeah whoa. Good for toothaches and the week after wisdom tooth surgery; not so great in large amounts in food.

    • Interesting stuff! I had absolutely no idea cloves acted as a topical analgesic. I seriously learn something new every day. 😀

  5. Aww! Don’t feel bad.. I’ve had many MAJOR flops, and most of them have consisted of muffins that simply refuse to slip out of the baking pan. Sticky baking can be awful!

    I’m glad you managed to save desert though. You’re like some sort of superhero now 😛

  6. I skip a sentence in a recipe more times than I like to admit. And after cursing at myself for a little while I usually figure out if it can be saved or has to be tossed.

  7. Oh yea, there have been flops. Mostly overbaked flops. You know where the edges of the brownies are as hard as a rock. Or the cookies turned out flat (still can’t figure that one out).
    And another common one I mess up is melting chocolate. It gets hard when I want it to be soft! Ugh!

  8. I’ve done that with German Chocolate cake too, but mine only came apart in the middle, and the recipe did not advise wax paper, I simply just didn’t let it cook long enough. It was totally salvageable, and no one knew that it had a crack down the middle, since it’s smothered in frosting and you can never tell those things. I like your upbeat perspective. My worst flop has to be gluten free cookies that totally spread and “disintegrated” in the oven, like Evan said. I ended up scraping up the scraps from my silpat and freezing them for a while. My dad would love to snack on it. But it was really just a frozen mass of useless cookie smables, and I think I threw it away later that week.

  9. Awwww – Nicole’s really the sweetest.
    And I know baking fails can be truly disappointing…
    But don’t beaut yourself up. You’re a great cook, everybody knows it.
    What’s one fail in the middle of so many successes?
    😉

  10. Well, it sounds like everything else was right on track and all it needed was a little wax paper. I can only imagine how great it will taste when you do make it again.

    Looks like you had a great time celebrating with your mom – that’s a great thing!

  11. Well I’m new to the cooking world (recovering microwave-aholic) so I don’t have many baking stories yet but I would have to say I have had many flops in the kitchen. I once made a tasteless lasagna…it had so much stuff in it, smelled phenomenal, but literally, I kid you not, had NO TASTE! Still haven’t recovered if you can’t tell…. haha

    • I hate when beautiful food has no taste! So frustrating! I like to blame things like this on the recipe. Somehow it makes me feel better. 😉

  12. This is a really sweet post. I’m glad you wrote about it even if it was a flop. The cake you got looked beautiful and I’m sure you’ll master this recipe soon enough! I’ve had many recipe flops in the past. I don’t really bake often but I’m sure if I did I would have lots of stories to tell! 🙂

  13. Tons of flops have been made by me! Once, I had a cake crumble so bad there was no saving.

    So I made red velvet bon bons! Crumbled cake and softened cream cheese mixed together, then rolled into bite size balls. Then dipped in white chocolate and let harden. Delicious!

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