Fumbling to Fabulous: Getting Better at Baking

by Gena on July 3, 2012

Growing up, our birthday cakes were from Duncan Hines box mixes and Betty Crocker cans of frosting. In fact, of all the birthday desserts I’ve had over the years, my favorite is still strawberry cake from a box and rainbow chip frosting from a can. Thanks, Mommy!

Anyway, the first time I tried baking a cake myself? Not so successful! I somehow managed to forget the eggs and ended up with a warm chocolate brick. I’d like to chalk that up to only being 11 – but seriously, there are only 4 ingredients required AND the box has pictures!

The first time I baked chocolate chip cookies from scratch – also a flop. I got chocolate chip cakies. Learning that baking powder does expire was a big lesson.

And then the first time [okay first 3 times] I tried making a pie? Well, lets just say I make a fantastic pie crust. With fruit soup in the middle. I did learn a fantastic tip though: If the pie doesn’t turn out the way you intended, crack the top, add ice cream and tell everyone you made cobbler!

Finally, my favorite – the first time I made up my own recipe for a cake as an adult? I think I was attempting a yogurt-fruit-coffee cake type thing. But what came out of my oven was a lumpy, soggy mess.

 

All this is to say…well, a few things:
1. I’m human! We all make mistakes, even Martha Stewart.
2. Mise en place – the concept of setting out your ingredients, pre-measured and in order, before you begin your recipe – really does help.
3. Expiration dates are there for a reason!
4. Improvisation isn’t likely to be successful the first time without some background knowledge on how ingredients work together.

 

Over time and with much practice, even I became better in the kitchen! Here’s some evidence – from early attempts at making mint chocolate truffles.

 

What helped?
Patience.
Figuring out how chocolate works.
Trying again, and again and again.

And eating all the imperfect ones. I swear that’s part of the learning process!

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Dana July 3, 2012 at 9:41 am

Martha Stewart makes mistakes?!? No! Well anyway, those mint chocolate truffles look great – even the “messy” ones!

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Ariella Kirtley July 3, 2012 at 11:36 am

I did learn a fantastic tip though: If the pie doesn’t turn out the way you intended, crack the top, add ice cream and tell everyone you made cobbler!
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Great tip! My friend and I once tried to make Italian wedding cake in high school for a family gathering, but we forgot to grease the cake pan so it stuck horribly to the pan and wouldn’t come out. We ended up scraping it out piece by piece then crumbling what was left, throwing it all in a bowl with the frosting, and calling it a trifle. The “trifle” was a big hit and only a select few ever found out we were trying to make a cake instead ;)

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Gena July 3, 2012 at 2:47 pm

Love that solution!!

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Kimberley July 3, 2012 at 4:17 pm

Pre-measure and set stuff out? The hell you say!

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Stephanie July 3, 2012 at 5:49 pm

So true! This can apply to alot of situations in life…

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Kim Wedlock July 4, 2012 at 8:31 am

Eating imperfect ones is the BEST part of baking. Perks of being the chef. And taste testing. Sometimes the first three goes just don’t seem right…

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Claudia / ImagesByCW July 4, 2012 at 8:38 am

Ha – that made me laugh! What a great article… reminded me of the one time I baked a cake from scratch and forgot… the butter – LOL – it was still edible, just very (!) dry. Good tips and I do think the truffles look delicious.

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farragio July 9, 2012 at 12:16 pm

One of my first attempts at making a cake was a chocolate cake that turned out looking like an over-sized hockey puck. But it was still fun to eat. Whenever chocolate can be eaten there’s no such thing as a mistake, lol.

Your truffles (and everything else) look scrumptious!

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Kathleen July 12, 2012 at 8:26 pm

I love the cobbler idea!

My mom is always looking for new things to top a cake with as an alternative to frosting — she used to make a cream cheese frosting which was delicious, but even that got a little dull. Her last idea was to put lemon curd on top of a lemon cake — which was great, though too strong. I’m thinking next time we will be spreading it thinner and adding a layer of something else :)

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