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What is the biggest baking catastrophe you've ever had?

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  1. Long ago before the man and I ever lived together I had a roommate that wanted to make my honey a Funfetti cake for his birthday. She's not much of a cook but it was a box cake so everything would be fine, right? She didn't want my help, just my company as she made it.

    We were drinking mai tais while she was making it and I thought it looked a little funny as should put the pans in the oven but I was having cocktails and it was a boxed mix..... what could go wrong? Then I realized she mixed up the water and oil measurements. It was almost like it was alive as it jiggled around. Really gross. Into the garbage.

    So... a walk to the store brought home more cake mix and there were more mai tais. This time she got everything mixed up fine and into the oven they went. A short time later there's smoke everywhere and a bad bad smell..... they were overflowing all over the oven! She had made a box for each layer! I hadn't even noticed.

    She pulled them out and scooped the cooked part on the sides into a bowl which she topped with Funfetti frosting and handed it to me as she said "Shut up and eat your bowl of cake." I was roaring laughing. :)

    Edited to add, I don't bake a lot so there aren't too many baking tragedies for me... plenty of cooking mishaps.

    1. I made a gateau basque. Beautiful pastry cream filling, decorated crust...it was beautiful. I was carrying it from the oven to a rack on the counter and DROPPED it. Upside down on the floor.

      1. As a tween, I mistakenly put my mom's Tupperware pastry mat in the oven because I thought that's what they meant by "cookie sheet". HUGE, huge mess. My mom was not pleased.

        1. I had volunteered to make dessert a few years back for Christmas eve. And of course I really wanted to make a showstopping dessert and decided on making the eggnog tiramisu recipe featured in Bon Appetit. So I was doing a good job until I started to beat the Heavy Whipping Cream. This is the first time I had used it and I overbeat it! It was all greasy and clumpy, far beyond stiff peaks. Of course, it happened to be one o'clock in the morning and I had not been intuitive enough to buy an extra carton. I ended up going to Walmart and standing in line for a good half hour along with a lot of last minute Christmas shoppers. Needless to say the finished product did get rave reviews, but now I always buy an extra carton just in case.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Redstickchef

            When I was about 15 I decided to try and make Tegelach, they are little cpballs ofvdough that are boiled in honey, traditionallyveaten at Rosh Hashana. I wasn't watching carefully and as I boiled the Balls in the honey, it began to overflow. And it overflowed until I turned around and sawvwhat was happening. It was an utter disaster. All of that honey had dripped down into the stove and rivulets of it had come out of the bottom. I cleaned it as well as I could, but for YEARS after that, if the stove got wet, or even really hot, it leaked honey. I never made them again!

          2. Me personally - prepping a chocolate raspberry tart for a dinner party - put the bowl of chocolate mousse filling in the fridge to chill and spilled the entire thing. Inside the fridge. And because I was prepping for a dinner party, I didn't have time to do a thorough clean-up job. Chocolate on everything for weeks, but at least I had a second dessert planned.

            But my favorite recent story belongs to a friend, who is an infrequent cake baker. He was making an Italian cream cake for another friend's birthday, first time with the recipe. Made tha cake layers, they seemed a little flat, but proceeded with the cream cheese icing. Iced the cake, and then noticed the unopened bag of granulated sugar on the kitchen counter. We figured he was fortunate that he doesn't bake often and had to buy a new bag of sugar specifically for this purpose; otherwise he probably would've served the sugar-free cake at our friend's birthday party.

            1 Reply
            1. re: cookie monster

              When my wife and I returned from our honeymoon we found a huge tub of sour cream that her sister had thoughtfully saved from our wedding reception, so she decided to make a couple of lemon cheesecakes with it. (There was really a lot!) It smelled a bit odd while cooking, but we don't have the cleanest oven, so I wasn't too concerned. Only after the first odd tasting bites did we realize that the sour cream was left over from the vegetable dip and was contaminated with garlic.

            2. Following the instructions I was given for my first angel food cake. I inverted the tube pan on a Coke bottle to cool. She didn't say how long, and after a few minutes the cake fell out of the pan onto the counter, so it ended up flat anyway.

              1. does four T-ablespoons of salt rather than four t-easpoons of salt in irish soda bread count?

                1 Reply
                1. re: hyde

                  when my sister and i were little, we added tons of salt to the sugar bowl as an april fool's joke. my poor mother cooked the whole easter dinner...and dessert with salt instead of sugar.

                2. Nothing horrible other than cakes and cookies that didn't rise, fell, fell on the floor, etc.

                  My favorite though is a coworker who baked, frosted and put candles in a birthday cake and then proceeded to put it in the cold oven to hide it from the birthday girl who was due over at any minute. The party progressed, the birthday girl arrived and all was going well. That is until someone turned on the oven to heat up some appetizers and...you can guess the rest. Needless to say people were picking out bits of melted wax from their melted frosting and cake.

                  1. Made a birthday cake for my ex (not ex at the time). A layered cake, recipe from Martha Stewart. I fancy myself a good cook, but not a good baker. So I read the recipe, go the the store, get the ingredients. Start making the cake, and realize that there's a separate recipe for the filling between the layers. Crap. Go to the store, get those ingredients. Do some more baking. Read further and realize there's a third ingredient list, for the frosting. Go to the store, get those ingredients. Three trips to the store. But now I have everything.

                    Make the layers, the filling, and the frosting. Put it all together, and I have to say, it looks good. We were going out of town for her birthday, so I put the cake into a tupperware cake holder. Had never used one before. We get to our destination, and it's time to have birthday cake.

                    First problem - I put the cake into the lid part of the holder, so the frosted cake is in the "bucket" part, not on the flat plate part. Took some doing to get the cake out without mangling the frosting too bad. But, I got it out.

                    Second problem - As I'm slicing the cake, I'm having a hard time going through it. So I had to kinda saw through the layers. Anyone see where this is headed? I forgot to remove the parchment paper on the bottom of the layers.

                    In the end, we laughed a lot about it. The cake tasted good, but looked terrible after all the handling and peeling out the parchment from each layer and slice.

                    This happened over 10 years ago, and I remember every detail, including every trip to the store, like it was yesterday. Poor Martha, her ears were ringing that evening, even though it was all my fault.

                    I learned a lot about making cakes from that one experience. Now, my current partner requests my carrot cake on every birthday.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: foreverhungry

                      You also learned that you should read a recipe through (at least twice I might add) before baking. Great story.

                    2. 7th grade Home Economics Sutter Hr. high, the assignment = Brownies.
                      several in class, we all had our own job. mine = assemble dry ingredients.
                      I did...then others did theirs. teacher asked, "what's burning?" she checked the brownies in one of the ovens and asked, "who's are these?" my small group of 4 or 5 ventured over as she opened the smoke filled confined space. they were literally touching the very top of the inside of the oven. "who measured what?" confident of what my job was I showed her my list of dry ingredients. she then voiced, "so blah blah cups flour/blah blah tsp salt/blah blah tsp baking soda/blah blah tsp baking powder (right?)" "well yes, um but the baking powder I may have confused that with the cups used for measuring flour!" I had.

                      Years later went to visit class, she pointed to her studends at me in the door and said,"YOU! You confused teaspoons with cups."

                      1. I was making a three-tiered wedding cake for a friend, with each tier a different flavor. I had the base tier assembled and was in the midst of assembling the second tier (a white chocolate pound cake) when one of the layers just disintegrated as I was putting it on the pile. The day before the wedding. Luckily, I had given myself enough time to redo in case of disaster, but I didn't have all the ingredients in the house. So, I walked to the corner store, covered in bits of cake and frosting, to buy more white chocolate. The owner of the store started to say something, then thought better of it!

                        1. According to my wife, with exception of 2 meals, everything I concoct is a catastrophe. She does not eat chili. The 2 meals I cook that she will eat are chicken paprikash and risotto made with leftover chicken that she bought already roasted at the supermarket.

                          1. When i was about ten, I was obsessed with Laura Ingalls Wilder: I wanted to be her! (the unpublished work, "Little Condo in the Big City"). I got a pioneer cookbook from the library and made Sunday dinner for my family. I had to start weeks in advance, because I was stubbornly ambitious, and had to dry my own apples and make a sourdough starter. My mother pointed out that no one would mind if I cheated and used purchased bread dough or dried fruit from the health food store, but I insisted that everything had to be from scratch.

                            The bread turned out, the porkchops and dried apples turned out, the beans turned out. What didn't turn out was the pie. The ingredient list was a bit odd, but since a few hours in a kitchen could turn smelly goop into bread, I thought that the pie would magically transcend its contents. It looked beautiful, like a meringue, and even the pastry was nice. But the innards were dreadful! Everyone bravely struggled to make a show of eating my grand finale; no one wanted to hurt my feelings. My parents and I went over the recipe afterwards, and it seems that I followed it, so either it was a misprint, or modern tastes just don't allow for vinegar pie!

                            1. Well I started to write about a cranberry chess pie that I overcooked one Thanksgiving. But then I realized, that compared to other posts it wasn't really a catastrophe. I was able to find all the ingredients, had time to rebake it , and the overcooked pie got taken by my BF's mom to their family dinner. Anyway since I wasn't the host and no one was relying on my pie, it wouldn't have been a catastrophe if I never got it done. But I did come up with a non baking memory.

                              Senior year in college. I still lived on campus (we didn't really have any off campus housing), but would go down to visit the BF every other weekend (we alternated) and on breaks. Since he lived off campus his last two years I would usually cook at least one dinner for him and his roommates when I was down there as well as bake (box cake and brownies). Once I decided to make meatballs and spaghetti for dinner. I mixed the balls and added them raw to a big pot of jarred sauce to cook awhile @ a simmer. Balls started to break up as a stirred so I decided just not stir it and leave it on the burner for awhile. Big mistake. It was bitter and there was nothing that I could do to get rid of the burnt taste. I was embarassed to serve since to me it was inedible. Either they couldn't taste it, or they were more polite than I thought, but they still ate it and stuck the left over sauce in the freezer for later.

                              1. i was working on a breakfast catering order that i had to deliver to a movie set the following day, and had just pulled several pounds of granola out of the ovens. i set the pans on the counter to cool and started to pull the ingredients together to mix up a batch of my base mix for the gluten-free muffins, but apparently i hadn't sealed the potato starch properly the last time i had used it. the bag slipped out of my hand, hit the counter, and potato starch exploded EVERYWHERE, including all over the trays of freshly baked granola! not only is my granola method rather time-consuming (a batch takes several hours from start to finish and requires a lot of attention), it was made with gluten-free oats, really high-end maple syrup, and lots of nuts, seeds & dried fruit...that was one mighty costly mishap. (potato starch also happens to be a NIGHTMARE to clean up.) once i finished cleaning i had to start over - showing up without the granola wasn't an option because the Executive Producer had specifically requested it. needless to say i went without sleep that night, but fortunately managed to fill the order and get it there on time.

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                  Having had my own baking business I broke out in a cold sweat just reading this goodhealthgourmet!

                                  1. re: ttoommyy

                                    it was pretty awful. and since i was (and still am) a one-woman show, and i was working with just *one* double oven to do everything, i really didn't think i'd pull it off. it was a total wake-up call and a good lesson for me. i had been accepting orders that were just too big for one person to be expected to handle, especially day after day. i realized the next major screw-up might not be possible to fix in time, and it could potentially ruin (or at least damage) my reputation if i failed to deliver. gotta know your limits, right?

                                    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                      "it was a total wake-up call and a good lesson for me. I had been accepting orders that were just too big for one person to be expected to handle, especially day after day... gotta know your limits, right?"

                                      So true! But i think unless you have this kind of experience, you will always wonder "can I handle it?" The obvious answer was "no" and you leaned a good lesson. That's what counts.

                                      I remember taking on an order for 500 hand-decorated cookies that were to resemble a hospital logo. I even had a special cookie cutter made. So the day came to make them and I'm furiously rolling out dough, it's 90 degrees outside and the AC inside is barely working. I had to call in my niece to help me. I was exhausted by the end of the day and was just happy that I made all 500 (plus a few to spare). Got up the next day to deliver them and after a good night's sleep realized that it wasn't my best work. Still, I delivered them and everyone seemed to be happy. I swore never to accept such a large order again. It was difficult the first few times I was approached to do something similar (500 cookies x $2.50/per cookie is hard to say not to) but I did it and actually felt good about myself afterward for doing so.

                                  2. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                    God, you just gave me a flashback. My old apartment had no pantry, so I turned the coat closet next to the kitchen into one by putting shelves in it. One time I picked up the cocoa powder box - by the lid. Lid stayed in my hand, container somersaulted through the air and bounced off a shelf to land on the carpet. There was cocoa EVERYWHERE. It was so hard to get it all cleaned up. The carpet in that area had a chocolatey smell for a long time.

                                  3. I decided to make banoffee pie for my birthday one year.. and also decided to make the dulce de leche for it from scratch. I decided on the "boiling cans of condensed milk in a pot full of water" method (I think that you can all see where this is going).
                                    I went to get a birthday massage, and returned home, very chilled out. Put the cans on, noting the instructions to ensure that the cans were always covered my water. Starting pottering around the apartment.. sat down to read the paper with a cup of tea and...
                                    Was suddenly awoken by the sound of an explosion.. and then another! Yes, I had fallen asleep on the sofa for an hour, water had boiled away, and BOTH cans of condensed milk had exploded. I went into the kitchen; the pot, stove top, fridge, floor, walls, and CEILING were covered in partially caramelized hot condensed milk. The smoke alarm went off, and in an effort to open the window wider to get some air in, I pulled the window out of its frame.. it was a total disaster.
                                    I spent about an hour cleaning the kitchen up, and for months later I would find random bits of caramel stuck to surfaces. Needless to say, I went out and bought some dulce de leche for the pie... and it was just fine.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: rstuart

                                      ugh, what a birthday bummer! but on the bright side, it was *extremely* lucky that you were in another room when it happened - you could have sustained some pretty horrific burns from that molten caramel.

                                      1. re: rstuart

                                        For some reason, it was pulling the window out of the frame that made me laugh. :-b

                                        1. re: LisaPA

                                          Even worse; I lived in an apartment on the top floor of the house, and my landlords lived below. While this happened my landlord was in the back yard with his dog getting some sun, and he happened to look up just as I yanked the window out of its frame. I'm sure he wondered why his tenant was holding the window and waving maniacally (I was trying to say "No it's cool! I've got a handle on the whole smoke alarm situation!"). He was a very tactful man though, and said nothing...

                                      2. My biggest baking catastrophe never even got to the baking stage. Years ago, when I was living in Russia, I decided to go all domestic for the International Women's Day holiday, which is a day off for pretty much everyone. What better way to spend a day than making a great home-cooked meal for my boyfriend, complete with homemade bread, right? So I mixed up two loaves' worth of challah dough and set it on the counter in a bowl to rise. I then went off to the market to buy dinner ingredients.

                                        A couple hours later, I came home to find a very, very aggravated boyfriend. "You would not believe what I just had to clean up!" he said, and told me that he came home to find that my dog had been violently ill, from both ends (:-0), all over our apartment. He had just spent the last hour or so cleaning the entire place. I went into the kitchen and saw the big bowl that I'd left the challah dough to rise in lying empty on the floor. "Where's the bread dough?" I asked. "What bread dough?" he said.

                                        We still had the home-cooked dinner, but it was interrupted multiple times by me having to give the dog endless bowls of water, clean up more dog puke, walk the dog down four flights of stairs (gotta love those Soviet apartment buildings), take him out so he could satisfy his other needs, haul him back up the stairs, etc. This went on throughout the night. Not only was the dog in major gastric distress, he was also seriously drunk from the effects of yeast rising in his stomach. So getting him up and down those four flights, about six times over the course of the night, was a real joy.

                                        It was a long time before I tried making bread again.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: travelmad478

                                          and how's the dog?

                                          1. re: rabaja

                                            He lived another 7 years after that, so apparently no lasting damage (except to his reputation).

                                        2. Wow. These are funny and kind of sad catastrophes. And I thought when my mom yelled at me for getting sugar on the counter was bad! ;)

                                          1. I made 2 loaves of pumpkin bread from scratch, including roasting the pumpkin, grinding the spices and completing them with a crumb topping.

                                            I took them out of the stove and placed them briefly on top of the oven. (I had to move something to make a little more room on the baking rack, very tiny kitchen.) The glass loaf pan exploded everywhere. I just stood there, heartbroken for a moment, before throwing out both loaves.

                                            It was beer o'clock after that.