Correcting a Dessert Disaster

Phyllis Inspiration 19 Comments

(Note: The pictured dessert is not the disastrous treat in question. This is a delicious and fool-proof Peanut Butter and Salted Caramel Ice Cream Cake from Taste of the South magazine and you can find the recipe here.)

My staff always likes for me to talk about a total bust, something that really messed up despite my best laid plans. Truth is usually stranger than fiction and certainly, in my case that is true.

Long before there was a Hoffman Media and the magazines we publish, there was me who read everything under the sun that had to do with homes, cooking and entertaining. Cooking and recipe ideas were my favorites. Now, I am the gutsy one in the family who always tries new recipes on my guests rather than going with the tried and true.

I was hosting a family dinner and decided to try this new dessert that was featured in a magazine (name omitted as they are a competitor of ours) but one you would know as it has been around for many years. And no, it is not from Southern Living!

This particular dessert was an award-winning stacked dessert. You bake a two-layer cake of your choice and then while your cake layers are cooling, you take your cake pans and fill them with semi-melted ice cream and refreeze. Then right before you serve it, you stack it, alternating layers of ice cream, cake, etc. It was a beautiful photo in the magazine and I knew that I would score extra points for this one. Every layer was perfect and I knew mine would be too.

When the night came and the family was gathered, I was greatly anticipating the premiere of my dessert masterpiece. After the entrées were finished and it was time for dessert, I excused myself to the kitchen to assemble the cake that I would then bring out for all to see before I sliced it.

It was a total disaster. I placed the first layer of cake on the cake plate and then the first layer of ice cream on top. Then the landslide began! I was trying to hold the ice cream in place while placing the second layer of cake on top, hoping this would stop the slide. Oh no, it made it worse. Every layer of ice cream was lopsided and the cakes were not level either.

I was standing there with a mudslide of melting ice cream and soggy cake. So, I found my trifle dish and crumbled everything into the dish. I found the bottle of chocolate syrup and drizzled chocolate syrup on the top. I rushed the new creation through the dining room and then back to the kitchen where I very quickly served it up in bowls.

Everyone loved the new trifle and wanted the recipe. Go figure.

Share a culinary disaster below!

Comments 19

  1. I enjoy the Ribbon so much; it brings back wonderful memories and I love reading the comments from others!
    My disaster, as a newlywed cooking for my in-laws, involved a caramel scratch cake. When I put the hot caramel in a glass bowl over the other bowl of ice (as directed) to stir, I heard an awful cracking sound. Yep, that cracked bowl of caramel icing went in the trash can. I forgot to mention that my in-laws witnessed this fiasco and found it quite funny.

  2. Brilliant solution! From the comments left here it seems like a trifle is a well known trick for making a flop a success! Will add that to my cooking secrets. I can’t remember a terrible mistake, but I am always burning the toasted almonds or sesame seeds. Just can’t seem to remember to watch them without distraction.

    Hubby and I discovered an accidental dessert. We had some very nice frozen blue berries. So we put a few in each bowl and poured some whipping cream (not whipped, just straight from the container) and left them on the counter while we ate dinner. When we were ready for dessert, we found that the berries had not defrosted as we expected, but that instead the cream was frozen. But not frozen hard. It was a very delicious dessert. No extra sugar, no fuss and super easy. For the fourth, you could add some sliced strawberries for a festive red, white and blue dessert.

  3. Before I was married I decided to host my family for Thanksgiving dinner. After spending the entire evening before making pies, I put the last one (pecan) in the oven and went to get ready for bed. It was quite late and I needed to rise early to put the turkey in. Well, I forgot all about the pie until the following morning. My roommate, on leaving for her family home up north, found the oven on and the burned-black pie and saved the house from going up in flames. She left me a note. When I dropped the pie, pan and all, in the garbage, it literally cracked in pieces like pottery. We took a gag photo before dinner of everybody surrounding the pie with “drooling” faces, and that picture stayed on my kitchen wall for several years.
    Flash forward to my new in-laws coming for Thanksgiving sometime later, untested on my cooking. My brother-in-law took one look at the picture and said, “A couple more minutes and that would have been diamonds!”
    This is the story retold every year when the pecan pie is brought out…but I never burned one again. Thanks for the chance to share the memory : )

  4. Thank you, Phyllis, for baring your cooking soul for us and allowing us to commiserate and laugh with each other over our kitchen failures and clever frcoveries. Your Ribbon always improves our day.

    Like most of us who have been cooking for decades, I could give long lists of cooking disappointments and recoveries and a few real disasters, either alphabetically or chronologically. This is from the first months of my marriage in 1951.

    My husband’s mother had always proved hot bread for supper and so had my mother. Wanting to keep up the good traditions, I found recipes for biscuits to begin with. My small apartment stove consisted of three gas eyes on top of an oven which had no temperature gage and a door that had to be propped shut with my large box of Duz laundry soap.

    For weeks I guessed at where to place the un-numbered switch on the oven, made biscuits from one of recipes and placed them in the oven, hoped for success and put the results in a basket with a cloth.

    Each night my very patient husband began to eat a “biscuit”. Each night I tasted another failure – to dry, too moist, unevenly cooked or otherwise inedible – and rescued him half way through eating it, saying “Honey, don’t finish that. Its just too undercooked.”

    Joe’s response each time was the same – “Thank you for fixing hot biscuits for me. As long as you try to make them, I’ll eat them.” Eventually, I stopped trying to outsmart that useless oven. Much later in my search for a wonderful biscuit recipe and with a fine oven, I found a foolproof one. It was full of solid vegetable fat, but fluffy inside and slightly crusted and brown on the outside. My sweet husband loved them and family and friends asked for the recipe. Love and determination overcome many obstacles.

  5. The good thing about a dessert disaster is that it might not look as pretty, but it will taste just as sweet!
    I remember one time though, where that was not the case.
    I was maybe around twelve or thirteen years old, and I made some brownies.
    Something went terribly wrong, like perhaps I forgot to add the flour, and used too much sugar, or something, because they sort of melded, into something along the lines of a roof tile!
    I am sure it ruined Mom’s pan, because we had to use one of Dad’s putty knives to get them out!
    Dad was always such a good sport about most everything I made, because he never complained about any of them!

  6. Your trifle solution reminds me of a family dinner when I was a little girl. My mother made a cake she had made numerous times. When it was almost time to remove it from the oven, we heard an odd “pouf” kind of noise. Peeking in, we saw that the cake had somehow exploded, leaving big pieces of it outside of its baking pan. Always one to be calm in an emergency, my mother scooped it out of the oven, placed the pieces on dessert plates, covered it with crushed pineapple and whipped cream. And no one was the wiser except me, and I was sworn to silence!

  7. Just wanted to tell you. If you want a sure winner, try the rum cake from the new issue of Bake from Scratch ! My daughter made it and it was a huge hit with everyone. Wishing you success !

  8. We had a neighbor who stopped by while my mother was making a cake. As it was cooling mom realized it hadn’t baked long enough and had collapsed. She was about to toss it out when our neighbor stopped her saying, “you can’t throw it out. I love fallen cake the best!” It did taste pretty good even if it looked sad and deflated.

    My worst culinary disaster was peppermint merengues. They tasted like some weird toothpaste, yuck! Even my mother, who was usually diplomatic about such things, admitted she hated them too.

  9. That was a good catch! I once decided to make for Christmas dinner a Beef Wellington. I never made it before and I was having guests so I decided to go big. But I didn’t know much about pastry and instead of using puff pastry, I substituted Pillsbury pie crust. Well. That kind of dough just melted into this huge gooey mess! I looked like something out of a science fiction magazine. So terribly embarrassed, and my husband carved it as best he could do it didn’t look so bad. I served my Waterloo. But guess what? Everyone scarfed it down anyway. It tasted good but not like any beef Wellington I’d had. And It took me so long to make, they were more than ready to eat. So my takeaways – careful with substitutions and never try any new recipe for holiday company dinners. That is not the day to go blindly into battle!

  10. I don’t even try recipe’s, that look great in a magazine I have a feeling they in test kitchen’s have more problems than the rest of us. The pictures look beautiful, but how many of those pictures are air brushed? Just a thought.

  11. Ha, you always look for the bright side!
    My sister and I were hosting the first Thanksgiving dinner after our parents passed away. I always helped our southern caterer mom cook, so no worries, right?
    Not so fast.
    The turkey did not have a giblets packet inside; how could I possibly make a true southern classic dressing and giblet gravy without giblets?? I ‘Googled’ to no avail as I waited 30 minutes on hold for someone to answer the Butterball Help Line..(Nope; never answered). How can you make dressing without giblets?!?!?
    My Pollyanna sister reminded me that no one really liked giblet gravy anyway, so it really wasn’t a loss.
    But, it was a loss to me. I wanted it to be perfect… ‘just like Mama’s’.
    I went outside to hide the tears welling in my eyes and looked to the heavens to ask for guidance and heard an unusual sound….
    Yep. Vultures were circling our house! Yep. They heard I was cooking. 😉
    Okay, God, I get it. Quit trying to make everything ‘perfect’ and enjoy the ride. No giblets; no problem.

    P.S. We haven’t cooked the giblets or had giblet gravy since.
    Living #AmongTheTreasures of memories old and traditions new

  12. Thankful for the neighbor who suggested a trifle for my Bundt cake that was half out, half in the pan. Really tasty if you have real whipping cream on hand!

    Always enjoy your blog!

  13. My daughter new to baking made a pound cake and when it came out of the oven she promptly flipped it over on a coke bottle. She had watched her grandmother do many times the only thing different was that it was an Angel Food cake. Needless to say in a few hours I received a call and a picture wanting to know what went wrong. The pound cake had fallen out of the pan piece by piece and was all over the counter. I will never forget the sound of my mother and I laughing until we cried about her misfortune – Lesson learned !

  14. Guess we’ve all had that unforgettable moment. As a young bride, I was going to impress my husband with his favorite dessert: Chocolate pie. The crust was so tough I couldn’t cut it. In my distress, I dropped it on the floor. The crust didn’t even crack! I did perfect it over the years, and it’s always the first dessert gone at our family get- togethers.

  15. What a delightful story! I love your personal anecdotes and particularly this one, which illustrates a situation every one of us has probably been in. Mine was a four layer cake for my first Easter as a newlywed. First it slid to the right, then to the left, then it just fell apart. Nice to know that even you have had such a potential disaster.

  16. I love this! It’s so encouraging, particularly for young women just starting to entertain, to know that they are not the only ones who create “disasters” in the kitchen. My first culinary disaster was as a young bride, trying to impress my in-laws who were visiting from Europe, I made a chicken dish in the oven. Problem? That chicken just would not cook, it took nearly 40 minutes longer than the recipe said. I don’t even remember if it was good or not, I was so stressed.

    Now, like all of us, I’ve learned to go with the flow, and just serve some other kind of appetizer or another drink. In our world of “perfect” it’s always a good reminder that entertaining is about the people, not the food. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich shared with love and laughter is better than any gourmet meal served by a stressed out hostess.

  17. Years ago I was president of my garden club and invited the group for lunch. I made this elaborate cake the morning of the event I was going to ice the cake. It had fallen! So trifle it was! To this day those girls are still talking about the best trifle ever! Ha, if they only knew…..

  18. This reminds me of the time I tried to make petit fours and the result looked like a kindergarten class project. So I turned the whole batch into something resembling a trifle by layering the cake pieces with custard and fruit. But it still was not a pretty sight. Tasted fine, though.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *