Putting the “Mmm” in Mistakes

Lately everything I bake has been turning out all goofy-footed. It always ends up tasting great, but it’s never without its surprises. And I think I can blame it on the somewhat lax attitude I’ve taken to following directions these days — a completely un-Jen mindset that’s producing mixed results across the board.

The other week I tried my hand at a Nigella recipe — her Sour Cream Chocolate Cake from “How To Be a Domestic Goddess,” p. 169. My intent was to vary the recipe only enough to add the zest of a whole orange and substitute triple sec for vanilla. Oh…and since I only had fat-free sour cream, to substitute that for the full-fat version. Um…and since that was far thicker than the full-fat version, to make is a little thinner with some milk. Ah yes…and I didn’t have 8″ pans avilable, so I used my trusted 9″ers.


And I wonder why baking occasionally gives me such conniptions.

It didn’t rise. Not a lick. Each layer was less than an inch high. The interior of the cake was terrifically moist and the orange came through beautifully, but there truly wasn’t a bit of height in the whole thing. So I manufactured height. I filled the middle with a basic cream cheese icing spiked with more Triple Sec and orange zest, then piled a whole pint of whipped heavy cream on top and grated zest and chocolate shavings over that. Tad-da! Chocolate-Orange Cream Cake!

It was a hit at the party I took it to. Now, if only I could keep myself from confessing each baking blunder…

Hapless Party-goer: Mmmm, this is good!

Me: Oh, well, you see I completely screwed it up, so I’m shocked it tastes good, let me tell you all about it, it all started with the sour cream….

Hapless Party-goer: I see a drink with my name on it waaaay over there.

Next up? My adventures with rhubarb — my typically stalwart dessert fruit of choice that is also falling victim to my yummy experimentation.


Scones: Ginger-Lime-Orange; Chocolate-Butterscotch


The best thing about being a baking addict? When I travel to see friends, they want to bake with me! This is excellent since most of my baking happens between me and my KitchenAid (which I have to name, I think, as she…or maybe he…has become such a trusted companion). But otherwise, I’m generally alone. The Husband is wise and stays in the other room — especially when I’m ruining yet another batch of buttercream.

So it was with much delight that my friend Lisa in St. Louis announced upon my arrival that we were going to 1) shop, 2) bake, and 3) play music. Trifecta of Happiness!

What did we bake? Scones courtesy of the goddess that is Julia Child. I believe Lisa used her basic Buttermilk Scone recipe from Baking With Julia. Lisa, can you confirm this? It was dietetically criminal how easy they were to make. Just a little hand-mixing and patting together of the scones in a lumpy kind of scone-shape. The end product was far less dense than scones of my past; more like a heavy biscuit. But, oh, they were divine.

We made two batches: ginger-lime-orange for me and Lisa, and chocolate-butterscotch for Lisa’s chocoholic-studying-for-med-school-exams-and-therefore-should-get-whatever-he-wants-husband Jim. I much preferred the ginger variety. We used candied ginger chopped rough, and zest from a few limes and an orange to flavor the batch. I apologize in advance that we have no “finished” pictures. They simply didn’t last long enough for me to remember to pull the camera out.

See that butter? That’s gonna go on top. The sugar, too. Ohhhh yeahhhh.

The Jim-Scones

Two batches of British love.