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.