Bring me your baking disasters!

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Today marks the official release of Simply From Scratch — my sweet debut novel of love, friendship, and baking. It’s already a bestseller in Germany!

I’m celebrating by giving away a signed copy to whoever shares the best true baking disaster story below. Did your cheesecake look like a deflated volleyball? Did your exploding souffle splatter the oven with goo? I want to know.

You see, Simply From Scratch‘s heroine, Zell — Library Journal calls her “truly loveable” — enters a baking contest. Zell is completely clueless in the kitchen, but she sticks with it, accompanied by her new buddy, nine-year-old Ingrid.

You can learn more about Zell and Ingrid⎯and their baking mishaps⎯by viewing the super-cute book trailer.

Now, about this contest: Describe your messiest, funniest, most embarrassing baking disaster in the comment thread. That’s it! Be sure to leave your email address. You have until 9 p.m. (EST) next Thursday, August 12.

Tune in tomorrow — Friday, August 6 — for a very special edition of Quest For Kindness: a tribute to Stella B. Quick, the real-life greyhound who inspired a key four-legged character in Simply From Scratch.

Thank you for sharing your stories of baking gone horribly wrong! Feel free to spread the word about this contest … and, good luck.

~Alicia Bessette

32 Responses to “Bring me your baking disasters!”

  1. Congratulations to Alicia on the official release of SIMPLY FROM SCRATCH, a wonderful novel with characters you can’t help but root for and be inspired by.
    Hoorah for Alicia, and for Stella B. Quick.

  2. Heather Leah says:

    Be warned: You’ll fall in love with Zell, Ingrid, Captain Ahab and all the rest of the cast of SIMPLY FROM SCRATCH. Trust me, I did!!! Congrats, Al, on officially launching her out into the US of A…. Arrrh! May there be much more success in thee future…arrrh!

  3. Jenn C. says:

    Congrats Alicia!!! I’m so excited for you, and I can’t wait to read your book. I don’t necessarily have a baking disaster story, but I do have a messy one. My son Cooper, who is almost 3, and I bake dog treats for our two dogs Sophie (greyhound / lab mix) and Moe (Boston Terrior). It takes a lot of patience to bake with a 2 year old while the dogs are hovering. Cooper likes to get his hands in everything then quickly touch his hair, his face, the dogs… Pieces of nasty dog cookie dough end up everywhere. Then the cats proceed to walk through the flour and track paw prints throughout the kitchen. It’s messy but super fun and something that I know Cooper will remember when he gets older. Speaking of dog cookies, we need to make some this week, so I’ll send pics.

  4. I love to bake but I am not the best baker in the world. My favorites to make are peanut butter cookies from scratch and zucchini bread. Now I am just trying to get used to a new oven since we moved. It is a gas oven, and it seems to get WAY hotter than my electric oven did. So I’ve burnt quite a few things lately. :(

    My baking disaster really wasn’t baking sweets, but baking chicken. Before I got married, I visited my husband in his graduate school apartment and I decided to make us dinner. I put some chicken into a baking dish, and thought everything was going to go well. Well little did I realize that the design on the bottom of the dish was actually a STICKER cause he had never used the dish!! We had some very tasty chicken a la manufacturer sticker!! mmm yummy! :)

  5. I’ll share one too: One time in college, I announced that I was going to warm up some leftover baked ziti for my two roommates and me. I did warm it up … however, I forget to remove the sheet of Saran wrap from the top of the baking dish. Mmmm … cheese, tomato sauce, pasta, oregano, and …. bubbling hot plastic.

  6. Erika says:

    I LOVE THIS BOOK! My mother once baked pepperoni bread (think stromboli) using confectioner’s sugar instead of flour. The result was a surprising blend of sweet and savory. I don’t know how I managed this one, but I baked cookies that liquified in the oven so that the result was more like a tray of cookie bars instead of individual cookies. After scraping the cookie sheet for an hour, I eventually had to give up and chuck the pan.

  7. Marci says:

    I remember a time where I was making Lemon Poppy-seed Muffins when I forgot the sugar. By the time I realized it, they were already in the oven baking…

    Suffice to say, from that day on, I have always remembered the sugar !

  8. B. says:

    Having the in-laws for dinner can be a challenge for a newly -wed, so maybe duck flambe’ was not a good choice for the first time out. We didn’t have duck flambe’, but I did manage to flambe’ the hairs on my arms & create a whole new aroma for cherry sauce !

  9. Q says:

    My friend and I once tried to make Guinness Apple Pie. We didn’t have a recipe. We soaked apples in Guinness and brown sugar and then winged it. There is a picture of us proudly serving the pie. I don’t even remember if we liked it or not, but I remember how much fun we had experimenting. It was a youthful thing to do. (Why have I not made Guinness Apple Pie since? Hmmm…maybe it really was terrible? But we had so much fun making it!)

  10. Best wishes on your novel’s debut!

    After the birth of my first child I determined to make all of his baby food – from scratch. Most of it was fairly intuitive: bake a squash and mash; bake a sweet potato and mash; steam cauliflower and mash; peel avocado and mash. And I was meticulous in maintaining a “proper” time line for the introduction of first foods. Join those facts with these: 1) I have a gross distortion of reality that the quality of a thing is directly correlated to the hard work put into it, even when there are easier means; and 2) my husband was away on business.

    That, my dear, is a recipe for disaster. I decided to introduce green beans. Canned were too sullied in processing. Frozen seemed to be cheating. So, I bought fresh green beans – three pounds of them. I washed them and snapped them. Then, I put them in a steaming basket. Two hours later the beans were not soft enough to mash, so I dumped them into the water to boil. I rechecked them often, but the beans were resolute and unyielding to my fork.

    I fed the child some previously made baby food and rocked him to sleep (don’t judge :). The beans boiled for two more hours, and I decided to try the food mill on the poor blighted things. I managed only to mutilate them into a stringy mess. I milled the beans again and produces beautiful, captivating green bean baby food. Of course, my three pounds of fresh green beans became six ice cubes (not even one whole tray) of baby food and a pile of strings.

    Still, that wasn’t as devastating as the time I tried to mill pomegranates. I wonder if those stains ever came off the cabinets?

    -Amanda

  11. My baking does not go so well as I have a bachelor’s attitude toward cooking. If it says “bake at 350 degrees for an hour” to me that means half an hour at 700. Or, 15 minutes at 1400 if I have a kiln handy.

  12. This book looks wonderful!

    My baking disaster happened before I even got around to baking anything. I decided to make cookies (a regular for me), but when I opened my oven and noticed all the black gritty stuff on the bottom, I figured it would be better to clean it first. We have a self-cleaning oven (which I had never used), but I figured “How hard can it be? The oven cleans ITSELF” and sent it on its merry way. About 20 minutes later, the whole house filled with smoke and a strange, chemical smell. I walked back into the kitchen to find the inside of my oven was ON FIRE. And, because it’s a self-cleaning oven, the door was locked shut. I frantically ran around the house, tried looking up “oven fires” on wikipedia, and wondered what on earth I was going to tell my husband when he came home and found me standing in our driveway, clutching our two cats to my chest, watching our house burn to the ground.

    Thankfully, the fire put itself out, and the next day I dutifully hand-scrubbed the whole thing. And made cookies, which thankfully, did NOT catch on fire.

  13. Gary O. says:

    In college I was in charge of a dining hall that fed +300 per meal.

    We got a nice batch of 300 or so bananas and I thought putting them in the cooler was such a great idea, so off they went.

    Next morning I came into a very unhappy chef and 300 BLACK bananas. The fruit was perfectly fine but not presentable so I was forced to make them into hundreds of cookies, chewy bars, pudding, sliced and diced, any way you could THINK to use a banana.

    I hate them now.

  14. Sogol says:

    Congratulations Lady :)

    Baking experience….hmmmm….
    Well, few months ago I baked (tried to bake) a cake. I read the recipe for the cake and I freaked out by the amount of butter and sugar that I had to use. I got creative and instead of required amount of butter, I used ½ suggested amount margarine!!!! And instead of sugar I used ½ amount brown sugar….and I gave it to my husband to eat it.
    He said it was fantastic. The day after I saw him eating is as a bread, spreading butter and jelly over it!!!

  15. Maggie Agurkis says:

    My embarrassing baking disaster is really not MINE–it’s my mother’s (or it should be, but she won’t tell it!!) When I was a kid, maybe age 7 or so, we were cracking eggs into a mixing bowl. Evidently, Mom decided that I was not too good at the egg-cracking, and was getting too much egg on the table. She had 3 small children and was short on patience that day. Frustrated, Mom grabbed the bowl from me, said, “Not like that, like THIS!” She cracked the egg, dumped it out on the table, and threw the shell in the bowl! I think I tried to stifle a giggle at the time, (secretly savoring the fact that I could crack an egg better than my Mom,) but I have reminded her of this incident many times over the years! :)

  16. Dave Tavani says:

    Congrats on the book and the best-seller status in Germany, Alicia. Can’t wait to get a copy and start reading. Here’s my baking folly story:

    Baking with yeast for the first time can come with challenges. After all, you are working with living organisms. A few years ago, my wife Lori and I decided that we would try to make homemade pizza, especially because we hadn’t tried out the pizza stone we had gotten as a wedding gift. Pizza baking, you would think, would be in our blood, as both of us are at least 50% Italian. Also, my mother has sported some solid pizza baking skills over the last 30 years. But not so! We followed the instructions in the Martha Stewart baking book that Lori has, and toward the end of the first round of rising we noticed that the dough may not have actually done any rising. We plugged along anyway, kneading the dough and putting it back in the slightly warmed oven for another rise. After 45 minutes, the dough looked the same. Having never done this before we proceeded as if all was well. When I rolled out the dough I couldn’t get it much bigger than a small focaccia. We baked it anyway, and ended up with a tiny pizza that felt like lead once it hit your stomach. This confirmed for us the reality that the dough had not risen — probably because we had not measured the temperature of the water when mixing the yeast. In retrospect, it must have been too hot, which killed the yeast. We’ve improved a bit since with out pizza making, but only with that learning experience behind us.

  17. My son and I thought we could make our own cookies out of things that tasted good. It was a rainy day without much else to do. So we got everything good, candy, crumpled cookies, ice cream, fruit, marsmellows, jelly, french fries, and threw in a giant bowl with flour, sugar, and love. We stirred it up, using my electric drill with a wooden spoon in it. Then we put little globs on a baking sheet and threw it in the oven. What came out was not very pretty to the eye, but tasted curiously satisfying. My wife and daughter wouldn’t touch it, so we ate them all. We were up most of the night with stomache aches!
    It was worth it for the adventure.

    Best to you Alicia!!!!!!

  18. Randi Setterlund says:

    Well, there are so many baking and cooking disasters in my history that it’s hard to choose one to re-tell. About 13 years ago, when I still worked in an office full-time, we used to celebrate co-workers’ birthdays. Whoever just had a birthday would make a cake for the next person in line. I asked my co-worker, Emily, what kind of cake she would like, and she didn’t hesistate before requesting carrot cake. So…I peeled and shredded carrots for what seemed like forever, and finished the rest of the laborious (in my memory, anyway) recipe and put the cake in the oven while I started on the cream cheese frosting. Somehwere mid-way through the baking process, a feeling of dread overtook me. I just knew in my attention-deficited mind that I had left something out. I took a peak at the cake, which looked awfully flat for the amount of time it had been baking, and brought the recipe back out to go through the ingredient list one more time. Of all things to forget? The baking soda! This cake was due at the office first thing the next morning, and I was WAY too tired to drive to the store for a replacement. So, I gathered all of my courage, frosted that flat, dry cake, and served it to my co-workers as a “carrot cake torte.” There were a lot of strange looks, and comments like, “ooo, I never tasted anything like this before” (and I’ll bet they never have since!). As Julia Child once said, “No matter what happens in the kitchen, never apologize.” And so it is.

  19. Jonita says:

    Congratulations, Alicia! I’m so excited to read your book!

    I had the bright idea that I should save money and make my kid’s birthday cakes, instead of ordering hideously overpriced ones. So, I made the cake, but it came out lopsided, so I took a knife and kind of hacked off the part that rose too high, in the hopes of evening it out. THEN I called my mom and got the recipe for my favourite cake icing, which looks easier to make than it actually is. I made the consistency too thick, and it stuck to the crumbs from my previous attempts to level it. There I was, rolling the knife, and rolling crumbs of cake along with it. Eventually I figured out that the consistency was all wrong, but by then the majority of the damage had been done. I covered it in tons of Smarties in an attempt to cover it up, but I don’t think that it worked. I ended up with a cake that tasted great, but looked awful. I’m better at it now, LOL!

  20. Lauren says:

    Congratulations on your debut novel!

    I’ve had plenty of baking disasters, but the one I remember most clearly was when I was around 13 making cookies with my friends for a lemonade sale. We somehow put in twice as much Crisco as we were supposed to, and we ended up with just cookie crumbs – not a single cookie stayed in tact! But we set up our table on a cul-de-sac where a bunch of boys were playing basketball, and they bough handfuls of crumbs from us. They claimed they were the best cookies they’d ever had, probably because they were so buttery and fattening!

  21. Shelly says:

    Ah! As one of those roommates, Alicia, I remember the saran wrap baked ziti! That was a year of lots of roommate cooking. Good times. Friend, I am so excited to read your book!

  22. adria says:

    congratulations on the book release!!

    my cooking disaster story isn’t actually my disaster, but actually one of the first lessons my mother gave me when she was showing me around her kitchen.

    the disaster occurred during the very first thanksgiving her and my father hosted as a couple. my mom spent the entire morning preparing all of the dishes of the day, the turkey, the stuffing, the vegetables…everything came together nicely and she put the turkey in the oven and went about the day entertaining family. around 5pm, the turkey popper hadn’t “un-popped”. she was convinced that, after 8 hours of cooking, the popper was likely just a dud, and the turkey was done. afterall, the outside was a beautiful brown and crispy color.

    she took the turkey out of the oven and began to carve it. first slice or two were fine, but then she discovered that the inside wasn’t cooked. no, it was raw…and…frozen!! that’s when she learned that you need to let a turkey defrost for a long while prior to cooking it!

    they ordered a pizza :)

  23. Amy Benoit says:

    I really wanted to impress my boyfriend and his friends with my culinary skills but because I lacked any and was short on even the simplest of staples ie. oregano and parsely, I opted to use All Spice on the homemade pizza I was making. So what that it was store bought dough, canned sauce and bag of shredded mozzarella, on a college budget, shelling out $35.00 on anything I was trying to cook was a risky bet.
    I shooed everyone away from the studio apartment galley kitchen and got my Julia Child on. I stretched and rolled the dough, doused on whatever store-brand sauce and shook a healthy dose of All Spice on the pizzas before adding the cheese. I set the oven to preheat and kicked back to wait for the magic. Sure enough, the smell of apple pie wafted throughout the apartment. “Did you light a candle,” my guy asked. A single bead of sweat ran down my forehead and mixed with a tear. Panic. “I think it’s just oven residue,” I answered, struggling to breathe.
    “Maybe they won’t notice,” I told myself, as they began cutting large slices. It didn’t take long…the looks on their faces said it all. “Did you put nutmeg on this?” said one. “I think it’s cinnamon,” said another.
    “It’s good,” said my boyfriend…and even though he was lying, I knew at that moment I’d marry him!
    Twenty years and three children later — I’m a much better cook, we still laugh at the pizza fiasco and my spice cabinet has EVERY choice available, save one!

  24. [...] can still win a copy by entering Deb Alicia’s baking disaster contest. Leave a comment describing your most insane baking blunder before Thursday, August 12, at 9 p.m. [...]

  25. Pauline says:

    My disaster story isn’t baking but cooking in general. I thought I’d treat my sister to a nice dinner and although there was limited food in her kitchen (neither of us ever cook) I thought I’d throw something together just like our mom (an amazing cook) would. How hard could it be?

    First, I used gluten free pasta (I’m intolerant) which rarely tastes good and let it boil in too little water for too long resulting in goo. In a sauce pan, I put a can of tomatoes, a can of spinach and added to it any herb/spice I could find plus a hearty dose of sugar (top tip from some cooking show I’m sure). As this sweet green slime tasted disgusting I figured I’d give it a kick and add something spicy – that always helps, right? The only spicy thing around was a jar of spicy beans meant to be cocktail garnish. So in those went and, shockingly they didn’t help. The last thing I could think of to save this dish was cheese! My sis being vegan only had cheddar flavored soya loaf on hand and so I shred this and tried to melt it on top. It became a bright orange plastic like coating. Disgusting! The most surprising part of my meal: my sis is the most polite woman I know and she ate it without a single complaint.

  26. Congrats! Best baking disaster involved mixing up the salt and sugar measurements in one of my first ever batches of muffins. Suitable only for attracting deer to the backyard!

  27. Stephanie j says:

    I was making a recipe for my first pc show. I was so nervous I forgot to add one of the main ingredients. No one knew except me and it tasted decent without it.

  28. Thanks, thats very useful to know! I admit to being a bit of a failure in the kitchen, but I’m trying my best to learn. Admitting iis the first step right!? I promised to cook a whole meal for my wife this weekend for the first time – very exciting! I found some really simple recipe at this site, seems to be designed exactly for me, which is fantastic! Anyway, thanks for your tips, I’ll be sure to bookmark your site to read more later.

  29. Thanks for that! My mum recently harvested her garden full of tomatoes , and I find myself the proud owner of two or three buckets worth! Of course I couldnt eat them all, but I did find a website full of loads more tomato recipes at this site. A website dedicated the topic!! Crazy what you can find on the internet nowadays!!

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