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The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing. – John Powell

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Real Mistake

A few weeks ago I had an order for a grooms’ cake that was to be carved into the shape of the state of Louisiana.

But that cake wasn’t easy to come by…

You see, early the day before the wedding I baked two huge 14″ square cakes and started to prep.  Later that afternoon I filled and frosted the layers, then froze them so that I could carve the shape easier.

I had carved out the state of Louisiana once before, but I was still a little nervous, so I wanted to give myself plenty of time to get it right.

As soon as it was frozen solid enough to carve, I got busy working.  After a couple of hours of carving and shaping, I had finally gotten it into a shape I was happy with.  I gave it a good crumb coat of buttercream and I was really very, very happy with it!  It was sharp and pretty accurate and it looked good.

Louisiana cake 2

In this picture, I had placed wax paper on the top and sides of the cake to freeze it initially.  That protects it from possibly absorbing flavors or odors from my freezer (not that I have a stinky freezer – I’m just cautious).    But see how good the shape was… I was so happy!

The only decoration on the cake was to be a capital “H” and I remembered that it was supposed to be blue.  I checked my notes and didn’t see any mention of what shade of blue, so I started scanning back through emails to see if a specific shade was ever mentioned.

That is when I was hit hard in the face with the fact that I had baked the wrong flavor cake.  Well, not exactly the wrong flavor… I had baked red velvet cake as requested, but way, way back, months and months before the night before the wedding, my customer has mentioned once that she didn’t want any almond flavor in the cake.


At this point, it was nearly 11pm and there was no way I was going to call the mother of the groom that late at night, the night before the wedding, to ask her how serious she was about the “no almond”.   She had never mentioned it again in any of our exchanges, but I didn’t know if she had said that because someone didn’t like almond just a little bit or if it was because of an allergy or what, but I knew I couldn’t take a chance… I had to start over.

So, at 11pm the night before the wedding, I started baking again.   I was exhausted and frustrated and mad at myself (for not writing down that detail in my notes) and more than anything… I was wondering what in the world I was going to do with this HUGE red velvet cake.

And when I say huge… it was most of a 14″ layer cake… almost 4″ tall… and probably close to 75 servings!  It.was.BIG.

For the time being, I wrapped it up real good and stuck the whole thing back in the freezer.

Sometime in the next few days, I was talking with my brother Jake and told him the story of my big cake fail.  He didn’t say much at the time, other than agreeing that I had really screwed up (gotta love little brothers!) and he also didn’t have any idea what I could do with this massive Louisiana cake.

I tossed around the idea of doing a giveaway or trying to sell it, but it was such a random and rare shape, I just doubted anybody would really be interested (especially considering I live in Mississippi, not Louisiana!).

BUT… a couple of more days passed and his wife Ariel called me to ask if I still had the extra cake.  She had an event at work that she needed to bring a cake to and she wondered if there was any way to use my cake fail for her event.

I sent her a picture of the cake and we both wondered how in the world to make it work for her event.  She’s a therapist at a cardiac rehab place… so she asked if I could make it into a heart (not a “real” heart – just a heart) and after using a butter knife to draw an outline in the frosting, I came to the conclusion that I could indeed cut the state of Louisiana into a heart.

Heart from Louisiana Cake

I didn’t exactly  make the heart cake that curvy… I just wanted you to see what I was seeing in my mind as I came up with a plan!

I was so excited to get that huge cake out of my freezer and she needed it the next day for work so I got busy making it pretty…

and this is what I ended up with:

Heart Red Velvet Cake

Pretty cool, huh?

I still had a LOT of red velvet cake that I had carved away (to first get the Louisiana shape, and then more to get the heart), but at least part of the cake was saved and enjoyed!

The lesson from all of this for me was…. always, always, always take good notes and don’t forget even the tiniest (or not so tiniest) details!!  Oh… and don’t waste a perfectly good cake!

Heart Shaped Cake from Louisiana Cake

There’s always a way to make something pretty out of our failures (in life and in cake!).

I was so frustrated that first night that my initial reaction  was to go dump it out to our chickens right that very minute.   I didn’t want to even look at that dumb cake that had the wrong flavoring in it… it was just so much wasted time, ingredients and work.

But in the end, I’m really glad I saved it and was able to make something pretty out of my big failure.

Have you ever had to re-invent a cake failure?  Make something new out of a mistake?  

PS.  If you’re interested… this is the groom’s cake that did not have any almond in it…

Louisiana Grooms Cake with Initial

My Cakes Caught on FIRE!!!

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Yes, they caught on fire.  Burned to a crisp.  Turned to ashes.

Can you see the soot along the front of the oven?  That’s from smoke boiling out for hours!

This was a first for me!

So here’s what happened.  Last night I was baking – trying out some new recipes and working on some cakes.  I had two cakes in the oven and we sat down to eat our (frozen pizza) supper and watch a Christmas movie.

Then we see smoke in the kitchen.  I have two ovens (one regular range and one wall oven) and we had more pizza in the second one, so we thought somehow a piece of the pizza had fallen through the rack and was burning.

But no – the smoke was boiling out of the oven with cakes.

It took a minute for us to process what was going on – but we quickly realized the oven with cakes had somehow malfunctioned and it was in self-clean mode.

The door had locked on it and it had heated up to “clean” temperature (whatever that is… it’s HOT) – apparently getting so hot that it had caught the cakes ON FIRE.

Not smoldering or just smoking – but we could see flames through the oven door!

We tried the Off/Cancel button.  That didn’t work.  We tried holding it down.  That didn’t work.  Then we began frantically pushing all buttons – trying anything we could to get the oven door open.  No luck.

Next – Richy (my hubby)  ran and turned the breaker off.   He waited a few minutes, hoping it would reset (or something) and we could open the door and get the cakes out or spray them down with our fire extinguisher.

No luck again.

As soon as the power was back on, it went right back into self-clean mode – door locked – cakes still on fire.

At this point, so much smoke had boiled into our house that we couldn’t see/breathe.  We got the kids into the back of the house and shut the hall door, then we opened all windows and doors.

If you’re here in Mississippi, you know it was cold last night – very, very cold for us.  Less than 40°F.   Not a good temp to have your house wide open!

Anyway, when Richy exhausted all options and the breaker was off again, he finally just pulled the oven out, cut the wires and drug it out into the yard… still locked and still boiling smoke!

It took a couple of hours for all the smoke to clear from our house – and when we went to bed, the oven was still smoking out in the yard.

This morning my Daddy came over (he’s an electrician) and fixed the wires and hooked the oven back up to try and get it to open – it did… and well, you see the cakes we found inside.

They were crispy… to say the least!  HA!

In the meantime, I’m back to baking in one tiny wall oven.

I called Whirlpool this morning and they were super nice.  They’re sending out a service technician to check out the one that malfunctioned and see if it can be fixed or if it needs to be ditched.

Right now, after that fiasco, I’d be a little scared to use it anyway, but I guess if it can be fixed, then we’ll go from there!

What a week!!  I told you Monday that I had a bad day… then all of this happened last night (Tuesday)… I wonder what the rest of today holds!!

Anyway… Happy Wednesday!