When it comes to botching recipes, there are so many reasons why things can go wrong.
As you regular Ogglers will know, I’m no stranger to baking disasters myself. The other day I knocked up a duff batch of Vegetarian Marshmallows, but thankfully managed to salvage the syrup.
On that occasion, the problem was lack of experience – something you just have to practise to beat. It happens, Ogglers. Deal with it.
Sometimes, the problem can be that the recipe doesn’t work out – like the time I made Chocolate Gnocchi. Annoying, I know, but it wasn’t exactly a foolproof dish – sometimes the gambles just don’t pay off.
Even after making that batch of inedible Jelly Bean Cookies I couldn’t stay angry for long. Who knew Jelly Beans didn’t like being baked? Not I, dear Ogglers – but now I do, and together us numpties can learn not to do it again.
Some disasters, however, are nothing but full-blown frustrations; destined to make you lose your cool and blacken the air with obscenities. The recipe’s great, the oven is working, everything’s there that should be.
The problem is nothing to do with the cook or the person who’s written the recipe.
In short, the problem is plainer than that: one of the ingredients SUCKS.
Not because it’s been misused. Not because it’s out of date. Simply because it is crap.
Today, dear readers, I’m up for some naming and shaming. Because last night, in order to use up some of the aforementioned Marshmallow Syrup, I cracked open the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook and decided to make some Brooklyn Blackout Cake.
Yes, I tweaked the recipe a tad – adding syrup instead of sugar, and making one layer instead of the three – but I knew what I was doing, and had no doubt that, given the right oven time, the texture would turn out exactly as planned: gooey inside and crisp at the edges.
For those of you who don’t know of this cake, it’s essentially an intense Chocolate Sponge, containing about half a cup of Cocoa. The resulting flavour is rich, dark and – of course – extremely chocolatey.
At least, that’s how it should be.
Not, it seems, if you’re using Vitalife Cocoa.
That’s right, Ogglers. Today’s tirade has been caused by a humble carton of Cocoa – the worst Cocoa I’ve tried, in fact. Possibly the worst EVER.
I’d had it in drinks before and can’t say I was keen – not only was it gritty, but something about the flavour wasn’t right. It tasted musty – with hints of vanilla that didn’t quite hide the bum notes.
The powder is made with 100% Cocoa Beans, so I can’t blame the taste on additives or other strange ingredients. Instead, I can only assume that Vitalife pulled their beans from a sewer – perhaps even pre-digesting them.
Still, having given up using this stuff in my drinks, I thought it might work in a cake or something – perhaps other things would mute its oddness: eggs, butter, sugar, milk…
I made my mix. I baked my cake. I pulled out a beast that was perfectly cooked. I served up a slice…
AND IT WAS GROSS.
Like eating a decomposed cardboard plate, on which Miss Havisham’s cake had stood to rot.
Or, in the words of the Man, ‘Faintly fecal.’
Even drowning it with ice cream didn’t help. That taste – that fusty, nasty, river-silt taste – was utterly irrepressible.
It. Was. Infuriating.
With ingredients, time and pudding all wasted, I did the only thing I could.
If I’ve learnt anything from this disaster (aside from avoiding Vitalife, of course) it is this: hot cake hurts the knuckles. Still, not nearly as much as bad cake hurts the soul.