Just once it might be instructive to pretend you’re accepting an award for failure, just to see who you would thank. Robert Brault,
I failed yesterday. Massively, not only for myself, but for my friends. Phoned on Saturday afternoon with a request by a client, I agreed to make a 6 tier cake. When the creative director emailed the proposed design, I almost died.
I like baking and am fairly confident about it, but I favour rustic cakes, a good sponge or chocolate base, with fresh cream or fromage frais; drizzled with nuts or fresh fruits; the kind of cake a farmer’s wife would bake.
I said their design was out of the question, but I could try to match their colours. And try I did. I was covered in technicolour splatters.

A massive anxiety attack made my hands shake and the piping went all wonky. The end result was a contender for the ugliest cake on earth.

The idea was that the cake would stand at the entrance to the event, with lots of goodies (sprinkles, candy, glitter, flowers etc) and the guests, on arrival, would contribute their bits of decoration to the cake.
Quite hysterical, I sent the CD a photo of the cake and followed up with a phone call. There was no way of salvaging the cake, I thought. She suggested I remove all the icing and simply supply them with a vanilla and chocolate tier cake. After much manhandling, it looked better, But still ugly, very ugly.

Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat. F. Scott Fitzgerald
Go and jump in the lake, Mister Fitzgerald, my defeat in tiered cakes is final, I am never trying something like that again …



  1. It would seem that one should never attempt ot bake a tiered cake which has not been designed by an architectural engineer who has passed at least three or four couses on structural integrity. πŸ˜‰ I found their original design questionable for an artistic point of view.

  2. Courage, Cin – you will prevail – I would think the CD could have come up with a much more creative solution to use that original cake in a fun way, particularly if the guests were all going to add their own bits to it

  3. hmmm…don’t know what to think, other than I feel for you; how it must have set you on edge. I think I would have found old fashioned hat boxes and iced ’em. How else do you get such crisp lines, marzipan? Don’t fret too much, sounds like you were quite professional.

  4. Sorry Cin, maybe that icing layer that you lift and dress the cake and trim the edges that is used for wedding cakes (like Bunns b-day cake) would have worked. It would make sense for them to be understanding because you never dissapointed before. Their design was not nice to begin with. Least you tried πŸ™‚

  5. Skattebol, I must agree with the blogger who commented that the ‘original design’ was ‘questionable’. Now that I’ve read your entire story, I have great empathy for your fb entries yesterday. May you have a wonderful day today. I think ‘jy is ‘n yster’ for even trying.

  6. Oh Cindy – icing a cake – even a cupcake is harder than reciting the Prophet backwards! Since that cupcake competition I have given icing a few goes – Na-Ahhh …… itsa beaaaarch! Sorry angel – I can imagine how incredibly upsetting that all was! xxxx xxxx xxxx

  7. that was quite an experience. icing is something you either are expert at or you create those lovely rustic delights

    (i fall firmly into the latter, whereas my sister does all the twiddly stuff)

    Hope you had a whole vase (or three) of Merlot afterwards

  8. Oh man oh man…for a year and a half, I have not heard the “f” word even hinted at. Don’t start now. There’s no such thing as “failure” unless that’s your attitude.

    I just heard a very wise person say: “The objective in life needs to be that we know how to get back up. The objective is NOT to avoid falling!”

  9. But my dearest Cindy, I could gorge down this cake like it’s nobody’s business! Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder… and to me, this cake is a piece of marvel – I mean, it’s chocolate, for God’s sake! And who could ever EVER resist that! NOT ME, for sure! Next time you think you’ve flopped on a choc-cake, lemme know.. I am sending you my address!

  10. Cindy, I’ve not had much sleep so I’m hoping this doesn’t come out garbled.

    Recently I’ve been thinking about ‘dissonance’ in the psychological sense- that highly disagreeable mismatch between the picture in our head of how we want a creation to be, and the reality of what we can achieve.

    It’s really hard for those of us who are creative – sometimes like a physical pain. I think all the great artists must have had it, there are so many composers and painters who expressed dissatisfaction with what they were able to produce, though we find their creation entrancing. Dissonance is excruciating, especially for perfectionists, but it is one of our mind’s ways of producing the drive to create.

    So sorry for your dissonance, but it marks you out as a culinary creator and artist. We watch your work as the days pass with awe. Your next project, thanks to all that dissonance, be your best one yet.

  11. in retrospect, the plastic icing would have been easier – but there is no knowing you will fail until you try – and the measure is whether you pick yourself up, or hide!

  12. Wow, Cindy, at least you tried!! I would have never attempted such a difficult thing!! Have a great day!

  13. Cindy, as you said it already yourself, I think you’ll don’t mind me saying it, but that coloured cake is about the worst cake I’ve ever seen. But it made for a great story. The vanilla/chocolate version looks passable to me. Not a beauty, but not ugly.

    Poor you – it’s hard to find yourself making something like that when you’re normally so good at cooking. Well, next you tell them what you propose to make (what the options are), rather than the other way around?

  14. Oh, Cin…that original design is awful, you get top marks for even attempting the damned thing!! and you don’t owe them anything nor do you have anything to be ashamed of either, so stop being down on yourself, please and have a fabulous day!!

  15. Failure is relative. I can’t even get a cake to rise or make icing, never mind six tiers and colour.

    You tried; you weren’t satisfied. You tried again; you weren’t satisfied. You consulted the client, instead of dishing up what you had.

    You did your best. Your absolute best. It’s not failure when we try our best; it’s a lack of result. Many inventions and important discoveries came from failed experiments and attempts to make something. I’m not saying you’re in that league; but what can you learn from this?

    Don’t be too hard on yourself.

  16. Oh, Cindy, I feel for you! But honestly, it is nothing more than a temporary setback. Besides, “what doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger” and provides the best ever subjects for writing about πŸ˜€ From another perspective: watching Master Chef last night was bizarre. To think that someone’s future could hang on the contents of one miniature bowl of satay sauce is plain peculiar!

  17. Oh Cindy, I bet if you had more time with the project, it would have turned out fine. But it’s so amazing that you were so brave and some how managed to make it look better at the end πŸ™‚

  18. Wow, I think you are brave to attempt it not just once but twice! I can’t believe you removed the icing and redid it….I can only imagine what it would look like if I tried to do that – I have a hard enough time getting the icing on it the first time without the cake crumbling! I’m still way impressed with your skills…and I’ll bet it was incredibly delicious! You are no failure, my friend, you are the icing on the cake!

  19. When I received that pic I would have phoned and said fanks, but no fanks!!
    Anyway – it looked good enough to eat to me!! xx

  20. I could never have done that either. Do prefer the homemade look, taste, and texture. Well, you just learned what you don’t want to do or even try. That’s a good thing, Cindy. Having said that, you’re photos have set my mouth watering … drool ….

  21. Now, I could eat that last cake, with all the chocolate and fixings, by myself. πŸ™‚

    The thing is, you tried and what else can one do? But i tell you, looking at the chocolate is going to make me go and bake some chocolate chip cookies, the frozen type. πŸ™‚

  22. You tried and tried to make a three tiered cake,
    testing untried technicolour designs ..
    until you were too too tired
    to make the tiering work:
    but now it’s done don’t be teary.
    “Next time beware,” as the bear said.

  23. Do you know what I think makes this feel even worse than it is? The fact that it is not complete with decorations and all that you would usually do. This is the point of course, seeing as the guests were supposed to add things as they arrived. I think that is something to consider to give you some perspective on the size of your failure. A little bit of fresh perspective with a sprinkle of context.

  24. aie! aie! aie! so upsetting when things don’t work out as you’d hoped… but it’s not catastrophic. Not in the grand order of things… that’s one of the things that’s so great about cooking – you do your best and whether it works or not you just move on.

    I agree with (hindsight) suggestions about using roll-out icing if ever you were to do another…

    don’t be too hard on yourself – you’ve just had a month of flu…

  25. Oh Cindy I am so sorry. I do know exactly how you feel though. When my daughter got married (that was the first mistake) she asked me to make her wedding cake. We had just taken all of the cake decorating classes the year before and yes I had made some beautiful cakes and knew I could do it. But this was not the time. For someone with Fibromyalgia I was already over doing it by babysitting my new grandson and going to classes at night. Then my daughter and I had major mis-communications about what the cake should look like. Oh it was hiddeous! I was so embarrassed! I will not be making her next one. Thank goodness there is a next one. That kind of cake making is very stressful. I haven’t made any in years.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s