FAIL, FLOP AND FITZGERALD

Just once it might be instructive to pretend you’re accepting an award for failure, just to see who you would thank. Robert Brault, http://www.robertbrault.com
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 …

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82 Comments Add yours

  1. slpmartin says:

    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.

    1. theonlycin says:

      Perhaps with a longer notice period I could have had the design printed on edible paper. Anyway, so it goes hey?

  2. bluebee says:

    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

    1. theonlycin says:

      They ditched the idea in the end, bluebee, I am so embarrassed. I will have to find a way to make it up to them 😦

  3. nrhatch says:

    Ouch! Sorry, Cin. 😦

    1. nrhatch says:

      I showed it to BFF and he said he wanted a slice . . . “A cake’s beauty is only skin deep . . . it’s what is inside that counts.”

      1. theonlycin says:

        Tell him he is very kind *blush*

    2. theonlycin says:

      I am cringing, Nancy 😦

  4. libraryscene says:

    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.

    1. libraryscene says:

      btw…why are you up at the crack of dawn, zzzzzz time for you ~

      1. theonlycin says:

        I had a very uneasy night, so decided to get up and do something constructive …

    2. theonlycin says:

      Hat boxes! Why didn’t I think of that? I didn’t feel professional at all 😦

  5. dinahmow says:

    Some of the perpetrators here cakewrecks.blogspot.com/ – have far more reason to cringe.
    You may have “failed” but you tried.

    1. theonlycin says:

      Thanks Di, you’re very kind πŸ™‚

  6. Oh darlin’, I’m sure it tasted fantastic though…icing isn’t something I have any confidence in, so you have my complete empathy here..

    1. theonlycin says:

      I ought to have called somebody to help me, my sponges were just fine, it’s the icing that caused the trouble 😦

  7. Sparky says:

    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™‚

    1. theonlycin says:

      Yes Sparky, in hindsight, I probably should have used plastic icing or marzipan.

  8. klarisabet says:

    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.

    1. theonlycin says:

      Dankie Klari, dit gaan lank wees voor my wange ophou brand …

  9. 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

    1. theonlycin says:

      I am totally mortified and feel a perfect twit, Jan *sob*

    1. theonlycin says:

      Sterkte en rooiwyn, dankie …

  10. Kathy says:

    You tried and I bet it was delicious. Pat yourself on the back and then put it behind you. (Big hug.)

    1. theonlycin says:

      I will try, Kathy, but I have to face them today and am dreading it 😦

  11. thestonemaidendiaries says:

    Toemaar wat.xx

    1. theonlycin says:

      Ek weet nie hoe om dit reg te maak nie 😦

  12. SidevieW says:

    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

    1. theonlycin says:

      That I did, indeed …

  13. leigh says:

    Um, something about never failing to try strikes a chord…

    1. theonlycin says:

      I should have done a practice run 😦

  14. souldipper says:

    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!”

    1. theonlycin says:

      I love the saying, Amy.

  15. Kavita says:

    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!

    1. theonlycin says:

      You are so sweet, Kavita *heart*

  16. 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.

    1. (Maddie has just said this is the longest comment she has ever seen. Felix leaned over to take a look and said yes, Mum, it’s as big as a blog. Apologies)

      1. theonlycin says:

        No need to apologise, Kate, your comment brought a lot of perspective to the incident. thank you.

    2. theonlycin says:

      I had the same thoughts last night, Kate, but you hae put it into words far more eloquently than I am able to.

  17. Tandy says:

    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!

    1. theonlycin says:

      Can I just hide for a little while longer?

  18. MaanKind says:

    Oh Cin, you have absolutely NO idea how I enjoyed this!

    1. theonlycin says:

      Ai, MaanKind, ek het amper gehuil, dit was ‘n nagmerrie!

  19. pinkpolkadotfood says:

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

    1. theonlycin says:

      Thanks pinky πŸ™‚

  20. Leeswammes says:

    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?

    1. theonlycin says:

      Yes, I think that would be best, Judith.

  21. Wow!! You are great!! I am not good at baking at all!!

    1. theonlycin says:

      Thank you πŸ™‚

  22. Would be an awesome cake for a kiddies party! In fact- I am having one on the 6th remember…you keen? Xxx

    1. theonlycin says:

      Mail me if you’re serious, bokkie.

  23. Angel Wessels says:

    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!!

    1. theonlycin says:

      They are not just a client, Angel, they have become good friends and I let them down 😦

  24. Tilly Bud says:

    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.

    1. theonlycin says:

      Thanks for your wisdom, Tilly xxx

  25. Naomi says:

    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!

    1. theonlycin says:

      I didn’t watch it, Naomi, but that is very bizarre!

  26. Tes says:

    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™‚

    1. theonlycin says:

      Thanks Tes, I hope they give me another chance sometime.

  27. SuziCate says:

    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!

    1. theonlycin says:

      Oh thank you SuziCate, that is such a nice thing to say! xxx

  28. MissChris says:

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

    1. theonlycin says:

      It made me very anxious …

  29. Jamie Dedes says:

    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 ….

    1. theonlycin says:

      I’m going to make another one, a 3 tier, to take to them to show them what ‘my way’ would have looked like … and to say sorry to them …

  30. Hmm, I think you are being too hard on yourself – the last picture doesn’t look that bad – besides with everybody putting things on top of it all, it won’t matter.
    πŸ™‚ Mandy

    1. theonlycin says:

      Well, the cake didn’t make the show after all …

  31. totsymae1011 says:

    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™‚

    1. theonlycin says:

      Thanks for the visit, funny girl πŸ˜‰

  32. Pseu says:

    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.
    πŸ™‚
    “Next time beware,” as the bear said.

    1. theonlycin says:

      Clever Pseu, thank yew πŸ˜‰

  33. 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.

    1. theonlycin says:

      You’re very sweet, thanks Lee πŸ™‚ xxx

      1. You’re welcome, sweetie πŸ˜‰

  34. earlybird says:

    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…

    1. theonlycin says:

      It seems like ages ago that I was sick, but thanks, Earlybird πŸ™‚

  35. 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.

    1. theonlycin says:

      Oh I know how you felt, Linda!

  36. I don’t think it’s ugly. It looks like it’s begging for a pot of coffee to be set next to it. Pass me a plate, please. πŸ™‚ Blessings to you…

    1. theonlycin says:

      Bless you for being so kind, Carol xxx

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