Take Heart: I Make Mistakes, Too

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I make tons of mistakes. Now that’s out of the way. Let’s get to the story of my weekend baking (near) disaster.

On Saturday evening, I made a quadruple batch of sourdough chocolate cake — for my sister’s visit and for a potluck on Sunday. I quadrupled all the ingredients, but somehow I multiplied the baking soda by 8. This means the baking soda was double what it should be.

Would the cakes turn out? I put them in the oven, hopeful but filled with dread and frustration with myself… “all that expensive coconut oil” was the phrase I kept repeating to myself, heightening my already sick feeling.

While waiting for the cakes to bake, I ground more flour and fed the starter again, just in case…

 

Somehow the cakes turned out fine. (Did you notice how I posted “chic” instead of “choc” on Facebook? Really, I can blame that on my phone’s auto-correct.)

This story does not end there. No, my mistakes continued to pour forth…

On Sunday morning — just half an hour before we had to leave for church — I started the chocolate buttercream frosting. It was so last minute because I had thawed the butter that morning instead of the night before. And it was still too cold and would not cream. This is me, frustrated with trying to get the butter soft. My sister documented the whole story. :)

This is what butter does to beaters when it is too cold. It fills them up and then won’t go anywhere. In other words, it won’t cream.

I emptied those beaters a million times before the butter was finally soft. I also switched back and forth between beaters and food processor another million times. What finally worked was adding the cream, which was supposed to go in at end of the recipe.

My sister suggested I warm the cream a bit before adding it. I didn’t take her advice, though I should have. My excuse — my frustration level was high, I was tired of trying different things, and I didn’t want to add one more thing to the list.

This is not my best quality, but there it is. When things are difficult, I tend to want to scrap it all, or at least keep my attempts to fix very, very simple.

Anyway, the butter finally creamed. So it was time to add the powdered rapadura and everything else. But I didn’t powder the rapadura fine enough, so the frosting was really crystal-y. It tasted good, though.

I frosted the cake anyway. There was no going back at that point. ;)

We arranged the cake for the potluck and off we went to church. Not the prettiest, but you know at that point, I just wanted to be done with it. I thanked God for helping me finish the project and I asked Him to bless that cake.

Everyone said this was the best cake ever. It really was good.

For future reference, I don’t recommend doubling the baking soda. ;) I think it made the cake crumbly, but not fatally so. The additional saltiness was perfect (note to self: just add more salt next time).

The frosting was absolutely delicious (a real food recipe coming soon) — the coarser sugar crystals having dissolved into smooth perfection.

What should you take away from this? At the very least, be encouraged that I make mistakes, too — lots of them.

But more importantly — isn’t God gracious? We can trust our results to His care.

Sometimes things don’t turn out very good, yet we can always praise Him and learn from each experience.

Thankfully, many times — like this weekend — He works in spite of our mistakes and weaknesses to make things very good! Thank you, Lord!

Please share anything on your heart about this idea of being real, being human, and trusting God to bless the work of your hands. I look forward to what you’ll share.

This post was shared in Simple Lives Thursday.

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Comments

  1. says

    Wardee, I make mistakes all the time when I’m doubling. What I should really do is write down the doubled amounts before I start, because somewhere in the middle I forget I’m doubling! I’m not sure how you doubled your double, but hey, it happens! God is gracious, indeed. :)

    • Allie says

      Raw milk doesn’t set when making yogurt because of all the activity between the digestive enzymes and the starter cultures. If you add about 4 drops of rennet to a gallon, and let it set between 4-7 hours, you should be good – any longer and you’ll have cheese. Your other option is to pasteurize yourself in order to neutralize the enzymes. I’ve brought raw milk to 140 degrees,(then fast coll back to <110) and once it set and another time it didn't. It worked when I brought it up to 180. If you don't mind a liquidy, non-set yogurt, you can just drink it like kefir. Good luck!

    • Kirsten says

      My yogurt is always raw. Sometimes if the temp is off when you introduce the culture that can affect the set, or if you jiggle the yogurt midway through the fermentation, OR if your starter is old. I have had this happen but I still use the milk. I use it in recipes or smoothies just fine.

      My practice is to bring the milk to 110, then back down to 100-105 then whisk in the culture. I make 2 gallons of yogurt at a time once each week and if I watch the temp, I have no problems. I do have a feature on my oven for “Bread Rise” which keeps it at 100 deg. This, for me, is perfect. I haven’t ever gotten cheese but we do like our yogurt strong, when you can see little bubbles down the side of the glass jar, after a good 12 hours overnight.

      Hope this helps! :)

  2. jan says

    Hi Wardee,

    God is so good! A vs. came to mind, His strength is made perfect in our weakness. I wonder if sometimes, He isn’t just waiting, wanting to help us while we struggle to do things in our own strength. I’m not sure that applies to cake baking, LOL, but for some reason that is what came to mind.

    God is gracious and I think it is so wonderful that He cares about the little things. I always knew He did, but not to the extent that I do since dealing with Lyme disease. I literally have giggled with delight in the care He gave me when my life was all about the little things having no strength in myself. My illness caused me to get closer to Him and I hope in my healing (that He seems to be giving me) I don’t lose that dependence, that closeness, that wonderful fellowship!

    God bless and Merry Christmas,
    jan

    • says

      Jan — I’m so encouraged by what you shared. And I love that verse — one of my favorites. It often comes to my mind at moments like these!

      Thank you for sharing how God has cared for you through your illness. That’s what it’s all about! {hugs}

  3. says

    I have started cooking in my new commercial kitchen space, so have had a couple of things not turn out as well as usual as I get used to a new oven plus “somehow” I mismeasured, also with baking powder, and thought some of the same things… oh no. I didn’t have enough of the other ingredients to re make. It turned out ok. I haven’t had to throw away any mistakes lately, but it can sure be a humbling experience, which I do think is good for the soul.

    This reminds me of the tradition in quilting of intentionally making a “mistake”. put in an extra stitch somewhere or put in a piece backwards. The idea behind that is to remember that only God can make something perfect. including us perfectly imperfect people. :)

    • says

      Charity — How exciting that you’re in your new kitchen! I know what you mean about adjusting to new things, though.

      Yes, humility is good for us. Very good.

      I love your reminder about the quilting mistakes. That’s a neat, neat practice. :)

      • Kathryn says

        I love Charity’s comments, especially about the quilting. However, as a quilter, no matter how hard I try, I cannot make a perfectly stitched quilt , so I’m not so sure of the validity of that statement. However, as a non-perfect quilter, I know it does keep me humbled. :-)

  4. says

    I love that in the midst of it, you were thanking God for helping you get through it, and giving Him praise for a wonderful turn-out to what could have been a big disappointment. I’m encouraged by the reminder to include the Lord even in my daily ups and downs – with the cooking and the laundry and the seemingly mundane. Thank you for bringing that to my attention today. ;)

    And now, I really, really want some chocolate sourdough cake. It’s no fun being this pregnant and so prone to yummy suggestions! :)

  5. says

    I had a similar experience in God’s heaping helpings of grace just this afternoon. I decided to bake gingerbread cookies with my students (we have been reading several versions of the classic gingerbread man story). We don’t have on oven at school, but I have a large portable toaster oven that I have used for baking at school before. It does tend to run hot, so I am usually extra careful when baking. But today, after I put in the first batch, I got busy with helping a group of students roll more dough and cut more cookies, and I didn’t realize they had been in too long until I smelled them burning. This would be a relatively small kitchen disaster, except that I wasn’t in a kitchen but in my classroom with the potential to turn on the school fire alarm which would lead to the whole school evacuating the building (not to mention the fire trucks coming….) Anyway, I managed to grab the smoking mess out of the oven and open a nearby window and wave them in the fresh air until they had cooled down. Thanking God the whole time that my inattention did not cause a huge disaster for the school. I felt very real and human today, knowing what could have happened. And very thankful for the faithfulness of a God who saves us from our mistakes!

  6. Genevieve says

    I mess up on the regular but I have to say my all time favorite kitchen flub was back when my husband and I started dating and he tried to make some bread in my mother’s breadmaker. Instead of teaspoons he put in tablespoons…of yeast! I came up from the shower an hour later and the dough had popped the latch on top and was overflowing all over the counter. Took forever to clean up but we had a good laugh.

  7. Lisa Kreinbrook says

    So glad they turned out for you. The first meal I “cooked” for my fiance (now husband of 17 years) was a Chef Boyardee pizza mix. Put the water and dough mix together, but couldn’t figure out why it looked so watery. After staring for awhile I figured out I’d put the parmesan cheese mixture in the water instead of the dough, whoops! Glad he still decided to marry me, and very glad I don’t cook that junk anymore!

    Thanks for being real:)

    Lisa

    • Kirsten says

      Lisa: Too funny, I love it! ;-)

      When my husband and I were first married, I decided to try out my new crock-pot and blender. I made a… wait for it…. carrot and bear-sausage stew. I know, I know, but wait, there’s more…
      It wasn’t thickening so I knew with bean or potato soups you can puree a portion of it to thicken it. This, however, doesn’t work with, ahem, carrot and bear-sausage stew. By the time I was done it looked like “vom” and my father-in-law and DOG wouldn’t even eat it. Somehow, through all my culinary successes, our family doesn’t allow me to forget that meal. And you know, I have blown through several other crockpots through the years, but that silly thing keeps hanging on, even without her handles! LOL

  8. Crissy says

    Thank you so much for sharing this! I’m almost crying. I as a young Mama to four- 5 yr. old,4 yr. old,2 year old and 5 month old need to hear these things! It’s not as much the cake mess up but seeing your heart in sharing this! I can not thank you enough for all that you do in sharing your wisdom and experiences. I told my husband after I signed up for the basic class that I felt bad that I was paying so little for so much! My heart aches for other Mom’s to be real with me and the new Mom’s I see coming! I have a friend who was devistated at how her body changed after birth because nobody was real with her or talked about it. Even in our lovely Church communities I think people don’t want to “complain” so they don’t talk about the really hard stuff. Oh how I wish they did so I didn’t feel so horrible about myself and my kids sometimes! Through you and the Mom’s that have contributed to your courses you have had an enormous impact on our lives! I don’t feel bad about dusty measuring cups anymore. ;) I love your philosophies on the way you do things. They are freeing and enabling! So thank you for Mothering from a distance. You have been his hand in our lives! My kids tell me “I want to watch Wardee!” They love watching you make things! :0) Thank you for being a part of our lives. Even if it is through the internet :)

    • Sue Rine says

      Crissy, my heart goes out to you, having been in your position ie with four children of similar ages to yours and trying to figure out how to survive it all. At a particularly low point a ‘helpful’ man at church said to me. “You think it’s bad now, just wait until they’re all teenagers!” To be fair, he didn’t know I was feeling out of my depth. Anyway, I’d like to encourage you with the opposite. :-) Once they can all put on their own gumboots and fasten their own seatbelts its all on the up. And the teen years…never so overwhelming as the baby/toddler years. Ours are teens to young adults now and still talking to us and they even like each other. LOL
      Blessings,
      Sue

  9. says

    Oh and I just had a good laugh remembering my worst mistake in the kitchen… I was living in China and hadn’t yet learned to read characters for the items I’d buy in the market. I switched the sugar and salt on accident on my first batch of homemade-from-scratch biscuits, which my teammates and fiance’ were eagerly waiting to devour… After tasting the first batch, I *thought* I’d just put too much salt and so I decided to try to ‘fix’ the rest of the dough by adding what I still *thought* was sugar – thus adding even MORE salt to the dough by mistake.

    The result was a batch of biscuits so disastrous no one could stand a bite! :)

    • Sue Rine says

      My first ever batch of scones, (I think that’s what you call biscuits?) was meant to be trebled but the only thing I actually trebled was the salt!! Yikes!! My Mum “solved” the problem by making soup without salt and made us eat those scones anyway! LOL
      Sue

  10. says

    I have been a subscriber to Cook’s Illustrated for ten years. It never ceases to amaze me the way that mistakes sometimes point the way to recipe fine tuning!

  11. says

    Wardee thanks for sharing this story! I definitely have done those things before and it’s super frustrating esp when you know it’s for other people so you want it to be perfect. I’m glad it came out for you and that it was a hit!!

  12. says

    Wardee, I had a similar baking (near) disaster. Somehow when I was making cream cheese frosting for my son’s birthday the cream cheese and butter didn’t emulsify correctly and ended up curdling. That has never happened to me before. I’m sure it had something to do with the fats not being at the same temperature. Anyway, an hour before the party and I was panicked, crying and everything else. I didn’t have any more cream cheese and no time to start over. I was about to have frosting-less cake. Then, Anthony had the idea of drizzling in melted chocolate to see if that would bring it together. I didn’t think it would work and was still determined to have a vanilla cream cheese frosting. Finally, out of desperation, I tried it and it whipped up beautifully and actually ended up being some of the best tasting frosting ever.
    You are certainly not alone :)

  13. says

    I’m glad you shared this Wardee, sometimes us newbies are already fighting being overwhelmed and then we mess up, and we get overwhelmed again as we try to figure out how to get out of it. LOL (the voice of experience here talking ;-) ). I’m glad it worked out for you and that you shared, we can learn from all that you share. Thanks for being open and honest. :-)

  14. Amy Horton Davis via Facebook says

    Wardee, I’m so glad all ended well, and you saw the blessing in it – God is good. I made an error last week on my baking day (for Christmas gifts) – added the sugar directly to the oil/egg mixture & was supposed to double, but lost my count somehow & couldn’t take it out to re-measure; I ended up tasting the batter & adding more, as I just wasn’t sure. I know better than to do that, but I had a red-head moment (and no excuse like the phone rang, lol!). I did the same thing with homemade powdered sugar one time, & took a “crunchy” icing cake to a Bible study potluck, and everyone LOVED it! Isn’t that funny how we see it as mess-up, and it all turns out fine? Hugs!

  15. says

    We have to remember that precise measures have not always been used – butter, the size of an egg, a teacup-ful of sugar, etc. Is cooking and baking really all that precise? Obviously not since your cake turned out just fine and many “errors” like that generally do.

    • jan says

      Mrs. K,

      That’s a very liberating thought for me! I always go by recipes and if that 1/4 tsp of salt is one grain over… LOL I am almost that bad. I need to let go like my dil and my niece. They are learning to use the healthier sweeteners, and other such things, because they are not afraid to take the chance. I have got to get with it if I am going to cook & bake Real Food.

  16. Toni Dunlap says

    This was very encouraging to me this morning, especially reading about how God cares about even the little things in our lives. I needed to be reminded!

  17. says

    Oh my goodness! I have cooking failures very very often! Sometimes I leave something out of a recipe, or more often, I am experimenting and it’s an unmitigated disaster! We are used to it. :)
    I am glad your nice cake was ok. The waste of ingredients can be a little heartbreaking. Merry Christmas!

  18. Kristie says

    Today I was feeling like the house is never clean when I leave (including old food on the counter etc.), and my mom is baking and I thought why don’t I ever have time for that? Also, we haven’t done much “homeschool” lately. Of course we are doing a devotional on modesty, but nothing else. I asked God to encourage me. First I realized I still have little ones. Mine are 5 and 12. Or at least one little one! And she seems to need alot! I felt like that was God encouraging me. Then when I was at the check out counter of the Piggly Wiggly, (where there is no organic food!) I felt like God said that he blesses my efforts. As I looked into my cart I realized my food was not perfect, but God blesses it and I am doing the best I can. I am glad I don’t have to try to “do life” alone.

  19. says

    Wardee,

    I just had to say that I smiled looking at these photos. You look like I feel in the midst of a kitchen mess up. My kitchen is a mess, the recipe isn’t working out and I’m stressed.

    Thanks for sharing the reality. I don’t know that I could get my 11 year old to take photos to chronicle my moments, but I could try :-).

  20. Whitney says

    Thank you for sharing your ‘troubles’ and how you found His grace during it all.

    As far as the butter not being soft enough to cream: I learned somewhere that hitting it with a rolling pin while it’s still in stick form will help it finish coming to room temp. I believe it transfers the energy of the whack to the butter without actually heating it and causing any melting like actual applied heat would. I hope that helps for next time! :)

  21. says

    So glad you shared this, Wardee. The good and the bad. I’m a pretty good cook myself married to an awesome professional chef. We could write a book just featuring the mistakes and fixes we’ve survived!

    I want that full cake and frosting recipe!

  22. Tammy says

    Thanks, Wardee. We all make mistakes! God bless you and yours. We appreciate the story and your sense of humor. The Lord is good indeed!!

  23. Dani says

    LOVE the comments–we are ALL human, aren’t we? Heck, my paternal grandmother taught me that sometimes the mistakes and strange substitutions can turn out to be the most serendipitous changes! Except for that one time, when she mixed pineapple cream cheese with the Ranch dressing, trying to stretch it for veggie dip–EPIC fail, but we all had a good laugh.
    My own experiments with bread, like the time I thought, “well, Wardee says a wetter dough is better,” and my “risen loaves” glopped over the sides of the pan and all over the oven as they proofed… those bricks didn’t even make good croutons LOL
    Hmm. Think I’m gonna go check out that sourdough cake recipe again–and if it flops, then all is just fine!

  24. Sue Rine says

    Thanks for sharing your story Wardee. I don’t know whether you tried it, but one thing that can help with too hard butter is to get someone(s) to hold their hands around the outside of the bowl. This gives just enough gentle heat to soften the butter sufficiently for it to cream.

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