Cooking-Related Breakdowns: Do You Tell? | Cupcake Project

Never miss a recipe!

Subscribe now

Cooking-Related Breakdowns: Do You Tell?

Home  »  Recipes  »  custard  »  Cooking-Related Breakdowns: Do You Tell?

Last week, I was lucky enough to attend a pre-screening of Julie & Julia (it’s a must-see for food bloggers and a should-see for everyone else). I saw the movie with Groom 2.0. After it was over, he turned to me and asked if I ever have breakdowns like Julie has in the film. “You don’t write about that on your blog.”

Yes, I have cooking-related breakdowns. There, I’ve said it.

Like Julie, I imagine all of my readers waiting on the edge of their seats to see what masterpiece cupcake I’ll come up with next. I feel guilty when I don’t post and guilty when I post something that is only so-so or downright bad. I also hate wasting food. There is nothing worse than the feeling of tossed food – think about the starving children who would love even a bad cupcake.

One Week – Three New Cupcake Recipes

The past couple of weeks have featured more than my normal share of cupcake crises. As you may have seen, I’ll be writing for Paula Deen Online starting in October. What I didn’t mention is that they need all four recipes by the end of August. I’m due to have a baby on Saturday, so I wanted to get them done ASAP, pre-baby.

I made three recipes last week. I love two of the three. My mom said that one of these was about the best thing she’s ever eaten! I can’t wait to share!!

However, the third recipe is evil! I will tell you that it involves making caramel and then getting said caramel to stick to a wet object. After my fourth caramel screw up, I fell, deflated, to the floor – much like the meringue you’ll read about later in this post that collapsed before ever really peaking. I could blame prego hormones for my brief moment of instability, but I’ve had pre-pregnancy cooking-related breakdowns, too.

Jonathan encouraged me to keep trying at the caramel and kept offering to go to the store to buy more heavy whipping cream and sugar. Sweet success came on my seventh try. Sadly, the moment was fleeting. The morning after, I awoke to find that all of the candy caramel coating had dripped off of the object. GRRR. Major disappointment. I haven’t given up on the caramel, but I have taken a break. I simply can’t handle another caramel catastrophe at this moment.

On the bright side, I gave a batch of tasty, but not so sticky caramel to a friend and it’s arriving back at my house tomorrow in the form of homemade caramel pear ice cream. Yay!

What Not to Do With 12 Egg Whites

For one of the two successful Paula Dean cupcakes, I used twelve egg yolks – pretty crazy, huh?! Since a week had gone by without posting on this blog, I thought I would bake cupcakes with the twelve egg whites. I even had the title all figured out (“What to Do With 12 Egg Whites”). I followed a recipe that I found for an egg white cake (using 6 egg whites) and made a couple of changes to make them cupcakes – disaster! The cupcakes stuck to the wrappers and had a weird macaroon-like consistency.

Despite the botched cupcakes, I thought that perhaps I could save them with some frosting. I planned to make a Swiss meringue buttercream that would use the other six egg whites. As sometimes happens (with meringue), it never got stiff enough. Besides, I didn’t even like the taste. “Another tasty treat for the trash,” I thought.

Jonathan, however, would have none of it. He refused to let me throw it out. Instead, he whipped it a bit more, added some cream of tartar, and baked it in ramekins. Two hours later, we had a fluffy, sweet, tasty, custard-like dessert that I would highly recommend to anyone.

Sometimes, I remember on my own that you can turn lemons into lemonade, but sometimes it takes someone else to remind me to turn that frown upside-down.

On that note, I present Stef and Jonathan’s Egg White Vanilla Custard.


If you've tried this recipe, please RATE THE RECIPE and leave a comment below!

0 from 0 votes

Egg White Vanilla Custard


  • 6 egg whites
  • 1 1/2 C sugar
  • 2 t vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
  • 1 C butter room temperature
  • 1 t cream of tartar


  1. Whip egg whites and sugar until foamy and doubled in size.
  2. Mix in vanilla bean paste.
  3. Mix in butter, one tablespoon at a time.
  4. Mix in cream of tartar.
  5. Distribute evenly among ramekins. They should be about half full.
  6. Bake at 200 F for about two hours.
  7. Use a culinary torch to brûlée the top of each custard.

The Next Few Weeks

If I disappear for a stretch of time, it’s probably because I’ve had the baby. I’ll surely continue baking cupcakes, but I may need a few weeks off. Although, my doula says that baking cupcakes is a great thing to do in early labor, so we shall see. :)

Do You Have Cooking-Related Breakdowns?

Do you ever have breakdowns when recipes don’t go the way you want? Do you tell?

Love it? Share it!

25 comments on “Cooking-Related Breakdowns: Do You Tell?”

  1. Yesterday I was trying to make one of a Martha Stewart’s cookie – and it was awful!!! The cookies had too much baking power and too many egg yolks and brrrr… It was a disaster. It was a time and food wasting case tipically. :( Now I don’t feel like to cook. I hate to be unsuccesful in the kitchen. Sometimes a bad cupcake or bake (or anything else) can make me feel myself clumsy and dissociate myself from baking for weeks.

    Good luck to your baby and I wish you happiness and health for you both and all of your family.

    (excuse me for my English)

  2. I nearly had a cooking related breakdown on Wednesday night, when my tray of Oatmeal Cookies glued themselves to the pan…. I applied gentle pressure with a spatula only to have them crumble into a brittle yet tasty dust… I’m still not sure where I went wrong, but I did not enjoy the panicked cold sweat I broke into when I realised I had a dozen ruined cookies on my hands!! Thankfully the other tray was salvagable and I had enough to bring into work for my colleagues, but it was a close one! :)

  3. Alliesays:

    I absolutely have cooking breakdowns–usually when I’m trying to make someone something special, rather than just fooling around. Making cinnamon rolls for the in-laws? Dough won’t rise. Making something special for a coworker? Burn my hand badly enough for an ER visit. Have a request for angel food cake? Turn out a batch of hockey puck cupcakes. I usually will try again until I get it right, although sometimes it’s too devastating. But, I’m also shameless when it comes to my kitchen disasters:

  4. Brynasays:

    I would think anyone who bakes has had a baking related break-down. I had TWO wedding cakes due for two weddings on the same day (that I was attending). Just happened to be the same day as the East Coast Blackout. Can we talk STRESS!!!!!
    It happens without fail that my oatmeal raisin cookies are not going to stay together. So, now whenever I make them, I just call them Oatmeal Raisin “Uglies”.

    Lemon, meet lemonade! :)

    Good luck with the baby! My daughter was born in Sept. Summer was brutal. Happy Labor Day!

  5. Stefsays:

    Jociandi – I know. It’s so hard to get going again after something doesn’t work. You just have to do it! Thanks for the good wishes!

    Siobhan – Glad you had one tray that worked! I hate that feeling!

    Allie – I know! It’s ALWAYS when it’s most important that it doesn’t work.

    Bryna – Hah! I love that you changed the name to uglies. :) Thanks for the warm wishes!

  6. Amandasays:

    Oh dear… I have rather frequent baking disasters, hence the “disaster” and “near disaster” tags on my blog. But… I guess the regularity of my disasters means that I don’t have too many breakdowns. :) If I let it get to me each time, I probably would have quit by this point. And that’s just not an option!

  7. Amysays:

    the caramel… Could you put on some sort of frosting first and then put the caramel over it?

  8. Trishsays:

    I could be called, ‘better luck next time’ ….or ‘second time makes perfect’. I soooo know what you are talking about. Anyway…I have to stop right here and say congrats! Wow….baby due and writing for Paula Deen…I am impressed! And I am so happy for you. All the best….I love your little blog…will you still keep it going? How will you ever ever ever have time?!

  9. Stefsays:

    Amanda – Good for you. That’s a great attitude.

    Amy – Hmm.. don’t think so. Since the frosting is moist I think it would cause the caramel to melt. But, good idea.

    Trish – I plan to keep it going. Hopefully, I’ll be able to. Thanks!

  10. Amysays:

    I recently saw a recipe for caramel frosting, but I suppose it wouldn’t look as pretty as the caramel… ^^;;

  11. I almost had a self-imposed baking disaster yesterday… I had a few too many glasses of wine on Saturday night, which made the birthday cake I was baking yesterday very difficult.. I think it took me 6 hours in total… But I finished it, and I was sooo proud of myself! :)

  12. Shannonsays:

    i have had some serious breakdowns in the kitchen… i remember i tried to make christmas cookies and everything was wrong… they spread in the oven so the shapes were deformed than the icing would just not get the right consistency and it went all over my kitchen and it would not turn red even after 2 bottles of coloring than the icing was running off the cookies– im pretty sure i cried

    than there was the scones and when my oven handle broke off so i couldnt get them out than my dad was going to yell at me if it was broken off and he was coming home in about 5 minutes so i managed to pry my oven open get the scones out but than the hot air from the oven came out into my kitchen so it was about 120 degrees in my house – i think i cried then too

    breakdowns is what makes cooking real

  13. What a GREAT re-creation with something gone wrong! Love it!

    I think my worst was the first time I remade my grandmas biscuits for her… as a young girl I felt proud…only to turn out OVERLY salty mess. I thought the recipe said 1 tablespoon of salt and 4 tablespoons of baking powder… turns out it was all teaspoon measures… horrible biscuits! Grandma laughed at least!

  14. Cooking breakdowns? Of course! I hate wasting food; your comment about starving children probably loving bad cupcakes really struck a chord with me. But baking failures happen and breakdowns go along with them.

    On the positive side: congrats on the baby! May you have a swift, painless birthing experience. Don’t worry about us; we’ll keep baking away.

  15. Stefsays:

    Amy – Yeah, prob yummy, but not the right texture.

    Siobhan – Yay! Glad you averted the disaster!

    Shannon – Perhaps they making cooking real – but I think I’d be OK without them. :)

    Jennifer – Were you able to laugh?

    Erin – Thanks!!

  16. Lisasays:

    Great save! When you are always trying new things in the kitchen there are bound to be some disasters. I really admire people who can take the disasters and make something great from them.

  17. Katiesays:

    I totally felt a kin ship with her when she had her melt down. Right at that moment I thought I have done the same thing where I just threw up my hands!

  18. YES, they happen. Geez, it’s frustrating. If they’re really terrible I toss it – what else can you do? If they’re just mediocre but not up to par – not worth posting or really eating but not bad – I pack them up and take them, smiling, to my several neighbors who don’t bake and don’t know the difference, or feed them to my kids’ friends.

    Do I tell? No. Readers don’t come to find bad or so-so recipes. They want the GOODS they can use to impress everyone they know. I was thinking, though, about doing two posts the last week of December: Best Of 2009 and Worst of 2009 in which I will actually list and tell a bit about the major losers (like cookies made with Wheaties and Martha Stewart’s offensively salty peach cookies.)

    Love the cupcakes, by the way :)

  19. Lindseysays:

    Do I have cooking related breakdowns? Is the Pope Catholic?

    I regularly have them, and my poor husband has to scoop me up off the floor and tell me that it’s not the end of the world, that it will still taste delicious, look beautiful, etc. AND he also tells me that if you don’t mess up once in a while you never learn anything. Which is true, but being a perfectionist, I never want to hear that. I want to be perfect on the first try, of course!

    Sometimes there are happy disasters, and sometimes not so much. But I can say without fail that caramel is a tricky beast.

  20. I tried to make chocloate chip cookies- pretty easy, right? Wrong. I forgot a cup of flour (which turns out to be important to the shape of cookies, but not the taste!), and my cookies turned out to be mush. Quite disgusting to look at. The did taste quite amazing, though. =]

  21. we do most of times have cooking breakdown. but it is very awkward to share it with some one.


    Cash Online Get Easy cash at your door step

  22. bettysays:

    Wonderful,beautiful site-love the pictures -thanks for the great info!!!Betty

  23. janetsays:

    I get frustrated when the recipes I try don’t turn out right. I’m like man, they make it look so easy!

  24. Well, I suppose you’ve probably had your baby since I see this post was a couple of weeks back… hope all is well & that you’re having fun & getting sleep :)

    I love cooking disaster stories. I once experimented with a Raspberry Beer Bread 6 times before I finally declared it a disaster (went through the whole 6 pack of beer LOL)!

  25. Elorysays:

    I’ve had a disaster lately in which i wanted to try to make chocolate and pepper cookies. They had molasses and honey to make them sticky. But they smelled horible and tasted even worse. There was no way to fix it so i had to trow away the whole mixture. Had to clean the whole kitchen to get rid of the smell.

    Molasses is not easy to get here, and i might have gotten a wrong brand or something. It might also be that i dont like molasses at all. It took me a day or so to recover, I made myself some cheesecake brownies to comfort myself.

Show All Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Stay Connected!

Join my mailing list - and receive a free eBook!

Sign me up!
Next Post