2021 might not have been the year many of us expected (or hoped for), but it was a good reminder that, much like in life, sometimes our culinary attempts don’t go as planned either—regardless of how experienced we are in the kitchen!
So, in the spirit of closing out this year with a smile and ushering in fresh beginnings, we’re sharing 21 kitchen disasters from our staff members and BAKE! students. (Even if they weren’t at the time, hopefully, most of them have gotten funnier with time.)
Sara Molinaro, BAKE! Principal
Just the other day I sifted baking soda instead of powdered sugar and tried to make a glaze with it—that did not work and it tasted terrible.
Sue Chagas, BAKE! Instructor
You all know I am a stickler for the mise en place… I was teaching a virtual session of Dinner Series: Hungarian and I didn’t have my mise en place ready. I made the kifli and it all melted into a giant flat tray-sized mess, I left something out or got the measurements wrong!
In culinary school, they didn’t give us enough apples to make a full batch of applesauce, so I used what I had, left it on the gas stove, and went off to make another dish. The apples cooked much faster than anticipated and turned into what looked like cooled lava rock on the bottom of the pan—stuck like gorilla glue. We didn’t have a lot of good pots at school and that was one of them, it took 2 days and 4 people to chip all the lava rock out and clean the pot so it was usable. It was called “the pot of shame.” It still haunts me.
Not the kitchen, but last week husband and I were making burgers for dinner. He’s somehow managed to set the entire grill on fire (big flames everywhere). He came into the house and was filling a random bottle with water and I asked him what he was doing, he told me he was going to put the fire out on the grill. I stopped him before he did anything and put the fire out with an extinguisher. Please don’t forget that water on a grease fire is a bad idea.
Was roasting tomatoes for tomato soup in a 400°F oven. When I took out the tomatoes, the sheet pan was so heavy that I dropped the tomatoes all over the very hot oven and the floor. It took me days to clean the oven. Lesson learned: use two hands to grab baking sheets out of the oven!
Amy Emberling, Bakehouse Managing Partner
Many years ago, we used the wrong proportions of cinnamon to sugar in our Thanksgiving apple pies. About 350 pies went out with a lot of cinnamon. The result was a filling that looked and spread like brown mucus! Customers were not pleased, you might say.
I am a homebrewer as well as a baker. I had a keg of fresh cider that a few days prior I had filled fresh at the cider mill. Well… the cider started fermenting in the sealed keg. My little one was asleep on my chest in the living room (open floor plan) when the keg blew, spraying the ceiling, entire kitchen, and me and the child with cider.
I was making my wedding cake and put four pans full of batter in the oven—2 on top, 2 on the bottom. When I put in the final one on the bottom, it caught my thermometer and actually pulled the entire rack down. Cake batter went everywhere. In my panic, I tried to pull the pans out and ended up burned. I turned off the oven, but it doesn’t stop the smoke coming from the coil. So now, I had the smoke detector blaring, a burned hand, and an oven full of batter that I couldn’t clean until it cooled down an hour later. The house would go on to smell like burnt cake every time I turned on the oven for the next 2 months.
I was making a cake that included puréed roasted beets. My container of beets toppled over and my kitchen looked like a crime scene. And, how could I forget—same recipe, different cake: I had the finished cake cooling on a rack. But, it must have been too close to the edge of the table, as it toppled over onto the floor. As I was making this for a friend’s birthday, I had just ruined her birthday cake! However, I salvaged what I could (chunks of broken cake) and we had ‘floor cake’ that wasn’t suitable for other guests. (Lesson learned: Don’t leave your immersion blender unattended in the container and make sure cooling racks are not at the edge of the countertop.)
We had two couples over. The ladies had decided it would be fun to make our own individual pizzas. One girl picked up pizza dough at a local pizza parlor. I wanted to try one full-size chicken Alfredo pizza, so we started with that one. My friend made the Alfredo sauce ahead of time. We assembled it on my large pizza stone and slid it into the oven. At the appointed time, we peeked to see how it looked. The oven was on fire! Apparently, the sauce melted and dripped, catching fire in my electric oven. The men got a kick out of it, as they exited to eat on the deck. We still made our individual pies, and everyone loved the Alfredo pizza!
About 20 years ago, I was hosting Thanksgiving dinner for my family and my daughter’s sister-in-law and her children. I made extra sweet potatoes and they filled the casserole dish almost to the top. I didn’t allow for expansion as they heated. Then I just had to add marshmallows for the kids. They also expanded and slid right over the sides and onto the bottom of the oven, bursting into flames.
Lindsay-Jean Hard, Bakehouse Marketer
Many years ago, I got my husband an at-home brewing kit, because, well, we like beer, and it seemed like a fun activity to do together. At one point we were attempting to transfer liquid from an enormous pot into a 5-gallon bucket, and… we failed. So we had about 5 gallons of not-yet-beer all over the kitchen floor. (We still like beer, but now leave the brewing to the professionals.)
Made a pot of homemade ketchup and dropped it with an unexpected force so the kitchen looked like a crime scene.
In college, I was home on break. I was bored, broke, and had a major sweet tooth. The only thing in the house was a box of Jell-O. So I made the Jell-O but was impatient in letting it set.
So, I decided to make cookies. I wanted really soft cookies so I found a recipe online (this was the early 2000s, so recipes weren’t as easy to come by), made the cookies, and was SO proud…until they didn’t spread or anything. They were legit rocks! Rocks!!!
But! I still had Jell-O!! So I dig into the Jello-O that had now set… but no one told me that you don’t salt EVERY pot of water you boil… so I had rocks for cookies and salty, salty Jello-O.
My mom came home and reached in for a bite of Jell-O—the look on her face was worth it! For almost two decades I was the cooking and baking joke of the family. Only in the last few years (and major thanks to BAKE!) have they come to respect me in the kitchen and I’m now the go-to cook and baker in the family.
This misadventure started when I was working out of state and broke my ankle. After I got out of the hospital, I rejoined my coworkers in the weekly cookouts at our corporate digs. The other woman and I were charged with bringing dessert, and I decided to make a lemon meringue pie. We went to the store, got a graham cracker crust and everything else to make the pie. Back ‘home,’ I propped my cast up on the counter and made that pie filling and then the absolutely perfect meringue—with only a wire whip, no power tools. It was beautiful. Then, as I stood on my one good leg and bent to place the pie in the super-hot oven, the disposable foil pan collapsed in half, so I literally poured the perfect pie onto the floor of the oven. I am very proud to report that I immediately stood up, turned around, and asked my coworker, “What else can we make?” Brownies. We went to the store and bought brownie mix. When the guys later asked, “Where’s the pie?” we turned as one and said, “DON’T ASK.”
I was about 8 or 9 years old when my mom let me bake cookies by myself. I was so excited because she had bought peanut butter chips instead of chocolate. The cookie dough looked perfect. Of course, my dad was always my taste tester. After one bite, he yelled for my mom, “ What did she put in these?!” Mom helped me figure out I had added 1/4 cup of baking soda instead of 1/4 tsp. They still laugh about that. I learned to slow and read recipes more carefully!
In 3rd grade, my friend and I decided that for the science fair we were going to create a healthy new dish that supplied your daily nutrients. We named it TONUSA (TOtally NUtritious… forget what the last part stood for). We took a survey of what items from different food groups were most common on people’s shopping lists. Then we combined all those things using Bisquick as a binder. Things that I remember for sure being in it: chicken, ice cream, green beans…. these things do not belong together. It was an epic failure in terms of being edible by humans. My friend’s dogs ate it… but holy heck, it was the worst tasting thing I’ve ever put in my mouth!!
I tried substituting chia seeds in water for eggs when making cream puffs… Needless to say, I won’t be doing that again, lol.
Hands-down a recipe for a 4-layer Devil’s Food Cake with Peppermint Frosting.
The first time I made it was bad enough; I misjudged the height of my cake tray and when I put the lid on, I unknowingly squished the cake, and all the filling came squirting out the sides. I ended up having to tip it into a bowl and pour the frosting over top.
But the SECOND time I made it was the real caketastrophe. I was making it for my cousin’s visit the next day, thinking that I was smarter now and would avoid any similar mishaps. But I stayed up so late baking that by the time I got to the frosting, I was about to fall asleep on my feet, and the frosting WOULD NOT BOIL.
I finally decided to take a five-minute nap, only to wake up to the fire alarm because my frosting had boiled over and set the hob ablaze. I whipped the pan off the heat and set it onto a glass cutting board that my mother had given me, backing away in horror as I observed the fiery mess that was my stove, when I suddenly heard a peculiar crackling sound… and then, suddenly, the entire glass cutting board exploded into tiny pieces, sending chunks of glass (enrobed in flaming marshmallow) flying all over my kitchen. Miraculously I wasn’t hit, but it did burn several holes in the carpet.
After I put out the fire, I just stood there, overwhelmed, until I finally decided that I just needed to go to bed and worry about it in the morning. (Amazingly, by the time my cousin arrived, I’d managed to clean it up so thoroughly that he couldn’t tell there’d been an accident! But I was finding little chunks of glass all over my kitchen for months.)
I haven’t had the courage to try making this cake again since.
When I was 16 or 17 years old, my mom had a side-by-side oven and I was responsible for the Thanksgiving turkey. She and my dad left our house to go work on the new home they were building. My mom put the big bird in the oven and left me instructions to turn the oven on sometime after they left—which I did, and then went to hang out with a friend. Later when we all were home, mom went to check on the bird and asked me about basting. I admitted I hadn’t followed through on that aspect. Had I basted it, I would have realized I turned the wrong oven on. We had canned tuna that Thanksgiving!
We were having a big holiday dinner party at our house that evening, and fireplace guys were there during the day to install a liner. They ran into some issues with uneven bricks and ran very late. I pulled some tomato soup out of the freezer to feed them because they hadn’t taken a meal break. Put it in the blender to break it up, but failed to push the blender lid down when I turned it on. Tomato soup all over the kitchen ceiling. It was pretty impressive…
Here at the Bakehouse and BAKE!, we wouldn’t have made it through this year without your support—thank you. We look forward to enjoying culinary adventures with you in the new year!
Hungry for More?
- Improve your culinary skills and join us for a virtual or in-person class at BAKE!, our hands-on baking school.
- If you’ve already taken a class at BAKE!, join the BAKE! Community group on Facebook for more of these fun discussions.
Lindsay-Jean Hard's passion for sustainability and education at the University of Michigan went on to inform and inspire her in many ways from going to extreme lengths to recycle at a post-college job to creating her cookbook, Cooking with Scraps, a labor of love inspired by her Food52 column of the same name. Today, she strives to convince everyone she meets to try eating banana peels and works to build and connect new communities as a marketer at Zingerman’s Bakehouse in Ann Arbor, Michigan.