Wednesday, February 12, 2014

H.U.M.P. Day: "You are so brave to bring that" Cake

Oh man, I've got a fun submission to share with you today. Kathy sent this to us with the title "An Ultimate Pinstrosity". It's truly fabulous. Here is what she wrote on her blog:

I follow a blog called Pinstrosity. Basically, it's people who tried to do a Pinterest project/recipe/gift/whatever and ultimately, absolutely, atrociously failed. I actually like Pinstrosity better than Pinterest itself.

Now, I'd like to first point out that I've attempted several Pinterest projects before, and not to toot my own horn, but toot, I think they came out pretty decent.

For instance, I made this for my mom and mother-in-law for Mother's Day last year. It's a butterfly made out of Allie's footprints:

I've also tried a few hairstyles on Allie before that I found on Pinterest, and this was my favorite:

Then of course there's the famous watercolor projects that I love doing so much:

And the cute Valentine's Day treats that I made for Allie's daycare friends last year:

Food-wise, I've also been fairly successful:

Peanut butter meringue pie Allie and I made for Pi Day last March (3.14)

The adorable desserts I made last Easter to take to my in-laws' Easter dinner

Pumpkin-shaped Rice Krispie treats for Allie's Halloween daycare party

Apple pie cookies I made for Allie's Thanksgiving daycare party

So overall, I think I've been fairly successful with my Pinterest projects.

Then we get to this past Friday . . .

My in-laws were having their traditional Olympics Opening Ceremony party on Friday night. Since the Olympics are being held in Sochi, we decided to do all Russian-themed food and drinks. You know, pierogis (sp? pierogies?), blini, that cheese bread stuff that we actually represented with pizza, black Russians, white Russians, etc.

(Side note: If I were to choose a country to root for based solely on the opening ceremony outfits, the American team would be dead last.)

Anyway, I love to bake, and my in-laws rave about my desserts at our family get-togethers, so I naturally volunteered to make the desserts. I browsed Pinterest for Russian desserts, and settled on two traditional and delicious-sounding desserts: Russian tea cakes and a honeycomb cake.

The Russian tea cakes recipe was a sure winner, since whoever pinned it claimed that this recipe was used for the tea cakes served at the Moscow ballet. And really, how can you go wrong with the Moscow-ballet-tea-cake-recipe?

As promised, the tea cakes turned out delicious and beautiful, although my recipe made a little less than the promised yield. Probably because I made them more like giant Russian tea cookies instead of little dainty tea cakes. Because this is America and our food proportions are usually super-sized.

See? Not all that bad, right? Perfectly baked and rolled in powdered sugar and oh-so-yummy.

Then we get to the honeycomb cake. I'm not even sure if this is an actual Russian dessert, but it showed up when I searched Pinterest for Russian desserts and it looked amazing, sounded fairly easy to make, and (most importantly) I already had the majority of the required ingredients.

It was seriously one of the most beautiful desserts I'd ever seen:

Picture on Pinterest

Picture on Pinterest

I mean seriously -- gooey cherries wrapped in puff pastry and covered with a creamy frosting and homemade chocolate ganache -- I wanted to lick my computer screen it looked so delicious and beautiful.

So I followed the link on Pinterest to the website where you could find the recipefor this amazing creation.

The first step seemed fairly simple. Cut the puff pastry sheets into three even sections each, then roll them out with a rolling pin. Then line the cherries in each section and roll into a tube shape, pinching the ends to seal the cherries in. Easy. 

Next step: take two of the cherry/puff pastry tubes, connect them at the ends, then spiral them around in a cake pan. Do this with all six puff pastries, two per spiral, resulting in three spirals. She even included a nifty little diagram of how to do this:

This is where I started experiencing some minor technical difficulties. When I tried connecting the two puff pastry ends, they didn't really want to smoosh together all that well. So I ended up kind of mashing them together into a little flat section of puff pastry dough. Then, I tried to coil the tubes into a spiral, keeping about a 1/2 inch between each coil like the recipe instructed.

Except when I tried to coil them, the tubes didn't really want to stay rolled and the dough kind of unraveled. The more I tried to roll them back up, the more un-spiraly my spiral got, and the more I tried to spiral them, the more un-rolled the dough tubes got.

After about 15 minutes of fighting with the stupid puff pastry cherry spiral dough tubes that would not stay rolled or spiraled, I finally got a somewhat successful result. Then I spent another 30 minutes doing the same process with the remaining tubes. While I worked on each set of two tubes, I baked the previous set in the oven as instructed.

Finally, all three spiral concoctions were baked and cooling. They looked somewhat decent, except they weren't really perfectly shaped spirals and the puff pastry was very, extremely, abnormally puffy. Puffier than what the picture showed.

After I made the cream frosting and chocolate ganache (both of which were uneventful and successful in their separate rights), it was time to assemble the cake. The first step of the assembly process was to stack the three sets of puff pastry cherry spirals on top of each other. 

Assembly problem #1: Each set was a different size and shape, so instead of perfectly stacking on top of each other to form a perfect circle, each spiral haphazardly perched on top of the previous one and kind of leaned to one side.

But whatever, I thought to myself. That part didn't show anyways and would be covered in creamy frosting and decadent chocolate ganache. Which led to . . . 

Assembly problem #2: When I tried to evenly layer the creamy frosting evenly inbetween each spiral layer, then pour the rest over the top to supposedly flow evenly and cover the entire cake, the frosting very thinly ran off the haphazardly leaning spirals and pooled into a giant puddle on my cake plate. Then I watched in horror as it started to kind of curdle and develop little white chunks. 

Looking back, I think my two mistakes were: 1) Not waiting for the sweetened condensed milk to cool completely, but instead sticking the entire pot in the freezer for a couple minutes since I was running out of time and called it good. The cream frosting was made from three sticks of whipped up butter and the cooled condensed milk. Also 2) the dough cherry spirals were still slightly warm when I frosted them. Now in my defense, the recipe never actually mentioned waiting for the spirals to cool down, so that part didn't really cross my mind.

Next I put the spiral-y cream-y frosting-y leak-y curdling-y mess into the refrigerator to sit for 20 minutes, again like the recipe instructed. At that point, I still had hope that the chocolate ganache would beautifully cover the messy cake so far and it would taste and look amazing.

After 20 minutes, I opened my refrigerator and saw an entire shelf of my fridge covered in the creamy sticky frosting that had oozed over the edge of the cake plate. The cold air had helped the creamy frosting somewhat solidify, just like it was supposed to, but not only did it start to solidify on the cake, it was also solidified onto the shelf. 

Also, the chunky curdles in the frosting were even more obvious now.

So now it was time to cover the cake with the chocolate ganache. And what could possibly go wrong with chocolate ganache?

Assembly problem #3: When I poured the ganache over the cake, it also thinned out, ran down the cake exactly like the creamy frosting had. Now it not only didn't cover the cake at all, but it also added to the liquid-y pooled up mess at the bottom of the plate and made it ooze over the edge even more. 

So I shoved that entire thing back onto the already-sticky fridge shelf with the hope that it might magically somehow fix itself if I chilled it.

Yeah, no. Now the fridge shelf had sticky chocolate ganache added to the mess on top of the curdled cream frosting.

And adding the finishing chocolate sprinkle touch wasn't even in the equation anymore.

I was so tempted to not even bring the stupid not-very-honeycomb-like blob to the party at all, but like I mentioned before, the tea cake recipe made about half of what the yield promised, and I didn't think the cookies alone would be enough dessert for everyone.

Then inspiration struck. I make a dessert called Death by Chocolate. It's a very easy dessert to make, but it actually looks quite impressive and just melts in your mouth. You layer brownie chunks, chocolate pudding and cool whip on top of each other, then cover the entire thing in Heath toffee bits. I thought maybe if I dumped my honeycomb cake in a bowl or serving dish or something, then it might look somewhat like a Death by Chocolate facsimile. 

I dumped the blobby, runny, curdling mess into a glass pie dish. Except now the cake just looked ridiculous because it was still tall like a cake but sitting in a wide low pie dish, surrounded by a moat of curdly creamy frostingy ganache. So I grabbed a spatula and pressed down on top of the cake to try to conform it to the shape of the pie dish and lower it. Instead, the ganache kind of blurped and spit straight up onto my clothes. And still looked horrible. 

Admit it -- you're all waiting for the picture of this horrible Pinstrosity, aren't you? 

Well there it is. Just blobbing there in my pie dish, very much resembling a disgusting gooey pile of dog diarrhea.

The verdict? 
Me: (explained what the dessert was made of)
My inlaws: "ooooo!" "That sounds amazing!" "You made your own ganache?"
Me: "Okay, so before you see it, I have to explain something..."
My inlaws: "No, let's just see it!"
Me: (uncovered the pie dish)
My inlaws: "Euuuw." "What is that?" "Um... oh wow." "You are so brave to bring that."

In the end, everyone told me how proud they were for not only attempting the recipe, but also for then having the courage to bring it to the party. And even though it looked like dog diarrhea, it tasted absolutely amazing. So amazing, in fact, that about 3/4 of the dish was gone by the end of the party.

However, I don't think I'll be attempting this recipe again.


  1. Ha! I also had a big Russian meal fail last night inspired by the Olympics - but I'm half Russian so it's totally worse...I should know how to make things ;) I will say that Russian desserts are almost all hard and intricate to an extreme but so so so delicious. The tea cakes look awesome!

  2. OMg.... that is hilarious! Glad they were brave enough to eat it. I can't quite get over the visual.

  3. This was so hilarious that I was sitting here laughing so hard that my eighteen-year-old son wanted to come in and enjoy the laugh with me. In my opinion you were brave to even TRY this thing! I experienced epic brain fail when I looked at the graph.

  4. I'm familiar with a variation of this cake so I'll venture to say what I think went wrong.
    In the version I know, the cake pastry is baked separately and the (canned) cherries are rolled into straight tubes. They are placed parallel on a dish and frosted with whipped cream with added stiffener. More tubes are placed on top and frosted. The finished cake is sprinkled in chocolate shavings. A slice of this looks like a triangle.
    Now, back to the other recipe. I don't know what puff pastry is, but the cake I described above uses a type of pastry similar to pie pastry, a little chewier and less crumbly. It doesn't puff when baking.
    But the main problem, I think, is that the poster doesn't seem to know what cooked sweetened condensed milk is. It has the colour and consistency of peanut butter. It never-ever makes butter curdle. If you don't have this ingredient ready in stores, you're supposed to boil sweetened condensed milk in the unopened can in a pot of water for a long time. Russian cuisine has many recipes that use the butter/dulce de leche combo. I once overlooked the "cooked" bit and used regular liquid condensed milk. It was edible, but it never hardened. I'm pretty sure this is what happened to the poster.

    1. AH! I think you hit the nail on the head! I did that with the sweetened condensed milk, except I didn't do it in the can -- that's the part the recipe wasn't clear about. I dumped the contents of the can in the pot, then poured water on top of that. I'm familiar with sweetened condensed milk because I use it to make fudge, but typically I just mix it in straight form the can with the melted chocolate chips. Thank you!

    2. OH yeah, that water would cause the butter to separate. What the recipe called for is basically dulce de leche buttercream. Since your dulce de leche was too thin, and possibly too warm, your butter probably broke (the water in the butter separated out from the fat), causing it to look curdled. Additionally, it's rare that you frost a cake while warm, especially with a frosting made with whipped butter, because that warm cake is just going to melt the frosting and exacerbate everything. Glazes go on warm cakes so that the cake absorbs them, but frostings are generally a "cool completely before assembly" item.

    3. Ouch! Uncooked condensed milk AND water into the mix, that's the recipe for disaster. I'm glad we got to the bottom of it! Now that you know where the mistake was, will you be attempting it again?

    4. I think I might! Between your help and the lady below who suggested a different type of cake pan, I think I can make a good second attempt. Thank you! I'll keep you posted. :)

    5. Actually, puff pastry is different than pie pastry and it does puff up. The main fail in the recipe was not letting the cake cool before frosting it and also not waiting (like the recipe tells to) for the condensed milk to cool down before mixing it with butter. You would think that common sense would tell one that mixing anything warm with butter will make it run...

    6. You can just ask if you have any questions :) I promise I don't bite :)

      Reading about your experience actually opened my eyes to a lot of things that I thought were just common knowledge but reading about what happened tells me that I should add some clarification.

    7. Lol, thinking back on it (and I'm a pretty avid baker), it was pretty dumb to not let it cool completely -- something I actually know, but of course, when you're rushing around trying to make your in-laws party and keep your 3 year old out of the kitchen, common sense sometimes goes out the window. :P

    8. I just commented, but it kind of disappeared so sorry if this shows up twice. :)

      Now that I look back on it, I know I def should've let it cool down first. I'm a pretty avid baker and always let my cakes cool down before icing, but when you're running late for a party at the in-laws and trying to keep your 3 year old out of the kitchen, common sense kind of goes out the window. :)

  5. picture of the fridge shelf??? lol Well I give you A for sure gave it the ol' college try. But I did have quite a chuckle at that last picture. If an engineering-like drawing on graph paper is ever included with an alleged 'simple' recipe, that should be a red flag.

  6. Aha! That is a good suggestion too!

  7. and apple pie cookies are amazing! :)

  8. a springform cake ring would work in place of a cake ring (which is basically a pan with no top or bottom for either baking or assembling cakes. If you didn't have either of those things, a cake pan, with buttered parchment on the bottom and sides would probably work in a pinch.

  9. Good lord, I'm an avid Pintrosity lurker too, and this so far is the best epic fail! haha, I was already preparing myself for whatever the cake turned out to be but still did not expect the gooey result! Thanks for the hilarious post, at least you tried =)

    1. Wow! It was made for a good laugh, but I am so sorry about your horrible experience with the recipe.

      If you do gather enough courage to attempt it again, here is a couple of things you should differently:
      1. Never ever frost the cake before its completely cool/cold

    2. It cut off my reply.

      2. If making butter cream or any butter based frosting, never combine it with anything warm (like the condensed milk in this case). All ingredients have to be the same temperature or the buttercream will separate.

      3. If something is not clear in the recipe, always ask before attempting :D

    3. Marina, also, the heated condensed milk -- did you see the person's comment above about heating it while still in the can? I didn't do that -- just dumped the contents of the can into my pot. Is keeping it in the can the correct way?

    4. Kathy, yes you keep it in the can. You put the can (closed) into a pot, cover it with water and boil it for 1.5- 2 hours (all the while keeping the can submerged in water by at least 2 inches) on low heat. If you cook condensed milk opened, once moisture starts to evaporate, the sugar content is too high and it can start to crystalize and make it very unpleasant on the tounge. So keeping it in the can, you get caramel color and flavor, without the risk of it crystalizing.

  10. Yes, you are right, that is exactly how I kept my cake even :)

  11. Having not done much baking with either one, this comment isn't entirely reliable, BUT those look a lot more like FILO dough sheets in the pictures that puff-pastry dough. Puff pastry would, you know, PUFF, but filo dough doesn't do that as much, from what I understand. That, plus using a cake ring/pan/form would help keep them in the right shape, I suspect.

    1. As the author of the recipe I can tell you that it is NOT FILO, but puff pastry that is used in this recipe.

    2. It's puff pastry. I've worked with both puff pastry and filo dough before and they're vastly different. I've actually made my own puff pastry before -- delicious, but a seriously pain in the rear!

  12. Not having used much puff pastry, this comment isn't that reliable. BUT that looks a lot more like FILO dough than puff pastry. Puff pastry would, you know, PUFF. From what I understand filo dough doesn't do that. Between that and using a cake pan/ring, I suspect would help keep it in the right shape.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.