As with so many things that bring me joy, it started with Buzzfeed. 17 Pinterest fails, before and after shots showing the delectable craft/bake dream, and the hilariously godawful reality.
My lust for schadenfreude required more, and so I found Pinstrosity, an amazing blog that provides both the from-the-gut walrus mirth honks I require from my craft fails, as well as providing helpful tips on why they have gone wrong and how to remedy it for next time. (90% of problems are because the crafter/baker didn’t follow the instructions to the letter).
For their first birthday, they asked readers to find something they liked the look of on Pinterest, have a go, and send in their blog. It didn’t have to be a disaster, which is a relief, because the one I tried turned out like a FREAKING DREAM. It was only me who got a lot of it wrong.
My favourite colleague Dan, owner of Boycie, The World’s Most Fabulous Cat, and his lovely wife Cat ended up saving two sheep while on a walk in the country near their home on the south coast. I thought this was brilliant, and having planned to make some office cake anyway that week, decided to make a sheep cake in Dan and Cat’s honour.
One of the ideas Dan sent me was Smart Mama’s utterly amazing Shaun the Sheep cake.
It all looked tremendously simple. I decided to make my favourite carrot cake recipe (BBC Good Food’s Ultimate Makeover carrot cake) which has been doing me sterling service for nearly four years.
Here’s the thing: Americans are obsessed with fake food. Packet cake recipes! Candy melts! Eurgh. If I’m going to eat something that’d bad for me, I want it to be because it’s so full of sugar and chocolate that I could explode at any minute.
Smart Mama made her own almond pound cake (no packets here), but instead of the dreaded candy melts, I used Green and Black’s cooking milk chocolate. And instead of cutting out templates for the ears and feet and face – I am the most appallingly inept cutter-outer of templates for baking – I used spoons and drizzled out the melted chocolate onto greased paper, keeping a hawk eye on Smart Mama’s outlines. A laptop in the kitchen is a recipe book in the kitchen.
I took many, many liberties due to being cheap. I didn’t use marshmallows for the eyes, because I would have had to buy an entire bag. Instead, I marked outlines with white writing icing, whisked up some white icing and pooled it into that, before using black writing icing for his pupils.
It worked brilliantly, right up until I got to the bits where I had been sloppy, and hadn’t sealed the circles probably. OH KATHERINE.
Some other laziness: the icing for the BBC Good Food recipe (which is possibly the healthiest carrot cake under the sun) requires Quark, a fat-free cheese thing, and low-fat cream cheese as well. “Oh let’s just make the icing with Quark to save a bit more money,” I thought. NEGATIVE, KATHERINE. The icing was so incredibly thin and slopping it may as well have been actual water.
Undeterred, I added on my chocolate face accoutrements. I hadn’t put them in the fridge, as I didn’t want them to go all cloudy. I should have put them in the fridge: as soon as I picked up the ears, they bent, and one cracked.
I positioned the face, ears and two of the legs on the cake, and then realised that the ears were bending and breaking proper John Gordon-style. I broke off some of the ear nearest the face to balance it out.
Then I started putting on the little marshmallows I’d got. Amazing! My rather iffy Shaun started to look properly sheep-like. Again, because I’d skimped on the icing, I didn’t do around the sides, but from the top-down I thought it looked rather impressive.
As long as you didn’t look too closely, obvs. But what the hell, let’s look closely so you can see what’s wrong. That’ll teach me for being sniffy about candy melts.
So, in keeping with all good Pinterest fails, this went wrong because I didn’t follow the instructions properly. I didn’t even follow the instructions for my own cake properly!
Why it went wrong
- Icing wasn’t strong enough
- Decided to do completely different stuff for the eyes
- Didn’t close the outline on the eyes
- Didn’t chill the chocolate, or really make sure it was the right length
Why it worked
It’s a credit to Smart Mama’s vision that you can cut a million corners, and still end up with an impressive, dead easy cake. Cheers to that, and happy first birthday to Pinstrosity.