Tuesday, January 1, 2013


You know that feeling when you create something so perfect, so whimsical, so photogenic and creative and fabulous that you get butterflies in your stomach thinking about how blissful it will be to pin it on your Lovely Culinary Successes board? Flip that feeling upside down, and you've got that moment where you've just spent $30 on specialty ingredients (which will sit in your pantry for at least a year before you find them mentioned in another recipe again), several hours on your feet in the kitchen and the results look like something a kindergartner whipped out of the kitchen after chugging Mountain Dew and being blindfolded. You know that what you've got will probably taste good, but you also know that people are going to be laughing their asses off and whipping out their phone cameras behind your back to capture your moment of epic faildom.

This, my friends, is the moment you NAILED IT.

We all nail it. At least, those of us who try our hands at this whole "baking" thing do. Baking and frosting and getting everything to come out without falling over--it's hard, damn it! And after a long day at work when you're distracted in between reading recipe steps, and something in your head is telling you that a direction may not sound right but who are you to say (it's not like you're some professional Recipe Writer, after all). It's a recipe for heartache, really.

My biggest Nailed It moment of my life so far (and don't worry, I'm certain I've far from exhausted my supply) was last Friday. I rushed home from work to get a Black Forest Cake in the oven. You can see the glory shot right there of the desired end result. Matt had gone to the store to get the special ingredients the King Arthur Flour recipe called for, like cake flour and the "good" dark chocolate bars. I had a precious jar of my homemade cherry pie filling made over the summer set to use. I was making the cake for a late Christmas party I was hosting the next morning for my in-laws, and since I only entertain them once a year I wanted to at least have something presentable.

But I was tired. And dreadfully cranky. And I should have known that something was amiss when I stuck the two chocolate cake pans in the oven thinking "hmmm, that batter looked way too thin." Twenty seconds later I realized I hadn't bothered to add the sugar to the batter, so I quickly yanked both pans out, dumped them back into the mixing bowl, and made quick amends.

When the (now sweetened) cakes had cooled, the recipe instructed me to whip the cream to soft peaks and layer between the halved cake layers. Soft peaks seem really soft, I thought as I sawed through the perfect cakes. And did these really have to be halved? Would this thing stand up to all the soft cream and thin cake?

By layer number two, with the whipped cream spreading like soup, I knew I had a problem. When the last layer crumbled atop the Jenga puzzle of a dreamy layer cake, the cursing and feeble cries commenced. And as I lamely tried splashing whipped cream over the tipped sides, I knew I was completely effed.

Yes. That happened.

For a few minutes, staring at The Blob, I panicked. I was all out of cocoa powder and cream. I'd shaved all the good chocolate. My beautiful cherries were trapped inside the wreckage. Think, Tabitha! For Christ's sake!


Yes, the trifle dish! I dashed to the pantry and grabbed the glass pedestal dish from the top shelf, just as my phone was going off with a response text from my mom: can you turn it into a trifle?


I carefully removed the top layer with a spatula, and reserved it on a separate dinner plate. Then, layer by layer, I began inverting the ruined cake into the big bowl. Like a parfait. Skimmed cream, cherries, cake broken into brownie-sized pieces. Repeated until adding the last layer, carefully, so the chocolate shavings and cream layer tops off the whole deal. Is it as pretty? Not quite. But it tastes the same, and if you tell everyone they're having trifle for dessert, they're none the wiser.

"Trifle!" My mother-in-law said when I brought out the bowl, "now that's way more interesting than cake."


(stock footage of trifle, as I was sick of photographing my food by the time I was done. However, I can highly recommend a cocktail alongside these endeavors).

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