I sometimes suffer from recipe perfectionism: the desire for the recipe to turn out perfectly the first time, regardless of my familiarity with it. We all want our cakes, cupcakes, fudge, and other treats to taste great, and if you're blogging about it, or taking them to a dinner party, there is an added pressure for them to look great too. I'm starting to re-frame how I see my baking, so instead of seeing a recipe as the 'perfect' finished product, I'm trying to appreciate that most times baking is an experiment, and sometimes shit doesn't work out. I know part of my perfectionism is that I spent money on ingredients and I don't want to waste them, but I'm trying to see that money as an investment in bettering my baking skills. Plus even when baking goes horribly wrong, it still tends to taste pretty good. Someone in this house will eat it!

Earlier this summer I made some Canada Day cupcakes. They tasted great and actually looked pretty great in photos (I took this one when they were cold; they looked so much better cold), but the red icing was a pain to make and work with.

I had never made a dark icing before, and my Google searching led me to believe it was going to be hard. Knowing it would be hard helped me be less disappointed when I ran into trouble. My previous experience working with gel colours had all been easy, simply adding a tiny amount usually did the trick. Red was a whole other thing.

In my red icing research, I came across two tips that were really helpful. First, I bought no taste Red, as many baking forums suggested I would use a lot of the gel colour (possibly the whole jar) and using regular red would make the icing taste gross. The other tip I followed was to leave the icing overnight in the fridge so the red colour could darken.

While making the icing, things started to go awry, and I realized there were some tips I missed. The red colour separated while I was mixing it, giving it a white speckled look. I later learned that dark colours have a tendency to do that, and can be avoided by keeping your icing thick. Not only was my icing thin and separating, but it was also soft (it looked like it wouldn't ice properly), and I learned that on particularly humid days (which it was) adding shortening instead of butter helps to avoid this. You also don't want to beat it too much (I definitely beat it too much!). But now I know for next time.

It didn't photograph clearly, but there are lines of white separating from red
It looked better after darkening in the fridge
I also learned about baking photography and how room temperture icing doesn't look as good as refrigerated icing. I did a whole photo shoot with room temp, and then did it all over again because it just looked so much better cold.

Do you ever expect yourself to do things perfectly the first time? How does it work out? I'm trying to remember to focus on the journey and not worry so much about the outcome.

Posted by Jen B On Thursday, August 29, 2013 5 comments


  1. "Do you ever expect yourself to do things perfectly the first time?"

    My answer: Never. I enjoy learning from my making mistakes. Take the first time I ever grilled chicken. It went up in flames. Then again the second time. So I learned how to use my grill and now, now more extra crispy.

    But it took time for me to learn.

    So I say, get in there, have fun and start making some mistakes. This is how we learn. And from that, this also gives us experience and experience gives us something to write about.

    So I think anyway, when we force something to be perfect, that really, we're missing out because we've closed ourselves off to one ideal - rather than learn from our bakes (and ourselves).

    1. I think you are exactly right and I love your outlook on it. I'm really getting there, but know I still have some work to do. I have some of the best conversations when I make mistakes (and some really funny laughs too).

  2. I just came back to re-read my comment (see if it make sense), and look at all the mistakes. I used the word now instead of no. Then there's the my making mistakes, mistake. And after I saw those two I giggled.

    See? Mistakes? No biggie.

  3. These look delicious yummm


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