The kitchen save; or, backing up from the inevitable boo-boo.

“I am putting in the yeast, NOW!”

“Testify, sister!!”

No, it’s not religious revival, it’s another day in the test kitchen.

Every one of us in the test kitchen has done it more than once. We mix and knead everything together, go away for an hour or more, and come back to see that our dough has done… nothing. We wonder, “Did I add the yeast? If I did add the yeast, is it dead?”

Thus we developed the call and response technique. We sing out as the yeast goes into the bowl or machine, and by outwardly affirming our action, have more confidence that it actually happened.

Have you ever been a victim of yeast forgetfulness? Fear not, you can fix this. All it takes is time. If you’re using active dry yeast, put the amount the recipe calls for into 3 tablespoons of tepid water and wait 5 minutes. If it starts to bubble, add the slurry to your dough and mix until the dough is smooth again.

You can knead instant yeast directly into the dough. As it happens, about 10 minutes ago I got a plaintive phone call from Mary Jane. She’d made some pizza dough for her family’s supper on her break. Four hours later, she called and said, “Can you do me a favor?” Her bag of dough had no bubbles in it; a sure sign that the magic ingredient was left behind. She couldn’t leave her desk, so I’ve plopped MJ’s dough into my bread machine, added the yeast, and it’s twirling around right now. By the time MJ is ready to leave, she’ll put it back in the bag, and after her drive home it will be ready to be shaped.

In either case, if you add yeast after the fact, you’ll have to give the dough its first rise all over again. If it’s too late in the day to have any hope of finishing the bread before midnight, let the dough rise at room temperature for half an hour (enough to have some confidence that it’s moving), then refrigerate it overnight and finish the recipe the next day.

Since I started working on this subject (an excellent suggestion reader from Ellen Davis), EVERY SINGLE THING I’ve baked has had some kind of mistake in it. My colleagues are telling me that my subconscious is working, “helping” me flesh out the topic. It’s certainly helped with the photo-taking…


Here’s a prime example: I forgot the vanilla in the dough above and decided to see if a schmear of vanilla paste would do the trick. Results? not bad, but not great either. That’s why they call it a mistake.

The perfectly organized baker would check off every ingredient in a recipe as it gets added, so nothing would ever be left out. I used to train culinary students to put their recipes in plastic sleeves, and put a piece of masking tape on the sleeve next to the ingredients. That way they could convert a recipe up or down and check off the ingredients as they were added.

Pastry notebook page from New England Culinary Institute student…

This is a good thing to do when teaching kids how to bake. They learn to organize themselves and get a chance to give math a hands-on workout. But you know the saying about those who can, and those who can’t….

Forget the sugar in a cake or quick bread? I’ve done this more times than I care to admit, especially when I was testing 10 or more recipes at a time for our Whole Grain Baking cookbook. The first hint is the look of the batter. If it seems way too thick, taste a tiny bit. You’ll know right away if the sugar was left out.


This caramel cake batter is a perfect example. It looked too thick, and it didn’t pass the taste test, so I added the sugar


Mixed it in with the paddle…


…and immediately the texture changed. See how it’s thinned out? The cake turned out fine, despite its unorthodox mixing sequence.

I’ve gone so far as to have cake layers in the oven before doing the head smack, pulling them out, scraping out the pan…


…adding the sugar…


…(once again, the batter immediately gets thinner)…


…and putting them back into the oven. In stir-together batters you won’t see much difference after the product is baked. Obviously, if it’s a creaming recipe and you’ve added all the eggs and dry ingredients and forgotten the sugar, the final product isn’t going to turn out as well as it was supposed to.

Forget the salt? In a yeast dough, if the first rise is going a lot faster than you think it should, taste the dough. If it seems a little flat, you can add the salt and knead it in after the first rise, before you shape the dough. For cakes and quick breads, the only way to know this is if you’re a batter eater, and damn the torpedoes if you’ve ingested some raw egg. I suspect I have a LOT of company in this regard.

What happens when you bake the oatmeal cookies, but forget to put in the oatmeal? That’s another boneheaded maneuver I managed to make.  This is a recipe I’d already tested, had comments on, and was ready to put it in the Autumn Baking Sheet. All I needed was a yield so I could do the nutritionals. But after the first pan came out looking a little, shall we say, flat? I began to question everything I thought I knew about the recipe.


It wasn’t until the second pan came of the oven that I glanced at the container of oats on the counter and said, “Doh!” I took all the unbaked cookies off the sheets and threw them back in the mixing bowl, which I’d already washed. Of course.


Guesstimated that I’d used about 20% of the batter so far, adjusted the oats accordingly, added them, and baked off 1 cookie for a sanity check.


Quelle difference. Time and some product wasted, but at least I wasn’t wrong about the recipe working.

Break a cake layer trying to get it out of the pan? Who hasn’t? Fortunately, frosting is more than flavorful and decorative. Frosting also has sufficient adhesive properties to repair most chunks-to-be-replaced situations.

Don’t ask me how I caught this one, but I was making biscuits one day and realized I hadn’t added the baking powder and soda, even though the dough was mixed. Figuring I didn’t have anything to lose (heck, that’s why they call it the test kitchen), I decided to try sprinkling the leavening on the dough,


and folding it several times (biscuits are all about layers, aren’t they?).


My theory being that the folding would distribute the leavening without making the dough tough. It worked. Sort of.


Didn’t grease the pan? Nylon spreaders are a big help here. Also offset spatulas. You need something flexible, yet rigid, to run down the side of the pan next to the baked good to free it up. If the pan is nonstick, stay away from metal utensils. This bread was a bit of a challenge to extract from the pan; not that anyone was lining up to eat it (kinda looks like “elephant” bread, eh?). The nylon spreaders did the trick.


Pie dough cracking all over the place? Easy. Get out the squirt bottle. Spritz the dough, pile it on top of itself, spritz again, wrap, and wait 15 minutes. Come back, knead the dough gently, and roll out. Be sure to chill the dough again before baking so the gluten has a chance to relax and the fats firm up again.

What can’t be fixed? Over-beating egg whites. How do you tell? Let’s take a tour.

When you whip egg whites, they go through these stages. First they get foamy, which looks like this:


As you continue beating, the whites get to soft peak, like this:


See how the top of the point flops over? Another minute of beating at high speed, and the whites get to stiff peaks. That’s where they stand straight up:


If you leave the mixer on and get sidetracked, the whites will start to look a little bit grainy, like this:


Keep going, and the foam on top starts to look really dry,


and the liquid falls out of suspension. See the lake down below? These whites aren’t going to do what you need them to do. Time to cook ’em up, feed them to the dog, and start over.


Other lost causes? Over-cooking (the laws of physics are pretty unforgiving here). You can always cook it more, but you can’t cook it less.


Too much of any one ingredient. Once things are added, it’s virtually impossible to remove them, especially when it comes to batters and doughs. There are a couple of things you can do to lessen the chance this will happen.

I write a lot of recipes that ask you to whisk together the dry ingredients. I’ve developed the habit of measuring the flour first, then adding baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices in recognizable blobs on top. This way, if I get distracted, I can count the smaller piles in the bowl and see what I’ve added and what I haven’t.

There are some places where you can make a save by doubling a recipe and evening out the error.

Say you’re making a small pan of brownies, and you put in twice as much salt as the recipe calls for. You can double all the other ingredients except the salt, mix everything together, and bake the recipe in two small pans or a 9” x 13” pan, and things will be fine. The trick is to catch your mistake before the batter is in the oven. (See “dough eaters” above.)

I think a lot of mistakes happen when we’re overloaded, under time pressure, or get distracted. If the mess is bad enough, sometimes all you can do is just laugh. That’s what happened when I was trying to get a chocolate cake cooled and frosted faster than those aforementioned laws of physics really allowed. Gravity in particular can be unforgiving.

Balancing your warm, chocolate-coated  cake on top of the pickles? Maybe not such a good idea…

Remember, while you can’t always repair every kitchen boo-boo, at the very least you’ll likely get a good story to share with other bakers (if not a good snack). They’re probably so intimidated by the goodies you make all the time they’ll love you all the more.

We’d love to hear your kitchen saves, and how you dealt with impending culinary disaster. After all, I’ve shown you some of mine….

Susan Reid

Chef Susan Reid grew up in New Jersey, graduated from Bates College and the Culinary Institute of America, and is presently the Food Editor of Sift magazine. She does demos, appearances, and answers food (and baking) questions from all quarters.


  1. SMJ

    I have baking errors all the time, many like described here. Earlier this year I had an incident. I had baked 2 layers of my husband’s favorite cake, a poppyseed cake recipe I got from my mother in law. I had the layers on the counter on the cooling racks waiting to be ready to be filled/ frosted. We got distracted for about 5 mins, and one of my dogs decided to help herself to some cake. She ate about a half of one of the layers. I was furious! It was valentine’s day and the cake was my gift to my husband! I had the chocolate frosting and vanilla pastry cream filling ready.
    I saved it by taking the untouched by the dog layer and cutting it in half and making a half circle cake, which was fine by my husband.
    I still had plenty of chocolate frosting and pastry cream so I decided to experiment. I combined the frosting, filling, some leftover cream a couple of eggs and some stale bread and baked the best chocolate bread pudding that I have ever had. You gotta make do with what you got!

    I agree, there’s a certain liberating aspect to just letting go of where you thought you were going to end up, and flying by the seat of your pants! Susan

  2. kate

    haha i just did this a couple of weeks ago- i was 1/2ing your blueberry muffin recipe and mixed everything together (so i thought) and popped them in the oven – so proud of myself for managing to make just enough batter for 6 muffins. complete with sparkle sugar on top! then i turned around and realized i had left out ALL of the dry ingredients!! i pulled them out, dumped them back into the bowl, added the dry and redistributed in the muffin pan. I did have more than enough for 6 muffins, and even though they had a good bit of extra sugar, they still turned out yummy!!! *phew*

    Nice save!!! Susan

  3. Kristen

    Recently I was cooking with my mother. She decided to make polenta and misread the amount of water needed. She added 2 quarts of water to the cornmeal and wondered why it didn’t get thick. After adding a sufficient amount of cornmeal to equal the water, we ended up with a ton of polenta. We ate it in casseroles, for breakfast, as a side, you name it and we probably tried it. We’d rather not have polenta again for a long time.

    Too much of a good thing….Susan

  4. PJM

    I have made too many mistakes to count! Saltless bread. Yuck. Middle-aged mind muddle has made it much worse, so I have developed a new coping habit. I get out all the ingredients before I begin, and then I put them away one by one as I add them. This is not a flawless system in a house with three children, two cats and two parents who work/multi-task from home – but it works pretty well!
    Wow, that’s a good idea! Also makes sure cleanup is built in to the operation. Like it! Susan

  5. Mother of Pearl

    I made a pumpkin cake and took it to a potluck. I didn’t think anything about it being short because it was a new recipe. Then I took the first piece of it at dinner and realized that I had left out the leavening. It was quite tasty, if not quite cake like, and when the picnic was over there wasn’t a crumb left.
    And then just last night I left the chicken out of the chicken casserole. And I wondered why the recipe didn’t fill the pan the way it usually does. I remembered that after a few minutes and took it out of the oven and stirred the chicken in. I was feeling rather kitchen incompetent until I read this – those biscuits are hilarious. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Irene in TO

    Two baking tricks:

    1–Line up everything in the recipe on the counter. Put away right AFTER you add to the recipe. I try to keep it to 2 bowls or less. All the dry stuff into the sifter-on-plate works too.

    2–TASTE the dough. You will know for sure if the yeast/baking powder is in. You will know for sure if the salt or yeast is in. You will NOT get sick tasting a pinch.

    I’m with you, Irene. Our bodies are full of yeasts and microbes already. Susan

  7. pengwenhsd6489

    I forgot the salt in the zwieback (a Mennonite yeast roll) twice in a row so “salt” is now circled in red in that recipe in my Mom’s cookbook. It’s not circled in my cookbook but I never use that recipe without seeing the red circle in my head.

    The other one that I still take grief for is porcupine meat balls. My mom left me the recipe to have ready when she and Dad got home from work. My brain was apparently elsewhere that day because the recipe specifically said “make 12 meatballs” so I made 12. What I’d missed was that the recipe called for one pound of hamburger and the package I used was more like three pounds. That was 30 years ago and my mother still brings the subject up every now and then.

    Oh, I love the picture that creates! Reminds me of a B. Kliban cartoon captioned, “Never eat anything bigger than your head!” Susan

  8. KimberlyD

    When I was a kid I was making oatmeal raisin cookies with my mom, and we didn’t have any brown sugar or molasses to make it and my mom said it would be fine with out it. Boy we could of painted them black and sold them for hockey pucks! LOL!

    Just recently I was making brownie’s and this was a new recipe for me for I couldn’t fine my trusty old one. I measured out 2 cups of water…yes that much water and I didn’t realize it was wrong right away and I thought…hmmm guess its chocolate cake…lol and it turned out just fine as a cake!

    Kimberly: and now you have a solid knowledge of the chemistry of baking! Wouldn’t it be great if all mistakes ended up with chocolate cake? Susan

  9. Ariana from Chicago

    Fantastic post! Love the yeast ‘shout out’ in the kitchen. Too funny! I did have a mistake once and I didn’t know it at the time, as I did follow the recipe but a dough did not rise. It was a situation where yeast and sugar were added in together, but what I later learned after research is that sugar can kill yeast when they come into direct contact! So a mistake was made even when following directions!

    You bring up a good point, Ariana. I often tell people that sugar is to yeast as beer is to people. A little bit can be all for the better, but a 6-pack all at once isn’t going to help one’s performance! Susan

  10. Ricardo Neves Gonzalez - Petrópolis, R.J. - BRAZIL

    The only way all of us humans can error is to experiment, to try, to do all of the things we are working with. Based on do and do wrong we discover new things exactly doing some tests and experiments to let the things go to standard we desired.

    One of bad errors is the overbrowning. I think it´s the bad one because it´s impossible to go back.

    But with the others, in all the way they´re of relatively easy solutions.
    One of most common to me is to forget the yeast, but in all the times i did it i solved easily simply by kneading the dough one more time again with amount of correctly yeast dissolved previously in tepid small amount of water. Of course i needed to add some much flour but it gone well.

    The forgotten sugar is not a problem. We always find someone who hate sugar and prefer the baked goods with zero sugar. It´s the best advantage of small production and artisan work.

    Anyway i loved this post and i´m curious about other mistakes our friends certainly will tell us.

    I wanna know if we could use a batch of preferment we forgot for an overnight, a day and another overnight out of refrigeration?

    Another simple error is to prepare a sort of 8 to 10 different doughs and add the amount of yeast recipe calls for each one of them. The result is that when you finish to knead the last dough, after an hour or so, the first dough would be risen a lot and the final result is that you´ll need to take doughs to the oven not all at same time, but one or two at a time.
    You could bake them together but the first breads could become over fermented with a beer like taste, undesirable.
    The solution is to add smaller amount of yeast at the first kneaded doughs and will increasingly the additions to the next doughs proportionally with your time schedule until the beginning baking period. Thats work well. You may pay attention to one simply fact. The enriched doughs with eggs, sugars, oil, like the Challah dough for example you´ll never cut the amount of yeast. In this particular example you could delay the rise of dough, simply covering, oiling and resting inside a bowl under refrigeration.THAT´S A GOOD IDEA!

    Hi, Ricardo! Your over-risen preferment on the counter for 2 days is pretty much a starter by that time; I’d recommend discarding half of it and refreshing it with the proper amount of water and flour. Give it a couple of hours to work, and it should be ready to go. Susan

  11. Wei-Wei

    This is actually a really, really useful post! I was making brownies the other day and I halved the recipe… and I forgot to halve the flour. Yeah. That happened. They turned out really rock hard. 😛

    Perhaps you’ve invented the chocolate teething biscuit? 🙂 Susan

  12. Julia

    Love the bit about the chocolate cake perching on the pickle jar in the fridge! And all this time I thought I was the only one with a kitchen space so cramped (or is it cluttered) that I must precariously balance trays of treats on milk jugs and jam jars! Thanks for making me feel so much better! A baker’s support group!

    My husband has more than once given me the what-for for “booby-trapping” the refrigerator, I confess! Susan

  13. Ellen in Texas

    Once after making pimiento cheese, I couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t tasting as good as it usually does. Dear hubby had to point out that the pimiento was still sitting on the counter…

    Dang, and you’d think that color would help it get remembered, wouldn’t you? Susan

  14. mikest

    I’ve done my share as well, like forgetting to put the eggs into a batch of mundlbroit. Not good… I realized the mistake when they didn’t rise in the oven, then saw the eggs sitting on the counter. I ended up putting it into the food processor and turning it into crumbs for a cheesecake crust.

    You might also include another “fixable”… Broken custard. If you over cook the custard slightly, it will break and become grainy. Just use a blender (immersion or otherwise) and a little cream to re-blend it.

    I’ve fixed lots of broken hollandaises and bechamels, but hadn’t thought of doing so with a custard. The immersion blender has saved many a Caesar dressing in my past. Susan

  15. Maria

    Thank you for the post tonight… smiling here!
    A cake that cracked when trying to loosen it from the pan became a beautiful trifle dessert!
    It was the first trifle I ever made, and after that…
    …it is now a requested dessert!

    I love the way mistakes back you into new territory. It’s how lots of great discoveries are made! Susan

  16. Teresa

    I try really hard to measure out all the ingredients ahead of time and arrange them in front of me. If I have the time, I’d group them in the order they should be added. My biggest challenge is when I want to cut a recipe in half or double it without writing it out. Sometimes I miss halving or doubling one ingredient and it throws everything off.

    Thanks for this post. It’s nice to know that this happens to even the professionals! And it’s great to know that a dough can be salvaged by adding yeast late.

    Most welcome, Teresa. The yeast save is pretty popular around here; all it costs is time. Susan

  17. Joanne W

    I love your disaster stories, makes me feel a lot better about my major goofs! My worst mistake happened when I was trying to make a special Christmas treat for my elderly mother-in-law a few Christmases ago. Her favorite family Christmas cookies are Zimtsterne (Cinnamon Stars). Among other ingredients, Mom’s recipe called for 2 tsps. of cinnamon. I was in a hurry – I had been making cookies all day and had just this one recipe to make before I started dinner. I reached into the spice cabinet and grabbed what I thought was the glass spice jar of cinnamon. Well, it DID have a “C” on the front! I dumped the cinnamon into the meringue mixture and folded it in. As I stirred it, I wrinkled my nose, sniffed and thought, boy, I must be REALLY hungry, I smell Mexican food! Then I looked down at the spice jar I had just set on the counter and shrieked, I had grabbed the cumin, not the cinnamon! Cumin is spicy but it was pretty disgusting in the meringue/almond mixture, bleah! I had to throw the whole mess out. My daughter still teases me about that one!

    Yeah, I’m not so sure you can back up from that particular boo boo. And Zimsterne are a little touchy to roll out anyway. My sympathies! Susan

  18. Beth @ 990 Square

    Thanks for sharing these stories and the tips on how to fix them!

    I have a bad habit of adding too much baking soda to a recipe. I blame it on my measuring spoons–I have a 1/2 tablespoon measure and I often grab it instead of my 1 teaspoon measure. No disasterous results yet, but I have had some really, really fluffy biscuits, pancakes, and scones!

  19. lishy

    My mistakes are frequent as well, but usually no one notices when I fix it. I have forgotten the yeast a few times, but my latest disaster was making the deli rye rolls. I put in way WAY too much water, and kept adding more rye flour to compensate, and ended up with this sticky mass of dough. It took forever to rise, but eventually made some rather soft, but still fairly yummy rolls. They weren’t as good as what I usually make, but certainly not terrible. The worst mistakes for me usually involve undergreasing bread pans, which gives me a base for stuffings, croutons, and bread puddings, or burning things, especially chocolate biscotti. When you use black cocoa you really can’t tell it is burnt until you taste it, not a pleasant surprise! My best mistake though, by far, is when I forgot to put something under the strawberry rhubarb pie to catch the drips. It was the first time I was making my husband’s favorite (while we were engaged) and I set the oven on fire! I had to finish cooking it on the grill! He ate it, and it was fine, albeit a touch smoky! My dad threw flour into the oven, since it was closer than the baking soda, we had such a mess!

    As you can see from the Chocolate cake vs. gravity failure, the mistakes that tend to stay with you are the ones with the longest cleanup times and the most witnesses. Sigh. Susan

  20. Julia

    OK, this is a bit off topic, but still related……………not paying attention to WHERE you store your baked goods. I had just made a batch of strawberry meringue cookies (the egg white kind). After they cooled I put them in a ziploc baggie and set them on the counter. The next day I took them to work and they tasted just like, um, B.O. (sorry, not trying to be gross, but these cookies were completely inedible). I couldn’t figure out what the deal was until I got home and noticed that I had put the bag of cookies next to a little plastic baggie of curry powder (like you get at the bulk bins). Mind you, I did not put curry IN the cookies; rather the curry funk had transferred through the two plastic bags and tainted the cookies. I love curry dishes, but curry plus strawberry meringue does NOT equal deliciousness!!

    Wow, that’s some curry powder! Susan

  21. Alison

    One of my favorite recipes comes from a kitchen accident! The wife of the former Dean at a school in Pennsylvania could never make her pie crust come out right, so she sprinkled cinnamon sugar in the bottom of a buttered pie pan, tore the pie crust into bits (into the pan, with more cinnamon sugar), then layered the apple filling over the top, and baked. When done, she inverted it onto her serving dish, topped with brandy, and lit it on fire! Apple Pie Biddy (Her first name was Biddy). As she always said, if it comes out wrong, turn it upside down, call it something French, and serve with flair!
    I love her spirit! As my husband (former carpenter) always said, “Turn a mistake into a feature.” Go, Biddy! Elisabeth @ KAF

  22. Kim

    Try forgetting sugar in homemade ice cream – twice. Not good. Thankfully, I tasted it both times before I tossed it into the freezer to harden so I quickly mixed in the sugar. Couldn’t tell the difference.

    Try baking chocolate chip cookies at 500. They burn – who knew?

    A friend of mine (who was in junior high at the time) made dip and it called for 1/8 tsp. of curry powder, but couldn’t find the 1/8 tsp measuring spoon. Math not being a particular skill, she found the 1/4 tsp. measuring spoon and doubled it. Not good.

    My aunt was making pumpkin cake roll and forgot the flour in the cake mixture. One word: runny.

    Knock on wood, I haven’t made too many forgetful baking mistakes in recent years. I always look one more time at the recipe and do a mental check before I toss the item in the oven. I’ve caught a few mistakes that way – in plenty of time for them to be fixed.

    One thing about mistakes: everyone makes ’em! Just one more way baking brings people together. Susan

  23. 2darnhot2

    Not a baking error but a culinary mishap nonetheless. Tuna casserole was a frequent visitor to our table during the Lents of my childhood. One Friday my father and; brother ate and left the table but my mother, sisters, and I sat trying to force down the casserole. Then Mother went into the kitchen for another cup of coffee only to find on the counter 2 unopened tins of tuna…

    I’m always amazed at what guys don’t notice, aren’t you? S

  24. ednliz

    One time I was going to make homemade shortcake (aka sweet biscuits) for strawberry shortcake for my husband. They didn’t smell quite right as they were baking so I test tasted one a soon as they came out of the oven. Blechh! I read over the recipe several times to see what went wrong. It took about 15 minutes before it hit me – baking POWDER not baking SODA. Needless to say, they went in the trash and I started another batch. Now, every time a recipe calls for either baking powder or baking soda, I check it 2 or 3 times before I add it to the rest of the ingredients.

    (Fortunately for me, the second batch was done and the first out in the trash and hubby never knew about the mistake!)

    Quickbreads are wonderful as they live up to their names. I’m way sensitive to too much baking soda, so I’m cringing right now! Susan

  25. burnsl

    I made a similar mistake to Julia. I had some bulk oregano that I inadvertently stored next to my baking chocolate. Sooo… Thanksgiving when I made chocolate pie for a housefull of family and friends. I served oregano-chocolate pie. My family were very sweet and praised all of the pies. I also had pumpkin, pecan, & butterscotch pies available. When I finally sat down to have a piece myself. I chose the chocolate because it had the most left. OMG! it tasted like feet. My sisters still tease me, are we going to have chocolate/oregano pie for Thanksgiving.

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Depends on how much butter was called for in the recipe. Usually it’s just a few tablespoons to add shine and a velvety texture. In that case, yes it will still set in the fridge overnight. If you find it doesn’t set, scoop it into trifle glasses or mugs and serve it as mousse! Kye@KAF

    2. Elaine

      I’m laughing! Glad to know it happens to others! Waiting now to see if the cinnamon I stirred into half baked Crack Pound Cake will taste ok. We’ll see! Love this post!

  26. dorherron

    The first of my many ‘creative cooking’ disasters came when I had been married 2 months and made my first pumpkin pie. When everything was mixed, I realized that I owned no cinnamon. The only thing cinnamon flavored in our apartment was a roll of hard candies. I mashed them up and added them to the batter then cut back on the sugar to compensate. Don’t do this if you ever run out of cinnamon. Neither my husband nor my children, who weren’t even there, have ever let me forget it 47 years later!

    I’m guessing the candies were a little bit, um, overpowering? S

  27. ecaroon116

    After many baking / cooking mishaps and resulting new discoveries, I’m of the ‘get all the ingredients out first, then put them away as you use them’ school. Kitchen clean-up is a bit quicker, also. Thanks for sharing all your misadventures. Laughed about the chocolate cake balancing act!

  28. esheeran

    HA HA HA! I love the “triple-layer” baking powder biscuits! Definitely something I would do – and have done, to cornbread. Now I can tell when I forget to put the baking powder in because of how the batter looks. Also the “cake on floor” effect is well known here; add in the little dance to keep the dog from eating it while I clean up. I will definitely have to try the trifle rescue…

    I must say it’s been comforting to see how many people are willing to share their mishaps. Good to know I’m not alone! Susan

  29. evelar

    Wonderful post! Regarding over-beaten egg whites, Julia Child said, “You can easily overbeat egg whites in an efficient machine — they lose their velvety shine, turn dull, look grainy and slightly lumpy, and, worse, lose their puffing abilities. You can usually bring them back into shape by beating in another egg white, which will not disturb your recipe proportions.” This has worked for me, so I’m passing it on. Yet another “save” for those of us who commit kitchen goofs!

    Well, trust Julia to know, eh? I’ve never tried that one. I have been known to reach for the meringue powder and mix some of that in for “insurance”. Thanks so much for the tip! Susan

  30. deniseebr

    Oh boy, does this bring back memories… My family still reminds me of the time I made cornbread and mistook teaspoons for tablespoons for the baking powder. The batter fit in an 8×8 pan so you can imagine the ratio of baking powder to batter was pretty darn high. Made for an very interesting looking but inedible cornbread.

    My other favorite was when my mother-in-law was making a cake and forgot the eggs until after it was in the oven. She pulled the pans out, cracked an egg into each pan and stirred it up. A good effort but it didn’t save the cake!

  31. womanwhobakes

    Three little words…”mise en place”. Don’t just take out your ingredients. Take them out, measure them out, each into a separate bowl (the little prep bowls currently available are incredibly cute). Put all your bulk containers away after you’ve double-checked your recipe. Not only will this help you get everything into the recipe, it helps you focus when you’re measuring ingredients because it’s all that you’re doing – not looking for things, walking around, etc – it also keeps you from getting to a crucial point in your preparation and realizing you’re out of an ingredient or don’t have enough.

    I couldn’t agree more, although I confess anyone who has seen my station in the test kitchen would probably call it “mess in place”. Susan

  32. janand712

    When I was 12, my Mom had major surgery, so I was doing some of the cooking. Cornish Pasties sounded perfect, and I was so pleased with them went they went in the oven. Got involved too long in a book, so was not so pleased when they came out. My Dad’s comment, “Pasties are past tense for Tasties.”

    Boy, can I sympathize on all counts! My mom used to always know when I was reading all night long. I asked her many years later how she knew that’s what I was doing, and she said, “Because I used to do the same thing!” Love your Dad’s quick wit. Thanks for sharing! Susan

  33. Erika

    I follow a similar method as some pointed out. I set out all the ingredients on one side of the counter, usually the left. As I add the ingredients, I move them to the right side of the counter. That way I can easily see if I forgot anything, but also check what I did put it.

    What a great idea! As long as you have the counter space, it’s got a beautiful flow to it. Susan

  34. Jane

    I think my most boneheaded kitchen mistake was forgetting the flour in a batch of cookies. Just…straight up forgot it. I was heartbroken at the time, but in retrospect it’s kind of hilarious.

    My gratitude to King Arthur for these fabulous tips and the reminder that everybody makes mistakes sometimes.

    My sympathies, Jane. I once tried to vacuum without attaching the hose to the machine, and wondered why I was getting such poor results….Susan

  35. sassakwas

    The stories about forgetting to add an ingredient or adding too much of an ingredient confound me, Ladies. This is not rocket science. Just gather all the recipe ingredients on your countertop. Measure out everything you need in individual bowls, scoops, cups, soup bowls, whatever and then return ALL bulk ingredients, bags, boxes, bottles, storage containers to their pantry/refrigerator. Get them off the counter. Review the recipe and group the dry and wet ingredients when a recipe calls for mixing each type separately, or set your ingredients from right to left as the recipe calls for them. There’s no possibility of adding too much of an ingredient unless you measured it wrong in the first place. And if there’s something left on the counter, you can bet you forgot it. But it was right there under your nose the entire time, so how could you possibly overlook it? I’ve been baking for 55 years and I confess — brag, I guess — that these types of things have never happened to me.

    I envy your concentration, discipline and lack of interruptions! Susan

  36. laurie

    I was making challah for Rosh Hashanah last week. I thought I was being so smart by making two batches of dough simultaneously. Well, one batch was just fine, but the other dough didn’t rise correctly. I thought I had put It called for a slurry and both looked puffy so I think the yeast was in there. My guess is that I accidently put in too much salt in one of them. So I tossed that dough, and started again. This time, the dough was completely the wrong color and looked weird when it was being kneaded in the mixer. After pulling it out of the mixing bowl, I realize my hands were really greasy. I must have doubled the oil. (Not sure what would have been the final result, but I didn’t have time to find out.) My next and final attempt turned out OK, but I overbaked it just a bit. I think I was trying a little too hard since it was the holiday and I wanted it to be “perfect.”

  37. carml13

    I was about to shape some sandwich bread dough when my “helpful” 2 year old dumped in a glass of orange juice! But a zested orange, some dried cranberries, and a sprinkle of demerara sugar later, we ate Cranberry Orange Ciabatta instead. Phew!

    Wow, that sounds really good! Call it a happy accident, huh? Susan

  38. teachpad

    These are just so humorous. I especially like the one where the pie tasted like feet. I have a story to share as well. Many years ago when I was in fourth grade, I found a recipe for a Whacky Cake in the Jack and Jill magazine, and begged my mom to let me try it. I thought that I had so carefully followed all the directions and put the cake into the oven to bake. I was a bit puzzled however as to how the cake would mix itself while baking, and after it had been baking for about 10 minutes realized that I was supposed to stir the batter in the pan and not just put the vinegar, oil and vanilla in wells and pour water all over it and call it done. My parents were in the living room holding a prayer meeting, and I went in and whispered to my mom what I had done. She ran into the kitchen and yanked the cake out of the oven and stirred it up. It was the lumpiest, ugliest chocolate cake that I had ever seen, but we had no option but to serve it to our guests. It looked awful but tasted wonderful. Maybe that was just my perception when I was 10…

    What a great story! Thanks for sharing. Susan

  39. catseye

    Last Christmas I made a carrot cake, and after it was half baked, I remembered that I forgot the cinnamon! After the cake (which turned out beautiful) cooled, I painted the cake with some corn syrup, mixed with the missing cinnamon, added cream cheese frosting, and it was great!! Lucky me.

    What a nice idea for a save! A lot of pastry shops use simple syrup on their cakes before frosting for an extra flavor kick. Aren’t you resourceful! Susan

  40. Lenore

    one of my more public mistakes was making a ‘cookie cake’ for a family baptism party. Visiting my parents’ so pulled the stuff out of her kitchen. Easy, peasy…same house I grew up in so everything is still in the same spot. the problem arose because mom switched from butter to ‘light margarine’ (what IS that stuff anyway?). I did not notice so after baking the nice large train shaped cookie had turned into a thin, greasy, hard, blob thing. With no time to rebake, i cut to shape, decorated and put it out. Once the kids saw it and took pics, mom trashed it and we served store-bought sugar cookies.

    “That stuff” is usually a combination of a token amount of oil, a lot of water and some gums or starches to hold it all together. No wonder it did unauthorized things to your poor cookie! Susan

  41. marjorieann

    Wow I’ve learned alot on how to fix my mistakes Thanks. After I married my husband in April he was sent to Okinawa and I couldn’t follow since I was pregnant with our first, so when we got back together in April 18 mo later we moved to Ga. it was Thanksgiving our first and I was making his favorite Pecan Pie. We had company over for dinner everything went well Great Turkey and fixings but the pie took forever to get solid. Finally I took it out of the oven and let it cool. We couldn’t cut it at all We broke it into pieces and sucked on the best pecan pie hard candy ever. I had forgotten to put the eggs in!!! Then there’s the time my second oldest son decided to make peanut butter cookies (his favoritea) he met me at the door when I got home and said here mom taste this cookie. I took a bite and told him it was good then the salt in it kicked in and I had to spit it out. He put 3/4 a cup not 3/4 of a tsp. in it. They made balls out of it let then harden then used them to hit Crows in the back yard.

    The thing I like best about mistakes is the way it shows you what those ingredients are up to in a recipe. You’d never purposely say to yourself, “Let’s try this pie without eggs and see what happens”, no matter how curious you may be. So in a way the mistake is a bit of a happy circumstance, as long as you can treat it as a learning experience. Susan

    1. Naomi Gaia

      What a cruel and disgusting thing to do and Marjorieann seemed to think this was just fine to raise her children to treat innocent creatures this way. She seems to thinks it was funny. How would they alll have felt if they hit each other with those hard ball? Shame!

  42. cynthia20932

    Loved reading all these stories! I’ve had lots of mishaps, including the dog variety (I had no idea a small dog would be so attracted to sourdough starter that he would be able to jump high enough to drag it off the counter), but perhaps the funniest was burning the chocolate chip cookies in my high school home ec class. You could smell it throughout the whole school, but the embarrassing thing was that I had just won the Betty Crocker award!

  43. nwc73

    I had some sourdough sponge that was supposed to stay in the refrigerator overnight. I got busy and forgot about it for about 3 or 4 days. Once I got it together, it just wouldn’t rise, so I added yeast and put it back into the bread machine to mix. It finally did rise some. It was tasty, but heavy, so I made some really good croutons out of it with a little olive oil and parmesan cheese.

    I have a question, I have to watch the amount of salt that I use in everything. i generally use salt substitute. I know that the salt in bread controls the yeast rise. Is it sufficient to use a 1/4 tsp of salt per loaf and use salt substitute for the balance? Thanks

    There’s no reason you can’t make bread without salt entirely; it will rise a bit faster, but they’ve been making salt-free bread in Tuscany for more than 500 years. I think your strategy is a sound one; a good compromise between lowering salt and retaining flavor. Susan

  44. Mike in Nebraska

    I’m a long-time member of the ‘taste your dough/batter club’, too, though I do admit to being a bit more hesitant about it when the papers are full of stories about egg recalls.

    My sister taught me how to bake (when I was 8 or 9) and she taught me to ALWAYS taste the bread dough, because your tongue will tell you more about how it is developing than your fingers or eyes can.

    And if I had tasted the dough on the worst loaf of bread I ever made, I probably wouldn’t still be getting reminders about if from my wife, 15 years later. (The recipe calls for 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt and 1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar, I think I must have used salt for BOTH, because it was an inedible salty brick that I almost couldn’t get out of the bread machine, and even the birds wouldn’t eat that one!)

    Tasting the batter also goes back to when we were kids (6 of us) and the big treat was getting to lick the beaters and the bowl. I still cringe when my wife just dumps them in the sink when making a cake.

    My mother used to make a batch-and-a-half of her oatmeal crisps cookie recipe (posted in the baking circle), because the first half-batch always got eaten by us before it went into the oven.

    Out of this came a popular change to the recipe. As written and posted, it calls for a cup of chocolate chips, but as kids we liked the cookie dough so much that she often added a full cup of chocolate chips to the half-batch ‘tasting’ bowl and most of the time I still double-up on the chocolate chips when making them.

    As to forgetting ingredients, although I usually weight flour, I have a few recipes that call for it in cups, and I usually measure it in half-cups (because I make the smallest amount of mess that way.)

    I tap the side of the metal measuring cup once for the first half-cup after dumping it in the bowl, twice for the second half-cup, back to once for the third half-cup, etc.

    It’s easy for me to remember the last sound I made, so that way I’m never a half-cup off. I can look at the bowl and be fairly confident as to whether I have 2 or 3 cups of flour in it, but differentiating 2 1/2 cups from either 2 or 3 cups is harder.

    Is my system perfect? Well, not quite. One time I used a third-cup measure instead of a half-cup, and it took me little while to figure why I had soup rather than dough

    What a nice memory device! I often start moving from one part of the test kitchen to the other, and forget what I was going for halfway to my destination. I finally learned to stay put and think about what I was doing before I moved, and I can usually recapture the original impetus. I love the way people create tools for themselves. Susan

  45. Donna

    Yes, sassakwas, I measure everything out ahead of time and place it on the counter in order of addition to the recipe, but the trick is to remember to put it in! Twice now, I’ve left the lemon juice out of the lemon pie filling. The first time it was a lemon truffle pie where part of the lemon filling is mixed into a cream cheese/almond bark mixture that is spread over the bottom of the crust with the lemon filling on top. The beautiful pie was all assembled and I was cleaning up when I saw the measuring cup of lemon juice waiting patiently by the stove. I carefully scraped the lemon layer off then the cream cheese layer and estimated how much lemon juice to add to each layer before reassembling. Now I always taste the filling before assembling the pie!

    There’s no substitute for that strategic taste, I’m with you there. Saves a LOT of problems. Susan

  46. Nancie

    Susan – Your article and all the comments that follow are WONDERFUL! Love it! I’m experimental in my cooking and baking, so I’ve made my share of mistakes over the years and my family is so generous about not complaining when something turns out awful. (I think they figure that I make enough good stuff to balance it all out!)

    My favorite one though is one my kids did a few years ago. They were making pecan snowball cookies for the holidays. They had doubled or tripled the recipe and they completely forgot the flour. If you know the recipe, it has a LOT of butter, so without the flour, you can imagine the state of the oven flour when they tried to cook it! It was swimming. But the result was the best sheet what I can only call “pecan brittle” ever. I’ve been thinking about trying to recreate it (but without all the mess.)

    Wow, that would make quite a mess; if you only did a single batch minus flour and used a 9 x 13-inch pan to keep everything contained, I think you might have something. I’d be interested to know the results. Thanks for the kind words. Susan

  47. ebmozo

    I love your blog! I especially liked your tip of placing masking tape on top of a plastic-sleeved recipe. I keep all my recipes in a clear book so the tape tip would really help. Right now, I just pull out the recipe page and write on it directly.

    Anyway, my own tip for not messing things up while baking is … to bake when everyone is asleep or out of the house. I get so easily distracted when people are just talking (to each other, not to me) or watching tv. The sound confuses me. On the other hand, they say that my baking confuses them. So I guess, we’re even.

  48. teelway

    I write an article about old time recipes in a community newspaper here in Indy. I wrote about my worst mistake and thought I would share that story. It isn’t baking but still frightening.

    It started out well enough. I had put together a printout of the recipes I wanted to try for the week. Orange Beef Stir Fry with Cashews, Marinated Flank Steak and a new recipe for rice, the rice would go well with the stir fry. All three recipes were printed on the same sheet of paper with the rice recipe in the middle. Big mistake.
    The rice was quite easy and tasty. Fortunately I was able to get it right. We would have been having breakfast cereal if it had not been edible.
    Well, the stir fry called for ½ pound of beef, soy sauce and broccoli among other things. The beef needed to be marinated for a short while so I began with the marinade. I started to make the recipe using the ingredients at the top of the page using the correct recipe. Instead of continuing with the recipe at the top of the page my eyes, for some unknown reason, dropped down to the bottom recipe, the Marinated Flank Steak. Both recipes called for cilantro. With cilantro you either love it or hate it. I hate it. So I decided to use some of the fresh parsley growing out in the garden.
    “Parsley is good too, I will just use less of it so I don’t overpower the dish”, I said to myself. But the stir fry needed only a small amount of fresh herb, the flank steak needed quite a bit. Because I was now using the wrong recipe, it was down hill and going fast. Too much parsley to say the least. There is a big difference between a teaspoon and ½ cup when it comes to fresh herbs.
    Well you can imagine how this all turned out. With an inappropriate substitution and a misreading of the amount it was to say the least unpleasant. The broccoli tasted like something a janitor would use. And the beef was just plain terrible. I promise I will pay more attention in the future. For my sake as well as yours.

  49. kaf-sub-fbogus

    When I was in high school our AP English class decided to hold a James Joyce Day. My friend and I decided that the celebration needed to have bright green sugar cookies. I provided a reliable cookie recipe and the school let us use their lunchroom kitchen. So here we have 2 inexperienced teenage bakers working together with unfamiliar industrial equipment. We quadrupled the recipe since we needed a lot of cookies, but with each of us unaware of what the other was doing, somehow the flour only got doubled. So, in addition to having a full sheet pan of sticky goo, it was bright emerald green, to boot. Appropriately Joycean, but totally inedible. Someone ran out for more flour and I eventually learned about the joys of parchment paper.

    I know write out the recipe conversions when I do a multiplier and I never “split” baking tasks with someone else.

    Seems to me another Bloomsday Baking adventure is in order! As a veteran English Lit major, I particularly loved your tale! Susan

  50. West Coast Smoker

    When I was about 13 I wanted to something nice for my parents on their anniversary. So I made a Chocolate cake for them, just like my mom made with instant coffee in the batter for a nice kick. Problem was I did not know the difference between instant coffee and regular coffee grounds. OH WELL I guess it was the thought that counts. 🙂

  51. brendaduggar

    I didn’t count, but I think you got the most ever posts with this one. Glad to know we aren’t all perfect, except that one lady. Maybe after I have been baking that long I’ll remember to put the pecans in the chocolate chip cookies, which my husband says are not cookies without them. But I think my best was my first Thanksgiving dinner I made for in-laws, didn’t know you have to remove the packet of giblets until time to make the gravy. Smooth gravy. I was forgiven the next year and now make a pretty good gravy, or so I’ve been told. Thanks for the laughs, that’s what is important is to be able to laugh AT yourself and WITH others. I love KAF!

  52. Aaron Frank

    I love this. Makes me feel less foolish.

    I apprenticed in a bakery where we tasted everything before it went in the oven. It save me from ruining a few dozen loaves of pumpkin bread.

    With yeast bread I’ve decided it’s just easier to activate the yeast before I add anything else. Even when a recipe calls for dumping everything in the bowl together I still mix the yeast, the liquid, and a little sugar just to make sure it’s going to go.

    But I’m sure I’ll find plenty of other mistakes to make.



  53. grapevinetexas

    Suddenly, I don’t feel so all alone…. 😉

    I have forgotten to put the salt in my bread: thrown bread dough into the compost pile because I’d forgotten the yeast (I no longer do this because I have learned how ‘forgiving’ flour can be), and I have tried substituting regular sugar for brown sugar in a Toll House cookie. I’m also guilty of baking the package of giblets in the chicken or turkey cavity, because I didn’t know it was, ‘in there’….oh yeah!

    When my youngest daughter asked if she could bake muffins one evening, I gladly cheered her on; could I be so lucky as to have a child that loved to bake, too? I sat on the sidelines and eagerly cheered her toward her goal. At some point a brain fog hit me and I failed to notice that she was adding 1/4 cup of salt to her batter. It wasn’t until the muffins were baking, and the volcanic eruption, that I asked if she had made any substitutions. She suddenly caught her mistake .. the measuring of her salt!
    As bake time continued, and the lava flow of Mt. Etna subsided, the timer eventually chimed that the muffins were done. As we waited for them to cool, we made ourselves a promise: “Let’s try them, maybe they’ll be okay in spite of the mix-up.”

    We’d like to think our earthworms were happy. I know my daughter and I shared a special moment that day; we’ll share it for a lifetime! We get to laugh at each and every culinary mistake, even if it takes cursing through the cleanup(s).


  54. Pat Eyler

    I wish I’d seen this article before last weekend. I set out to make some retarded rise french bread and had mixed the dough together only to realize I’d forgotten the yeast. I ended up adding a bit of oil to the dough and making it tortillas instead.

  55. Chris U.

    I like to double the recipe for your English Muffin Toasting Bread, which means adding in 6 cups of flour to the mixing bowl. I have taken to putting tick marks on the bottom of the printed copy so I know just how how many I’ve put in. Got tired of losing track, cussing, pouring the flour back into the container and starting over.

  56. Sue Epstein

    When I studied catering one of the instructors used to say, “Doctors bury their mistakes, caterers cover them up with frosting.” “Mis en place” was drilled into our heads but do I always do it? Of course not! I think the most mistakes are made when doubling or halving recipes and not putting the right amounts of ingredients in.

    One mistake I made recently was when I was baking cookies that called for raisins, chocolate chips and toasted slivered almonds. The cookies are so yummy that I doubled the recipe (which would make 80+ cookies). I found a bag of toasted slivered almonds in my freezer and was so happy to cut out one step. But after baking all the cookies and tasting one I discovered that my slivered almonds were a mixture of toasted slivered almonds and toasted garlic (which I sometimes make and keep to sprinkle on salads). Have you ever tasted garlic-flavored chocolate chip/raisin cookies? Blech! It all went into the garbage!

  57. alenxa

    This is how my family got into the habit of quadrupling the recipe we use for snickerdoodles. The first time we tried to double it, both my mom and I managed to forget how much butter was in a stick, and we ended up with double of everything else but four times the butter. Fortunately, the dough needs to be shaped by hand, and we realized before rolling anything in cinnamon that the texture was way off. Sixteen dozen cookies later, we regretted nothing.

    I, too, use the “count the blobs” method of tracking ingredient addition. When it’s flour or sugar I’m measuring, I count the cups out loud and don’t care who hears me. When I’m cooking without a recipe, I group the “add to taste” ingredients on one side of the bowl and move them to the other after adding them. And when I’m making up my own recipe to remember and refine, I have a dedicated pad of paper and write down each ingredient as I add it. For bread, I use hash marks to count cups of flour added to the sponge. Works pretty well so far!

  58. aiscaro

    I love reading the boo-boos (most of which I have made), and love the saves even more. Every time I make an ingredient boo boo, I tell myself that in the future I will always measure out all my ingredients in ramekins before adding to the bowl. I know this will help… but rarely do I listen to my own advice! Another way is to put all ingredients on one side of your bowl, and after adding, transfer to the other, so you know nothing was missed! 🙂

  59. amauer

    What an entertaining post idea!! I have thoroughly enjoyed reading these mishaps and saves. One of my boo-boos involved too much butter in the cookie recipe. I was making “Thin and Crispy Oatmeal Cookies”. I had made the cookies a couple of times before, so I don’t really know why I made the mistake. The recipe calls for 1 3/4 sticks of butter. I measured out 1 3/4 CUPS if butter. You’d think that I would have noticed that the batter was a little, shall we say, greasy. I baked one tray, and needless to say, the cookies were thin, but not crispy!! They were more like a soft, chewy toffee. Since I didn’t have a clue as to what to do with them, I threw them out with the rest of the dough. After reading some of the brilliant save ideas, maybe I could have used them as a crust ingredient, or maybe as a topping. We’ll never know on that one. I don’t plan to make that particular mistake again! Thanks again for a fun and informative post!!

  60. lauried

    Thanks to everyone who has shared their stories! One problem I have had occasionally is forgetting to serve something. It used to happen more frequently during big holiday meals like Thanksgiving. Now I always write out a list of dishes/condiments and check that they have made it to the table or buffet.

    I also write a detailed account of major family dinners–what we ate, how everything tasted, who came, how I set the table, what the flowers looked like, etc. After years of doing this, I have a history of all of our Thanksgiving meals and Passover seders. Some funny things have happened over the years, and it’s a great way to remember them.

    One of my daughter’s elementary school science-fair projects was to test what happens when you leave out an ingredient when baking cookies. She baked four batches of “toll house” chocolate chip cookies. One batch had no salt, one had no baking soda, and one had no egg. The fourth batch had all the ingredients. All had different results. She didn’t win that year, but it was a very fun project.

    Thanks for sharing your tips about the upcoming big-food holiday celebrations! Also loved your CC Cookies experiment as well – learning by doing is often the best teacher! Happy Baking! Irene @ KAF

  61. robinwaban

    I made a chocolate cake in a springform pan that was very labor intensive. It took me about an hour just to make it. When I went to put it in the oven I tried to balance it from underneath, forgetting that the bottom was only an insert. Needless I scraped up all that I could off the floor and put it back in the pan. I’d be damned if I let all that effort and good ingredients go to waste. Thereon after, it was known as ” dump” cake. Actually very tasty!

    OUCH! I can imagine the thoughts going through your head as your hand and wrist went up through that cake batter! Thanks for sharing. 🙂 PJH

  62. Dana Adams

    That is a great idea about the ‘yeast revival yell’. I should do that at home! Very funny, thanks for the laugh and the tip:)

  63. nrigg

    My mother had gone into hospital and my grandmother was in her house next door. My 8 year old self decided to bake cupcakes to comfort them and my brother aged 6. I colored them pink and green and put them in the coal-fired oven. My brother and I fled for our lives when the fluorescent pink and green mixture oozed out of the oven, under the cooker and across the floor. I had misread a level teaspoon of baking powder as 11 teaspoons of baking powder, and being a generous soul, I heaped the spoons. It took us days to clean up ther mess after waiting for the oven to cool!

    Many moons and mistakes have passed since then and my family and friends boast of my baking skills. The most valuable lesson I have learned is that serving the mistake warm with a good rich custard or sauce covers a multitude of sins and keeps your reputation intact!

    Thank you for sharing your goof and for the smile! You are so right! There are many ways to cover our mistakes. Trifle is always a way out, too! Elisabeth

  64. thurner

    I just read this and everything is so true! I have been baking, decorating, and cooking for 48 years – my stories of saves and near disasters would filll a book. One of my favorites was when I was delivering a wedding cake to western MA. I drove three hours and alll was fine until the last 1/4 mi. when I had top bounce down a dirt road and the top layer rolled. I took the cake in and set it up. At the time I was 22 and looked younger. Although I had been baking and decorating wedding cakes for 6 years by that time, I don’t think my long hair, blue jeans, and T-shirt instilled confidence. As I turned to wal to the car (leaving the smashed player behind me) everyone in the reception hall started sceaming and shouting. Of course I was just going to the car to get my reserve icing and decorating kit, but the looks on their faces were priceless.
    Two days ago, I had my most recent challenge. I was halfway through baking 2 dozen Stollen. The first 12 were great, but I was rushing to start the second 12 rising – something seemed wrong. I started 1/2 the batch rising and then the second. And then I realized that I had left out the 8 eggs from the batch! I then beat some eggs and kneaded them into the completed batches. What a mess! In the end, one batch worked and the other not so much. Next time I will use your tape trick or simply apply my usual “mise en place” and just make sure there is nothing left on the counter!

    I’m sometimes asked how I think about staying out of trouble in the kitchen; it comes from screwing just about everything up at least once! I would have loved to have seen the looks on their faces at the wedding 😉 Susan

  65. Heather

    Guess I’m a few years late for this thread…

    For 9th grade biology we had to make yeast bread, and instead of using the honey wheat recipe our teacher gave us, I decided to use a recipe out of my mom’s 1970s Betty Crocker book that I knew would work. I made an absolutely gorgeous loaf of bread. It was the perfect shape and a lovely golden color. I was so proud of it! All the other kids’ breads looked like little bricks, and I think one or two used bread machines (I don’t think we were supposed to). Then, of course, I tasted it… It was terrible, way too salty. Everyone was supposed to go around the room and rate each loaf on various factors including looks and taste. I wrote a note at my station saying “tastes better with jam or apple butter!!” trying to salvage it… Needless to say, I got As for looks and Fs for taste… I had no idea what had caused the problem, I knew I had put all of the ingredients in correctly. When I got home, we noticed that my dad (no cook or baker himself) had bought self-rising flour by mistake. I had no idea such a thing existed! And right at the bottom of the bread recipe it said “if using self-rising flour, omit salt.” But it was a good lesson in humility, I suppose!

    The other thing I can remember doing as a teenager was cooking a whole meal from scratch for my friend. We made twice baked potatoes with broccoli and carrots inside. After an extremely crunchy mouthful of potato, I realized I had forgotten to steam the veggies, and threw them in raw!

    Never too late to share a good laugh, Heather – thanks! 🙂 PJH

  66. grace

    I only put half the butter in my sugar cookies, by mistake! Is it possible to add the other half before I bake them? I made 2 batches ! I sure will appreciate any help , thanks

  67. Carli

    Hi, is there a way to revive mixed batter for pumpkin bread left in the fridge overnight? After I had completely made the batter something came up and I couldn’t bake it right away so I left it in the fridge to bake tomorrow. However looking online I realized I’m not supposed to do that with batter that has baking soda. According to the internet, the baking soda is activated by the wet ingredients immediatly and will flatten out overnight and by the time I’m ready to bake (if it hasn’t already). Please, please let me know if you have any tips for saving the bread! Should I add more baking soda? Baking powder? Should I just try to bake it as is?
    Thank you!

    1. MaryJane Robbins

      HI Carli,
      I’d say bake it as pancake batter, thinning out with a little milk if needed. It won’t need to rise as high, but can still rise enough to make a fine pancake. Good luck! ~ MJ

  68. mayme

    I just realized I left out 1/3 of the butter in my baked cake . Will the cake taste okay?
    Probably. It may be a little drier and more tough; it’s a layer cake, you could compensate for that by soaking them with some simple syrup. Susan

  69. Carrie

    These stories are hilarious!! I’ve done many myself, but just today my 11 yr old was making chocolate chocolate chip cookies and couldn’t figure out why the dough was so thick at the end… After they were all baked I tried one… Very, very salty in an odd sort of way… I asked my daughter how much salt she’d used, and that was right. Hmm. I then asked about the 3/4 tsp of baking soda, and as she reached for the stack of measuring cups I knew what the taste was… 3/4 CUP!!! Whoa. I’m contemplating a crust for cheesecake or something… Any ideas how to use 4 doz cookies with half a box of baking soda in them? 🙂 (The cookies look beautiful though! Very puffy!)

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Yikes, I am amazed that they are edible. Not really sure what to do with them, your cheesecake idea may work if you don’t mind the taste. 😉 Jon@KAF

    2. Susan Reid, post author

      Wow, Carrie! You’ll never hear any ideas about where to use something with too much baking soda from me; unfortunately, I’m a supertaster for that one flavor, and I wouldn’t be able to get within 10 feet of something like that! Susan

  70. Rachael

    Ive just made a swiss roll with no flour in it, the recipe i used had the flour in the list of ingredients but then didnt mention it at all in the instructions so i completely forgot about it but then only remembered when it had been cooking for 10 minutes :/ oh well im sure we’ll eat it anyway, just have to see how it is when it comes out the oven

  71. Adina

    I tried making soda bread and accidentally added WAY too much baking soda. Now it’s done baking and tastes incredibly bitter and gross – help! Any way I can save the bread??

    1. PJ Hamel

      Adina, feed it to the birds – they won’t notice the soda. Because, unfortunately, now that it’s done baking, it is what it is… PJH

  72. J.L. Brown

    Glad this thread was recently revived, even if I did get the answer to my problem (forgot sugar in pumpkin-apple muffin batter) in the first couple paragraphs. Of course then I almost let the rescued muffins bake too long because I was reading every single comment! (Distractability seems to be at the base of all my woes.)

    1. PJ Hamel

      Hope you brought it, Laura – you could tell them it was a super-moist, reduced flour cake, perfect for heating up and serving with ice cream. 🙂 PJH

  73. T.R.

    Opps… I made shortbread cookie dough and used unsalted butter. First batch baked and they tasted odd. I had put half the dough aside to bake at another time… Now I am wondering if I can save it by kneading salt into it? Will this ruin it completely? The portion in the freezer now is 2c flour, 1c unsalted butter, 1/2c brown sugar…. Please help!

    1. PJ Hamel

      That should be fine – You add 1/4 teaspoon salt to every 1/4 cup unsalted butter to make the equivalent of salted, so dissolve 1 teaspoon salt in a teaspoon or so of water, and knead/beat it in. If the dough is chilled, best to bring it to room temperature first. Good luck – PJH

  74. Joy

    I just found this site and am taking great comfort that there are others like me out there. I don’t think I have ever made a mistake free baked good. I love baking but am so not great at it.
    Tonight, I mixed all the dry ingredients together and then saw the instructions that the butter and sugar needed to be creamed togther (for cupcakes). I hope they turn out. I won’t know for a while because I just sent my husband to the grocery store for the 2nd time today to get eggs and muffin liners…how could I miss those. We’ll see how they turn out I guess, if I can ever complete the reciepe.
    Another noteable story – I made pumpkin cookies with frozen puree pumpkin from my freezer. As I was defrosting the pumpkin and tried to move it to a glass bowl, the plastic container cracked. I thought I got all the shards of plastic out…but a friend found one in his cookie…and assumed I was trying to kill him.
    As a young baker I was on a time crunch and needed to ice a double layer devils cake (which was still warm) and the top layer of the cake kept sliding off. I used (mint flavored) toothpicks diagonally to hold the 2 layers together. That was an interesting cake to eat.

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Joy–it sounds like you have the right attitude when it comes to baking: it should be a fun experience and it is okay to laugh when things go wrong! We commend your persistence in the baking world and your positive attitude when it comes to (mis)adventures. With these things together and hopefully a little help from King Arthur Flour, you can become a polished baker!

      Thanks for sharing your stories with the Flourish community and making us smile. A few tips come to mind as I read them… creaming together the butter and sugar in any cake, muffin, or quick bread recipe is important in creating the light, fluffy texture. The sugar granules actually create little air pockets in the butter as they are whipped in. If you skip this step, your baked goods will still taste delicious–they may just be a little bit more dense or have a different texture than what you are used to.

      Thawing frozen puree–try to make it easy for yourself ahead of time and store it in zip-lock bags that can be submerged in hot water for quick thawing. As it softens, you can empty the contents into a glass bowl and microwave it until it is thawed.

      As for the cake-sliding fiasco, a stiffer frosting (like royal icing) can act more like glue and less like a lubricant between your cake layers. You can also try thickening your frosting with ClearJel or meringue powder (products available on our website) to get that extra-frosting insurance and holding power. All in all, keep it up Joy and we wish you good luck and happy baking! –Kye@KAF

  75. Brook O.

    i have a smore cupcake recipe i added the sugar to the dry ingredients BUT i was supposed to beat the sugar with the butter for 2-3 mins until fluffy…. will this mess anything up? what can i do???

    1. PJ Hamel

      Brook, the texture might not be as fine, but don’t worry, the cupcakes will still rise and taste good. I’d suggest, at this point, you melt the butter and add to the dry ingredients along with the eggs. Hope this helps – PJH

  76. Shannon

    OMG, I couldn’t have come across this at a better time than now! I was nervous I am currently baking a wedding cake and noticed the batter smelled like biscuit dough. Sure enough I’d forgotten the sugar. Such a relief to learn adding sugar at the last minute isn’t going to doom the batch. Thank you so much!! Oh and the biscuit pics made my night!!

  77. Stephanie

    You just saved my morning mood. I decided to get a jump on the holiday baking so I started a challah at 7:30 am. Well, someone wasn’t really awake because I forgot the oil and the dough has finished its first rising. Call me a test kitchen because I’m throwing the oil in and re running the bread machine. Luckily the day is long and I can make another bread if I have to. But truly thanks! I would have been in an awful mood otherwise.

  78. Barbara Rizzi

    Is there any way to salvage two half baked apple cake loaves. The batter is ¾ baked and is really a treat to behold. I just hate to pitch the mess.

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Not a whole lot you can do, Barbara. You can attempt to continue baking, though I imagine they are not hot any longer. Jon@KAF

  79. Nan Lechner

    I am moving shortly so all my belongings from two residences are in my kitchen. I was making ginger molasses cookies and doubled the batch because I heard they were “almost addictive”. I took the last swipes of the batter prior to putting on cookie sheets and YEUUCHHH! It was so salty! But , I thought, I didn’t use any salt! Well, my sister who helped me move my stuff had put the contents of a glass jar into a crystal light container and labeled it gran sugar. That was about half the called for sugar, so I used that and added another 2 cups of sugar from the folger’s coffee can (plastic) I used for it. Turns out what my sister had labeled gran sugar was SALT!
    I baked a few just in case it could be edible…..I spit it out. Even dunking didn’t help.
    I thought, Dog biscuits? Horse treats? Gerbil or hamster chews?
    Can I rescue this any way, or should I dump it and start all over? H_E_L_P!
    Almost addictive? Only if you are the creature on StarTrek who had to have salt!

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Oh my, oh my. I am sorry but saving this one is not going to be a simple matter. I recommend starting over, Nan! Elisabeth@KAF

  80. Heather

    Thank you for this article!

    I just tried to double a cookie recipe that I made the other day in preparation for the holidays and only put 1/2 the butter I was supposed to. I just stared at it for a long time knowing something wasn’t right. It took awhile for my tired brain to understand what I did wrong. I added the additional butter (so relieved I actually had enough) and it immediately started to look more familiar. I am chilling it overnight, as is called for anyway, so hopefully it’ll be okay. Your post gives me hope!

    That last picture of the chocolate cake, refrigerator mess made my day. 🙂

    1. Susan Reid, post author

      Happens to us all; there’s a great freedom in admitting it! I’m sure your cookies will be fine. Susan

  81. Brian

    Hi, If I’m making 20 of the same sweet loaves can I simply measure out the ingredients times 20 and mix them all together in a single batter? If not, is there a formula to mixing multiple batters of a recipe simultaneously to save time?

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      If you are working with large scale baking, ensure that your equipment is capable of handling the load. Formulas for commercial bakeries rely on the baker’s percentages to ensure accuracy in the final product and you will need to some test batches before jumping into that amount of dough. Check out our Professional Flours pages for detailed advice here: Happy baking! Laurie@KAF

  82. Marilee

    I tried a new caramel frosting recipe that calls for cooking 3 cups brown sugar and 1 cup of cream.
    After boiling it you add 2 Tbsp butter and 2 tsp salt. after cooling beat in 1/2 cup of powdered sugar.
    It is creamy but way too salty. Can this frosting be saved?

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Marilee, I would try adding a little bit more cream and brown sugar. Keep an eye on the texture, if you add too much of one ingredient you’ll have to adjust the rest of them (excluding the salt, most likely). Bryanna@KAF

  83. DeAnn

    Now I don’t feel so bad, I put together my pumpkin bread recipe in which I scribbled adjustments on the right to make 3 pans instead of 2, except for the last ingredient in which I read 3x’s, and still didn’t catch the alteration I made of 3 cups pumpkin over the 2, because I had it scribbled on the left side of the page(bad idea) not to be consistent. Put it in the oven and a good 5 min. later I kept thinking all along, I swear the batter didn’t come up very high…I even rechecked the recipe 2-3 times to see if I for got something.. then I saw it ..that extra c. of pumpkin…Crap! should I or not. it was starting to rise on the sides. I whipped it out of the oven, poured it back into the bowl. added the 1 cup pumpkin, it has bits of drier film already from the sides of the pan from heating up..but what the hey, popped er back in the oven , waited a good 5 min then checked to see if it rose like turned out okay..if it hadn’t I was going to blame it on my oven to get a new it very old and acts up from time to time..note:eventually I will use that card…

  84. Rose

    After making a scone batter and adding all the ingredients, I then realized that I had not cut in the butter as I had pre-grated and froze it and completely forgot about it until it was too late. I was going to melt some butter and add it in and then chill to see what would happen, but I didn’t want to waste another 3/4 cup of butter so I threw the dough away and started anew. This time I did not forget the butter. Do you think something could have been done to save the dough?

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      What a bummer, Rose! Since your butter was already grated, it might have worked to incorporate the cold butter into your dough. Chances are that you ended up using more liquid than you would have if you had added the butter earlier, though, so they may still have ended up a little more cake-like than desired. Hopefully the second batch turned out just right! Mollie@KAF

  85. Mandy

    My husband has been asking for a rhubarb pie for weeks now so I thought I would make one for Thanksgiving. I followed one of my favorite recipes and had it in the oven for half the baking time before I discovered I had forgotten half the sugar. I tried adding some more sugar through the vent holes (it didn’t work), so sprinkled some sugar on top of crust. I still have most of a cup of sugar left. Tomorrow when all is cool I will make a sugar sauce to add to the pie as I serve it. Hope it works.

    1. PJ Hamel

      Oh, Mandy… how irritating! Maybe you could carefully cut the top crust around the perimeter, lift it off with a giant spatula, stir in more sugar while the filling’s still hot, and set the crust back on? But the syrup does sound like a safer option. How about strawberry syrup? Good luck – PJH

  86. Erin Evans

    I recently made apple crisp using a recipe I use multiple times a year and froze it before baking. Today when getting something else out of the pantry I saw my brown sugar and realized I totally forgot to include it in the topping! My plan is to sprinkle the missing sugar over the top when I do bake it, think that will work?

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Erin, your plan sounds like a good fix to us! You can also consider drizzling a little maple syrup or honey over the top of the crisp before baking, as this will soak into the topping slightly so it’s evenly sweet all the way through. Good luck! Kye@KAF

  87. Barbara

    I put all ingredients into my bread machine for cinnamon rolls, turned it onto dough, ran it thru the whole time, opened and realized I forgot the milk. So I put the milk in and turned it back on. Do think this is OK?

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hmm… it sounds like we’ll hear the result in a few hours, Barbara! If it was large amount of milk, the dough may have been too dry to rise the first time. Depending on what kind of yeast you used, it might still have some energy left to rise now that the milk’s added. While this certainly isn’t an ideal situation, the dough may still turn out. Let us know what happens, and good luck! Kye@KAF

  88. Kim

    Oh those biscuits! I might have to try that just because.
    I’m making shortbread cookies from a recipe I found online, and encountered a problem when I mixed the flour into the creamed butter/sugar/vanilla: it NEVER turned into dough. It stubbornly stayed in a dry, sandy, pile. Reminded me a lot of pie dough before water is added. Coarse crumbs I think it’s called? And I was supposed to have pliable dough. Gak!
    Turns out the website the recipe is on is having update issues or something, and it left out a stick of butter from the recipe. Go figure. So! I grabbed another stick, softened it, attacked it with my hand mixer, dumped it in the sandy crumbs, and mixed. Voíla! Dough! There’re a few lumps that look suspiciously like butter, so perhaps kneading it a few times (like I wedge clay) will help even everything out.

  89. SPR

    My partner and I were just making Ina Garten’s recipe for brownies and we got all the way to putting the pan in the oven when I grabbed the spatula and tasted the batter and realized that my partner, who was in charge of wet and dry ingredients while I was melting the chocolate and butter, had forgotten almost 2 cups of sugar! I was sure the texture of the brownies wouldn’t be right if we just mixed two cups of sugar into the finished batter. And I was especially upset because there was almost $60 of ingredients in them (who knew 3 cups of walnuts was $16?!). While I went back to the grocery store to rebuy all the ingredients, he mixed the sugar into the batter and baked them off. The texture was all wrong when we pulled them – greasy and grainy. Were these salvageable (more mixing?) or was I right to just bite the bullet and rebake them? Is baking with more than one person a recipe for disaster? Ps. the re-bakes came out perfect!

    1. Susan Reid, post author

      I have done exactly what you describe more often than I care to admit. It’s not possible to get EXACTLY the same texture when adding the sugar at the end (it depends very much on the recipe. If it starts with creaming, obviously there’s not much chance), you can get fairly close. Muffins can be redeemed to about 90% of correct texture. Brownies maybe, if you put the batter over some warm water, and give it about 5 minutes of stirring. The idea is to get the sugar partially dissolved and evenly distributed, which is obviously more difficult to do once the flour and eggs have been put in. Susan

  90. Helen Downing

    Susan, Thanks so much for this blog of “close calls and disasters”! It just makes my heart sing to know I am not alone in forgetfulness! I just put a double batch of bread in my Zo and have fingers crossed I didn’t forget anything important! I have gotten into the habit of “mis en place”, that wonderful French tradition of putting all the ingredients out and pre-measuring them in small cups or bowls. Makes for a few more dishes, but what a good feeling to just plop in ingredients all at once instead of running around getting individual spices and ingredients out as you read them off your recipe!I also put items away after I have pre-measured. The funniest mistake I’ve ever made was using panko bread crumbs instead of rice when I was baking a recipe for chicken tenders. They looked right, but they sure didn’t fluff up like rice! I learned then to pre-measure for only one recipe at a time! My hens enjoyed the Panko Delight!

  91. Kathleen

    As a newlywed, some 50 years ago my new husband was always wanting me to make boiled Bologna. I had never heard of such a thing, and it sounded horrid, but one day not knowing what to make for dinner, I decided to surprise him. I brought a big pot of water to a boil and threw in some sliced Bologna, I figured when it curled up it would be done. I served it with pride, along with boiled potatoes and green beans, waiting for my thank you. What I got was him rolling on the floor laughing hysterically about the shoe leather I tried to feed him and trying desperately to call his mother to tell her about the disaster. She told him to hush and explained to me that I was supposed to use ring Bologna. Never lived that down.

  92. Naomi Gaia

    Just found your great blog because I was looking to see if there was something I could do about my mistake. My mistake: I had just made a yogurt berry cake recipe because I had 2 berry yogurts pass the best-by date and wanted to use them. I have always premeasured my ingredients and do “mise en place” and put everything away after. But this time I saw I had about 1 1/4 cups of yogurt when the recipe called for 1 cup so I added 1/4 more of each ingredient. (I had to do a lot of math since the ingredient measurements were very varied.) I baked the cake and it had too much salt. It wasn’t terrible, just too salty and I wondered if I could add something as a topping to counteract the saltiness. Anyway, I really enjoyed reading about your and others mistakes. I am writing this over 7 years later, but am glad I found the King Arthur blog and intend to revisit again. Thank you even if I did not find an answer on how to save my cake.

  93. ELF

    Thank you for sharing this! I feel so much better 😊 – so the night before I was to bake bagels with some girls at a club, I made some dough ahead and wondered why it wasn’t coming together. I realized I’d used cold water! To wake up the yeast, I put it in a warm oven for a few minutes then took it out and kneaded it on top of the warm oven “vent” until it came together. Phew! Of course after the girls and I made some fresh dough the next day and already shaped them into bagels to bring to our fridges at home, we realized none of us had taken out the yeast from the fridge to mix in!! And this was after I’d told them all about yeast and we’d laighed about my cold water near-disaster the night before..: oh well! We decided it would be a good experiment for them, seeing what happens to a bagel baked without yeast. 😊


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