The Birthday Carrot Cake Fail

July 24, 2012

I like to think of this little space on the internet as somewhere I can be honest. I mean, sure I urge you to put bacon in your cookies, throw rad chicken wing parties, and wax lyrical about roast potatoes. But I also wear my heart on my sleeve when it comes to the people and places I love.

There are times when it’s not all perfect cakes and dainty scones. There are times when things go completely and utterly belly up.

If the title of this post tells you anything, it’s that the lovely little cupcakes you see before you are not primarily what we’re here to talk about today. These sweet little bites of loveliness came about as a result of a massive kitchen failure.

I made Dan a birthday cake a couple of weeks ago. He’s not a massive cake fan (who did I marry?!) and so this was the first time he had actually requested anything. He asked for carrot cake and I was stupidly excited to bake it for him. But it flopped. Miserably.

I imagine you might like to know what went wrong so as to avoid the same disaster that befell me. Well, I made the rookie move of trying to bake it in a different type of pan. The pan had the same volume as the original called for and so, I imagined, the cake would not be affected. How wrong I was. I ended up with an un-cooked cake (despite having tested it before removing it from the oven) that literally collapsed in a soggy mess before my eyes.

Friends, I cried.

I dunno, I just kind of take cake seriously. As someone who adores cake – eating it and making it – it’s hard to see things go wrong, especially when it’s for a special occasion or a special person. I know, of course, that it’s only cake and that it really did not matter, but ahhh, I so wanted that cake to turn out!

A few days later, once I’d picked myself up and dusted myself off, I decided to bake these cupcakes, solely to act as a vehicle for the cream cheese icing I’d already made, because I couldn’t bear for it to be wasted (you know me).

Somehow, I suspect through witchery or magic, I didn’t ruin anything; there were no tears. These are lovely, amazing cupcakes. And so there isn’t really a great moral here. Only a chance for me to say, hi! I’m human and I wreck things!, which kind of feels like a great thing to share.

Vanilla Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing
cupcake recipe via Sweetapolita

For each cup of all-purpose flour, add 1 1/4 teaspoons of baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon of salt.

For the cupcakes


  • 1 1/2 cups (190 grams/6.5 ounces) self-rising flour
  • 1 1/4 cups (160 grams/5.5 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (2 sticks/227 grams/8 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups (400 grams/14 ounces) white sugar
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (250 ml) milk
  • 1 tsp (5 ml) vanilla extract


  1. Preheat oven to 350F/180C. Line 2 muffin tins with cupcake papers.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the flours. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugar gradually and beat until fluffy. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the dry ingredients in 3 parts, alternating with the milk and vanilla. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated but do not over beat.
  4. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the batter in the bowl to make sure the ingredients are well blended. Carefully spoon the batter into the cupcake liners, filling them about 3/4 full.
  5. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean.
  6. Cool the cupcakes in tins for 15 minutes. Remove from the tins and cool completely on a wire rack before icing.

For the cream cheese icing


  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 4 oz/ 113.4g butter, softened
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups icing sugar


  1. Beat together room temperature cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy.
  2. Add vanilla and icing sugar and continue to beat until smooth.
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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Louise Hertsgaard July 24, 2012 at 8:27 am

Hi, I’m your step-mother-in-law’s friend, Louise. We met briefly at my house and I love the look of your blog. Lately we have been enjoying the recipe for cornmeal and blueberry pancakes! Very yummy (and I don’t really like pancakes!) Keep up the good work.


Marisa July 24, 2012 at 1:27 pm

I so, so, SO feel your pain! Like you I am a massively in love with cake, both the baking and the eating. And I am always the go-to person for cakes on any and every occassion amongst my family and friends. And I tell you – I get so stressed out and sad and upset (so many negative emotions) when I feel it isn’t coming out properly. It is kind of ridiculous but not much gets me as stirred and riled up as a failing cake. I think for me it is partly that baking cakes is really my thing and it is my thing because to me it is an act of love and giving that makes my heart swell a bit every time :) And because it is an effort of the heart I want my gift to be perfect every time. But, your second round cupcakes look aboslutely lovely and perfect – and I really, really want one right now!


Lynne July 24, 2012 at 10:29 pm

Aww, I’m so sorry to hear the cake didn’t work out, but you made cupcake “lemonade” out of the proverbial lemons! We have *definitely* had our share of spectacular failures and wow…nothing makes me grouchier than the food and joy wasted on a meal (or dessert) gone wrong. Undoubtedly, Dan appreciated the effort and I’ll bet he even secretly loved the cupcakes. When you do conquer carrot cake (and you will), it will be an even sweeter victory!


Kari @ bite-sized thoughts July 24, 2012 at 11:32 pm

I had a similar experience, with carrot cake interestingly enough, for mother’s day a few years back. It was undercooked and very sad indeed. I definitely relate to the tears!


Stephanie July 25, 2012 at 11:33 pm

I too have had an epic carrot cake failure! I think that was two years ago and I haven’t made it since because I just don’t trust myself . . . and that’s sad because carrot cake can be so perfect — when it actually works!

Probably my favourite cake failure was a chocolate tomato juice cake from my grandmother’s church cookbook. Sounds kind of good and old-fashioned, right? I mean, the tomato juice should give a bit of acid to lift up the chocolate and sugar and keep it moist.

No. So, so bad. And the worst part was that I didn’t even know it until I took it my friend’s party and we were all eating a slice and I realized it was dry and really very inedible. Alas! Luckily, they’re still willing to let me bake other things for them, just like Dan may request a cake on a birthday in the future . . . (:


Tonia July 28, 2012 at 3:00 am

I’m not sure what your carrot cake recipe is like, but if you want I could send you the one my mom’s made for years, the one I made when I had my bakery. Always turned out well.
I had a similar flop last December with a gingerbread cake that in theory sounded pretty good (although, when I read the recipe it didn’t sound like it had enough flour); wah! What a flop! Another flop was when I made a batch of chocolate cake rounds at the bakery and wondered why the dough didn’t seem quite right when I put it in the oven — opened the oven to check on them and they were FLAT. . .broke one in half. . .NO SUGAR — WAH!


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