Baking is one of those things that I guess you either get right, or fail miserably.
After all, the science behind acids and bases and sodas and powders and starches and sugars is a delicate balance, right? No room for smidges and pinches; cups must be measured, spoons must be precise.
I, unfortunately, am a smidger. And a pincher. And a toss-whatever-in-the-bowler.
My kitchen is small. Like, I could cook better in my car. Frying bacon and flipping flapjacks off my radiator would be easier than trying to do it in the room which is designated to do such things.
Thusly, trying to recreate a baked good in the image of its Pinterest beauty is difficult, at best. The more ingredients and equipment needed in the recipe, the harder it is to whip together.
For instance, when it is boxed cake mix / eggs / bowl, things tend to come out well. Appetizing, even.
But when it is flour / eggs / sugar / vanilla / baking soda / almond extract / mixer / spatula / bowl / measuring spoons / measuring cups / food coloring / oil / pan, things get a little more out of control.
The counter is a disaster. The sink is unspeakable. The oven is filthy and / or on fire. And the dessert? Edible to be sure, maybe even delicious, but definitely does not look like the picture. Maybe the picture was if it was transferred onto Silly Putty and stretched all willy-nilly.
My actual baking skills aren't that bad. I'm no Cake Box wizard (Cake Box had such awesome birthday cakes), but when I have all the ingredients, all the equipment, the time, and the space, I can make some really yummy stuff. I have made pies so good that tasters have eaten bits of the napkin it was served on to get a last morsel.
But alas, fate and circumstance work against me to make my cake dreams into kitchen nightmares. (Just threw that one out there to see if Fox is really monitoring our every move.)
For example, I usually am short one ingredient. Either I think I have it and I don't, or I have it and it's expired, or I have it but don't have enough, or moths have invaded my bag of flour, laid their eggs, and I have to throw it out. Some incidents are more specific than others.
Such was the case when I was making a blueberry and cherry pie for my family's Fourth of July cookout. I took a variation on a cranberry pie I made for Thanksgiving, and swapped out the berries without nary a thought to what danger might occur by changing a recipe.
Big mistake. First off, I was out of butter. After Googling "butter substitute" and deciding melting Crisco would probably wind up with me in the burn unit, I sent my boyfriend out for butter well into Letterman's-monologue hours of the night. He gets forever brownie points for that, and possibly even actual brownies.
Second off, cherries are bigger than cranberries. Meaning, the pie will slop over onto the oven, creating giant billows of smoke and setting the smoke alarms off at 1 a.m., irritating my neighbors and / or causing them to dream about burnt cherries.
Third off, more bug problems. Ants are invading the house; the moths must have posted it on Foursquare. Keeping ants from the sugar and berries during their brief exposure to the counter was an experiment in true ninja skills. They say man who catch fly with chopstick can accomplish anything. Woman who can keep ants from sugar can rule the world, I hope.
In the end, the pie came out not terrible. It looked kinda mushed, and the sides were sticky and gooey from being overstuffed with berries. It didn't taste like oven smoke, but was rather delectable.
The oven has a Post-It on it saying "Clean Me." My hands are stained red from pitting cherries. While my methods were a big fail, presenting a pie to my loved ones and having them at least pretend to love it is worth almost setting the kitchen on fire.