Alright, so everyone’s birthday seems to be this week. First, I made my friend some oatmeal cookies, and then today I set out to make some form of edible treat for my other friend’s birthday that was this past Tuesday. When I asked her what her favorite dessert was, she told me to surprise her.
Here’s the thing: as much as I would love to have a cacophony of fine baking ingredients at my fingertips, I am no Ace of Cakes with a Food Network stocked pantry. I don’t make nearly enough babysitting to go out and buy vanilla beans or fresh fruit or fancy flours whenever I so please. So, as much as I would love to whip up something sublimely delicious and French Pastry Chef worthy, I knew this was a good opportunity to improvise with what was on hand.
I had some leftover devil’s food cake mix, and I still had a bunch of graham cracker crumbs and a bag of marshmallows, so I thought it might be cool to do something s’mores-inspired.
I should’ve just stuck with cute mini s’mores cupcakes, but no. I improvised.
I decided to make a sort of bar cookie/cake thing. First I made a graham cracker crust. I haven’t made a graham cracker crust in a while, and while they’re pretty easy to assemble, I thought this might be a good time to get creative. For this crust, I used crumbs, sugar, molasses, cinnamon, milk, and vegetable oil (I didn’t have butter).
I pressed it down in my baking dish and baked it for 10 minutes at 350F.
Maybe that was the problem: I didn’t bake it for long enough. Spoiler alert: by the end of this dessert disaster, the crust was not crispy like a graham cracker crust should be. It wasn’t that flavorful, either. It was just…there. So…not really sure where I went wrong.
Anyways, on top of the graham cracker crust, I poured a batter I concocted.
The batter was devil’s food cake mix, milk, vegetable oil, an egg, and espresso powder. I didn’t measure things, I just poured what looked good. I know, professional. I figured if I was making this up as I went, might as well make up the ratios as well. I also stirred in some marshmallows.
I put the whole thing into the oven and baked it for 25 minutes, at which point a toothpick came out clean. Now, while this was baking, I started to think that maybe I should make something else, too, just in case this turned out as a disaster.
So, with the rest of the marshmallows, I made some rice krispie treats using some of the devil’s food cake mix stirred in. Those turned out awesome, thank god.
Meanwhile, I finally pulled out my bar cookie/cake s’more thing. I let it cool for a few minutes, then sliced it out to let it cool on a wire rack. As soon as I cut into it, I knew it was a miss: I was hoping for a denser, cookie-like bar, but this was really just cake on top of a (crumbly, soft) graham crust. Oh, and the marshmallows DISAPPEARED. Totally gone. I guess they don’t work like chocolate chips.
I tried one of the pieces. It tasted…okay. I dunno, I cut six of the pieces for my friend, and maybe she will like them. But I learned my lesson: do not improvise. Or at least, not entirely. Also, stop using cake mix. Also, stop using every special occasion as an excuse to bake.
But really, these s’mores bars were a no-go. I’m not even gonna share the recipe, because THERE WASN’T ONE. Just make these instead.
At least she will be getting some rice krispie treats to go with the s’mores failure? I dunno, I probably should’ve just gone out and gotten her some whiskey.
So let’s sum up what I learned from this experience:
1. Do not make things up completely as you go while baking. At least look at a recipe first.
2. If a graham cracker crust doesn’t look done, it isn’t done.
3. Marshmallows, when added to cake batter, will disappear and will not retain their fun fluffy shape in said cake.
4. Cake mix is for cupcakes, cake, quick breads, and rice krispie treats. Not bar cookie/cake things.
5. I should have sucked it up and bought actual ingredients to make something rad. Instead, I used what I had to make something sad.
6. Do not attempt to bake a masterpiece at 9pm on a Thursday night. It isn’t going to happen.
7. When all else fails, at least rice krispie treats are good and fail-proof.
8. Baked goods do not always make an ideal gift.
9. Use a recipe.
10. No, but really. Use a recipe. And measurements.