Well, it's a little embarrassing to admit, but not everything I bake turns out beautifully. Every once in a while I forget to add baking powder to cornbread. This weekend I baked an exceedingly unlovely coffeecake. Let me qualify this by saying that it was something of an experiment: I had some leftover cheesecake filling and thought I’d make a "surprise inside" cake—my favorite kind. ("Tunnel of fudge" Bundt cakes, cream-filled cupcakes, turnovers…I love anything with a filling.)
Now, I have made filled coffeecakes successfully before. I usually make a sour cream coffeecake that has a very thick batter; you could stick a fork into the batter and it would almost stand upright. Since I didn't have any yogurt or sour cream, I used a different recipe. Even though the batter ended up very thin, I decided to proceed as planned (my first mistake). I folded in some frozen mixed berries and poured half the batter into the prepared pan. I then poured the cheesecake filling over the batter; since it didn't sink to the bottom, it looked like everything was going to be fine. I topped the cheese filling with leftover berry sauce, poured on the remaining coffeecake batter, and topped the whole thing with streusel. "Well, now!" I thought, as I put the pan in the oven, "This is going to be one gorgeous cake!" I sat back with my coffee, pleased with myself.
An hour and a half later, I wasn't quite so cheerful. It's tricky figuring out when something like this is fully baked: a tester isn't going to come out clean, since you're piercing the filling. I kept baking the thing an additional five minutes, testing with a skewer, then a paring knife, and then deciding it wasn't quite done. After more of this back-and-forth, I thought, "You're just being paranoid." The coffeecake smelled wonderful. The top was brown, the streusel was crunchy, and it had baked about a half hour longer than I'd originally estimated. I took it out of the oven (my second mistake). After letting it cool for about a quarter hour, I released the springform pan. As I looked at the cracked, broken coffeecake with the sunken center, I thought, "Uh-oh." The middle was still gooey, the fillings had sunk to the bottom, and the whole thing looked a mess. Did this stop us from eating it? Of course not. We just cut stubby little slices, leaving the oozing center alone, and had our "brunch" in the early afternoon.
And what's the lesson behind my little story, you ask? There really isn't one…but by posting the photos, I'm sharing my shame and reminding myself that every so often, I do make some pretty ugly baking mistakes.