Baking Adventures| The Great Cake Fail of 2021

Over the years I have had many successful bakes, and just as many fails. And hey, if I can’t poke fun at myself, then who can? In the ever expanding world that is social media, I shared a video of this particular fail over on TikTok:

Like – how? How can I successfully bake two cheesecakes in a week and fail completely with a simple chocolate cake? Via a recipe from Hershey’s to boot?!

It didn’t help, either, that I’d just finished binge watching all the latest episodes – both regular season and Christmas specials – of the Great British Bake Off (or “Baking Show.” I still don’t know why there’s two different titles for the same thing. Anyhow…).

I’d been looking for a fool-proof recipe for days. At least a couple of weeks. I even bought buttermilk, as many recipes called for that instead of water, or coffee, or any combination thereof. And I chose to use Hershey’s chocolate American buttercream recipe due to my niece’s aversion to anything peanut butter.

Hershey’s Collector’s Cocoa Cake

Recipe taken directly from Hershey’s 4 Books in 1 Cookbook


  • 3/4 c. (1 1/2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened
  • 1 3/4 c. sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 c. Hershey’s Cocoa or Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa
  • 1 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/3 c. water


  1. Preheat oven to 350 deg. F. Grease and flour two 8 or 8 inch round baking pans
  2. Beat butter and sugar in large bowl until fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla; beat 1 minute on medium speed of mixer. Stir together flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt; add alternately with water to butter mixture, beating until well blended. Pour batter into prepared pans
  3. Bake 35 to 40 minutes for 8 inch layers; 30 to 35 minutes for 9 inch layers or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely

How can I successfully bake two cheesecakes in a week and fail completely with a simple chocolate cake?

I am sure that you can already spot the difference in my pan preparation, in my choice to coat them with cocoa powder instead of flour. And how satisfying is it that my flour and cocoa powder looks like the yin-yang symbol in the middle photo?

While the cake received rave reviews from my eight-year-old niece and six-year-old nephew, it was only about a 5/10 for me. The icing never reached “spreading consistency,” and the cake itself was not moist or dense.

Granted, the recipe never made any density promises, and the cake rounds id, in fact, come out of the pans quite easily. The only thing I changed was substituting 1/3 c. water for 1/3 c. buttermilk. Maybe, if I want a denser cake next time, I’ll completely switch out water for buttermilk?

Or, you know, just use an entirely different recipe?

To quote and paraphrase Simon Cowell’s judging style, “This recipe gets a ‘no’ from me.” Behold the disaster that is my first chocolate cake in twenty-five years:

Oh no. Oh no. Oh no no no no…

I think you can form your own judgments from here!

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