I have officially just run out of festive cheer. I was all fired up after watching Nigella groping dried fruits and tree ornaments on her show last week and thought, Capital! I am going to do some baking for my work colleagues. Much better than a tin of Quality Street!

So I spent five bloody days poring over my cookbooks and finally decided I would do a Festive Muffin Fest. I narrowed it down to five recipes and spent a fortune on ingredients and even got a new muffin tray. And after all that? THE MUFFINS TURNED OUT SHIT.

I started with the trusty Chocolate Banana muffins that I have made a million times to great acclaim but tonight they were a disaster. Crusty on top and slimy sludge inside. And then the ones with the Nutella in the middle all broke in half. And now the pineapple tropical-ish ones refuse to come out of the tin.

I have no idea why the first dozen failed, let alone THREE DOZEN FAILURES. I am far too cranky to speculate. You can't get much easier than muffins. And I was so careful measure everything properly and not overmix. Perhaps the muffins sensed they would be going before a critical audience and just collapsed under the weight of expectation.

Gareth is a resourceful fella and sawed off all the muffin tops which are almost edible, albeit ugly. He may eat one with a cup of tea as he is contractually obliged to be polite. But all I have to show for three hours of labour is a big bag full of greasy stumps and a filthy kitchen. And no stinking presents for the lads at work.

And I still haven't written any stinking Christmas cards. I am just waiting for the right pen, you know. Hopefully in the next couple of days the right pen will come along and jump into my hand and make the propsect of writing Christmas cards seem wildly exciting.

And I still don't have anything to wear to the stinking work Christmas party on Friday. I spent two hours in the shops this afternoon and just wanted to strangle myself with the nearest bit of tinsel. No matter what the shop, change room, mirror angle or configuration of fluroscent lighting, I looked completely shit in everything.

I quite fancy going outside and hurling muffin stumps at passing cars but it is SLEETING right now so I shall go to bed instead. Rah!


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31 thoughts on “Stumped

  1. crikey, theyr’e worse than mine! I would NEVER inflict my cooking on others as a gift!

    BTW what DOES one wear to a freezing, winter christmas party? That’s a novel concept, would it be a party frock worn over three layers of Everwarm thermals? or a tiny cocktail dress underneath a snowplough drivers coat? A jumper? At least your foundation wont be sliding off your face when you get there, nor big sweat rings be emerging beneath your arm pits. Sounds kinda nice, actually.
    I’m sure you will look fetching in whatever you wear.

  2. If it makes you feel any better – there are places that sell JUST the muffin tops, to people who only want to have the nicest part of the muffin! I swear I’ve seen it done! Maybe you’re just ahead of your time?

  3. 1) you look fabulous (from the photo’s I have seen) think “bias cut” and you will be georgeous. I miss the whole buying a christmas dress from the UK – there are so many things you can get from Principles, Dorothy Perkins, H&M, etc for not too much.

    2) I also baked for christmas – choc malt biccies and after the first batch of burnt rock hard frisbees I changed the size and cooking time (my oven is shite) and they looked and tasted perfect. It helped that i drizzled them with white choc. I dressed them up all festive and I have had requests from my friends for the recipie (very rock’n’roll I know).
    The next batch will be fine – or just buy some and wrap them up…

    3) Love the FAQ.

    If it makes you feel any better in Oz it has been raining and crappy for 2 days – so not missing out on much.

  4. I work in a bakery for a living and I think I know where you might have gone wrong.

    Considering the Following:

    “And I was so careful measure everything properly and not over mix.”


    “Crusty on top and slimy sludge inside”

    I think your problem could have been undermixing. Undermixing is good for scone dough and pastry, or anything that you want to have a short crust, but not muffin batter.

    There is a protein in flour called gluten. As a batter is mixed this protein forms starchy strings within the batter that join together to form a matrix

  5. My guess? For what it’s worth. Something is wrong with your oven. Maybe one of the elements. Is there a heating element on top and bottom? Because…I would guess the top is working too hard or the bottom is not heating enough giving uneven heat hence the cooked tops and sludgy insides. This could also explain the burnt apple thing Dr. G. wore as a hat.

    Sorry about the baking debacle. I just doubled the amount of salt in some biscuits because apparently I can’t read.

  6. My guess is that your oven thermostat is off. If you don’t already have one, you can buy a thermometer that hangs on the rack inside and you check to make sure that the temperature you set the oven to is the one it’s heating to.

  7. My guess is that it’s just a crappy time to be cooking muffins – sun in Aquarius and all that.

    I don’t know where in Aus danioz is but here it was over 40 degrees two days in a row and i’m still trying to push my melted body into a vaguely familiar shape. Send us your sleet! The only thing you can buy to wear to a Christmas party in that heat are ice packs and maybe a fridge.

  8. When I was fifteen or thereabouts, I once decided to make chocolate pancakes. My recipe? Replace some of the flour with cocoa. There was no scientific measuring, either. Culinary genius that I was, I decided to eyeball it. The pancakes were a mix of solid and chewy, and salty and bitter yet faintly reminiscent of chocolate, but I magnanimously saved some for my dad, which the poor man gamely ate when he came back to town a few days later. Since then, I only bake cake mixes spiked with alcohol, or Swedish meatballs from IKEA. The muffin bits in your picture look miles better!

    Good luck with the outfit choice — going by the pictures you’ve put up, you’ll look lovely anyhow. In this weather my sense of style goes out the window as I’m wearing about three sweaters under my coat, and look like a small door. It doesn’t help that I dyed my hair green in September and now strangers on the street keep asking me if I did it for Christmas. So much for punk.

  9. oops I hit post before finishing
    I was also gonna say that I have recently had the same debacle with muffins and my mum (bless) helped me out with a recipe that uses tinned apples instead of using oil and they worked heaps better and weren’t all sludgy. Plus better for you. I currently have a disturbing muffin addiction that has seen me put a few pairs of jeans in the bottom drawer (see earlier post). I will hunt the recipe down!

  10. Shauny don’t strangle yourself with tinsel, you make me giggle. I’m sure you looked FINE ranging to AWESOME in lots of things you tried on, but aren’t there just days when one just wants to stay inside and wear a sack for the rest of the week cos everything looks horrid? I bet Nigella goes shopping some days and thinks “My God, I look AWFUL”.

    Best of luck with the festivities.

  11. You have a classic case of performance anxiety. I am a fantastic baker (if I do say so myself), but everytime I try to cook something for other people it turns out shit! Welcome to my world! LOL.
    It reminds me of that Seinfeld episode where Elaine goes into business selling muffin tops at her new shopfront ‘Top of the muffin to ya!” She ends up with a bucketload of muffin stumps that even the homeless won’t eat, so they have to start dumping them illegally. lol

  12. No, no, no, EVERYBODY is wrong. You have spent hours slaving over a hot stove to create absolutely stonking TRIFLE SPONGES, oh yes. No shop bought cake for your trifle, dahlink.

    Douse them in some alcohol or other, so on the search for vegetarian jelly or some very rare jelly taste and weird fruit to put in it. Look surprised if anyone comments on the shape of the sponge in the trifle: *blink* REGULAR shaped cake? How odd! No, no I make them this way on purpose as the best way of soaking up alcohol/matching up with the mango jelly/ etc etc, all scientifically proven, ask Nigella yada yada.

    There are no kitchen mistakes while the concept of the trifle lives and breathes.

    Or batter them into crumbs, add marshmallows, cherries and the ilk and, now, was it condensed milk? Roll into log shape and cover in chocolate – I am certain my grannie did this. As long as the mixture can sort of hold together for long enough to be covered in chocolate. Yule log thingy. Keep in fridge and cut into slices.

    Actually that last one is perfect because you can claim it is an Aussie thing and hence the fridge, because, as everyone knows, everything melts in Oz. Yeah, old Aussie tradition, *blinks again, liking the blinking* you mean you don’t have these over here? How odd! Cold Aussie yule log fandango, takes forever as we NEVER buy the cakes for it, all hand done etc etc.

    Can’t help you with the clothes though – same problem.

  13. Yay! Shauny’s back!

    Forget shopping for a new dress, unless it will actually make you feel good. Just go to the party in something comfy from last year. Everyone loves you and just wants to see you, I’m sure no-one gives a hoot what you wear!
    Shopping in December, in my experience, is stressful.
    Send New Years cards. Much more relaxed.
    Can’t help you with the baking, but it looks like you’ve got plenty of tips! Hooray for internet!

  14. What a wonderful lot of comments, inspired by your wonderful funny post. (Though sad in its way, of course. But then the best tragedy has humour in it.)

    There, there. But you’re so pretty you can’t possibly look the-bad-word-you-used in anything.

    Love the FAQ.

  15. Oh my. Dearie me. It’s odd how some days in the kitchen just aren’t meant to be, isn’t it? Don’t they say it’s the thought that counts – you could just tell the boys at work the story – I’m sure they’d appreciate the thought as much as they would the perfect muffin. Well you could try.

    And I’m sure there is a joke in there somewhere about muffin tops both in the kitchen and in the clothes shopping but I can’t quite work out what it might be.

  16. Oh Fifi, so naive – doncha know that over here, we just wear the party frock and then freeze? No coats or jackets, they’re for wimps. We just go with mottled, frozen legs and arms – you can warm up once you get inside!

  17. Well DUH. It’s obvious.

    Sew the muffin tops into a fetching AND edible outfit ensuring you’ll be the talk of the party and, as everyone will be marvelling at the whiff of carbonised muffin and trying to peek a nipple through the gaps, no-one will notice just how grotesquely ugly you are!! Double trouble!

    (Hmmm ‘carbonised muffin’… sounds painful…)

    (and you know fine well you’ll look fab cos you’re a cutie!)

    (can I stop with the parentis… parethen… brackets now?)

  18. Hehehehe! Sorry – I don’t mean to chuckle – but this is me everytime I go into the kitchen. And what’s worse is that the harder I try, the more more inedible the result!

    Thanks for putting a smile on my dial. 😀

  19. I would just like to say, that I find your stories highly entertaining. I am a bored Personal Banker and was searching unsolved mysteries and stumbled onto your site. Maybe I crossed over? I just wanted you to know that your muffin misery, has made my day delicious. Thanks, and Merry Christmas!

  20. Just picked myself up off the floor… this is the funniest thing I have read in ages. Your man is a treasure, putting away the muffin tops to make you feel better. If I lived nearer, I’d be straight round to polish off the greasy stumps.

  21. I once made muffins when a young, impressionable teenager. I carefully checked with my sister that Baking Powder and Baking Soda were the same thing. She informed me (as loving sisters do) they were. I made the muffins. They looked very tasty. They tasted minging. I think I made a few of my schoolfriends sick with them! Lesson learned: never trust your big sister.

    Also, I think the yule log thingy with marshmallows sounds like Northern Irish 15’s: 15 marshmallows, 15 cherries, 15 digestives and a tin of condensed milk. Mush it all up and roll into a sausage. Fridge it and cut later. Absolutely wonderful!

  22. Can you make rum-balls out of them? Lots of rum-balls, obviously, after three loads of muffins, but still, it’s a thought, and involves rum!

  23. well thanks everyone for such hilarious comments and stories, they made me cackle as they trickled in all day. I was at work so couldn’t access my site to reply (i just get the notification emails now and then) coz PUSSY IS BANNED at my work.

    anyway, methinks it is the oven as it just doesn’t get very hot. it is old and stinky. and thanks for the fab ideas, the yule log sounds great! and the rum balls. be still my ever-expanding arse!

  24. I don’t know what to wear to the work party yet, either. I’m going to go with my work clothes. I can’t be arsed, frankly. It’s too bloody cold.

  25. For what it’s worth, Shauna, the boyfriend just looked over my shoulder, saw your picture of the muffins and sighed “OH. They look NICE! YUM!”

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