Rustic Tarts: Failing Deliberately

A few months ago, I made cupcakes for a party: jelly-filled cupcakes. I’d made them before, but I measured and mixed thoughtfully, wanting guests to have something special.

The first of two trays failed. Everything went wrong: the top half spread out and got crunchy, it pulled away from the bottom half where the jelly had settled heavily, and the bottom stayed stuck.

Amazingly, I did not freak out. I had no time to freak out. My kiddo would be napping just a few minutes longer, the party was the next day, and this was it. So, I dumped each “cupcake” upside down onto a tray, scraped out the innards and bottom, patted them onto what should have been the top of the cupcake but now served as the base, and sprinkled powdered sugar on top.

The party is family and friends, I reminded myself, they will accept me and my failed cupcakes for what they are. –This is a new realization for me. Although I adore my friends and family for exactly who they are, I’ve always been acutely aware of my many shortcomings, tried to hide them, and assumed people liked me because I managed to be nice enough and pass as a tolerable human. Good gawd.

I ran out of time to make a sign for the failed cupcakes saying something like “Failed cupcake experiment. For the brave and courageous, only.” Instead, I put them on the table with everything else.

Maybe because of that, lined up with perfectly round olives, square crackers, and a tray of normal cupcakes, people did not perceive these as a failure. In fact, they were the most popular treat, and I got the most questions about them. I told everyone the truth, but even so, there was only one left after the party, and that was because someone saved it for me to try. At one point, I passed the dining room and heard someone say, “I think they’re rustic tarts.”

The failed cupcake was pretty good, I have to say. More gooey and chewy than the correct cupcakes, but when are cupcakes supposed to gooey and chewy?

Well, here’s the thing — my cousin gets married soon and has asked me to bring a vegan dessert to the reception. His fiance (both of them were at this party) loved my “rustic tarts” and has suggested a few times that I make them for the wedding.

She knows they were a failure, but wants them anyway.

I’ve come up with at least 12 other options, but I like her, and I want to bring what sounds good to her, but I’m as nervous about trying to fail as I am about trying not to fail.

Can I “ruin” the jelly-filled cupcakes again? Can I fail in the same way? How is it possible I’m aiming for failure in order to succeed?

I lamented about this to the maid-of-honor who replied, “Whether you get it wrong or right, sounds like a winner.”

So, I guess the next step in this long journey of becoming more confident, optimistic, and accepting, is to ruin some cupcakes.

I’ll let you know how it turns out.

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13 Responses to Rustic Tarts: Failing Deliberately

  1. Test batches. Lots and lots of test batches.

    I volunteer as taste tester.

  2. Rose L. says:

    It is always hard to normally have a recipe always come out the same! I have also ruined recipes and they turned out good, but could never get it to happen again. I wish you luck on this one!!

  3. Rose L. says:

    the recipe, which was always a challenge for me, was French Lace cookies. Never came out the same but was always good!

  4. Alex Hurst says:

    I really want to know how they turned out! Sounds like this is as difficult a situation as finally getting something right…. but not knowing how you got that result right after a dozen fails. Good luck!

    • TRISTA says:

      I’ll post an update. I make them, I mean, ruin them, next week. So, if I’m trying to fail, do I ask you to cross your fingers for me, or send me bad vibes? This is a healthy brain scramble for my perfectionist mind.

      • Alex Hurst says:

        Haha! I’ll just hope that you make all the same glorious accidents all over again. It seems to me that there must be a quote somewhere to that effect, that Art is just one, beautiful accident. 🙂

        Wish I could try yours!

  5. Those rustic tarts sound delicious. I think we are all a little too hard on ourselves at times expecting to be perfect at everything we do which of course, is impossible. I think people like to see that we all have our ‘failures’ and appreciate this fact, or maybe they didn’t see them as ‘failures’ at all 🙂

    • TRISTA says:

      I was just telling my friend that it seems like artists are starting to share their stories of failure more than they used to … or I’m finding more of these stories. It’s so helpful to learn that accomplished writers like Cheryl Strayed or Elizabeth Gilbert endured any number of doubts, setbacks, and challenges, all the while not knowing how great it would eventually work out. It’s not that I’m happy when people fail, but I am happy when they share their story with me! Hmmmm… that’s a little like misery loves company. Maybe you have a word that describes this “appreciation of failure” for a future blog post?

  6. Some of my best meals have been “failures.” I love how we fall into discovery from tripping through mistakes.
    A delicious disaster …

  7. Pingback: Failing to Fail, a Disappointing Success | All But The Kitchen Sink

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