What went wrong with this Dessert?

I was feeling SO proud of myself earlier.  I was like, “Wow, this is going to be a great post on my blog.  I’m such a good cook… this recipe is going to be totally rad!”

Well, all those thoughts are gone now.  Wiped away.  The end.  Ka-put.

All drama aside, I’ll fill you in on what happened.

I had been dying to make a dessert with a graham cracker crust ever since my cheesecake disaster, but I decided that I was never again going to go buy all sorts of special ingredients for it like I did for that. (And what a let-down!) I don’t usually buy whipping cream or whipped topping, and so many of those no-bake-cheesecakes call for things of that nature.

So today, I set out to make something with ingredients in my pantry.  I really do feel like this was a noble attempt.  I learned something the hard way, though.  Remember this lesson from me, and don’t learn it the hard way yourself:

If you look hard enough online, you can find a recipe using any ingredients in your pantry, but that doesn’t mean it will be good.

Imagine my delight when I discovered this recipe online!  It couldn’t have looked simpler.  A no-bake cheesecake that I could easily top with a homemade peach pie filling?  And in a graham cracker crust no less.  So off I went.

First, the crust:

I was all kinds of proud of this crust.  1 cup crushed graham crackers, 3 tablespoons of melted butter, refrigerated and perfect.  I’d actually recommend this part of the recipe.

As I whipped up the inside of the pie, I felt a little nervous.  I’ve never used sweetened condensed milk before, but someone gave it to me at my grocery bridal shower, and this recipe called for it, so “why not?”  The batter seemed really runny, but I comforted myself. “It will set up in the fridge.”

That actually looks good!

Fast forward 4 hours.

I have refrigerated this beauty to it’s full extent, and made a delicious fresh peach filling to serve with it.  Is your mouth already watering?  I was counting down the seconds until I could sink my teeth into it.

But first, I had to dish it up.  It was then that I realized I had made a grave mistake.  I had ignored all the warning signs.  It was nice and cold, but still so runny!

Oh yeah… that looks like cheesecake pie!  NOT!!!!!

It does taste delicious.  It just looks awful.

But I followed that cheesecake recipe completely!  I measured and I did not substitute!!

Help!!!  What did I do wrong??

PS: It was brought to my attention that perhaps my can of sweetened condensed milk was too large?  It was 14 ounces, and the recipe said “small can.” I guess we’ll never know!  Walmart only sells one size.

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About recipeshappen

I'm Bonnie. I'm a pharmacy technician and new wife to Bogdan. I love cooking, usually without recipes. I love good sales and coupons, but haven't quite figured out the best way to find them. I make the typical new-wife mistakes and have burned my share of cookies. I like a cold house and a hot shower all year long.
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65 Responses to What went wrong with this Dessert?

  1. Oh Bonnie! I am so sorry :( That totally sucks! ugh I hate when you follow a recipe to the letter and get all excited and the end result is less than what you expected. I wish I could give you some advice, but knowing me and my disasters of late I don’t think I am suited for any advice giving :( I think maybe try our other blogger http://petit4chocolatier.wordpress.com, she seems to have so many good tips, and bakes so much. I hope this helps. Sorry again :(
    Eva <3

    • Eva, you’re really sweet. :-)

      At least this disaster is totally edible! Just not one to blog about and be like, “Hey everyone, try this recipe!!!!” haha :-)

      At least I can pass on words of caution!! :-)

  2. J L says:

    Oh no…I hate recipe fails. I’m glad it at least turned out tasty, though! I haven’t tried a no-bake cheesecake in years, but before going vegan, I made several, and they always had some sort of gelling agent to help them set. The condensed milk in this recipe would, I think make such an ingredient even more necessary (again, I’ve never worked with condensed milk, but just a guess!). Even if this were being baked, I would think it would take a very low oven and a very long cook time (45 minutes to an hour? perhaps?) in order for such a liquidy-looking recipe to set. Ah well. At least it was tasty!

    • Yeah, the more I think about it the more it seems like it needs some type of thickening agent!
      I mean, yes, the cream cheese is more thick when chilled, but still… something is missing.
      I don’t understand how people can rave over recipes that make no sense to me! :-) The woman who posted this recipe acted like it was her husband’s favorite!
      Now I’m thinking, “What? Does your husband like eating a pile of goo and calling it cheesecake?”
      Who knows. :-P

      • AJG says:

        I am sorry that this recipe didn’t turn out. Recipe disasters are always the worse. I always try to see the glass as half full in these situations, and use it as an opportunity to improve the recipe, and make it my own. From a problem solving perspective, xanthan gum is a great thickener that is used in many commercial kitchens, and many of the products we buy in the supermarket from ice cream to salad dressings (although, you would probably have to buy it online). For a more accessible option, that uses your idea of setting, heat the cheese mixture in a pan over medium heat, and add some gelatin (this is what causes Jello to set), or agar agar (a vegetarian substitute), stirring until the gelatin (or agar agar) is dissolved. When dissolved remove the pan from the heat, and whisk the mixture while still in the pan over a bowl of ice water until the mixture takes on a chocolate mousse like consistency. You can then refrigerate it as you originally did to allow it to set a little more.

      • Thanks for the ideas. :-)
        I will probably use something like gelatin next time. :-)

  3. Amanda R. says:

    I read the recipe and it just looks like a bad recipe to me. There’s no way that sweet condensed milk thickens by just sticking it in the fridge. Not gonna happen. You made more of a dip than a cheesecake! But, hey, I bet it’s a really good dip. ;)

  4. tjthiessen says:

    Hi Bonnie! Um, I’m pretty sure it’s the size of your can of condensed milk. I think small cans are 5oz., and by the sounds of it you almost had triple the amount? That’d be my guess for the reason why it didn’t set. :-(

  5. Teresa says:

    Another option might be to freeze it next time and see if that enables it to set up before topping it with the peaches. In fact, you may have to keep it frozen until serving. What were the actual ingredients for the inside of the pie?

    • That’s what I would do … freeze it!

    • http://www.texascook.com/Beckie/14.html
      There’s a link to the recipe. It has cream cheese, sweetened condensed milk, vanilla, and lemon juice for the filling.

      • Teresa says:

        Yeah, I don’t know how this sets up unless she freezes it. I don’t think you can buy a smaller condensed milk than the 14-oz. size. I wouldn’t make it with less than 3 cream cheeses — and maybe 4!! Sounds like it would taste delicious though. Just needs more cream cheese or less condensed milk. You might even be able to add a little flour to thicken it. My cheese cake has a few tablespoons of flour.

        This is probably one of those recipes that I would be willing to experiment on and keep trying until I got it the right texture.

      • I actually checked at Walmart today, because I was SO curious!
        They have like 5 brands of sweetened condensed milk, but they are all 14 ounces!!

        Thanks for the ideas!

  6. Ahhh yeah “small can” might mean the 8oz cans (I think they’re 8 oz). But freezing it could work!

  7. squackydack says:

    I don’t make no bake cheesecakes that often now a days but using creamed cheese always helped it to set in the fridge, heck the amount required, perhaps too much condensed milk…you could use thickeners like gelatin or agar agar to help it set or have it in the freezer and serve it up as like an ice cream pie…that would go well with a warm butterscotch toppin and caramelized pecans.

    • If I had more room in my freezer I would definitely have frozen it. :) I knew as soon as I cut it that something wasn’t right! ;-)
      I bet it would be good like a pseudo ice cream pie! :-)

  8. I love those no bake, no mess, no fuss kind of recipes. My suggestion is that it was to much condensed milk, maybe next time a little gelatin to just make the mixture more stable, without changing the flavour to much.

    Having said that, you could still work with that kind of mixture. Maybe rather build it in a glass, layers of crackers, filling and peach, that way it wont give that “mush” kind of look.

    My gran use to make something very similar, and its a great easy dessert.

    p.s absolutely love your blog!

  9. Tammy L says:

    Looks like you followed an incomplete recipe… “small can”? This is why recipes need measurements, Bonnie dear. ;)

  10. This reminds me of my macaroni and cheese bake fail. I refuse to talk about it normally, but I feel your pain so wanted to empathize with you ;) At least yours still tasted good, right? Happy Monday!

    • Haha!
      Do you know what this reminds me of? I don’t know if you watch or have watched Desperate Housewives… but Susan can’t even bake mac and cheese. Everyone says, “Who can’t bake macaroni and cheese??” :-)

      Thanks for sharing.

  11. I feel your pain. I love desserts but I am so bad with them. I cant get cakes to rise or pies to stay inside without falling out…uugh. I’m going to keep trying though. I’m begging my chef friends for help ; )
    Glad yours at least tasted good.

  12. I make no-bake cheesecakes with quark or Greek yogurt, but that calls for gelatin to stiffen it up… could that maybe do the trick? :) At least you could eat a lovely pudding ;-)…
    I had an epic fail yesterday with making homemade mayonnaise! Haha I forgot the vinegar! :o kinda difficult to make mayo without one of the key components ;-) I refused to throw out 2 cups of organic olive oil so I made it into a salad dressing / veggie sauce… worked just fine, it just wasn’t exactly what I wanted and…. I have enough sauce for the next month… lol.

    • It can be tricky to make homemade mayo. The trick is actually NOT in the vinegar. Mayo is an emulsion of the fat in the egg yolks (lethicin) and the oil you choose for the may (I usually use a mix of olive and canola). Make sure the bowl and the yolks are room temperature. This helps the lethicin strands in the egg yolks to spread out evenly over the globules of fat. Use a wire whip attachment on the end of a drill or the *fastest* speed you can get on a mixer that has a wire whip attachment. Regular beaters are not “frothy” enough to work well. The second trick is to have two bowls. In the first bowl, put one of the egg yolks and beat it till frothy and light in color. Now adding the oil in extremely slowly- literally drop by drop- beating furiously till completely blended. When you have about a half cup incorporated, beat the second yolk in the second bowl till frothy and then add in the contents of the first bowl VERY slowly. Once you have done this, continue adding in oil just until it starts to congeal. Then add the remaining ingredients (vinegar, lemon juice, spices). Works every time. Good luck and bon appetit!

  13. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Key_lime_pie
    This link helps explain the chemistry behind “soured” pies and what you can do to fix them if they won’t set up.

    I bet it tastes great anyway! Nomnomnom. :)

  14. Suzie says:

    This is how I am when I bake. I can’t bake to save my life! Not sure what happened with the pie, I do agree with the people that said to maybe freeze it. Better luck next time! It happens to all of us! I happen to find this part of your blog fun and it’s nice to know we’re not alone!

  15. You have to love that it still tasted yummy! Those peaches look delicious :)

  16. I’ve had my share of boo boos, too. I agree that a small can of condensed milk is 8 oz., so you probably used too much. Still, I wouldn’t turn it down if you served it to me. Looks delicious!

    • I checked at Walmart today, and while the evaporated milk comes in small cans, they have a lot of brands of sweetened condensed milk and it call comes in 14-ounce cans!
      So, who knows? :-)

  17. In spite of the picture, I still want to eat it!

  18. Molly says:

    Nothing more disappointing than a recipe that just doesn’t work out. Happened to me iwth some mango lime frosting recently, it was just too good to be true. But it still looks delicious!

  19. Pingback: The Recipe that (almost) didn’t Happen | Recipes Happen

  20. Honeybird says:

    Yup, it needs gelatin… I’ve never worked with condensed milk, but I’ve made my share of no-bake cheesecakes (I have never baked one..). But I don’t think dat condensed milk would ever solidfy in the fridge (even with cream cheese)?

    • I think you’re right. I think the only way condensed milk is a good idea is if you use enough cream cheese to make up for the condense milk or, like you mentioned, add gelatin.
      Live and learn, eh? :-)

      Thanks for the comment!

  21. Thanks for checking out my blog!! hahaha this recipe gave me a much needed laugh!!!

  22. menusofamom says:

    Eh, I always say, forget how it looks – if it’s tasty, that’s all that matters. Besides, the disasters are always worth it in the long run. They’re like cooking-life lessons :)

    • recipeshappen says:

      True. :-)
      Thanks for commenting!

      • menusofamom says:

        I just saw your whole page dedicated to the oopses that happen in the kitchen. I think this shall be my new favorite page. At least I know someone else out there in blog land has a few disasters now and then!

      • recipeshappen says:

        I’m glad you like that page. “Oopses” is a good word for them, for sure!
        If you only knew how many failures I don’t share! haha. :-)

        But I also don’t always share good meals, as well, if I don’t get pictures. So I guess it evens out. :-)

  23. Pingback: Saturday Upsides: Second Chances | Recipes Happen

  24. Clarissa says:

    I know I am late in replying but just had to tell you what I did when this exact thing happened to me. After letting the cheesecake set up for 24 hours to no avail, I realized I needed to take action. So I made a trifle. Mixed up 1 and 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs along with 1/4 cup melted butter and 1 Tbsp sugar. Emptied the unset cheesecake into a dish so that I could get to the crust. Used the crust as a base for my trifle. Broke it up with a fork a little and pressed it in the bottom of the bowl. If you dont want to use the crust, just use the graham cracker crumbs. For the 2nd layer I poured 1/3 of the unset cheesecake filling on top of the crust/crumbs. 3rd layer will be 1/3 of the graham cracker crumbs. For the 4th layer I poured 1/2 can cherry filling. You will just keep layering until everything is gone. You can use 1 or 2 cans of cherry pie filling. And you can layer at your own discretion. This came out so good. My family said it was better than cheesecake. I didn’t use a clear glass for the trifle because I wasn’t trying to make something beautiful. I was trying to fix an ‘oops’. And it worked!

    • That sounds awesome!!!!
      Thanks so much for sharing. Even though this dessert is in the past for me, I’ll keep it in mind if I’m in a similar situation again. ALSO, it might help other readers. :)

  25. Vela Belle says:

    Fabulous collection of dos and don’ts…I was trying my friend’s recipe of yogurt cheesecake – and looks like its not going to set – the best part this recipe is without any cheese – she had brought it over when she came for dinner last month. Ever since I have been meaning to try – she gave me an overview of ingredients – and I just whisked it together…

    But I am not giving up – am going to try till I succeed – and then will share the exact ingredients for those interested….

    All the messages above were fun to read and learn from.

  26. Blee says:

    I had the same problem with my cheesecake. I used the same recipe 3 times. The first time Eagle Brand Milk. It was perfect. The next 2 times, I used Spartan brand and my pie would not set.

  27. danny says:

    im from MALAYSIA and i love your blog!!

    i tried this exact recipe as u are, and you know what, it FAIL also..;)
    its ok, we can improve it next time
    and this Original recipe is came from Martha Stewart recipe..check this out..
    http://www.marthastewart.com/858246/no-bake-cheesecake

  28. sheeba pillai says:

    I think using less lemon juice than what is in the recipe could be the reason for it not setting !The lemon juice is the setting agent in the recipe .Also adding i teasp of gelatine dissolved as usual & addwd to the filling will solve your problem .BEST OF LUCK!

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