Not So Perfect

If I were ever to have my own Food Network or PBS cooking show I would want to do one about how to fix your mistakes in the kitchen. That is what I miss about Julia Child, she made mistakes and showed them. Now a days, everything turns out perfectly and nothing ever seems to need more seasoning or get dropped or have a giant crack in it. So unrealistic and what forces people I feel not to want to cook. They see the recipe, they get excited, try it, and it didn’t turn out perfect and they get discouraged. What the show really needs to say is: the first time we tried this cake it spilled over, the second time it cracked down the middle the third time it sunk and on the fourth time it was perfect….but all they show you is the perfect. Sad really. I think more people would cook if they knew even the best of the best made mistakes too.

The majority of my friends who have a cooking question are usually calling me in a panic about something going wrong and how can they fix it. Last week was no exception when my friend(who broke my rule and kept opening the oven while it cooked) was making a cheesecake and when it came out it had a large crack in it. Everything else about it was fine except for how it looked. She sent me a picture of it so I could see the problem. The crack was too big to do what I usually do. If the crack is small I usually make some mousse and pipe it on top and no one is the wiser, but this was a big crack. So I told her to cut away the crust. Stick it in a piping bag and pipe it into a fancy champagne glass and top with whipped cream. She called back later to tell me that it was a huge hit. So I got to thinking what would I do if my cheesecake got a huge crack in it, and thus came the invention of my Pumpkin Cheesecake Towers. 

Pumpkin Cheesecake Towers 

package of wontons
cinnamon and sugar mixture

Caramel Sauce:
1 ¼ cup sugar
2/3 cup heavy cream

Pour the sugar into the center of a deep saucepan. Carefully pour 1/3 cup water around the walls of the pan, trying not to splash any of the sugar onto the walls. Do not stir; gently draw you finger twice through the center of the sugar, making a cross, to moisten it. Over high heat, bring to a full boil and cook without stirring, swirling the pan occasionally to even out the color, until the mixture is medium caramel in color, 5 to 10 minutes. Immediately turn off the heat and use a wooden spoon to slowly and carefully stir in the cream(it will bubble up and may splatter).

Pumpkin Cheesecake
1-1/2 cups pumpkin
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ginger
1-1/2 lbs. cream cheese
1/2 Tbsp. vanilla
1 cup sugar
4 eggs
2 Tbsp. sour cream
1/4 cup half-and-half


In a large bowl, combine cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, sour cream and half-and-half. Using an electric mixer, beat mixture until light and fluffy. One at a time, beat eggs into the mixture. Add remaining ingredients; beat until well blended. Pour mixture into the springform pan until the filling comes 1/4 inch from the top of the pan. Wrap outside of the springform pan twice with aluminum foil. Place the pan in another pan that has been partially filled with water. Place the cheesecake in the water bath in a 300-degree oven for 1 hour. Remove pan from the oven. Remove springform pan from the water bath. Let cheesecake cool before removing it from the springform pan.

To Assemble:
Fry wontons in oil(in either deep fryer or in a pan filled about 3 inches with oil). Take out when golden brown(place on paper towel) and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar while still warm.
Place one wonton on a plate.
Scoop your cheesecake into a piping bag and pipe a single layer of cheesecake. Place another wonton on top, and again follow up with the cheesecake. Place another wonton and repeat with cheesecake and finally top with a wonton. Drizzle caramel sauce over the top of the dessert.

Let this be a lesson to go ahead and make a mistake, you just might get something even better.


All text and images on this site have ALL RIGHTS RESERVED Copyright (c) 2006 by Peabody Rudd.


  1. I know what you mean – I watch cooking shows and wrinkle my nose (‘yeah right, no kitchen process runs THAT smoothly!’), and often joke with my friends that if I ever had my own cooking program I’d call it ‘the uncoordinated cook’ as my kitchen usually turns into a space of organized chaos.

    I love the suggestion that you gave your friend, and I’ll have to bear it in mind if I ever have that issue – but I also love this cheesecake tower, so would have to give both a shot!

  2. Genious! These are beautiful and oh so appealing!

  3. You are so right about Julia Child! I sometimes feel today’s shows are so overedited … I mean who looks like that in their kitchen?!

    I am almost fainted when I saw that photograph! Delicious!

  4. Absolutely beautiful Peabody! As usual.

    I know what you mean about a lot of cooking shows perpetuating certain myths about how food should look and taste. I think cooking is a little bit like a journey, it’s not always perfect.

  5. This post really resonated with me. I like knowing why a recipe instructs you to do things a certain way. That makes it easier to correct or prevent mistakes. Aside from that, this was such a creative idea. It looks delicious and the fried wontons are kind of whimsical. Very cool!

  6. I’m a huge fan of showing your mistakes.. and I agree, I really wish the celebrity chefs would do the same. I’ve noticed that Paula admits her mistakes every once in a while and then she corrects them in a fit of giggles – those are my favorite segments!

    Your towers look amazingly wonderful. I’m glad your friend made the mistake of opening her oven to peek. :D

  7. Astute observation on cooking shows these days…way over produced. Though I will say, if you look close, some of them to mess up a bit..Alton Brown isn’t perfect in my book, but I am a nerd so I do dig him :)

  8. I think I need to start calling you to fix my mistakes too, I wish they would all turn out that good!
    And that drizzle of caramel? Mmmmmmmm

  9. Mm-mmm, looks delicious! I hate making mistakes in the kitchen, but sometimes they do give rise to wonderful inventions…those towers look yummmy. I know what you mean about the cooking shows…did you read Bill Buford’s article on cooking shows in the New Yorker two weeks ago? You might find it interesting!

  10. What a great idea.

    I sympathise with you re: the seeming unattainable perfection as touted by mags, tv and blogs. It’s probably our version of supermodels and Hollyweird…you know. Perhaps it’s time to revel in the imperfections of our real cooking…which is one of the reasons I started my second blog.


  11. My goodness, this looks fabulous!

  12. OMG, I think I just licked my screen clean! Now, THIS is what I call food porn! Great recipe, creative and delicious. Thank you!

  13. This is incredible……..too pretty to eat! I am going to give it a try!

  14. WOW…
    that’s a lot of goodness – brilliant!
    I totally agree with what you’ve said about the cooking shows – very annoying! – and stupid; if it would happen to me I absolutely wouldn’t follow her instructions again soon(!)

  15. We have noticed that phenomenon on foodTV too. I think it’s all part of this latest stupid business phase to NEVER admit to having made an error.

    We’ve often noticed that things are browned more AFTER the commercial break or things that clearly got charred on the foodTV barbecue are suddenly not burned.

    What a great idea to rescue the cracked cheesecake.

    (I would just have cut the thing in half – trimming away any unsightly crack – and scattered some sort of fruit in the fissure)


  16. You are fucking brilliant. Brilliant! That is a phenominal idea.


    That was me having a foodgasm. :) lol

  18. This is seriously the prettiest dessert I have ever seen! I want to make it so bad, but I know mine would turn out nothing like yours.

  19. As always, presentation is amazing! And I have to agree, fear of failure and not knowing how to alter our recipes when something doesn’t go exactly according to plan is probably one of the biggest thing that keeps people out of the kitchen. When I stray from cooking something I have at one time considered fear of failure is usually my reason.

  20. Ha!! I’ve blogged about this before, too (the way real kitchens run, not pumpkin cheesecakes, BTW).

    In my cooking show, the camera would pan back to show 2 dogs sitting on the kitchen floor, waiting for scraps, and 5 kids waiting in the wings, asking to lick the bowl, be driven to soccer practice or asking for money!!

  21. I cooked my friend Wanda her favorite double chocolate fudge amaretto ricotta cheesecake also called ‘The Golden Girls Cheesecake’ I got the recipe from The Shiska in the Kitchen’s Blog , I made this again for her a few weeks ago and it cracked and I wasn’t going to bring it to the party , it was a big crack. She said bring it, it will taste good anyway , no one will care. So when I brought it, she just looked at the cake with great love and LUST! She said ‘ I am going to eat that CRACK! For a minute I thought she was talking about drugs.

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