The Failure Files: Peppermint Cheesecakes

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I ran out of “cute” cupcake liners about nine mini-cheesecakes into this recipe. For about a minute when this happened, I considered going out to buy new liners, holiday-appropriate pieces of paper, instead of using the Halloween themed ones I still had in the cabinet from (last?) October. I didn’t because some sane part of my brain realized that having treats wrapped in pinterest-perfect cuteness would not, in fact, make them taste better. It was that same part of my brain that saved me when I overfilled the first batch and the cheesecakes ballooned up and out of the mini-muffin tin. And when I proclaimed them a failure and threw myself dramatically on the couch, that part also told me to shut up and quit being such a drama queen. It’s just dessert.

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Baking between Thanksgiving and Christmas is not always the fun process it is during the rest of the year. I get stressed out about whether what I make is good enough, cute enough, worth bringing to a party or giving away. And at my best I can get out of my own head enough to just enjoy the it anyway or to laugh at the abject failures before going out to buy something instead. It doesn’t happen like that every time – sometimes I just stay flopped on the couch, muttering to myself about how terrible things are – but more often than not these days I embrace the failure. Or at least I deal with it cheerfully. Because failures happen in every kitchen – even if blogs and magazines don’t advertise that fact very often. Cakes sink, rice burns, flavor combinations just don’t work out – it happens. It doesn’t mean anything negative about you, or your cooking, or your ability to think up new recipes. You live, you learn, you eat something else for dinner.

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At least there were some valuable lessons in this whole experience. No, this cheesecake recipe can’t just be baked in mini-muffin tins – it doesn’t work right in such small quantities. And no, candy cane Joe-Joe’s can’t just be substituted directly for the biscuits I usually use for the crust. And no, the sky does not in fact fall when I make sub-par baked goods with the intent of serving them to others. Shocking, I know. I still took the cheesecakes pictured above to the office cookie swap. They weren’t a total failure – although I did manage to turn off the oven while baking the last batch (just in case I hadn’t made enough mistakes). They weren’t worth making again and the recipe isn’t worth sharing. But they were sweet, and minty from the chocolate peppermint, and festive in a weird way. And if anyone says they like them, I’ll just say “Thank you.”

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