My First Cheesecake: It Smells Like Burning

Cheesecake FAIL

I attempted to make my very first cheesecake today and this is what came out of the oven. At first it looked like some sort of souffle, but as it cooled down, it resembled caramelized flan. Sadly, I wasn’t trying to bake either of those desserts.

Cheesecake FAIL

The recipe said it was “great for beginners.” Great! On the bright side of things, at least the spring form pan worked nicely.

What’s your most memorable culinary disaster? Let’s commiserate.

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28 Responses to “My First Cheesecake: It Smells Like Burning”


  • What a coincidence that I just saw a TV show where they were trying to make a durian cake and the cake ended up completely black on top! This looks quite good even if it is a bit burnt though :). At least the center would be.

    My biggest disaster was probably making white sauce. Thinking that it wasn’t thickening I added more flour and soon realized it was way too thick!

  • My first one came out looking close to that. I’ve since changed how I bake them and instead of just baking on the rack I wrap the pan in aluminum foil (to prevent water from seeping through the bottom since it isn’t a perfect seal) and then bake in a roasting pan filled with water. This prevents the sides from cooking faster than the middle. If done just right when the cake settles it’ll be uniform in color and the top will be perfectly flat. Sometimes I drop the cooking temperature down by 25 degrees or so too. With either of these you can expect the cook time to be longer, in some cases closer to 2 hours.

  • LOL! I actually like things char sometimes, like a good Pittsburgh rare steak, charry edges of pizza, and char on grilled chicken skin, so looking at your cheesecake, it piqued my interest. I am almost guessing I would like it. But, I have had many disasters in the kitchen. The most recent one is burning the soup portion of French Onion Soup (yes I burnt soup, how about that!), then I made it worse by topping it with burnt toast rounds. I was caramelizing the onions, when I stepped away for a moment and came back to the onion slices were black, burnt and stinky on the bottom of my my heavy Le Creuset dutch oven (now my dutch oven is stained and ruined). I thought I could salvage it by adding some more onions and water to get up the “brown bits” but brown bits are good, “black bits” are bad, and I had blackened black bits which are extra bad. Anyway, yes, it is possible to burn soup.

  • what did the cheesecake taste like? or did it go right in the trash?

    my most recent culinary disaster was making caramel sauce last week. i forget that you aren’t supposed to stir the sugar water once it comes to a boil. if you ever want a sauce-pan-shaped lolly pop with a candy thermometer stick, this is how you should do it.

  • awwww, “a” for effort. did you taste it?

  • so many to pick from… the first time i made a cake, i broiled it instead of baking it. i had never heard the term “broil” nor had any idea what it meant! it came out VERY burnt, much worse than your cheesecake!

  • Awww…keep trying! My first pies and cheesecakes were anything but beautiful.
    Picking ONE kitchen mishap is hard because I feel like I make tiny mistakes every time I bake. Nothing MAJOR but enough to get my blood pressure up for a few minutes. Or more. The first one that pops in my head was thanksgiving. I was baking my first pumpkin and pecan pies. One of them needed to be removed before the other and I COMPLETELY forgot so my pecan pie was on the verge of burning when I took them both out of the oven. It came out pretty dark. Thankfully it still tasted wonderful but I was still a little embarrassed by the color.

  • did you use a water bath?

  • Cathy how did it taste? Were you able to salvage the center parts? I think my one of my worst baking experiences was when I was trying to make Chinese Sponge Cake…it was dense and dry I think cardboard would have tasted better.

  • My husband and I attempted to make a turkey for the first Thanksgiving in our first house. Lets just say there was a fire and my grandfather burned his arm.

  • LOL…sorry, but that’s such a cute story. I love culinary mishap stories. My most recent one was the great Eat My Bog Macaron melt down of 2009. But also last year, when we were staying with foodie friends in Lake Arrowhead my spicy caramel sauce for my Mexican ice cream sundaes failed miserably. Embarrassing.

  • Burned two pecan pies with company coming. Doubled correct amount of key-lime juice in key-lime pie, again with company coming. Didn’t set and waaaaay too tart.

  • JUST LAST SUNDAY! During the World Cup Semis.. I dropped my tortilla Espanola as I was flipping it..GRRR…. waaay too much pressure going on that day (Spain vs Germany)..Thank goodness, Spain won and we had a potato omelet instead.

  • I have burnt some of “Wes’ Famous Chocolate chip cookies”. There were not quite the same.

  • I was chef at the Rubaiyat in Ann Arbor and was doing an awards dinner featuring Elmer Dills and the Chefs Association. A new manager took the Beef Wellington that I had spent hours on and peeled the crust off before slicing and serving just the meat.

  • Vern and I both had a little bite and thought it tasted kind of pleasant, but not at all like a cheesecake. It’s going in the dump :-(

    And nope, I did not use a water bath. The recipe said to bake it on a cookie sheet.

  • Cathy,

    That is not a failed cheesecake. It’s what the professionals call “blackened”. There is no such thing as a bad cheesecake. Keep on truckin’.

  • Behold – omelet fail…
    http://dianatakesabite.blogspot.com/2009/01/omelet-fail.html

    And blondie fail…
    http://dianatakesabite.blogspot.com/2010/05/bakelab-cookie-art-with-heart.html

    And let’s not forget the pizza dough fail from last weekend!

    Sigh. It happens to even the best of us!

  • Actually my cheesecakes are a hit and miss — they don’t get burnt, but half the time there’s a giant chasm of a crack down the middle (usually from cooling them down too fast…) ~ thankfully, that’s what frostings are for.

  • When I had my angel food cake FAIL, I didn’t even bother taking a picture of it – it went straight from pan to trash. It was like everything went wrong – the parents lost the mixer, I couldn’t separate eggs, the end result was gummy and hard…

    So don’t worry, it happens!

  • Well if you’re not going to eat it, let me know what time I can swing by to pick it up. :)

  • Wait, you want just ONE fail? I have TONS. And I am a darn good cook and baker, but every time you try something new, there is a learning curve. That’s life!

    I have to say, the easiest, and creamiest cheesecake I’ve ever made was in a crockpot! I have baked them successfully for years, but the texture on this one was AMAZING. And it was frighteningly easy…

    http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/2008/07/crockpot-cheesecake-recipe.html

    You can do it!

  • Hey Cathy,

    Sorry to hear the first one didn’t work out :( I made this one, as my first cheesecake (and, actually, my first “cake” of any kind) ever, and it turned out beautifully. If the top doesn’t look perfect, the sour cherry topping covers it right up, and of course you can use any other fruit that you like. I think next time I’m trying strawberries… yum!

    http://smittenkitchen.com/2010/04/new-york-cheesecake/

    Hope all is well–we’ve been eagerly reading straight through all of your Spain posts.

    –Annie & Neal

  • Uh…where to begin?

    1. Thanksgiving, 1992. Me, two other Americans and some international students trying to bake a 19-lb. turkey in the oven of a society house at Wellesley. Turkey does not cook. Turkey is essentially raw in my lap as the campus po drives me back (with turkey) to our dorm to eat. Bad times.

    2. Summer, 1996. I am trying to make caramel using sweetened condensed milk. This is a southern technique (and doubtless common elsewhere but you know, I live in my context) where you boil the can unopened for 3 hours, creating an ad hoc pressure-cooker. I let the water boil away and it exploded. On the rented cottage-cheese ceiling. Right before guests were coming. Burning sugar + speckled kitchen + no dessert. Yay!

    3. Spring, 2000. I promise chicken-n-dumplings like my stepmonster used to make. I bring said product to work, but it’s full of the burned bits where I let it get too thick and a crust stuck to the bottom of my Le Creuset pan. Everyone tries to eat it but it’s just horrible. I slink away in shame.

    Shall I go on? This is fun – like telling stories at Culinary Disaster Summer Camp.

  • Oh, it’s not that bad. And least it came out in one piece right? I’m not a baker or much of a dessert person so I can guarantee mine would be worse. Worst dessert disaster – no one told me that you shouldn’t use fresh honeycomb in cooking. It’s wax and it melts and it cools down to goo. That’s worse right?

  • Ah, alas I’ve chucked countless dishes into the trash too. As we’ve discussed, I’m much more of an eater than a cooker, but that looks like a noble effort nonetheless! And your photo looks quite delicious

  • before i started to cook i would use the following excuse when people asked why i never cooked: “i once burned Top Ramen. enough said.”

  • I have had a difficult life, and just read your blog and responses over a morning cup of coffee. I just realized the answer to all of my problems is cheesecake! I should have known…after all it comes in chocolate. Since it took me 20 years to even attempt to bake a cheesecake (starting at 30 add 20 and you will get the year I won’t say out loud) I’d say you are ahead of the curve and doing nicely. Extra points if you did not have to bury in the backyard what was supposed to be the turkey for your Thanksgiving dinner and serve something hurriedly purchased from around the corner. Note to self…thaw turkey COMPLETELY before placing in oven to bake. Otherwise some kind of accelerated decomposition takes place in the oven.

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