Here is something I’ve been thinking about for a while now: it seems for the most part that the home cooking world is divided into two camps. You see it when you’re a guest in someone’s home, you see it on cooking shows and books and blogs, you see it in yourself if you think carefully enough.

First, there are those with skills; then, there are those with kindness.

Let me explain what I mean—or maybe I’ll start with what I don’t mean. I don’t mean that the cooks with skills aren’t kind or that the cooks with kindness aren’t skilled. They aren’t mutually exclusive. I don’t mean that cooking well makes you a snob or that wanting to have a nice dinner party means you’re a monster.

I think what I just mean is this: There are people who wow you and there are people who love you. And sometimes I wonder which one I’m trying to be.

The first group is successful, you know? They are highly organized, on top of things—the kind of people who have you over and you are awed by every picture-perfect thing they give you. I know a lot of people like this. I admire them.

The second group, well, they might not impress you as easily. They bake you something they know you like—it might be simple, it might be complex. Their kitchen might be messy when you come over, and they’re quick to confess they dumped a tray of cookies in the trash before you got there. You don’t leave their house talking about the amazing recipe; you leave talking about the amazing night. I know a few people like this. I admire them, too.

Of course the world is rarely black and white, and so there’s a good chance most of us fall somewhere in the midst of these extremes. I’m glad for that. Because while I think I’d rather be the second person, the one who loves people with the way she cooks for them, I spend an awful lot of time forgetting that and trying only to be the first.

This weekend for example, I baked two cookie recipes Friday night, changing four or five ingredients along the way: disaster. Saturday, I baked two trays of chocolate cupcakes; they overflowed the tins. I went to the store for heavy whipping cream and didn’t buy enough. I went back to the store for more heavy whipped cream and forgot what I needed to buy for lunch. I made so many silly mistakes, did so many things I wish I hadn’t—and don’t get me started on the ice cream I’d made Thursday that was so bad, someone spit it out when she tasted it.

chocolate trifle

You could say the saving grace was this trifle, the perfect way to salvage eight cups of cupcake crumbles, but even more that that, it was the party I took it to, where this trifle (and another one of these strudels) that I’d spent so much time on blended in with a table filled with other birthday desserts. There were Happy 50th Birthday cookies, with dough from a 5 and a 0 set together before baking to make perfect 5-0s. There was one of the best cakes I’ve ever had, three layers and super moist, topped with chocolate frosting and decor.

And mostly, there was the person we were celebrating, as a surprise, and all the people who came together to show her love. I want to remember that when I think about this weekend and also, when I think about this trifle.

Accidental Chocolate Trifle
Makes one large bowl of trifle.

A surprising bonus feature of this trifle was that about seven hours after it was made, late after the party, when we went in to have some of the remains, there was a faint booziness to the flavor—as if we’d used a liquor of some kind? All I can think is that the bananas soaked into the other flavors. It was fantastic.

Ingredients & Directions:
This trifle was such an accident, I can’t even give you exact measurements to re-create it, but I can give you a guide. I used this cupcake recipe (don’t believe the 2/3-full direction!), this chocolate pudding recipe with arrowroot powder instead of cornstarch (wish I’d doubled it), heavy whipping cream whipped with organic powdered sugar and a teaspoon or two of vanilla, two layers of bananas and shaved dark chocolate on top.

The layers were cake, pudding, banana, whipped cream; repeat.

Shanna Mallon started Food Loves Writing back in 2008, as a way to remember her grandma and write about her life through food. Since then it's become a place leading her to a lifestyle of eating whole foods, a new home in Nashville and the love of her life, Tim. Follow Shanna on Twitter @foodloves, keep up with Food Loves Writing on Facebook and stay inspired with the monthly newsletter.

This Post Has 20 Comments

  1. Stephanie

    I have been making a version of this for a few years, but not with bananas and that sounds incredible! I scatter broken Heath or Skoal bars on the layers and also sprinkle some Kahlua over the torn chocolate cake. But bananas? Really, always a lovely combination and obviously delicious :)

  2. molly

    i roasted our turkey upside down, last year. first thanksgiving we had company, other than family. yes, it was served. yes, it was pale as a cadaver. but delicious, just the same.

    that hug is priceless. as is this trifle. my kind of cooking, all the way.

  3. Maddie

    Good for you for making the most of a screw-up! Everyone who wants to stretch their culinary boundaries screws up (a lot), but it takes a certain amount of lightheartedness and creativity to turn failures back into successes. And those are great qualities to have, no matter what kind of cook you are.

  4. Lan

    i read this post last night but i wanted to take a moment to think and reflect on it. i’ve always been impressed and wow-ed by what you make and then subsequently write about, disasters and otherwise. the fact that you even talk about “fails” makes you all the more likeable and approachable.

    besides, i’m of the school that failures are just excuses to try again.

  5. Kelley

    Honestly, I really want to be BOTH. I want to love you with my food, richly, but I also want to welcome you into my clean kitchen, where recipes are our friends and messes can be made as long as they’re wiped up before they dry, crusty, on the counter. :)

    Anyway, I’ll happily join you on the journey to the perfect nirvana between skill and grace in the food we make and serve …

  6. Jacqui

    I’m glad you wrote this post, and I’m glad I read it today, so now I know if I completely screw up tonight’s dinner in my disaster of a kitchen, it won’t matter because I’m sure we’ll have a good time anyway. :)

  7. Shannalee

    And I think you, Kim, are always, always gracious.

    Stephanie, I saw a version online with Heath bars and thought it sounded tasty. The bananas were such a random add-in but they really worked well here!

    Blissful, Me too! Thanks!

    Gemma, You guys are the kind ones. Thank you!

    Molly, I HAVE DONE THAT TOO! It was a chicken, but nonetheless.

    Dana, The one grand accident all weekend in my kitchen, but I’ll take it!

    Maddie, Do you really think everyone who wants to stretch their culinary boundaries screws up a lot? Everyone?? That comforts me so much right now, I don’t know why. Thank you!

    Lan, You are so sweet with your words. I love that you thought about what to say and came back (so something I would do), and I love your positivity. Here’s to excuses to keep trying! I have so many of them! : )

    Tim, Thanks!

    Kelley, Ahahaha. From what I know about you, my friend, you ARE.

    Jacqui, : ) Bring it on! I never worry about eating with you: it’s always good. Can’t wait!

  8. Jen

    I think perhaps that I’m the latter type–the one cooking with kindness, but generally has more hits than misses! Perhaps that’s why my blog only has a handful of posts a month. A really fantastic recipe or food experience is sometimes few and far between!

  9. heather @ chiknpastry

    i think you’re spot on – i feel like i’m in group 1, but every once and i while i think i’m in group 2, but i don’t think either are bad places to be :). love that you turned those cupcakes into a trifle though – definitely shows some great adaptive skills!

  10. Sue

    You are sweet, kind, and smart (even if you have to run back and forth to the grocery store often). I’m glad you posted this- if I had a nickel for every time I threw away messed-up cookies & cake! Yum : )

  11. Angela@spinachtiger

    The best things are created by accident. I love the “accidental” part of the title. And, we all make mistakes. Sometimes, it’s one after another. I was making cupcakes for twins birthday and three times in a row left out an ingredient and had to keep baking and baking.

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