How NOT to Make Cornbread

I grew up eating cornbread.  It was served as the main course for breakfast slathered in  butter and homemade syrup.  My mom called it “Johnny Cake” and we loved it!!

Cornbread was on the menu the other day.  It was to be served as a side dish with chili.

I always like to work a day ahead (in case of disasters, like I’m about to describe!).  It was actually Thanksgiving Day when I was doing the prep work.  I had already spent about 3 hours dicing onions, peppers, browning hamburger, etc… and finally the chili was happily simmering away.  (Why, oh why, did it take me so long to make chili for 85 people??).

I was pretty tired already, but decided I would quickly get the 3 hotel pans of cornbread baked as well.

I had a recipe scribbled down from a previous cook.  Underneath the title, it said, “1 shallow hotel pan (x 2)”.  I interpreted that to mean I needed to multiply the recipe by 2 for each shallow hotel pan.

Therefore, for 3 pans, I was using 24 cups cornmeal, 24 cups flour, etc, etc.

After proceeding to throw a mountain of ingredients into the ginormous mixer, I  finally got it all mixed and wrestled into the pans.  I shut the oven door, set the timer for 20 minutes, and breathed a big sigh of relief.

My work day was almost over.

The cornbread smelled yummy as it was baking, so naively, I thought all was well…

The timer dinged happily away at the appropriate time, but I was in for a surprise when I opened the door.

Although the top was beautiful a golden brown, the underneath was still a mass of undone gooeyness.

Oh, dear.

I spent the next hour checking that cornbread.  Turning the oven down.  Turning the oven up.  Testing it with a toothpick.  Testing it with a fork.  Oh, mercy.


In the end, it was salvagable…but, not the way it was intended.

What went wrong, you ask??

Well, I shouldn’t have multiplied the batter x2 for each pan.  The note must have meant to make 2 pans!!  I had actually put enough batter for 6 pans into 3 pans!!  Let me tell you, those were some giant pieces of cornbread!!:)

Here is the recipe I should have used for 1 shallow hotel pan:

4 cups cornmeal

4 cups flour

1 cup sugar

4 Tbsp. baking powder

4 tsp. salt

4 eggs

4 cups milk

1 cup melted butter

Bake at 425 degrees for 20 –25 minutes.


Now it’s your turn.  Have you ever had any disasters in the kitchen??  (Or am I the only one??)

31-days-of-cooking-button_thumb Day 28

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  1. For sure, although I can’t remember them all. I was a cook for a boarding, Christian school . When it looked like I had time on my hands,working alone on the weekend, I would want to make the kids something special. One time, I decided to make chocolate cake. I whipped it up, got it into a commercial baking pan and into the oven. And I could smell the chocolate as it baked. When it was time, I pulled it out and it was as flat as a pancake. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. I went back over the recipe and realized I had left out the eggs. It was not salvageable. I had to scrape the whole thing into the garbage. At least yours was salvageable!

  2. My most infamous blooper took place at camp, when I was working in the kitchen with the Conchies…I was making brownies (a lot of them!) and I mixed up the sugar bin with the salt bin…that was interesting and definitely NOT salvageable!

  3. Bloopers? Oh, yes. Not on a large scale like this, but I can do small-scale multiple times in a row, which is just as good!
    One time I had a request for angel food cake, which I have been making successfully since I was a kid. No problem. It was late at night, since this was when my four kids were small, and I almost always worked on projects at night after everyone else was in bed.
    I followed my usual recipe as I always do. The cake came from the oven looking as it always does. I turned it over and suspended the pan on a glass bottle to cool as usual. Five minutes later, I heard a funny sound.
    The cake had torn away from itself, leaving half still in the pan, and the other half in a quickly deflating pile on the counter! I was flummoxed! This had never happened. Shaking my head, I dumped the disaster, washed the pan, mixed up another one and put it in to bake.
    The same thing happened!
    By this time, I was
    a. Very tired
    b. Very frustrated
    c. Feeling my confidence shaken to the core, but
    d. Determined that it wasn’t going to beat me
    So I mixed up a third cake and baked it. And it flopped again. Points ‘a,b,c & d’ again…. but this time there was point ‘e’ added as well, which is ‘In tears’.
    Anyway, it finally dawned on me. I was using a stand mixer for the first time with this recipe, which was far more powerful than what I was used to using, and it beat the eggs far more quickly than my old method. They were being over-beaten to the point that they didn’t have the strength to hold their own weight once baked, and would tear apart. I did have success on the fourth cake, finally….. and if I remember correctly, by that time, everyone else was getting up for the new day, so I never did bother going to bed! 😉 I think I used up every egg in the house.

  4. Oh yes…… Found a recipe for Grandma’s hot cakes in a Mennonite cookbook, should be great. Followed recipe served up the beautifully golden brown pancakes only to find they were like rubber!!! So what do you do with them?? Offer them to the dog. Well Polly (lab) took a pancake outside and I watches as she tried to tear it apart to no avail, next she had one paw holding it down still trying to tear it apart, still a no go. How embarrassing!! The next thing I knew she had buried it.
    Oh my, my family love that story and I will tell you that recipe has been crossed out of my cookbook.

  5. I used this recipe tonight for my Senior Assisted Living Residents. I like it very much – I used it exactly but used a 4″ hotel pan as I was sure it would rise higher. It came out great. Nice and cakey – I don’t want my Seniors to choke on dry cornbread but they do love it.

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