Sandra Lee's ten worst dessert disasters

Keep Westword Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Denver and help keep the future of Westword free.

Love her or hate her, everyone will admit that Sandra Lee, the queen of Food Network's Semi-Homemade domain, has made some seriously shitty food.

We dug up her ten best dessert failures to share with you, along with some reader comments from the Food Network's recipe site. If you have an aversion to canned frosting, or are easily offended by poorly executed religious edibles...you've been warned.

#10: Apple Pie Napoleon

You know you're in trouble when one of the ingredients in the recipe is already a fully formed dessert. Here, the primary ingredient is an entire frozen apple pie. Which you bake. And then smash up between sheets of puff pastry dough that you also have to bake. Throw in some cream cheese combined with Cool Whip and you've got yourself a super crappy dessert. But at least it took several hours to make!

Best comment: "This was a disaster from start to finish. Midway through I just thought to myself 'what ARE you doing?'"

#9: Christmas Crescent Ring

Sandra often starts with good intentions, but like Tommy Boy and his little pet there's a moment where any potential prettiness gets stuffed and smothered and decorated into an ugly '70s centerpiece. This one starts innocently enough, with a decorative wreath made of crescent rolls, but when she fills them with both almond paste AND jam, your teeth start to hurt. But she keeps right on going with a gooey glaze, which not only pushes this into sugar-coma territory but utterly obliterates any detail of a wreath she has going. Sugared cherries are the suggested garnish, just in case you had any spare insulin lazing about.

Best comment: "My best friend Colleen made this for our weekly card club. She said she spent hours on it to get it just right with the icing and all. I didn't have the heart to tell her how thrown together and cheap it tasted, but there was another newer member who did just that."

#8: White Chocolate Polenta

Polenta? Check. Thyme? Check. Parmesan cheese? Check. The only thing missing now is a quarter cup of delicious white chocolate chips.

Best comment: "Maybe I never realized I don't care for thyme before I made this recipe. I do keep it in the cupboard. It was just such a harshly bitter contrast to the sweet smooth harmony created by the rest of the dish. I would try this again without the thyme."

Yes, clearly the thyme was the culprit.

#7: Single Layer Birthday Cake

File this one under confusing props. This recipe calls for "2 old fashioned soda bottles, 1 cola, 1 lemon-lime." After baking two cake layers (from a mix, natch) you take one of them, cut a hole in the middle of it, dump an entire can of frosting on it, then insert one of the bottles into the hole. Why? Apparently even the food photographers on staff couldn't figure it out, because the cake pictured is without a soda bottle center.

Best comment: "Having just watched the show this recipe is listed for, I am rather confused. On the episode, Sandra uses a store bought torte, which she ices, then lets a child sprinkle the jimmies on. I saw nothing about soda bottles."

#6: May Day Centerpiece Cake

You know any recipe that starts off with FIVE cans of frosting is going to be a winner. It should also be noted that the ingredient list calls for eight to 12 unfrosted cupcakes. Y'know, the extra ones you have in your cupboard next to the flour. The instructions go on to detail a cake construction that includes six different food colorings and extracts, dowels, ribbons, and a hot glue gun. All this for what is basically a cake decorated with cupcakes. Oh, and edible flowers. Because Sandy is classy like that.

Best comment: "All of Sandra Lee's cakes are insane, but this is one of the craziest. The cake is tied to the plate. This is not a recipe, it is assembly instructions. Instead of her worthless tablescape segment, maybe she should show us simple semi-homemaders how to serve this sticky, dripping, tied to the plate construction." #5: No-Bake Love Cake

You know what makes this cake no-bake? Buying it at the store. This is rated "easy" because the "recipe" calls for buying three frosted cakes, plopping them on top of one another, and jamming "wedding theme decorated cookies" around the edges. If that isn't love, then I don't know what is.

Best comment: "This is just plain ugly. Is she kidding with this? If anyone gave this to me, I'd throw it in their face."

#4: Doughnut Tree

Let's just say this one starts with directions to ice a Styrofoam cone. After you secure your powdered donut holes to it with toothpicks and add candy mint leaves and...blue jelly beans...your Christmas tree illusion will be complete. If you're not entirely happy with the bulbous "tree," at least you can take comfort in the fact that you've served your guests Hostess donut holes and crappy Walgreens candy.

Best comment: "I didn't think this looked good, but I was so pressed for time I tried it. Big mistake."

#3: Hanukkah Meringues

It's one thing when Sandra Lee goes messing around with tacky Christmas desserts, but when she dabbles with Hanukkah ones? It doesn't go well. At all. She pretty much treats Hanukkah like a blue and white Christmas, which results in some unfortunate assumptions about what people celebrating the holiday might be enjoying for dessert. Two store-bought meringue cookies painted with blue stripes, sealed together with blue frosting, and rolled in sugar do not a Hanukkah dessert make.

Best comment: "Thanks for giving me such a great food gift idea for my friends that celebrate Hanukkah."

#2: Star of David Angel Food Cake

You know what they say: if your Hanukkah Meringues didn't offend the neighbors, you can always try the Star of David Angel Food Cake. You know what sucks about a bundt cake? That annoying hole! Sandra Lee fixed that problem right up...by jamming it full of marshmallows. Which are made from gelatin and not particularly kosher, a detail that wouldn't really matter much unless you were, say, making a cake for a Jewish holiday. No matter! The marshmallows are soon forgotten under a layer of Jewish blue frosting. Finally, she tops it with a Star of David made from pearls. What happens to the marshmallows when you cut into the cake? It doesn't matter, because no one will ever cut into this cake.

#1: Kwanzaa Cake

Perhaps the only holiday Sandra Lee is less qualified to celebrate than Hanukkah is Kwanzaa. Sandra Lee's Kwanzaa Celebration Cake gained momentum on the internet as perhaps one of the ugliest, most offensive, and least palatable thing she has possibly ever created. And that's saying something. The recipe is no longer listed on the Food Network site, but she can't hide from its legacy.

It starts as an innocent angel food bundt cake, just like the Star of David cake, only instead of marshmallows, she fills this one with gooey apple pie filling. She spices up a couple cans of frosting and then goes to town...before complete madness ensues: People, she dumps a bowl of shelled acorns and pumpkin seeds on top of the cake, except the online recipe replaces the acorns with Corn Nuts and popcorn! Not quite Kwanzaa-y enough? How about now -- with seven Kwanzaa candles stuck in it? That's what I thought.

Best comment: "Wow. I thought this cake would be an interesting thing to take to our multi-cultural party at work. Well, needless to say this cake sat relatively untouched after the first person who tasted it almost gagged."

Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.