Friday, June 25, 2010

Cake Writing--Part 2 Gathering and Mixing Ingredients

See Part 1 for the beginning of this series.

Let's continue baking our wedding cake and writing a novel. (That is as far as I got before life interrupted. While I was dealing with life, my hubby hijacked my blog and wrote the following.)

Today we are going to talk about the importance of purchasing brownies and ice cream for those that are the closest to you in life. The baking of brownies is just like writing a novel-you mix specific ingredients until you come up with the perfect end result, you can use the same ingredients, but how you combine the ingredients determines the final outcome. The same is for writing. You use common elements of drama, romance, intensity, etc. but how you combine those elements determines the outcome. Also like brownies, the better the novel, the more you want to consume. Sometimes you find an author who does not give you what you truly want and it leaves you wishing they had--is it the author being unkind or are they trying to help you along the literary journey--I suppose the final outcome answers that question.
And that is a great synopsis for what I planned to write. And no, I did not give in and go buy brownies. I was a bad wife and made him eat giant California strawberries instead...

When making a wedding cake, the ingredients are key. Each cake recipe starts with the same basic ingredients: eggs, liquid, flour, leavening agents, and flavoring. The specifics are what make each cake unique. Wow, hubby really knows his baking. You could argue that there are no new cake recipes. :) Just like there are no new plots, themes, character personalities, etc.

However, the amounts of each ingredient, the little "extras", the combination of flavors can make or break a great cake. The quirkiness of your characters, the detail of your settings, the unexpected twists that your plot takes will make or break your novel.

Let's start with the cake. I like to use real, sweet cream butter (I prefer salted), whole fat milk (no skimping here!), real flavoring as opposed to imitation and so on. My cakes are something I call "hybrids". They are not strictly from scratch, but they are far from a cake box cake. ???? I know what you're thinking, but stick with me for a bit. Cakes need flour and other dry ingredients, and a cake mix provides all those dry ingredients in a nice ready to go package.

So here is the list of ingredients for one of my favorite standards.
White Almond Cake
1--10 inch round double layer cake 

1 package plain white cake mix
1 cup whole milk
8 tablespoons or 1 stick real butter, melted
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons almond flavoring

1. Mix all the ingredients until well blended, then turn up the mixer and beat for 2 minutes. I don't think it matters what order you dump them into the bowl, but I do things in this order: eggs, milk, butter, almond flavor (mix real well) then add cake mix. Sometimes you need to stop the mixer and use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides. This moves any dry cake mix down into the mix. Then I turn my mixer to medium high for 2 minutes.  

with Mascarpone Mousse Filling

1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup 60% Bittersweet cacao chips
8 ounce mascarpone cheese

Instructions will come with Part 3--Baking.

Now, how about that novel? Our main ingredients are Characters, Setting, Plot, and Conflict. All stories contain these elements, but each story has a unique combination of them. Some stories are character driven, others focus on the setting, (more on setting HERE) for some the conflict is the all important factor. We all know how important plotting is and making sure we have filled any "holes".

I'm still looking for the method of mixing these elements that suits me best. Sometimes my characters come first and I have to learn what is going to happen to them. Other times I have this event in my mind, a conflict that must be resolved, and I have to find a character who is up to the task of handling it.

Sometimes I outline my plot, but my current wip just flowed out the way it wanted to. I see advantages to both methods, so like my hybrid cakes, I'm not strictly a pantser or a plotter. I plot when I need to and I sit and just write whatever comes when I need to.

It's working for me. I'm happy and having a great time. Will it get me published? That is yet to be seen.

I think I have wandered from the goal I set with this post, but I'm making cake again today and have not written for several weeks. Summer is my mandatory--Take a break--time from writing.

The next section will talk about the baking, cooling, and trimming of cake and novel--coming on Monday.

6 comments:

  1. Great recipe. I'm so trying that one out!!! And we use the hybid method of cake baking in this house too.

    I outline, but I also allow flexibility when I write. You never know where dialogue might take you until you're actually writing it. ;)

    I love your cake baking analogy. I'm not one for focusing on setting, I give enough details for the reader to use her own imagination. Those are the books I enjoy reading. But it is interesting to see how beta readers/critters respond. Some agree with me, so love stories heavy with setting. ;) Can't wait to read your next post.

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  2. This so helpful! Also now I'm really hungry for cake, hmmm... I may go make some with this recipe ;)

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  3. Why is it I am always hungry after reading your posts? They are awesome! And I totally agree with the ingredients. All books need to have those to begin, then we can mix it up a little. =)

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  4. Loved this, your hubby (well, you both) got it right :)
    And great recipe, would try it immediately if it wasn't 12:26 PM... and if I had the instructions on baking... but I'll wait patiently :)

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  5. So true Stina! I'm not a great focuser on setting either. My characters really drive my stories.

    Mia, did you make cake? I just drove to TN and my sister wants me to make 2 cakes while I'm here. Orange juice cake (yum!) and a chocolate covered cherry cake for my mom.

    Carolyn, sorry I make you hungry. It's probably because if I'm not writing I'm cooking something. :)

    Estrella, thanks! You can mix and bake like a normal cake so you don't have to wait until Monday for the next part of the analogy. ;)

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  6. The cake sounds pretty good, but I really prefer the brownies. I guess it's just a matter of genre preference.

    Lee
    Tossing It Out

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