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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Cake Writing Series #3

Originally posted June 28, 2010

Baking, Cooling, and Trimming
Baking Preparation:
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and prepare your pans. Preparing the pan is very important if you want to be able to remove the cake in one piece after baking. I use crisco and flour. I use my fingers. Some people do this a little differently (I've seen someone use a napkin so they don't get icky), but I need to feel that I've evenly coated my pan with the shortening. TIP: You don't want it thick or clumpy. Smooth it with your fingers until you get a thin even layer all around the pan. It should look shiny not white. Pay special attention to the corners. Once it is "greased", dump 2-3 tablespoons of flour into the pan. Shake it around until there are no shiny spots left. Tap the pan on the counter and shake the left over loose flour into the trash.

Writing Preparation:
Where do you write? I need somewhere clean with some "scope for imagination" as Anne Shirley would say. Remember this picture? I hated writing here. It was never clean and it was always loud. (Update: This room no longer exists in my house thank goodness!)

When I bought my laptop, my kitchen table became my favorite writing spot. I can sit here with the sunlight streaming through a wall of windows. Birds and squirrels flutter and scurry around the bird feeder. Sometimes my children run back and forth as well. There is a trail behind the bushes that you can see in the background and people walk by all day long. I love sitting here, and I write more when I feel happy. (you can see my trusty notebook and pen, as well as a print out of an early version of Sendek with commenter's notes in it.)

Time to Bake:
Now that we've mixed our ingredients we pour it into our pan. (I forgot to take a picture of this, sorry!) Divide your batter between the two 10-inch round cake pans. Place them in your preheated oven and let them bake for 30-35 minutes. Check to see if they are done before pulling them out because each oven is a little different. Here's how I check:
1. nice even browning
2. when you wiggle the pan the cake does not jiggle
3. when you press lightly near the center with two fingertips, it springs back and doesn't leave a dent
4. the sides are beginning to pull away from the edge of the pan

Time to Write!
Sit down and write. We all have different times of the day, different goals for each writing session, and different lengths of time we can devote to writing. The key is to do it. Whatever your plan is, DO IT. Consistently. Sounds easy enough. (BTW, I loved Elana's post last week on this.)

Cooling the Cake:
(Because the pictured cake is a sheet cake, I use a heating core to help it bake evenly. I just add some batter inside for a neat trick later. You should use a core for any cake over 10 inches) When the cake is done, let it sit in the pan for 10 minutes before trying to remove it. After 10 minutes, run a butter knife along the outside to loosen it from the pan. I also do a little motion that I can only describe as a "hug" or "squeeze". With the knife between the side of the pan and the cake, I gently push the cake towards itself. You're not smashing it away from the edge, but the light hug loosens the bottom edge of the cake.

Next, I invert the cake (sometimes I use the back of my cookie sheet. Smaller cakes I just hold in my hand), then flip it again onto a cake board. Now it should be sitting the same way it sat in the pan. Right side up. I put the cake board on the cooling rack and let the cake cool completely.You can see where I trimmed the cake from inside the core to fill the "hole". (So many plot hole analogies here that I will skip for now.)

Cooling the novel:
After you finish that first draft, you have to put it away for a while. Let it cool off. Give yourself time to rest from the creative rush, regroup, and prepare yourself for the next step.

Trimming the Cake:

It is much easier to stack, ice (frost), and decorate a flat even cake. Take a large serrated knife and trim the rounded part off the top. Sometimes you have to cut a lot of cake off to get it even. What you cut might be nice pieces that you can snack on later, some are tiny crumbs you sweep into the trash. Perfectly good cake that is just excess for this project.

The Revision Process:
It can be painful. Just remember that cutting words and scenes is simply a step in perfecting your novel. These excess words may be perfectly good stuff, but if it doesn't fit in the novel or move it forward, it has to go. Sometimes you can save them and use them somewhere else.

The first time I cut a cake I was terrified there would be nothing left. The first scene I cut completely from my novel made me want to cry. I liked the scene. It was a good look at my characters everyday life--before I decided to kill off her whole family. With the parents dead at an earlier time in her life, the scene now didn't have a place, so it had to go. But I did put it in a file in case another character's story can use the scene.

Next installment is making the filling, crumb coating and icing (frosting) the cake.


Ink in the Book said...

This series has been so wonderful. I love this analogy:)

LD Masterson said...

Dang it. Now I'm hungry.