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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Ingredients Make the Cake, and the Novel

See Part 1 for the beginning of this series.

Originally Posted June 25, 2010
Let's continue baking our wedding cake and writing a novel... 

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. 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. And then check out the Cake Mix Doctor.

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 have since learned to plot more so I can work faster and more efficiently, but I still love to discover the story as I go.)

Tomorrow we will talk about the baking, cooling, and trimming of cake and novel.


Huntress said...

Listening to the "flow" is good but sometimes putting yourself into the middle of the river is even better. Ask questions. Why does a character do or act a particular way? The answers might surprise you and lead you to a whole new tributary. Maybe you'll get swept away. Or maybe you'll arrive at an ocean of what ifs.

Why. What if. How. Motives. Maybes. Answer those questions about your storyline and characters.

Liz A. said...

You use a box mix for your cakes? That's interesting. Does it make things easier?