Jeni Bell (jeniwrites) wrote,
Jeni Bell

When Cake Baking Is Like Writing: Year Two

I grew up with a mother who baked and decorated nearly all my birthday cakes, my wedding cake, her own wedding cake, and the wedding cake of my youngest brother, married a few weekends ago.

I have such fond memories of those cakes that even though I do not have her decorating talent, I decided to bake a cake for my daughter's 3rd birthday last year. It fell apart as soon as I tipped it out of the pan. Jewel Osco saved me last year: I bought two cakes, attached the princesses I'd bought for decoration, and voila! A birthday cake my daughter is still talking about:

And because she still talks about this cake, and had been wondering, for two months now, what type of cake I would make her this year, I knew I had to try again. I bought a miniature scene from the movie "Tangled" to set on top of what I envisioned as a double-layer cake frosted in homemade pink icing, with flowers around the edges. I watched YouTube videos on the art of making a two-layer cake. I called my mother for the recipe. I bought a backup cake mix, just in case. And when both layers popped out of the pan without a crack, I cheered.

Then I frosted it. This is what happened next:

"What is that?" my husband asked when I texted him the photo.

Once again, Jewel Osco saved the day:

It was chocolate, my daughter's favorite, and she declared it perfect.

"Maybe next year you should stick with cupcakes," my mom suggested. But you know what? I am going to try this cake-baking thing again--though next time, I won't do it on the day of a special occasion; I'll try it just for fun a few times first, keep at it until I can bake a cake that doesn't crack or implode when the time for decorating comes. I'll keep trying because in spite of the failures, I like trying. I like the idea that creating a cake that is both tasty AND beautiful might be within my reach, if I just keep working at it and learning from my mistakes. And that failed cake from yesterday? I tore a chunk off and popped it into my mouth before I left for Jewel. And you know what.? It was pretty tasty.

There are some analogies to writing that I find in this experience:

* Don't give up. Not after the first try. Not after the second, or the third. Not if you truly love it.

* There are times when you can create something beautiful from something that at first glance looks like a trainwreck. First drafts are like that, once you get over the "I'm so in love with this novel that I just finished!" infatuation and can see the work that is needed to make it stronger. There are probably some bakers who could have fixed yesterday's caketastrophe. But there are other times when that messy work of art just will not be cajoled into a masterpiece, and you have to start over. Just the other day, I read an article about a well-known and very successful young adult author who wrote a novel that was more than 500 pages long--and then rewrote it, from scratch, at the suggestion of her editor: Here, you have to know when something can be fixed in its current form--and when starting over is really the best solution. The trick is knowing the difference.

* Don't be afraid to try something new, even when the odds may seem stacked against you.

* Have fun with your craft. In the end, that's really what matters most.

What other analogies can you think of?

Happy Friday! Happy writing!

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