I tried a new recipe yesterday. I searched the interwebs for a cake recipe that would use up the 48oz of ricotta cheese I had in my fridge. Don’t ask me why I bought that much ricotta; it seemed like a good idea at the time.
The recipes all looked incredible, but one caught my fancy. It was a Berry ricotta cake. It looked rustic, it looked moist and it looked like something I wanted in my belly. Baking is one of my favorite hobbies. There is something about the process that is satisfying in a day of unproductiveness.
I whipped the butter and sugar to perfection. I added the oil, egg and honey until the egg was just absorbed. I carefully mixed in the flour and stirred the ricotta and sour cream so it wasn’t overbeaten.
I pulled out a cake pan and greased it. Put in half the batter and scattered raspberries and layered with the rest of the batter on top. The pan looked full. Really full, but the recipe said a 9 inch would be fine, so I slid the cake into the oven and set the timer for 50 minutes, While it began to bake I pictured everyone’s joyful response when the walked into the house with the smell of vanilla to greet them.
Within five minutes I realized my mistake. A burnt odor covered everything. The house grew smokier and smokier.
The cake wasn’t the problem, the pan was.
I opened up the oven and clouds billowed out. The cake bubbled and dripped onto the rack and oven below it. The sugar turned into a black grime as soon as it hit the heat.
It wasn’t pretty.
And I couldn’t salvage it. Once a cake starts baking, there is no turning back. No repackaging it into a new pan. I’ve done that before and the results are rubbery. I picked up the oozing pan and washed it down the disposal.
Inside I cried a little.
No tasty cake. No joyful exclamations from my family. Just an acrid smell that bit everyone as they entered the house.
I couldn’t get the cake out of my head. So today after lunch I tackled the recipe. The cake wasn’t the problem, my choice of pan was. I measured, I mixed and I poured the cake into the pan.
And it turned out delicious. Right now, I am trying not to devour it before the family gets a chance to sink their teeth into it.
The whole process reminded me of my novel. I’ve been sitting on the judges comments for a month. The critiques said my writing was engaging, but my story lacked tension. One judge said she couldn’t put the pages down even though nothing new was happening. I’ve been battling a vortex of shame that threatened to swallow my whole writing dream these past few weeks. I knew all I needed to do is rework the story, but I felt like I had to start from square one. And I wasn’t sure I had it in me.
Yesterday, while the garbage disposal ate the cake, I started to rewrite my novel.
But today while the aroma of the cake filled the house, I realized my writing wasn’t the problem, I just needed a different structure. All this time I thought I had the wrong ingredients for my story. The ingredients are fine, I just needed to make them bigger. Like the cake, I had chosen the wrong pan for my story.
While the new cake baked, I sat down with the word file and a notebook and picked out the story I was going to tell. The scenes were all there, I didn’t need to start over, they needed reworking. The story didn’t need thrown out. It’s not like my first cake that can’t be rebaked. I can fix this story, even though it is already baked.
And now I have a plan.
Writing is tough. There are days the words don’t come, there are days I don’t have a spare minute to write, and there are days where I doubt myself. But, I don’t need to throw out the whole product because I’ve had some rough days. I need to take what I have and put it in a different pan. I don’t have to start over from scratch, that’s the great thing about writing. If it doesn’t work you don’t have to start over.
You just choose a different pan.