"You need to stop thinking and just write the basics...right NOW, think about what's necessary. You can come back LATER and turn it into beautifully crafted prose. Think of it like sketching a cartoon. You start of with the rough pencil outline, then you add the thick black outline which defines its shape and structure, then you colour it in, giving it life, personality, atmosphere."
Put that way, what Jessica was saying sunk in. And it was this analogy that I thought about as I made Sidney's cake.
Approaching a cake project is very like beginning a novel. I got out all my ingredients and organized them neatly on the counter. [characters, plot ideas, turning points, climax, ending]
I mixed up the batter and baked the cakes. When the were out of the pans and cooled, I leveled off each layer so the tops were flat. [rough outline: when you can start to "see" what the finished story will look like]
Next, I torted each layer, which means I sliced each in half so that the three tiered cake would have six layers. By this time I'd cleaned up my work space several times, but my nice, organized ingredients were all over the place -- just like my final outline: "Organized Chaos!"
I mixed up a batch of plain, white buttercream frosting for the crumb coat. This step I most liken to the first draft of my novel. The crumb coat is when you prepare each of the three torted cake tiers. One by one, you frost each bottom layer then carefully place on its top. Next, you apply a very thin, smooth coating of frosting along the sides and top of each layer. When you're finished, you have three individual layered cakes, of different sizes.
The crumb coat is important because it adheres to it all the loose crumbs, so that when you frost the cake with colored icing no crumbs show through, preventing color and texture blemishes. When you assemble the three tiers with their crumb coats, the cake looks like a cake, but it's plain, white, uninspired. However, it's well constructed and ready for embellishment -- when the real magic begins.
Isn't that like the first draft? A rough draft is the place where you get the bones of the story down, get all the characters and plot points in place, build a sound structure. Like the crumb coat, the first draft is part of the artistry, though you may not embrace it for the beautiful work of art it will become during the last stages of the project: the embellishments, the icing on the cake, the writer's flourish.
One last thing I observed with this cake: Each new cake I bake is superior to the last. I put the same effort into each one, the same dedication to perfection. But with practice, the moisture of the cake is better each time, the texture of the buttercream frosting is firmer and creamier. I reach more instinctively for the right piping tips I need to make this flower or that border. This is so like writing, too. The more I write, the more the words flow with an elevated ease, the less I rewrite, and the quicker the metaphors come to my descriptions. Practice hones a craft, in deep-seated ways of which the conscious mind is unaware.
Thank you, Jessica, for sharing your insight that day, giving me something to ponder over another of my creative passions. If anyone has not visited The Alliterative Allomorph, scoot over there now and enjoy Jessica's wonderful insights and incredible talent for writing.
Have a wonderful day!