Writing is like baking a cake

ingredientsfinalWhen preparing to bake a cake, to do a really good job, first you must go to the freshmarket and buy the best ingredients. Stale flower, spoiled milk, rotten eggs, and old sugar just won’t measure up. Even  Chef Rino Baglio can’t transform rubbish into rum cake.

Without solid, accurate information from primary sources, even the best writers can’t pen poignant prose. Some writers have tried to cut corners, and some have shattered like (Stephen) Glass.

It’s better to borrow a lesson from the baker. Writing is much like baking a cake.

First, you’ll need to gather the best ingredients available: a half cup of quality quotes, a little alliteration and anecdotes wouldn’t hurt. Five cups of key facts and a bag of background detail are a must. To sweeten the mix, include a half pound of human interest. From the spice rack, include a teaspoon of timeliness and pinch of prominence.  Stir some theme and transitions into the mix to bond all the ingredients nicely.

After blending the necessary ingredients from the best available sources, filter out the fluff, and let the mix cook in your head. Drop in the conclusion too soon, and your story might flop. It’s better to give the mixture a day or two to rise.

 The process of revision is the icing on the cake that too many writers skimp on. This is what separates the apprentices from the masters. It’s always important to measure your successes and learn from your failures.

After the finishing touches, the reward for the writer, like the chef, comes in sharing the finished product with your friends. Repeat the process, and soon you’ll find that good writing is really a piece of cake. 


About robertstevenson

Dr. Robert Stevenson is a Professor of Journalism and Director of Student Publications for the Department of Mass Communications and Theater at Lander University in Greenwood, SC. He received the Distinguished Faculty of the Year award for 2007-'08, and the Lander University Young Faculty Scholar Award in 2005-06. Stevenson also serves as chair of the Lander University American Democracy Project. First and Formost I am a dad of two wonderful boys.
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7 Responses to Writing is like baking a cake

  1. It’s again me 🙂
    Thanks for your letter 🙂

    Mr.Research – it’s my mistake) I’ve already changed that on Digg, but username remains the same. Sure, I’m miss Research 🙂

    Again, hugs and kisses, – from Miss Research.


  2. Amy says:

    Had to love how you baked a cake of writing!!! I’ll certainly add your blog to my feed so that I can keep up with it!

  3. Terri says:

    Hmmmm…. Interesting way of looking at it!

  4. angelawd says:

    Mmmm, you’re making me hungry! Great analogy, though.

  5. Tiffany says:

    Do you really gather your ingredients in advance? That intrigues me, although it doesn’t surprise me–one of the most common themes on my writing blog is that we all have different things that work for us and shouldn’t ever buy into the “one right way” philosophy.

    Personally, though, I don’t consciously work those things in. Sometimes they pop their heads up in relevant places and I weave them in, but I don’t start out with specifics that I want to “add to the mix”.

  6. Sure, I go out and gather ingredients. After all, I’m an historian. But how do I know which ingredients are relevant and how do I know what story to make out of them? For me writing is a form of thinking. With each attempt at putting words on the page I get a little closer to understanding what it is I’m actually doing. With every printout and editing session with a real pen I get a little closer too. I need to get the stuff down to understand what I’m working with.

    Hmmm. Maybe it’s a little like the way I make soup, except I can’t revise soup, only eat whatever the ingredients and cooking result in. (I make soup without a recipe. If it’s in the fridge and it’s a vegetable, there is a high probability that it’s going into the pot.)

  7. tuesdayb says:

    no wonder nothing’s popping in my head. I barely have any ingredient, let alone good ones! Your advice couldn’t have come at a better time. The muse will be coming along any minute now 🙂

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