When I “retired” from advertising, I decided to try my hand at being more of a home maker and focused on baking pound cakes. Two of the best recipes I’ve come across in my pursuit of the perfect pound cake are from Amy Roger’s Red Pepper Fudge and Blue Ribbon Biscuits (Downhome Press, 1995): “Orange Pound Cake by Margaret McCloud” (the secret is one cup of Orange Crush) and “Chocolate-Coffee Pound Cake by Don and Becky Buie” (substitute espresso for the coffee and it makes for one decadent, rich cake). The cakes always turn out best when I allow enough time to bake them a day ahead. Sitting for a day, wrapped on a cake plate, they become even more moist and sometimes approach perfection.
I realized the construct for writing a novel can be a bit like baking a pound cake. Creaming together butter and sugar; sifting dry ingredients and setting aside; mixing together liquid ingredients that include flavoring and a leavening agent. Then, after cracking some eggs and beating them into the creamed mixture, alternating among the three elements, mixing them thoroughly, followed by baking in a slow oven and waiting.
In a current work in progress, there are two sisters from Family A who are like the butter and sugar; I’m creaming them together, fusing them into the integral component of the story. I have another girl from Family B and a cast of minor characters that keep elbowing their way into this story. She is the flour and the others are grains of salt. I’m sifting them together and setting them aside. Then there are some crazy characters that I’m cracking open and dropping into the sisters’ reality. And for every pound cake there must be flavoring and leavening so I have some scenes that are lighter, and some, like the espresso, bitter.
I’ve got my ingredients assembled. Time to get out the mixer.
(photo from Two Belles Southern Pound Cakes who say, “Have you ever tried toasting a piece of classic pound cake? Every guy I know (southern or otherwise) flips for this: Put a hearty slice of pound cake in a toaster oven or under the broiler just long enough for the sugars in the cake to caramelize to a toasty goodness. Crunchy on the outside, moist and luscious on the inside. Serve it warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Unbelievable!”