Baking Up Good Writing

Just for Fun

Surprisingly, baking and writing have more to do with each other than you might think. As a late-night stress-expelling baker and a scribble-on-the-napkin English major writer, I’ve found that my two passions actually compliment each other very well as all of my oven-on-fire moments and deliciously successful dishes have taught me invaluable lessons about writing. Here are some writing tips I’ve discovered through baking:

Read the recipe, FIRST!

I can’t tell you how many times I thought I knew what I was doing and just skimmed over a recipe, only to open the oven to find that my cookies had merged into one giant cookie-sheet sized cookie or that my bread loaf never rose.

Just like in baking, we need to make sure that as writers we are reading our prompts very carefully to get a clear idea of what is expected of us. Reading a recipe or a prompt BEFORE you start will help you to identify any questions you may need to address before your paper blows up, like my oven.

Ingredients: Something to work with, even substitutions

Sometimes (because I neglected to read the recipe first), I’ve been in the middle of mixing ingredients just to realize that the recipe calls for milk, and I don’t have any. Great. Good thing I’ve learned that you can substitute water for milk, butter for margarine, lemon juice for cream of tartar, etc.

When you’re writing that paper, sometimes you’ll be in the middle and find that your thesis just doesn’t work with what you’re trying to do; or maybe your sources aren’t as relevant as you originally thought. That’s ok. You can make substitutions. Think of your drafts as opportunities to see what works best. Maybe you need to refine your thesis or swap out sources to better support your paper.

Not fully cooked? Back in the oven

My grandmother never used kitchen timers and would simply lick the tip of her pointer finger and tap the middle of the bottom of the 400° pan to check if the baking was done. She was, miraculously, never wrong. Unfortunately, I didn’t inherit this super power, and I am ALWAYS checking cookies or cakes or pastries with a knife, grumbling as I have to put them back in the oven for another 5 minutes or so.

Writing works much like baking in this respect. You’re going to go through drafts sometimes, especially with longer papers. It’s all a part of the process. Your timelines for papers will vary; you just need to be patient and conscious of your work. You should be rereading your work, proofreading, and visiting the Writing Center to keep making those improvements!

Everyone Bakes Differently

As I said, I like baking at night. It’s soothing and relaxing, and it makes my apartment smell yummy and cozy. I’m also a messy baker. I rarely use measuring tools (I’m a rely on faith type of baker), and I don’t care if flour gets everywhere. My mom can’t stand my process; she bakes much more neatly than I do, leveling off all the measuring cups and wiping up bursts of flour as they fall on the counter.

As a writer, I approach writing differently than other people too. That’s natural! Just as I need to recognize the advantages and disadvantages of how I bake, I also need to learn about what will help me be a better writer. Paying attention to your writing style needs helps you to identify weaknesses, practice strengths, and write in the best types of environments for you. So, go forth and obsessively organize your writing desk for optimal writing success or scatter notes and books around you on the floor in a mess!

Baking for a crowd

I promise, I’m actually a really good baker even though my stories have indicated otherwise. Sometimes I’m baking for me, but most of the time I bake to make yummy gifts for people or because a friend requested a certain baked good. When I’m baking for other people, I try my best to keep their tastes in mind and consider what is really going to make them excited about what I bake for them.

You also might write creatively for yourself, but a lot of the time we are writing papers for class. Keeping in mind what is going to appeal to the recipient of my baked goods also applies to writing essays because we want to be sure that while we are writing essays we are keeping the reader in mind. Come into the Writing Center to talk about reader-based prose v. writer-based prose, but basically you want to be sure you keep your audience in mind and think about what kinds of things they will need to understand your paper and what bits you want them to take away.


Those are my top 5 baking-to-writing lessons! Hooray! Just keep in mind that just as every master baker has her staff (where’s my cleanup crew?!), every good writer has his or her arsenal of support… THE WRITING CENTER! Here’s to scrumptious baking as we get closer to the holidays and amazingly well written papers as we near finals.



P.S. I’m even going to share one of my favorite recipes: Safe-to-Eat Cookie Dough!

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 c flour

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 c margarine

1/4 c sugar

1/3 c brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract


Pour & mix flour, salt and baking soda into small mixing bowl

In another mixing bowl, place margarine, white & brown sugars

Cream margarine and sugars together

Add and blend in vanilla

Slowly add flour mixture into the bowl until blended and crumbly

Refrigerate and share with everyone (or just yourself!)

-Shannon, peer tutor