Baking a Book

For whatever reason, I am addicted to baking shows this time of year. Not cooking, baking. My nieces and I are watching Cake Wars together–do you watch that? We create back stories for all the contestants. I’m not proud of this, but it is family time.

There are other big, ridiculous baking competitions that play in the background as I write, or clean. They are mindless, and a fun way to get into the holiday spirit.

But recently I discovered The Great British Baking Show on Netflix. (UK website here.) I’d heard about it, but hadn’t caught on yet, so I missed this season on PBS. I watched one episode, then another. Before I knew it I was not only addicted, but I was also inspired to try baking new things. I’d never made boiled pastry–going to try it now. Sponge cakes, I hardly knew ye before this. Victoria Sandwiches, it is lovely to meet you. Cakes made with yeast? Maybe not, though I’m glad to know more about you.

One of the challenges on the Great British Baking Show is a technical challenge. General directions are given, but they require technical know how in order to implement them correctly, and well. In some cases (as the show progresses), people have no idea what the finished product is supposed to look like. But they muddle through, doing their best to guess, make adjustments, and get some finished product ready for the judges.

Writing a book is like a technical challenge on The Great British Baking Show:

  • You technically know how to write.
  • You are given certain ingredients: a story, a genre, a basic outline of how the story should work.
  • You have no idea how it will all end up, but you hope that those who are going to judge (agents, editors, readers) deem it successful.
  • And then, next week, the challenge gets tougher, because you have to out do yourself.

With this in mind, and in the spirit of the season, I am baking things that are new to me, and exploring new spices, techniques, and recipes.

I am also rediscovering the importance of chilling cookie dough, and letting bread dough rise. But that’s another blog post.

Happy baking/writing!


Julianne Holmes writes the Clock Shop Mystery Series. The first in the series, Just Killing Time, came out in October.

24 thoughts on “Baking a Book

  1. I watch it along with MKR, Masterchef, Strictly Come Dancing, Great Pottery Showdown, Junior Masterchef and Bake Off. Addictive. I almost forgot Escape To The Country and Antique Roadshow and lots more.

  2. Lovely post, Julie. I never thought about writing a book being like baking – but it’s true. Long ago I made a yeasted cake and it was delicious. Will have to see if I have that recipe in my recipe box.

  3. Great analogy! I like cooking shows and have recently starting watching the cake wars but I never thought of the similarities in writing and baking. Of course, before you begin any project you have to assemble your “goods.” So let me know go and start gathering ingredients for my upcoming book project. Thanks for the post.

  4. I like the baking paired with writing. I didn’t knew that there were those many similarities/ or I knew and didn’t observe. It was a fantastic example and both match up. It is awesome post.o

  5. I am looking forward to your post on letting the “chilling cookie dough, and letting bread dough rise.” I can see how that could be applied to writing. Not sure how I’d explain that to people, “Currently I am letting my book rest so it can rise properly.” hmmm.

  6. Speaking as an Englishman, two spectacularly irrelevant things strike me. The first is that we call it ‘The Great British Bake Off’ – I presume that’s not a totally nonsensical title across the pond? And secondly, what’s the US reaction to AlaskaGate (you’ll know what I mean when you see it) – it was pretty much a national controversy in Britain! But yes, a great analogy, and great stuff all round.

    • Alaskagate from season 1? As a mystery writer, I thought it odd that a second contestant was out the next week. Is there more to the story?

      We have bake offs here, but it isn’t a term that is used often.

      I love this show. Are Victoria sandwiches as delicious as they look?

      • Ah, AlaskaGate was from the season pictured in that trailer, which is about Series Four or Five by my reckoning – not the biggest thing in the world, but you can imagine the great debates taking place across the UK on the correct way to judge a somewhat flawed Baked Alaska. Ahem. And Victoria Sponges are great when baked well – I refer you to our prestigious Women’s Institute – but often need a bit of cream or some other component. Anyway, if you find yourself watching AlaskaGate, (in terms of Ian and Diane) I’m sure you’ll think up some interesting conspiracy theories on that front…

  7. Love your baking analogy and how you aligned it so cleverly with writing. Writing yes for me but the baking bit (once upon a time) now I face Christmas and our searing temperatures with a salad mindset. Could it be my salad days are not over but just beginning. I could hope with writing and reading from others new ideas and new things emerge. Thanks for the Blog.

  8. Really enjoyed reading this post Julie. ‘The Great British Baking Show’ is called ‘The Great British Bake Off’ in the UK. Amused at the change in the name! 🙂 I used to watch it religiously when I lived there and you are giving me the incentive to catch up with that!

  9. I would never have thought of comparing writing and baking, but now that you mention it, I’m sold on the idea. I can relate to all of what you have mentioned since I enjoy writing and baking as well. I’m constantly looking for good shows to follow and I would like to thank you for shedding some light on this show. I’ll make it a point to check it out. But I never actually implement them at home because we don’t consume eggs in our family and I just like watching it for all the gorgeous desserts prepared on the shows.
    Good luck with baking and writing!

  10. Pingback: Baking a Book, Part 2 | Live to Write – Write to Live

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