We've had a lot of birthdays in the Benton household recently, with an attendant abundance of cake. Half of our household is gluten-free, which means that 100% of our baked goods are gluten-free. Happily, nowadays a gluten-free cake is a thing that can be baked--but it's trickier than the glutenated version. My wife handles the chemistry experiment part of the process. She's the baker in the family. Last winter she made batch after batch of gluten-free cookies, changing one variable at a time until she dialed in a recipe of her own for chocolate chip cookies. The secret turned out to be finding just the right amount of xanthan gum. Once she perfected her formula, you wouldn't guess her cookies were gluten-free, but you would want to have a second--and a third. With that kind of prowess, all of the birthday cake batters turned out great.

My job in the cake baking process seemed simple compared to hers: I just had to watch and wait for the cake to be done. Gluten-free cakes have higher moisture content than their glutenated cousins, and baking all that moisture off takes a lot of patience. I learned that just because the recommended baking time has elapsed doesn't mean the cake is really done. To know for sure that it's time to pull the cake out of the oven, you have to stick a toothpick in and see if it comes out clean. You have to be willing to stick a fresh toothpick in every couple of minutes until one finally comes out clean. That's the only way to know when the cake is perfectly done.

If you pull the cake out too soon you have a half-baked gooey mess. Just because you want your cake--or your story, or your essay, or your blog post--to be done doesn't make it ready. Just because you've waited the normal amount time doesn't make it time to call your project complete. The only way to know when you're done is to check.