Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Sprinkle Cake

It's amazing my brain can do this right now. "But Emily," you say. "Writing a blog takes literally no effort." Great point, but my brain is full, my heart is full, even my mouth is full -- of an infected abscess, but still. My mouth will be better in a few days when the dentist does something with a drill and I'm once again reminded that my body seems to be constantly failing. And my brain will be considerably less full after this weekend, when the Minnesota Fringe Festival ends with a summer camp-esque bang and a giant dance party at The Varsity. And my heart? Well, I hope my heart stays as full as it is right now, because it's brimming like a precocious child's orange juice glass in a Bounty commercial.

Despite my dry sarcasm and "general outlook," I'm easily excited. I am capable of a special childlike glee that is probably unexpected and off-putting. Fringe brings this out in me. So does fried cheese and friendship and comedy and making theater -- the cool thing is, the Fringe is really the ultimate combination of all of the above. This is my sixth consecutive year producing a show in the festival. This isn't an example of my writing abilities, because submissions are selected by lottery and I've never had a show written until about May of that year. The past few years, I've had the pleasure of writing a show in LA and sending it off to some of my very best friends to make it into a real play. How lucky am I?! I write a show in my bed, while eating Crispix off of my body, pants nowhere to be found. And then in a few months, actors are acting it and audiences are audiencing it, thanks to my incredible director/friend Samantha Baker Harris. I'm not into "magic," but this is magic.

I could spout off so many facts about the Fringe, but as my friends in LA would say, "Stop." Just know that it's 174 shows in 15 venues over 10 days with 5 performances each. This year, you can see everything from dance to drama to sketch comedy to a lady washing herself in a bathtub in someone's home. (I don't know. I really don't. It sold out very quickly.) It's everything, and it's a deck of wild cards. The fact that it's a lottery means some shows are produced by actual theater companies and some are produced by, like, an accountant with an idea. And honestly? Who's to predict which show will be better? Because you never know, and that's what's great -- especially when you have an artist pass and can see shows for free versus $14. If the show is terrible, it's still an experience. And! As an audience member, you can review shows on the Fringe website. Artists don't get bothered or excited by these reviews at all. Oh wait. The opposite. Right, it's the opposite. We all need, like, the most attention and feedback and reassurance. If someone says they don't check their reviews until the end of the run, they're a goddamn liar. Just get on our level already. Post-show drinks sometimes look like several artists clutching their smart phones, trying to be relaxed and normal while "casually" refreshing their show page. I'm not saying it's good, I'm just saying it happens. I've been pretty lucky this year with my show The Mrs., save for one TRULY INSANE review written by "professional" Dominic Papatola. He didn't care for the show. And he made sure everyone knew it was very much exclusively my fault. It's fine -- apparently, many find him to be an insufferable and mean little man, and I'm now in a club of those who have been "d-papd." Sounds like something that would happen in stirrups with a speculum, and to be honest, it kind of felt like that anyway.


Just kidding. I really am. It's good practice for dealing with all of the people who will express their general distaste for me in the future.

We're about halfway through the festival, and my overwhelming feelings are those of joy and... compulsive affection? My girl crush numbers are through the roof. Are we still saying "girl crushes" or is that sort of frowned upon? Sorry. The Mrs.' cast is filled with some of the most amazing women I've ever met. I feel incredibly lucky that they said yes to this play -- they have completely exceeded my expectations for the weird little script I wrote. Their interpretations of the characters and the nuances they bring to the table are incredible. I sit up in the tech booth during the show and I'm pretty sure our lighting tech thinks I'm 100% crazy. My laugh is not okay. It's that childlike glee I was talking about. Sometimes I look at her, wild-eyed, as if to say, "Aren't they just SO GREAT?" But it's not her job to interact with me at all and honestly, she's making the right choice to just not engage with my over-the-top enthusiasm. I get it, lady, I don't know how to handle myself either. I want to say, "Isn't it cool that my comedy hero Shanan Custer is in this thing I wrote?" And she would mostly be like, "You need to be quieter, the audience can hear you." Fair, fair.

I cast my best friends and my comedy heroes because it's more fun to write with their voices in my head. It's almost collaborative. And it feels like I'm hanging out with my friends-- brb, touching base with sanity real quick.


...I also see shows that my friends have written and produced and I'm reminded of all the things that "comedy" and "storytelling" can be -- all the ways we can be poignant and expressive and funny and creative as humans. It's a revival. It's like church camp, but instead of coming home singing This Little Light of Mine and sore from The Waterskiiing Incident, I'm all, "What if I wrote something with PUPPETS?" I mean, I won't. But that anything-is-possible feeling will stick with me all year.

Erin Sheppard is my Fringe hero this year. I saw her show twice and am seeing it again, because my artist pass affords me that luxury. Erin is an improviser, actor, choreographer, dancer and she will PRODUCE THE SHIT out of an incredible show. This year, it was Dance with the Devil -- several dances inspired by the seven deadly sins, alternating with the most hilarious and heartbreaking and well-crafted stories I've ever heard, by Rita Boersma (also in The Mrs. -- double girl crush alert -- gonna use that term until someone gives me another one to use). Rita tells stories about sin in the most lovely, easy, beautiful way -- anecdotes that had me laughing and crying and processing. And the dances? I can't even explain how those make me feel. Sorry, Erin. This is creepy.

I'm presenting you with a recipe for homemade sprinkle cake, because life should be celebrated with sprinkles -- whether you're making a show or cake, isn't it cool that you're making something that wasn't there before?

I wish someone would teach me how to pronounce "nonpareil."

Sprinkle Cake


1 2/3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted, melted butter
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup sour cream
3/4 cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup sprinkles (sticks not balls!)

1 cup unsalted, softened butter
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup whipping cream
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease one round cake pan. If you want to make this guy a layered situation, you will need to double the recipe!
In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
In a large microwavable bowl, melt the butter.
Whisk in the sugars with the butter and beat until those lumps are outta there.
Add the egg, sour cream, whipping cream, and vanilla. 
Continue to whisk until well-combined.
Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet. Again, let's try to make this lump-free. Do your very best.
Add the sprinkles!

VERY fun.

Unload into the cake pan and violently drop the pan onto the counter to get rid of air bubbles. So loud. So satisfying.
Bake for about 33 minutes. You know your oven. You know what a finished cake should look like (not wet, not burnt).
Cool completely!
Frosting time!
Beat the butter, powdered sugar, whipping cream, and vanilla until that shit is FLUFFY and LIGHT and... heavenly?!? Yes.
I also dyed it blue!
Is your cake cooled completely? You better check. Mine wasn't, and the frosting melted, because it's butter, you big idiot. It was a small disaster. I fridged it, and it recovered, but just don't make the same mistakes as me. Practice patience. Be better.

This cake is everything.

Happy baking!