“Hurry up! Bring that greased tin here!” Anne yelled at her daughter who was fooling around with the bowl of butter and cake tin. Seven-year old Vanessa ran back to the kitchen, tin in hand. Placing it on the table top, she asked her mother, “Mommy, how many more tins do I need to grease?”
“Two more.” Anne was preoccupied with the baking order she was completing: a castle shaped cake, complete with soldiers and guns. Anne had purchased a few toy soldiers. For the guns, she was using marzipan. As for the boats, she was making rafts with waffle biscuits. But the decoration was a long way to go. She had to get the cakes in the oven first!
Pouring the chocolate cake batter into the greased tin, she placed it in the pre-heated oven. Without wasting a minute, she set about making the batter for the second and third layer of the castle. Since the party was just for a few of John’s school friends, Anne had decided to go for a two layered castle cake. However, another layer of cake was necessary to make the towers etcetera.
“Vanessa. Grease the remaining two tins. And then cut the chocolate waffles into two halves. Cut them neatly, and keep them on a clean plate.” Anne issued another set of instructions as she hustled about, measuring the flour and cocoa powder, while keeping an eye on the melting butter on the stove.
Vanessa stepped out of the kitchen, quite happy to get out of the stifling heat. She sat down at the dining table, all her greasing paraphernalia at hand. She had become an expert at greasing tins quickly and efficiently. After all, she had been doing it since her sixth birthday!
On completing her first set of instructions, Vanessa quickly entered the kitchen. She needed a knife to cut the waffles. She was momentarily distracted by the aroma of the sieved flour-and-cocoa powder. It was just delicious. Vanessa paused to take a sniff, and said to her mom, “Mommy, I’m sure Heaven smells like this!”
Anne smiled at the little one’s thought. She remembered having mused about this at Vanessa’s age. “It’s funny,” she thought to herself, “the happy thoughts that popped up in our brains when we were young no longer stop by for a visit.” She merely nodded at Vanessa, though. There was another time and place to discuss philosophy like this. Not when she was in the middle of baking a cake for her best friend’s son.
Vanessa pulled out the Biscuit Waffles from the colourful packets and arranged them neatly on a tray. She loved arranging biscuits neatly on a tray. She imagined herself to be drill sergeant, shouting out orders to the soldiers!
“Brown, raise your chin a little higher.”
“Smith, shoulders straight!”
“Johnson, didn’t you polish your shoes today?”
“Jones, wipe that stupid grin off your face!”
She uttered all these orders while she straightened all the biscuits into neat lines.
Anne peeked into the living room. “Get me both the tins. There’s place for both in the oven.” Vanessa scurried into the kitchen, tins in hand, a smile on her face. She wondered why her mom never smiled while she baked. There was so much happiness flying around the home when a cake was being baked!
She helped her mom pour the batter into the tins. It was almost time to bring out the first cake from the oven. Anne opened the door of the oven, testing the cake with a toothpick. The cake was well-done. Donning oven-gloves, she pulled out the hot tin from the oven and placed it on a wired rack on the table. “Vanessa, get me the tins, one by one.”
Vanessa handed over the tin carefully, her small hands finding the tin too heavy. But the aroma of the first cake out of the oven energised her, like it always did.
Now that the cakes were in the oven, the next thing on the list was to remove the first cake from the tin, and let it cool on the rack. With her swift hands, Anne could use a tray and the tin adeptly and remove the cake onto the rack within five seconds. Years of practice had helped her gain this skill. Vanessa could only look at her mom in awe, thinking her to be Superwoman.
There were a few crumbs sticking to the surface of the tin. Anne scraped it out and put it in a bowl. She turned around to see Vanessa waiting intently to eat the crumbs. It was weird: Vanessa loved to eat the crumbs, even though Anne could bake delicious cakes everyday!
The crumbs tasted lovely. Vanessa couldn’t wait for the next batch of cakes to be ready. She joined her mom in the living room. “What do we do next?”
“Finish cutting the waffles first. Then select only the blue and green coloured Gems from the packets I’ve bought. Don’t eat the remaining ones! We can use them for Mary’s birthday cake.”
Anne then busied herself preparing the chocolate frosting for the cake.
The cakes had cooled, and Anne was all ready with the frosting. The first layer of the cake had been placed on the turn-table, covered with frosting. With a steady hand, Anne placed the second smaller layer onto the first. And then frosted the cake. The towers were cut from the third layer, and placed neatly onto the second layer. Vanessa did the third layer of frosting. The gleam of happiness on her face was incomprehensible!
After doing a crumb coat for the cake, it was placed into the fridge. Anne used this time to quickly clear up the kitchen. Vanessa went along to play with her waffle-soldiers. They were now doing push-ups, under the watchful eye of the drill sergeant.
After a dinner of fried sausages and green bean salad, Anne and Vanessa started the most exciting activity of preparing a cake: decorating it!
Anne neatly added a layer of the chocolate frosting on the cake. Vanessa looked on from across the dining table. It was truly magical to her: How her mommy could convert three boring layers of cake into something that looked dazzling and beautiful!
Using the remaining frosting, she coated ice-cream cones into chocolate towers. She used the Biscuit waffles to make doors and windows. She placed the toy soldiers at the entrance and marzipan guns on the terrace. She melted some butter, added cocoa to it, to make it a lake around the castle. Lastly, she used the blue and green gems to line the edges of the cake!
Voila! The cake was ready!
Anne stepped back to look at her handiwork. Looking at the cake all dressed up made Anne happy. Baking was a little tiring. The pay was not as good as she would have wanted it to be, and the orders were infrequent. She had to work as a receptionist at a law firm from 9 in the morning to 5 in the evening. On the days when she did not have any cake orders, she knitted sweaters and stitched quilts. Adding to this, she also helped Vanessa with her homework and completed other errands. Being a single mom wasn’t easy. Baking became more of a have-to-do job, and the joy in it disappeared, much to her displeasure.
But for little Vanessa baking was like taking a welcome break from academics. She understood the problems her mommy faced, and did her best to help out. There was joy in everything, and Vanessa loved to find this joy in baking. She hoped her mom would smile and laugh and play some music while baking. But she knew that mom was worried about a dozen other things. So Vanessa did her best to make mom smile with cute little thoughts and play-acting, She really hoped that one day, her mom would remember the happiness that baking brought. And she hoped that it replaced the satisfied sigh her mom let out when the cake was all ready and decorated.
Linking this post to Write Tribe’s #FridayReflections ! The prompt I selected was:
“Joy comes to us in ordinary moments. We risk missing out on joy when we get too busy chasing down the extraordinary” – Brene Brown
P.S.: Sorry for not getting a picture of the chocolate castle cake. Couldn’t find any non-copyrighted ones. This one is from Pixabay.