For the ever-hopeful love of cakeage
I am fairly notorious among family and friends for my baking catastrophes. Cakes that don’t rise; cakes that don’t set – cookies that are brick-hard; cookies that are mush – muffins that are tasteless; muffins that taste of mud: when it comes to culinary disasters, I’ve been there, done that, got the t-shirt. Recently, I made this one:
Not too bad, you may be thinking, but the cake itself was a tooth-breaker. And I made this one:
Dig into a slice of this cake and you’d find yourself eating iced sponge… but not sponge cake – a bathroom sponge. The chocolate cake I baked was so burnt it went straight into the bin.
Now that I’ve set the scene for my baking prowess, you can perhaps begin to understand why Luke, the main guy in my YA romance series The Ceruleans, is a god in the kitchen. When you love cake, but fail miserably to create cake (sniff), you find a guy in a flour-dusted apron who smells of vanilla and cinnamon mighty attractive.
From the second book in the series, Forget Me Not:
‘Hey, Scarlett. Miniature Battenberg? Fondant fancy? Chelsea bun? Lemon drizzle muffin? Slice of fruit cake?’
The spread laid out before me on delicate china plates was any sweet toother’s fantasy. But the mouth-watering wake buffet wasn’t what drew my attention. That was focused firmly on the boy towering behind the dining room table in this seaside bungalow – dark, messy hair, glowing cheeks and eyes blue enough to drown in.
I smiled at Luke – my Luke, my gentle giant of a boyfriend. ‘Which did you make?’
‘All of them,’ he smiled. Then he added loudly for the benefit of two elderly ladies flanking him, ‘Mrs Hobbs and Mrs Bennet did the savouries. Which, of course, are… er, delicious.’
I quickly added a limp egg sandwich and a handful of cocktail sausages to my plate, but hovered indecisively over the dessert selection. Luke was an amazing cook – had dreamed of having his own restaurant, in fact, once – and to choose only one cake…
He saw the furrow in my brow and leaned over to whisper, ‘I kept two of each kind for us, for later.’
I beamed at him. ‘I knew there was a reason I loved you.’
The further I got into writing the series, the more cakeage, as Scarlett calls it, crept onto the page as a Scarlett and Luke ‘thing’. Do you remember the 2000 film Down to You? Cheesy by today’s standards, perhaps, but I remember loving it when I first saw it, especially because cake acts as a language for the main characters: ‘Hey, here’s a cake’ equates to ‘Fancy canoodling?’. Sweet stuff leads to sweet stuff: it’s logical and… well, sweet.
Sadly, delicious homemade cakeage remains fictional for me. Baker extraordinaire Luke Cavendish can’t step out of the pages of my books and teach me to whip up a four-layer red-velvet chocolate-fudge cake slathered with decadent frosting. (Even if he could, I highly doubt that cake would turn out perfect; I’d be far too busy checking out the guy wielding the wooden spoon.) But still I live in hope that someday I’ll bake it: The Cake, the big one, the EDIBLE one.
Maybe that someday is today! All this talk of baking has got me in the mood. Oven on. Cupboards ransacked. Oh, I’m two eggs short. Never mind – the cake’ll turn out okay, right…?