One of my passions in life, other than writing, is baking. I absolutely love spending time in the kitchen with all the pots and pans bubbling, and gorgeous smells floating through the house.
This week, however, has been a sort of challenge. The plum trees I have in my garden have very kindly decided this year to provide me with an abundance of fruit. So much so, that youngest daughter and I have spent an average of three hours every day for the past seven days picking plums off the ground.
Wimps, you may say. Three hours is nothing. My body can only attest to the fact that it is. We have lugged carrier bags around the garden, picking up both the good fruit and the bad. I promise anyone who questions that I am fully capable of touching my toes… hundreds of times in those three hours. My back aches, my thighs are a little jellyish and my knees give a gentle grind as I hobble to the next plum.
Not only have we picked this bumper crop, but I’ve also been obliged to turn as much of it into something we can keep and enjoy. When I turned the fruit into jam and cordial it reminded me so much of the reason I wrote For Heaven’s Cakes.
My heroine in that loved to bake too, and while I was writing the story, I too was in the kitchen this time last year.
So, here’s a snippet:
She slid her finger through the last smidgeon of caramel on the spatula, slipped it into her mouth, sucked it thoroughly, and allowed it to pop out of her lips. She narrowed her eyes to watch the bad dog’s face. She swiped the spatula over the cake covering, smoothed it into a sleek satin cover all over the cake, levelled the top, and whisked it over the sides until they were glossy.
“There.” Her grin was genuine. She was enjoying herself.
The wolf raised his chin and looked regal.
“You’ll have to share my Christmas dinner tomorrow, because I haven’t had chance to buy any kibble. I had no idea you had such an appetite. Although goodness knows what daddy is going to say, when he finds out I’ve taken in a stray dog.” She gave him a conspiratorial wink and enjoyed the quick whip of insult in the wolf’s eyes. “We have steak tonight, boy, but you’ll have to have some plain rice with it too. Don’t want you to get the poops for Christmas day.”
She restrained a loud snort and raised the spatula to her mouth, to cover the grin she could no longer keep at bay as a strangled whimper came from the fiend’s throat.
“Then I will buy you kibble because I think all this rich food is… Well, you look somewhat bigger than you did when you arrived.”
She waggled the spatula at him, and then took another lick of it. She closed her eyes with pleasure, as she let the soft caramel coat her tongue and slide down her throat. Divine. Next to chocolate, it was the best flavor on earth.
“I wouldn’t normally do this, but I love caramel.” She touched her tongue to it again.
“And I’ve finished decorating with it now.”
She reached out and flipped the turntable so it spun the finished cake in a full lazy circle, showing her creation to perfection.
“What do you think, boy?”
He narrowed his eyes and squinted at her, the black face emphasizing his thoughtful stare.
“Yeah. I agree. Heavenly, just like Mrs. Timmins says. Heavenly. It’s nice to have your work appreciated. It’s for over the Christmas. Daddy can take some to my aunt’s. I’ll box it up nice and pretty, and I’ll have some here.” She turned her back on him and grinned wildly, before she grabbed the refrigerator door, sticking her head inside the coolness of it, hoping the florid heat in her cheeks might subside in the few brief moments it took to remove the decoration she had made earlier. She slipped it neatly off the parchment paper onto the center of the cake and took her simple creation to a whole new level.
With a sweep of her hand, she acknowledged the complex little swirls of spun sugar, pride swelling her chest.
The wolf drooled.
“Shame you can’t have this. It’s bad for you.” She shrugged as she slid the cake into a box, and pushed it carefully to the back of the kitchen counter.
As she turned back to him, she placed her hands on her hips and dipped down slightly, so she could stare directly into his eyes. It was time, and she had had long enough to prepare herself. It was all very well to have her fun, but she needed to torture him—tighten the screws, so to speak.
“I suppose if I decide to keep you, I better arrange to have your testicles chopped off.” The spit seemed to instantly evaporate from his mouth, and a high-pitched whine escaped him. His eyes widened, and his ears went on high alert.
“Oh, don’t worry, baby.” She forced out a laugh, managed to control it before it became hysterical. “I won’t let daddy do it.” She hunkered down in front of him, scratched the top of his head with her fingers, and gave him a wide smile, designed to reassure him. “We’ll get a proper veterinarian to do the job. That way we know it’s done right, and no little unwanted babies for you. Don’t want you doggin’ around, like Zeke and Beau—the bad, bad boys all women should avoid.”