It’s the time of the month where we have our promptly penned posts. As a group, we’re given a quote, sentence, or an idea and asked to write a short story around it. I can’t remember the last time I did one of these. It’s been a while because I’m a terrible person. Here are the less terrible people participating today:
Please, pay them a visit and give their stories a read. Today, I present you my short story below titled, Cake.
Fondant is the bane of my existence. The moment a cake is set down in front of me the first thing I am going to look at is the frosting. If there is fondant on it, I will peel that son of a bitch off of there and throw it under the table like it never existed. Fondant is gross. Starch packing peanuts are less gross. Those are actually kind of fun to eat. Take a starch packing peanut, put it on your tongue, close your month, and it will dissolve instantly.
Didn’t know you could do that with starch packing peanuts? Find that weird? Well let’s talk about the asshole who invented fondant.
Let’s make a dough, but we can’t use flour, it’s not sweet. We’ll need to use something else that is elastic enough to keep it’s shape when rolled and formed. Gelatin! We’ll use gelatin and sugar with food coloring plus a few odd and ends like glycerin. Brilliant! Because the weird skin that forms over your best attempt at home-made jello jigglers is exactly what people want on their desserts.
That is why fondant is weird. And gross.
For the curious, the second thing I look for the moment a cake is set down in front of me is if it has a layer of fruit jelly, or filling, or whatever that mysterious layer of fruit is. Because at that point, it’s game over. If I wanted fruit with my cake I would have ordered a goddamn pie.
“Take a baking class.” My husband said.
“It would be good for you to get out more.” My husband said.
“You love to cook, why don’t you try something new? Baking sounds fun.” My husband said.
But there I am, sitting in a high school class room after hours with a hot mix of other Parks and Recreation sign-ups. The desk I picked said fuck Tom in pen dug deeply into the wood. I don’t know who Tom is but I’ve already sided with the author. The room smelled of sweet vanilla and had me under a trance as soon as I walked in. While the class settled in I took a moment to look around the room and I spotted them. In the cooking area were a row of small cakes cooling. One for each person in the class plus a few extra. I’m pretty good at math.
The instructor, a cheerful woman named Ms. Kim, set her reusable shopping bag on the front desk and started to pull out little plastic wrapped bundles.
“I had a few of my students stay over for a little extra credit and bake some small cakes for every one so today we could practice decorating. Everyone go ahead, grab a cake, and pick a station. You should already have tools out at your station, if you don’t, let me know.”
I left my desk, and that fucking Tom guy behind, and went straight for the cakes. Each of the cakes were perfect. The golden exteriors we smooth and silky. I picked up one of them to take to a station. The smell was heavenly. Absolutely heavenly. I don’t know which fifteen year old made this cake but they have a solid future ahead of them and a happy marriage if they keep this solid performance of cake perfection up.
At the baking station was butter, vanilla, and tools that I don’t think I’ve ever seen in a kitchen before. I pushed the tools aside and picked up the instruction sheet. It was the moment my day went from 10 to 11. It was the recipe for butter cream frosting. Moaning is not appropriate in these situations but there might have been a little moaning.
Making frosting from scratch is much easier than I thought. Ms. Kim questioned if I measured the vanilla correctly. Which I did. I had put in exactly what was on the instruction sheet and then I added exactly what I felt it needed. While we worked on frosting our cakes Ms. Kim started to microwave the little plastic bundles from earlier and pass them out a few at a time. I should have been listening but I totally wasn’t. I paid for the class and I was there to learn but, you know, buttercream frosting on a majestic cake, I had other things on my mind. But the word “frozen” caught my attention.
“…never put cake in the fridge. Always freeze it first. I’ll give you instructions on how to prep a cake properly for you to take home. We’re going to skip that step today for the sake of learning. This is only introduction and a little bit of a play time.”
A plastic bundle was set on my station. I looked around the room and everyone was unwrapping theirs. I decided to follow along feeling a little behind. My neighbor with the perfect hair and a smile full of gums was dusting her station with powdered sugar.
“Mine’s a little sticky. Is your’s sticky, too?” She whispered.
No idea. “A little.” I answered. To save face I copied her and dusted my station. Once I was done I finished unwrapping my bundle to expose a smooth and warm dough.
Ms. Kim handed out the last bundle and walked back to the first station she visited. She took a rolling pin and held it up to the class.
“You’re going to want to roll out your fondant until it’s 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch thick. A few of you have some textured rollers. Feel free to play and experiment. Share with your neighbors too, please. You should have plenty to both cover your cake and to make some other decorations with. If you see bubbles let me know, I have an xacto knife to use to release the air and work the bubbles out.”
“Oh, for christ’s sake.” I didn’t mean to say it out loud but Gums heard me.
“No.” I left it at that. I kneaded the fondant a little and it was just painful. I though, okay, take a little bite of it. Maybe, it’s just a situation were I only ever had commercial fondant and home made is better. Like when you hate pork chops because your mom always cooked the shit out of them. They were so dry you had to saw through them with enough vigor to shake the dining room table. Twenty years later your college roommate throws a few chops on the George Foreman and you realized, oh shit, that’s how pork chops are supposed to taste.
I braved it as best I could. One small bite. A little square. A tiny piece. A squat white turdling. I put it in my mouth and chewed. The best way I can describe it was the chalky feeling of heart burn tablets combined with the off tasting sweetness and elasticity of whatever the white gummy bears are. I’m not sure what my face looked like exactly, I wasn’t aware I was making one. But Gums was watching me and looked away when my eyes caught hers.
“Alright everyone, watch me real quick for this next step. Do you mind?” Ms. Kim was staring right at me. In her hand, a rolling pin. Wrapped around it was layer of 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch thick fondant.
I regret to admit this but, natural instincts took over and I slid the cake off my work station, into the palm of my hand, and backed away several steps.
The majority of the class giggled though a few straightened from their work station, rolling pins frozen in their hands.
“It’s okay. I’m not going to hurt your cake.”
More giggles from the class.
“Take one more step closer, and I swear to god, I’ll drop this cake! I’ll do it! Don’t test me!” I yelled.
Everyone was roaring now but Gums. She slipped under her station and hid. In hindsight, it’s funny. At the time I thought, you might avoid the cake splatter but there isn’t a safe spot in this room the follow-up powdered sugar bomb can’t reach. I had no qualms about popping a bag of powder up in the air and hitting it with a rolling pin like a roided-up slugger. “You don’t like fondant?” Ms. Kim asked her face a little pink from laughing or embarrassment, I didn’t know.
“I, ah…” Shit. Shit shit shit shit shit shit. “..am vegetarian.” I was not going to win any Oscar’s for that one but I managed a quick save. “Of sorts. I’m okay with eggs and milk because those naturally occur from animals but fondant uses gelatin which is a slaughtering byproduct.”
“Oh.” Ms. Kim lowered her rolling pin for a moment only to lift it back up at the ready. “Fair enough. How about you? Do you mind?” She asked as she walked a few stations away, locking eyes with a husband and wife team.
I waited a few until everyone watched her demonstration and was distracted trying to cover their own cakes. I took my cake, casually grabbed my bag, and slipped out the door. I’m sure I didn’t go completely unnoticed. Either way, I didn’t go back. I suppose I could say I was embarrassed but that’s not really my style. I just, was no longer interested in the science of baking.