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Life by Chocolate

Sometimes a cake can change your life

By Renessa NortonPublished 3 years ago 5 min read
Life by Chocolate
Photo by Jasmine Waheed on Unsplash

December 11… two weeks to perfect a dessert and blow everyone’s champagne-soaked, Yuletide minds. I had spent the weekend trawling through the internet, pulling out long-forgotten, dust-bound cookbooks from cupboards I might open thrice per decade. I had even taken to social media, begging almost strangers for their best recipes. Finally, I had it narrowed down to four - a sticky date pudding, creme brulee with raspberry coulis and two very different chocolate cakes. I silently thanked the generous employment contract I had negotiated for myself which included seven weeks’ paid holidays per year. This allowed me to take a full month off over Christmas as I got to work planning my culinary magnum opus.

This year wasn’t just any year. My mother was finally in remission, it looked likely to be my grandfather’s final Christmas with us, my brother had finally returned from a 10 year sabbatical in Southern America and I was bringing a man to Christmas - something that at 37, I had long since given up hope of ever happening. Yes, I had been given the opportunity to create the grand finale of what was set to be a momentous, and likely emotional, day, and I was determined to do it right.

I set about planning my week: a shopping trip that afternoon to purchase all of the ingredients - surely bound to be chaotic even two weeks before Christmas; chocolate cake A and creme brulee trial tomorrow; chocolate cake B and sticky date pudding the next day; elimination of the weakest dessert; one dessert a day with tasting tweaks and elimination of the worst contender, and so forth until I had perfected the strongest recipe to dazzle everyone.

The next morning, I awoke early, took the butter from the refrigerator to soften up and then crawled back into my cozy bed to catch some extra zzzs before delving into my adventure. I roused feeling refreshed and energised, and subsequently only had three cups of coffee instead of my usual five. By the time I sat to chow down on my hastily thrown together tomato toast lunch, the kitchen looked like a warzone, but instead of bodies and blood, it was buttermilk and baking soda. Up the walls, across the countertops, all over the kitchen sink faucet. I could even see some on the ceiling, such was the enthusiasm of my mixing and churning.

When Mike walked through the front door at 6pm, a slightly weary look on his face, the chaos had managed to spread around the corner to the breakfast bar. The tired look in his eyes transformed in an instant to amusement as he brushed flour from my hair and kissed me deeply.

“Dessert for dinner?” I proffered.

“My favourite,” he returned, although I knew he was lying given he was almost exclusively a savoury person.

First on the menu was chocolate cake A. Sumptuous and moist, rich, yet not overpowering. Given that I had only previously poured ingredients from packet mixes, slapped in a few eggs and called it a dessert, I was most impressed with my first attempt. Mike seemed happy enough with it, but I noted his eyes didn’t quite crinkle at the corners when he smiled on the first bite. A potential, I noted - perhaps a little less sugar and more buttercream could improve it.

Then came the moment I had been waiting for - creme brulee. Nervously, yet full of anticipation, I whipped out my new toy - a bloody blowtorch. Mike jumped back and giggled like a toddler as I started searing the tops of the ramekins. Even I was taken aback as the flame suddenly jumped from the end of the tool, and almost immediately depressed the button for a moment.

And there it was - that crinkle I had been looking for when Mike cracked the top of the creme brulee and spooned some into his mouth. A slight moan emanated from his person and at that moment, I was quite certain that this would be a contender.

The next day was much of the same - a flurry of flour and a chaos of cream. I only realised the time when I was squinting and had to flick the lights on, and I turned to look out the window to see the sun had set. Mike, being the good sport he was, indulged me once more with dessert for dinner. We both agreed the sticky date pudding was too over the top - I was silently relieved as I had felt ill at the sheer amount and combination of butter, golden syrup and heavy cream. Chocolate cake B was significantly better than chocolate cake A. I had skipped ahead and narrowed it down to a top two.

Over the subsequent week, I tinkered with the recipes constantly - a little less sugar here, a little more chocolate there, cooking the raspberry coulis for a minute more, a minute less. And by the 22nd of December, Mike and I had made our decision.

We arrived to my parents’ house on Christmas morning, our waistbands considerably tighter than a few weeks prior. Many hugs were shared, hand shakes aplenty, and gifts en masse. I was relieved I had donned a dress with an elasticated waistband so that it stretched along with my stomach. Mike was not so lucky with his restrictive pants starting to buckle. By the time we reached dessert, he had surreptitiously unbuttoned his trousers, covering the top of the pants with a loosened belt.

It was time for my big moment - I walked into the kitchen and seized my prize, walking back to the dining room, ever so carefully so as not to trip and splatter our gaggle with carefully constructed sugar. Everyone oohed and ahhed as I placed my masterpiece on the table - a four layered chocolate cake (B, in case you wanted to know) coated with buttermilk frosting, laced with espresso and topped with the raspberry coulis from the creme brulee recipe. As my father did the honours of slicing everyone a piece of cake, Mike cleared his throat indicating he had something to say. But when everyone turned to look at him, he was down on one bended knee, a glittering diamond ring thrust toward me. I didn’t quite hear his words, but somehow choked out a ‘yes’ when his mouth stopped moving.

I never did quite work out whether the smiles were because of the cake or the proposal, but I hadn’t seen my grandfather look so alive in years, but his eyes certainly crinkled when he spooned the cake into his mouth. And as I scooped up the dessert, I had to admit that diamonds look damned good next to chocolate cake.

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Renessa Norton

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    Renessa NortonWritten by Renessa Norton

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