“So you’re awake.”
“Johnny, come on, it’s 12 pm. You haven’t even eaten anything yet.”
“Yes, I know you don’t have work for another 5 hours, but it doesn’t mean that you can just sleep all the way through.”
“I have Tiramisu for you.”
Johnny raised his head, “You better don’t mess with me when it comes to Tiramisu, Lee Taeyong.”
Taeyong shrugged, “Check your dining table if you don’t believe me.”
Johnny squinted, “Is this one of your tricks to make me leave my bed?”
“Well, I believe that you’ll leave your bed because you’ll definitely be hungry in less than 30 minutes anyway, why do I need to pull any tricks on you?”
“Point taken,” Johnny slowly removed the covers then reached for his glasses, “And to what do I owe the honor of you getting me my favorite cake?”
Taeyong snorted, “Well, it is not exactly me. Doyoung’s colleagues bought him like one whole Tiramisu cake for his belated birthday, so I decided to bring you two slices today because I know you’ll love this one.”
“Well, it is Tiramisu and it is free, of course I’ll love it.”
“No, not that, Johnny. You gotta try this one and you’ll know.”
Taeyong nodded excitedly, “Yup. That good.”
Johnny quickly wore his slippers and speed walked to his dining room.
True to what Taeyong said, there were two slices of Tiramisu cake placed daintily in a small white box. Based on their appearance alone, they literally looked like common Tiramisu cakes sold in common cake shops.
Johnny looked at Taeyong.
“Yes, I know what you’re thinking John, ‘what’s so special about this?’ Take a fork and have a bite, only then you’re allowed to make a comment.”
Johnny shrugged, but he decided to follow what Taeyong said. He used a small fork and took a small piece of the cake.
Then he looked at Taeyong again.
This time around, his eyes had widened.
“Uh-huh. I know, right? Told ya.” Taeyong smiled triumphantly.
“Holy fuck. This is so good. Gosh Taeyong, why did you only give me two?”
“Excuse me? Doyoung was about to finish the whole cake all by himself before I stopped him and asked him to leave two slices for you. You better be thankful that he managed to resist eating these two slices that I kept for you in the fridge or else they’d be gone this morning!”
“Whoah, Tae, but, really… This is so good though? How did they get the sweetness, the coffee aroma, the mascarpone taste, even the sponginess of the ladyfingers right?”
Taeyong shrugged again, “Beats me. I know nothing about cakes. I only know how to enjoy them.”
Johnny kept quiet until he finally finished savouring the whole two slices in less than 5 minutes. Well, he wanted to eat them and enjoy them slowly and properly, but how could he when the cake itself was too good to pass on?
“Seriously Tae, can you ask Doyoung to ask his colleagues where they ordered this cake from? This is to die for really!”
“And when I manage to get the name of the shop and the address, what is there for me then?”
“I’ll get you one whole cake. Whatever cake you want.”
Taeyong shook Johnny’s hand.
“Now we have a deal.”
“Alright so you’ll do the Victoria Sandwich cakes, I’ll do the Black Forest cakes. How many of them again, Kun?”
Kun checked on his iPad, “Three for tomorrow morning, four for tomorrow afternoon. So do you want to do the ones due tomorrow morning now or…?”
Taeil rubbed his chin, “I think I’ll just make the batter today and keep them in the fridge. I’ll only bake them fresh tomorrow morning. They are quick to cool and easy to ice anyways. What do you think?”
Kun hummed, “Yeah, I think that’s a good idea. I’ll do that for the Victoria Sandwich cakes too then. I’ll check if we still have some space in the fridge for the batters.”
“Alright, thanks Kun!” Taeil gave Kun a wide smile before getting back to his strawberry jam simmering lightly in a pot.
The Absolute Sweetest, if anyone may say, is Taeil and Kun’s forever awaited brainchild. Both of them had been acquainted with each other since college days as roommates, and since then, everyone had known that their dorm was the place to go to when they wanted to have some sweets, or basically any treat to make them feel better. Kun himself was a culinary art student majoring in bakery and pastry, while Taeil was a business student who always stress-baked during his college days, so it couldn’t be helped that they always had sweets to share with everyone.
Then three years ago, when Taeil was bored with his 9 to 5 corporate job and Kun was looking for a new challenge after being a pastry chef at one fine dining restaurant in town for four years, they decided to make the small dream that they talked about while lazing around in their living room into reality.
It took them around one whole year to decide on the menu, find the right recipes, hunt for the perfect little corner shop, get the bank loan, and renovate their little shop, but it was all worth it when business had been doing so well they were even able to pay back their loan in two years. They were now even able to hire two assistants to help them around in the shop; Xiaojun and Donghyuck. Both of them were usually at the front, dealing with the customers, meanwhile Taeil and Kun were busy in their kitchen, baking cakes and pastries, that seemed endless, until the end of the day. The good business really couldn’t be helped as everything, literally everything, in the menu has become everyone’s favorites and always gets good reviews. Both of them even had a talk on expanding their little shop, but it is still just a plan.
For now, they have cakes and pastries to bake.
So there Johnny was, standing right below the signboard of The Absolute Sweetest, waiting for his turn to get into the shop as there was a limit for the number of people in the shop because of its small size, and also to make it easier for the guys behind the counter to serve everyone. The long queue and the number of paper bags that people brought when they went out of the shop really made Johnny think, “Wow… That good?”
If anything, it only made him more curious and he didn’t even mind to stand longer under the scorching hot sun for a slice of cake or two (although he definitely wished to get more if the bakes were not sold out yet, he deserved some extra treats for standing under the sun, okay?).
Once it was his turn to get into the shop, the cool breeze coming from the air conditioner and pastel colours greeted him welcome. The two assistants looked very busy, so Johnny decided to look around the shop to see assorted pastries before he got to see the real deal: the chilled display where the cakes were placed in. The shop sold both commonly known pastries such as Cheese Bun, Pain Au Chocolat, and Plain Croissant, as well as their own creations like Cereal Milk Bun, Strawberry Cheese Roll, and Matcha White Chocolate Croissant. Without realizing it, he already took one of each on his tray (and no, he didn’t regret it at all).
After filling the whole tray with assorted pastries, he finally went to the chilled display of cakes, and his mouth watered even more.
How is it even possible that ALL cakes look good?
“Good afternoon, Sir! How may I help you?” Donghyuck, as shown in his name tag, greeted him cheerily from behind the display.
Johnny smiled back, “Good afternoon! Oh well, honestly everything looks interesting here and I am having a bit of trouble deciding on one or two to bring home… any suggestions? Which one is your best seller here?”
Donghyuck got more excited, “The menu here actually rotates every week, so you’ll get a different menu each time. For this week, Chocolate Peanut Butter and Salted Caramel Cheesecake seemed to be two of the best sellers, Sir! And you can see that we only have one slice each left today!”
Johnny looked at the lone two slices of cakes that Donghyuck pointed at and hummed, “Okay, I’ll take those two and have them here. And do you still have some Tiramisu left?”
“Oh, Tiramisu! The first whole cake was finished Sir, but I think my boss had baked one more and now it is ready to be iced. I can check for you if you don’t mind waiting?”
“Sure! I have come all the way here, I don’t mind waiting a little more. If they are ready, can I get two slices to go please?”
“Sure, Sir! Please wait for a bit, let me check for you.”
And with that, Donghyuck disappeared to the kitchen.
While waiting for Donghyuck to re-emerge from the kitchen, he looked around and paid closer attention to the details of the bakeshop. The whole bakeshop was dominated by pastel colours, mainly yellow and blue. Everything was kept simple, with only one neon sign for “The Absolute Sweetest” right behind the cashier and white stripes adorning the walls. Only a few chairs and tables were provided as most of the customers usually had their sweets to go, and they also do not provide a separate menu for beverages, with only mineral water and bottled coffee available. However, the whole setting feels homey. The assistants are really friendly and efficient, so none of the customers mind waiting despite having to stand under the scorching hot sun.
“Thank you for waiting Sir! I have packed two slices of Tiramisu for you, and here are your Chocolate Peanut Butter and Salted Caramel Cheesecake! We are so sorry that we don’t have plates and forks for dining in, so I packed them in a box but I provided a plastic fork for you! Is it alright with you, Sir?”
“No problem at all! And can I have one bottle of mineral water please?”
“Sure! Anything else that you’d like to add to your purchase, Sir?”
“That would be all, thanks! Oh and I would like to pay by card, please….”
“Alright Sir, so here are your cakes and pastries, thank you for visiting us and enjoy our sweets!”
“Thank you, Donghyuck!”
Johnny had a seat near the window and he opened the cake box slowly. He decided to have the Salted Caramel Cheesecake first and took a small bite.
He had to bite back a moan that almost escaped his throat.
What kind of magic did they put in their cakes?
Johnny looked at the chilled display area, hoping to see a glimpse of the baker coming out from the kitchen right behind it.
And who in this world is even able to put such magic?
Xiaojun poked his head in the kitchen, hesitating a bit before calling out, “Um…. Kun ge…”
“Hm?” Kun answered without wavering his attention from the stand mixer in front of him.
“I need to ask you about some orders…”
Kun finally looked up from his stand mixer and frowned slightly after seeing Xiaojun’s confused face, “Everything okay, Jun?”
Xiaojun startled a bit, “Oh yeah! Everything’s good! I am just a bit confused about this order…” he tapped on the iPad in his hand, “So we just got an order of ten Tiramisu cakes, ten Victoria Sandwich cakes, and ten Biscoff Lotus Cheesecakes…”
“Oh wow, in one order? That’s quite a lot… and for when?”
“It’s for next week, ge.”
Kun took his phone out of his apron pocket, “Oh okay, good. So we still have enough time. Alright then, I’ll inform Taeil hyung so that he can get prepared in advance-”
“....and they are to be delivered to Taeil hyung.”
Kun froze for a second.
“That’s why I need to ask you about this order, ge. So are we still going to bake them? Are we going to tell Taeil hyung? Do we keep the cakes here in our fridge or we deliver them to his house?”
“Who ordered this anyway? Did you ask for his name?”
Xiaojun tapped on his iPad again, “He said that his name is… Johnny Suh? Do you know him, ge?”
Kun’s eyes widened, “Hold up Jun…. are you for real? Johnny Suh?”
Xiaojun frowned, “Yeah? His name was there in his card too, ge.”
Kun immediately scrolled his Instagram feed on his phone and showed the screen to Xiaojun, “Does he look like this?”
Xiaojun’s eyes were the ones widened this time around, “Woah, yeah that’s him ge! Ohhh so he’s someone famous?”
“He’s a radio DJ, Jun! I usually listen to his daily radio show NCT Night Night on my way back home after work, he usually discusses a lot of interesting topics with his DJ partner Jaehyun…” Kun tapped his chin, “But I never knew that Taeil hyung knows him though? Not during his college days at least… maybe from his previous workplace? Wow, I didn’t know that Taeil hyung knows someone famous.”
Xiaojun smirked, “And for him to send thirty whole cakes to Taeil hyung, I am so sure he is definitely not someone that Taeil hyung only knows, ge~”
Kun mirrored the smirk on Xiaojun’s face, “He already paid for the down payment right?”
“Not only the down payment ge, he already paid for all of them in full!”
Kun’s smirk got even wider, “Even better. Now I have an idea-”
Taeil raised his eyebrows.
“One person ordered these thirty whole cakes???”
Kun nodded, “Yup.”
“Oh my… when you told me that we had an order of thirty whole cakes last week, I didn’t expect that the order came from the same person…”
Kun shrugged, “I was surprised too when Xiaojun told me that the order was from one person. And this is a famous person too, hyung!”
“Oh really? Someone famous ordered cakes from us? Who?”
“Oh? He’s that DJ whose show you always listen to every night, right? How did he know our little shop? Maybe from his friends? That’s very nice of them to tell him about our shop! Oh, maybe we can ask him to promote us a bit in his Insta story? That is if he wants to, of course!”
Why does it seem like he doesn’t know him personally though?
“Maybe we can put a little thank you card, and ask him to give us some testimonials through his Insta story? That counts as a little promotion right? What do you think, Kun?”
If Taeil hyung knows him in person, he will definitely ask him personally, right? And here he wants to ask for testimonials through a thank you card…
...then how did Johnny Suh know Taeil hyung? And why the thirty whole cakes?
“Hm? Oh, sorry hyung! I was zoned out a bit just now. What did you just say?”
Taeil gave a concerned look, “Are you okay, Kun? Do you want to take a little rest?”
“No no hyung, I am all good! What did you just say again? I missed that out, sorry.”
“I can buy the thank you card on my way back home today, what do you think?”
“Uh… why don’t we thank him directly hyung?”
“Because we don’t know him personally, you silly goose! That’s why we have to approach him formally using a card!” Taeil laughed heartily. “Unless you know him? Listening to his radio show every night doesn’t count as knowing him personally, Kun!”
Kun snorted, “I know that, hyung. Okay, I’ll just follow whatever your choice and anything that you want to write on the card!”
Taeil smiled widely, “Okay then! You can always trust my choice!”
So… he really doesn’t know him personally?
This is getting even more interesting…
“QIAN FUCKING KUN!!”
Kun distanced his phone a little further from his ear for a bit before pressing it up against his ear again, “Whoa whoa hyung, hold on there. What got your panties in a twist?”
“First of all, I wear boxers. Secondly, why the fuck am I getting all thirty cakes that I baked today to my house? Is this a fucking joke?”
“Hyung, in all seriousness, this is not a joke. Those cakes are for you!”
“And what the fuck did you send the cakes for? My birthday is still three months away! Oh my god, and you even used Johnny Suh’s name just to play a trick like this on me, how dare you Qian Kun-”
“Hyung, hyung, hear me out please. Those cakes are really for you, and they are from Johnny Suh. You can ask Xiaojun if you don’t believe me. He signed the receipt personally.”
“Wait… Johnny Suh? Sent thirty cakes for me?”
“Yup. That Johnny Suh.”
“But I don’t know him?”
“That’s what I was thinking too, hyung. I thought maybe you knew him from your corporate job days or something, but from our conversation three days ago, it seemed like you didn’t know him personally…”
“...Do you think he sent these cakes to me because this is part of a lucky draw or something? Maybe they are doing some challenge on his radio show and he has to send thirty cakes to random people? Oh my god am I going to be on his radio show soon?”
“... Hyung, I don’t think that’s the reason though.”
“Hyung, what if we go to his radio station tomorrow night after work and ask him the real reason? Maybe you can bring one whole cake out of those thirty and give it to him personally?”
“Hmmmmm… okay, good idea. We’ll go there tomorrow night then.”
“Okay then hyung, have a good rest, I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Wait wait wait, Kun!”
“What again, hyung?”
“Can I send these cakes back to our shop? My tiny fridge can’t even fit three cakes now, let alone thirty!”
“You seriously look like a fan waiting for Johnny Suh and ready to give him one whole cake as a gift, really.”
Taeil looked to his left and gave a sharp glare to a grinning Kun sitting next to him, “You shut up, Qian Kun. You were the one who put me up to this.”
Kun raised his hands in surrender, “Just saying hyung, just saying.”
A few minutes later, Johnny emerged from the studio and looked around until his eyes found the two figures sitting on the bench near the entrance.
And his eyes lit up instantly.
“Hi! I’m Johnny, nice to meet you both!” Johnny directly shook Taeil’s and Kun’s hands.
Taeil was confident a few seconds ago, but seeing Johnny up close - he is just so good looking okay, spare some mercy - he couldn’t help but stutter, “A-ahh yes, I am Taeil, and this is Kun, we are from The Absolute Sweetest Bakery… oh and this is Tiramisu for you…”
Johnny’s eyes lit up even brighter, “Oh, thank you so much! How did you know that I literally fell in love with your Tiramisu cake? Seriously, I’ve never tasted Tiramisu that good in my whole life!”
Taeil blushed lightly, “E-eh? Really…? Oh, um… thank you?”
Sensing Taeil’s sudden nervousness, Kun immediately took over, “So, Johnny, my hyung here also would like to ask you, what good deed did he do in the past that he deserved to be given thirty whole cakes from you?”
Another glare came from Taeil.
“Ohhhh, well, that.” Johnny scratched the back of his head in shame, “It was actually like this…”
One week ago.
Johnny had cleared his entire fridge and freezer, and he was more than ready to order thirty whole cakes and keep them in stock for… maybe a whole month?
Well, of course he wouldn’t take all thirty of them by himself. Maybe he would give one for Jaehyun, one for Taeyong, one for his radio producer, one for his cleaning auntie, maybe he could give one for the security guard of his apartment too?
Then thirty whole cakes, it is.
So he walked into The Absolute Sweetest with a little spring on his steps, because yes he was that excited.
Today, someone other than Donghyuck greeted him. His nametag showed his name ‘Xiaojun’.
“Good afternoon, Sir! How may I help you?”
“Hi, Xiaojun! I would like to order… quite a number of cakes. May I know how many days in advance do I need if I want to order from you guys?”
“Depending on the number of cakes, Sir. We only have two bakers here so it might take some time. May I know how many cakes you need?”
“Thirty, alright… so maybe one week in advance?”
“No worries! I’m cool with one week!”
“Thank you, Sir! So may I take your order then?”
“Ah, right! I want ten Tiramisu cakes, ten Biscoff Lotus Cheesecakes, and ten Victoria Sandwich cakes.”
Xiaojun tapped on his iPad repeatedly, “Alright, noted… would you like to pick up the cakes later or have them delivered Sir? We provide free delivery for an order of more than ten whole cakes!”
“Oh? Then having them delivered would be great!”
“Okay, Sir… may I know whom the cakes will be delivered-“
“Sorry Xiaojun, shift a bit please, I need to put this cake inside of the chiller.” Taeil suddenly stood next to Xiaojun and interrupted him with one whole, readily sliced Matcha Strawberry cake in hand.
“Ooops, okay hyung.” Xiaojun shifted a bit to the left, letting Taeil open the chiller and put the cake inside.
Once Taeil was done with his job, Xiaojun returned back to his spot and all of sudden, he was faced with a dazed-looking Johnny.
“Uhm, sorry Sir… may I know again whom the cakes will be delivered to?”
“Taeil, you mean... our head baker, Sir?”
Johnny immediately was back from his dazed state, “So he is the head baker?”
“Uh… yes? He is actually one of the two bakers here, Sir. Both of them are the head bakers as well as the owners of this shop.”
“I see…” So he was the magic behind all of the good bakes here? “Yeah, have the cakes delivered to him then, please.”
“Uh? O-okay… so would you like to pay the down payment by cash or by card, Sir?”
“By card please, and I’d like to pay them full.” Johnny handed over his debit card, and Xiaojun quickly handled the payment and returned the card back to his owner.
“Alright, all done Sir! We’ll have the cakes delivered to him by next week and we’ll inform you once the delivery is made!”
“Okay, thanks Xiaojun. Have a nice day!”
“You too, Sir!”
Once Johnny finished his story, he was faced with a trying-so-hard-not-to-laugh Kun and as-bright-red-as-a-tomato Taeil right in front of him.
“So… let me get this straight-”
“Sorry Taeil-ssi, but unfortunately I am not straight.”
Kun snorted, while Taeil gaped slightly after Johnny interrupted him all of sudden.
Johnny laughed lightly, “Ahh sorry, it’s my bad habit to suddenly crack up a joke when I feel like the atmosphere is too tense. What were you about to say, Taeil-ssi?”
“So, um… wait… how am I supposed to say this…”
“What Taeil hyung meant to ask is,” Yes, thanks Qian Kun to the rescue, “Were you too stunned by Taeil hyung’s beauty that you mentioned his name, which you managed to find out from the nametag that he wore, when Xiaojun asked for the name for the cake delivery?”
Not so much of a rescue, apparently.
Now it’s Johnny’s turn to become a tomato, “Well… I guess you can say so?”
Taeil’s eyes widened, “Wait… if you didn’t mean to send the cakes to me, then why didn’t you just correct it to Xiaojun?”
Johnny gave a soft smile, “What if it’s because I wanted to show you that I am interested in you?”
A moment of silence ensued.
“...So you wanted to give me the cakes that I baked myself?”
“Well… what about I give you something else instead?”
Taeil’s eyes squinted slightly, “And... what is that?”
Johnny grinned, “One date, and I’ll let you know!”
“Wait, what… a date?”
“Yes! Of course we’re not going to any cafe that sells cakes because none of them has better cakes than yours… Do you like Chinese food? There is one restaurant in Chinatown that I really like, it is right at the corner, and their dimsum is to die for.”
Kun elbowed Taeil slightly, “I know that place! Their food is really good, you’ll love it hyung!”
Johnny grinned even wider after realizing that he got some kind of ‘support’ from Kun, “So? What say you, Taeil-ssi?”
Taeil was contemplating for a bit...
… before he finally nodded.
Johnny let out a little squeal, “Nice! So I’ll pick you up at your shop tomorrow?”
Taeil gave a little smile, then he nodded again, “Tomorrow, it is.”