“Mama?” Anya peered up at Yor from behind Bond once the door shut behind Loid. “Papa seems tired, we should make him a cake.”
Yor paused. Bond borf-ed and shuffled around, as if in agreement. Anya revealed what she was holding behind her, the recipe book Loid had gotten for them. “Alright, let’s do this!”
“Look Ma!” Anya twirled around, “I tied it all by m’self!” Her matching apron was tied with a little crooked bow at the back.
Yor beamed at her, “You did!” Anya grinned back. “Now let’s find a recipe…” She flipped through the pages, staring at the different pictures that looked like the cakes in the display Yuri always looked at for a second too long before turning away like he’d never seen them. “Do you know what Loid’s favorite cake is?” She looked at Anya. She knew how he took his coffee, and a few other of his idiosyncrasies simply by virtue of living with him… but she didn’t even know his favorite foods. Not that she’d be able to make it for him anyway.
“This one looks pretty,” Anya pointed at a white cake with flowers on it.
‘A Simple, Elegant Vanilla Cake,’ was written across the top of the page in swooping font.
“We should have all the ingredients, right?” Yor pored over the list, half of which sounded unfamiliar. What was cake flour, if not normal flour? And powdered sugar? Then there was milk, butter, and buttermilk… “Loid bakes a bit, after all,” she opened all the cupboards to begin looking.
The recipe recommended a prep time of 35 minutes and a baking time of 25 minutes. They already spent 10 of the 35 minutes finding all the ingredients.
“Anya, do you want to measure out the dry ingredients?” Yor helped Anya up onto her step stool and made sure she was at the ready in case she’d topple over; on previous occasions where that had happened, though, their ever faithful dog Bond was also at the ready to cushion her fall. Luckily, though, the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda and baking powder were all successfully combined with minimal spillage.
“Let’s see what’s next… hm? ‘Combine the butter and sugar in another bowl before adding the wet ingredients’? More sugar?” Yor stared at the book, then shrugged. “Cakes are sweet, after all!” She unwrapped three sticks of butter into a new bowl, then added the sugar to it. “I wonder how this will mix—”
The whisk bent.
“Ah.” Yor gently bent the metal prongs backwards to their original position. “I’ll have to be gentler this time—” the abused metal snapped apart. She stared at the now useless utensil, and hoped Loid wasn’t planning on making eggs anytime soon. Or whatever else he used a whisk for. Or knowing Loid, maybe he had spares somewhere??
“Here Mama, use this!” Anya brandished a potato masher towards her.
“Thank you, Anya!” Although it took a bit of work, the butter and sugar were eventually all combined. It helped that once the butter melted, the sugar dissolved more easily.
“Next, we need to add the eggs.” Yor gulped, hopefully not too audibly. Even with Loid around supervising her, she still cracked eggs almost every time. She pulled out a new bowl like Loid always recommended, and cracked the first egg in it.
Anya peered over the edge of the bowl. “You did it, Mama!!” She held up a tiny hand that Yor high-fived.
“Okay, here goes the next one…” The excitement must have gotten her too riled up, because the next egg smashed into pieces when she tapped it against the rim, bits of shell falling into the first egg, and the second egg dripping onto the counter and floor. “It’ll be okay, I can just do what Loid showed me and remove the shell, umm…” She reached in, but only seemed to push the shell around and break the yolk, hiding the shell once the whites weren’t clear anymore. “It’s okay, we’ll just try that again!” They had plenty of bowls, and more than enough eggs…
42 minutes and 11 eggs later, they were ready to combine the eggs with the butter-sugar mixture. “‘The butter and eggs might look curdled once mixed together, but that’s normal,’” Yor read aloud, and stared at the bowl. Was that curdled? It looked fine to her.
“Then we’re going to add the milk and buttermilk until the mixture is slightly thick,” Her face scrunched up involuntarily. These instructions weren’t very descriptive. Although, to be fair, she wasn’t sure what cake batter was supposed to look like anyway.
“Here, now we can add the dry ingredients to our wet ingredients.” Yor held out her bowl for Anya to pour into, causing a cloud of flour to rise into their faces, lightly settling onto their hair and aprons.
“‘Once there are no more flour lumps, pour into two cake pans,’” Once she was sure there was no flour left at the bottom of the bowl, the batter was finally done and mixed, then scooped into two cake pans.
Anya helped her load the pans into the oven, then it took a few minutes of tinkering until Yor managed to turn the oven on.
“Frosting?” Anya asked.
“Yes, the recipe says we should make frosting while we wait!” Before she forgot, though, Yor made sure to set a timer before getting the ingredients out for the frosting.
At least, she was sure she set a timer for 25 minutes, as it beeped all too soon before they even started making the frosting. She didn’t even need to poke a knife into the cake to see the center was still more batter than cake.
“Weird,” she mumbled to herself as she let the cake bake for another 15 minutes.
And then another 15 when the knife came out with crumbs.
“It smells like a cake,” Anya wondered out loud, Bond sniffing the air thoughtfully as well. Even if it didn’t smell like a bakery, Anya was right.
The finally cooked cake was cooling on a rack, and they just needed to add food coloring before letting the frosting chill in the fridge. All in all, nothing too catastrophic happened yet! …although, nobody had eaten anything, so maybe she shouldn’t speak too soon.
“Maybe the cake will cool down faster if it’s out of the pan,” Yor tried to remember what Loid did while baking. He always did that with cookies, at least, swatting away Anya’s grabby hands from the cooling rack with a spatula. She overturned the cake pan, and then…
She bent down to peer at the gravity defying cake. Anya scooted over to stand tippy toes on her step stool.
A knife around the side of the pan, for luck, but the cake still didn’t budge. The other cake pan was in a similar state.
It was time for the last resort attempt to get the cake out, hopefully without breaking it. With even more care than when cracking all those eggs, Yor tapped the cake pan against the cooling rack once, twice—
“It’s out!” Then once she lifted up the cake pan to reveal the cake, her smile dropped. She flipped the pan again, and true enough, there was a mountain range of cake still stuck to the bottom of the pan, leaving the cake on the cooling rack looking like. A mess.
“It’s okay Mama, it’ll look pretty after we draw on it with frosting!” Ever the optimist, Anya reached for a clump of cake from the pan and ate it. Then her lips pursed together in thought, like the time she ate Bond’s kibble. “I’ll go get the frosting.” She puttered over to the fridge and opened the door to grab the blue frosting and hold it over her head, but when turning to close the door, started falling backwards.
However, Yor caught both Anya and the bowl with ease, now used to the motion. “Careful,” she booped Anya’s and Bond’s noses once her hands were free.
Although the frosting tasted fine enough, the texture was both lumpy and liquidy at the same time no matter how much she mixed it. From the looks of it, the fridge didn’t fix it either.
“Wash your hands before you start decorating,” Yor reminded her; the food coloring was even harder to wash out than blood, she noted as she stared at bright red splotches on her hands.
“Mama, you write something, too!” Yor peered over to look at the drawing on the cake — lots of hearts, and the pink, yellow, and black were obviously… Anya handed Yor a piping bag with hastily scooped black frosting in it. “Write, ‘we love you,’ right here, please!” Anya pointed at the clear section she left above the colorful blobs.
Love. Yor’s hands shook around the bag. There was no need to overthink it, because surely Loid wouldn’t either, she could just say it was all Anya’s idea, and it was so she wouldn’t be lying and it was just a three word phrase that didn’t actually mean anything because nobody else would know or see it—
The bag burst like a balloon, sending glops of frosting flying everywhere like a volcanic eruption.
“Oh no, we should clean—” Yor hurriedly looked at the wall clock. “When did it get so late?? Loid will be home soon, unless he’s working overtime again…” she bit her lip, an uncomfortable feeling in her chest.
As if summoned by the thought, the door opened. “I’m home— what happened?” Bond ran up to him and jumped up in greeting.
“Bond, wait, you’ll get food coloring on his suit!” She wanted to run to them, but she was more focused on trying to hide the mess behind her. At least, the main mess.
“We wanted to make you a cake!” Anya warbled nervously, sounding close to tears.
“A cake? What’s the occasion?”
“Do we need an occasion to appreciate you?” Yor said impulsively (like back when she could only gather up enough money to buy Yuri gifts after his birthday), although… she looked at the mess. What a thanks this was.
Loid came around after hanging up his hat and coat. He looked at the flour handprints and the food coloring stains and frosting everywhere — on their aprons, their clothes, clumps on Anya’s hair. She couldn’t cook, and didn’t even clean up the mess this time. Loid ruffled Anya’s hair after brushing it lightly, and with the other hand, reached up to dab a handkerchief against Yor’s cheek. “May I see it?” Yor avoided his gaze and looked down shamefully. After a moment of patience on his part, she nodded.
The cake was an uneven mess, white frosting unable to hide the crumbs at the edges and sides, and taller at one end than the other. It didn’t even look half near presentable.
Yet, Loid bravely went to grab a fork from the drawer, releasing her from his all too gentle gaze.
“You don’t have to!” Both she and Anya blurted out, Bond looking shocked next the counter, too.
Loid took a bite, then after a moment, smiled and laughed as he put the fork down. “It’s not bad! It’s a bit sweet, and a bit dry. But if you crumble it and mix it with the frosting to make cake pops, that’s an easy fix. Why don’t we all make that together, and you two tell me what you did today?”
“You just got back, you must be tired.” Yor fiddled with the hem of her apron. Then she finally looked up to meet his eyes.
“Being with my family is never a chore.”