The annual cake baking competition in Saffron Falls was back with its silver jubilee, and this would make the entire contest even more dominating and challenging.
Different judges who were more revolting and observant than ever were chosen. And a formerly insignificant show which had just started off very whimsically with only a few participants were gearing up for something big and serious.
Bean who had lived all her life in Saffron Falls was finally 16, which allowed her to legally slip into the age group set by the contest officials after all these years of being patient and not rebellious.
Bean lived at C-55, Peyton Street, with her grandma who was a proficient cook and was partially successful in passing down her genes of fantastic cooking to her granddaughter after skipping one generation.
Bean’s parents lived in Lavender Heights which was on the outskirts of a small district, precisely 180 km north from them. They worked there. Although, they came every fortnight to visit them and also to make sure Mrs. Lily’s mother was not filling Bean’s head with baking powder and blanching and fondant and also to make sure Bean was excelling in her studies.
So it was exactly one day before the big competition and Bean was already in the kitchen ,but instead of probably making the cake or icing it, she was sitting at the counter, listening to her grandma with least interest.
“Baking soda or sodium bicarbonate, um, you might know the formula in your way, what is it?” grandma asked.
“NaHCO3,” Bean replied, with a sense of pride.
“Yes, right so that is now an active ingredient and it is added to baking goods to make them rise. Recipes that use baking soda as a leavening agent also contain an acidic ingredient such as milk, honey or sugar which serves as a reactive agent, in your case its milk and what?”
“Hmm, milk and ah sugar,” Bean said, pretending as if she was not sleepy with boredom. “Now can we please move on to the practical part, please please,” she begged.
“Have patience my Lollo!”
“The baking soda reacts with the acidic ingredient to produce tiny bubbles of CO2 that get trapped in the batter, do you get that? And, the gas bubbles expand in the heat of the oven and rise up, giving you a fluffy and airy cake.
One more thing Bean, sit up now, this is all so exciting. Now, this is a thing my mom told me. And it’s that you should never be in a hurry to take out the cake, let it stay in the oven peacefully until it’s cool and then after a handsome 30 minutes try to flip it on a plate. Follow these steps Bean and your cake will turn out wonderful, simply wonderful and delicious. And do remember to use the vanilla from the fridge and not from the shelf.
Now I can’t wait to eat it, I will be in the balcony working on your pair of woollen socks, all the very best!”
“What! Where are you going? you have to assist me, I don’t know the recipe and all,” panicked Bean.
“No dear, this is not how you are supposed to learn, I have jotted down the recipe on a paper and it’s right in front of you. Now make it fast, just 4 hours before the competition,” she said, and scurried out of the kitchen.
It took her an hour but that was it, the cake was in the oven, the oven plate was rotating with style and Bean was by the sink trying to get the mark of vanilla essence off her shirt, but it didn’t tend to come off.
They quickly got ready and Bean got clad in a fine pair of jeans and a top which had the motto ‘The greatest mistake is being afraid of making one’.
The competition looked like a well planned one and after waiting for 37 minutes it was finally Bean’s turn. The cake was kept in front of the judges.
They cut themselves a piece and gobbled it quietly without any sound of the cutlery, with expectation especially because of the pleasant rise of the cake. Bean was already imagining appreciation when one of the judge yelled out for water, the other one not long after spitting it all out on a napkin. Seeing this Bean lost all colors from her face and fled straight to her home. Her eyes were drenched and they were redder than the tomatoes which were growing in their backyard and redder than the carolina reaper.
Her grandma came slowly for she had short legs and an ancient respiratory system which forbid her from striding at more than 15 km an hour.
“Now don’t cry, sweetheart,” she said as soon as she came in. Just tell me which flavoring you used for the cake. It seemed you made the cake extra sour. Maybe you had added too much vanilla? Show me the bottle.
Bean showed her the bottle.
“My gosh Bean, this is soya sauce! I emptied it in this bottle because I couldn’t find another one.”
Bean’s head went down and then up again as she pointed out the wise quote on her shirt – The greatest mistake is being afraid of making one.