I don’t know if magic is an ingredient of all cakes
But I’m sure my friend put some in the latest she baked
The icing is so bright in colour it makes my eyes ache
After eating a slice, I can feel my feet quake
One piece is not enough – another I have to take
Dream or nightmare, from this I won’t wake
So much for those who thought they would be fake
There’s just crumbs left, make another for goodness sake
Number 174 is an introduction to a piece I wrote for my creative writing class; a magic realism piece about cakes. More after the break!
Before beginning this I unfairly described magic realism as fantasy that doesn't want to be marketed as such. There's a bit of truth to that, but it might be better to note that magic realism is less concerned with the fantastic elements and more concerned with the real world and characters; the magic intrudes on the world then goes away.
The bird shaped bookmark was one of the things brought in by the tutor to add to the story(s) we were writing; another attempt to have something unexpected appear in the work.
As a final note, this is a roman à clef, or would be if it were actually a novel and not a short story. If you recognise the people and places then 1. yes it's probably them; and 2. I can only apologise.
Why Don’t They Eat Cake?
Clara looked through the food colours. She needed the red to make pink icing. It didn’t seem to be there.
The kitchen was large but felt cosy. Light streamed onto her workspace on the island from the windows into the conservatory.
It had never been tidy. Even when newly installed. Before the last cupboard went up, the table was covered with recipe books. By the time most of them had a shelf, the cake decorating things had made their home on the island. As the first to be redecorated it became the place they lived in, their storage space and their favourite room. The table at one end was covered in bills and letters, overshadowed by shelves filled with books and bottles. The other end, with cupboards and the oven, had all kinds of utensils and gadgets. In between was the island, with a hob and Clara’s precious cake tools.
Moving the dirty mugs into the sink, she lined the colouring bottles up. No red. This was a disaster – without it the Peppa Pig cake would be just black and white. Inspiration struck and she looked through the flavourings. Yes! Carefully she poured, one, two, three drops. Now, where’s the lid?
She kneaded the icing, letting the colour spread evenly through it. Perfect, cartoon pig pink the first time. She pulled the rolling pin from the fruit bowl and began rolling it out.
A moment’s inattention nearly wrecked her work. Turning slightly as she picked up the thin icing, her sleeve caught a box, flicking objects all over the island. “Damn it!”
She carefully picked the scattered bits and pieces off the cake and icing, carefully moving the open icing sugar out of the way. Something caught her eye. A flat, white, metal bird, maybe a starling, with flowers and leaves punched through. She didn’t remember this. Was it a cake decoration or had it got mixed in by accident? It didn’t look like something that Jack might own, although you never knew. He had all kinds of rubbish lying around the kitchen.
“Thanks for keeping these for me until we could move in,” said Clara.
“No problem,” said Pete. “I wasn’t using the garage anyway.”
He lifted the last box – labelled ‘CAKE THINGS’ – and handed it over. “There you go. Would you like a cup of tea? Some of that saffron cake you brought?”
Balancing the awkward burden on one arm she looked at her watch. “Sorry Pete. I need to get back, or Jack and I won’t have time to put all this away tonight. The kitchen is a mess and I want to sort it out.”
They walked out to the car. “Thanks again,” she said, sliding the box onto the passenger seat, the last empty space in the car. She got in and prepared to leave.
“Wait,” he said, knocking on the window. As she wound it down, he passed through a book. “Jack asked if he could borrow this.”
Unseen to either, as Clara put the book on the box, a flat, white, bird-shaped bookmark fell out into the cake things.
A moan and a flash of black in the window caught her attention. Next door’s cat was in the conservatory again.
“Can anything else go wrong?” muttered Clara as she wiped her hands on her apron. She opened the door and shouted at the cat. “Go on! Get out!”
The usually shy creature looked up at her curiously, and then went back to digging out the plant pot. She walked over to it. “I said get... oh!” It darted between her legs and into the kitchen.
“No! Bloody cat!” It leapt onto the island, narrowly missing the carefully carved cake, biting at something, and then slipped down and deeper into the house. Clara charged after it.
After leading her a merry chase, the cat finally jumped out the bedroom window onto the conservatory roof. It stopped, out of reach, and dropped the object it had picked up. The bird shape lay there. Clara watched the cat in frustration; it stared back, perfectly calm again.
She came to a decision, and shut and locked the window, deciding to worry about the metal thing later. She walked back down to the kitchen, intending to bar every opening into the house.
At the door she stopped in surprise. Every space in the kitchen was covered in cakes. There were fruit cakes and chocolate cakes; a cupcake the size of her head and a plate of Victoria sponges the size of cupcakes; hand sized cakes, cakes on sticks, cakes that shone; cakes cut and iced to look like things from the television – Stewie from Family Guy, Spongebob Squarepants, a huge Millennium Falcon; and in the middle, more perfect than Clara had ever dreamed, was a Peppa Pig cake, so pink and inviting, her hand strayed towards the knife.
After a moment’s silent thought she took out her phone. “Hello Tessa? It’s Clara. Is there any chance of a second table for the cake stall at the school fete?”