Welcome to Flash Friday! In these posts, I take a writing prompt and whip out a short story off-the-cuff with little editing. If you have an idea for a writing prompt, send me an email, and maybe I’ll use yours next time!
Today’s prompt is: Magical Cupcake Wars
Bake Off Magic
Faye dumped the last ingredient in the bowl and ran a finger across the batter on the edge, popping it in her mouth.
She felt a tingling sensation, and delicate shoes of glistening spun sugar appeared on her feet.
“Hey!” protested Kimi. “You’re not supposed to put your finger in the batter!”
Unruffled, Faye replied: “It was clean.” She reached down to pull the shoes off her feet and placed them carefully on the counter.
Mmmm. The batter tasted good. This was going to be the best pumpkin cake she’d ever made. Cinderella wouldn’t be late for the ball this time.
“Let’s get this cake in the oven,” Faye said briskly as she picked up a spatula and started pouring the batter into the round pan Kimi had prepared.
A frown line appeared between Kimi’s dark brows, marring the innocent sweetness of her heart-shaped face and almond eyes. “Albrich’s team just put their dish in the oven.”
Faye glanced across the huge kitchen where four other teams mixed and cooked at separate counters. Albrich looked up just as her eye fell on him. He was brutally handsome, with swarthy skin and hair tied back in a pony tail. He winked at her, and she quickly did an about face and started rummaging through ingredients.
“Here,” she grabbed a container of meringue powder and thrust it at Kimi. “Start mixing up the icing while I get this in the oven.
Kimi took the container. “Umm, Faye…”
But Faye wasn’t listening. She was busy grabbing the cake pan and studiously ignoring Albrich’s eyes from across the room. Albrich had won the Regional Bake Off for the last two years running. He was quick and clever, and he knew it. He was the kind of boy that made Faye uncomfortable to be around. But she was determined to give him a run for his money this time.
Once she got the cake in her specified oven, she set the timer and got back to the counter where Kimi was pouring powdered sugar into a mixing bowl. The meringue powder sat on the counter next to her. Faye scooped it up and dumped it swiftly into the bowl, throwing glances at Albrich’s team all the while.
“Ack!” Kimi protested. “What are you doing?”
The pressure of the competition had worn holes in Faye’s normally patient nature. “Adding the meringue, of course!” she said in an angry tone. “It’s my hallmark ingredient.”
Kimi stabbed a finger at the container. “That’s not what you think it is!”
Faye let her breath out in a huff and examined the container. Hawaiian Coconut, the label read. Faye blanched.
“I tried to tell you,” Kimi sighed.
“Oh, no,” Faye said, spinning to search through the stacked tray of ingredients behind them. “Where’s the meringue powder? They’ve got to have meringue, don’t they? If we add coconut, Cinderella will end up going to the ball in a grass skirt!”
Kimi added cream cheese to the icing. “Maybe that wouldn’t be an entirely bad thing.”
“Are you crazy!” Faye spun on her, but still had enough presence of mind to keep her angry voice to a whisper. “Cinderella has always worn a ball gown and danced in a castle, not a grass hut on the beach!”
Putting down the mixer, Kimi turned to face Faye, crossing her arms over her chest. “Why do you think Albrich has won the competition the last couple of years?”
Faye couldn’t stop her eyes from flicking to Albrich’s work station. Luckily, his head was down, pulling oven mitts out of a drawer. She quickly looked back at Kimi before he caught her staring.
“Is this a trick question?” she spat.
Kimi smiled. “Creativity. Remember his Fluffcakes last year? We all thought he was crazy for feeding a pancake to Dorothy until she floated up and drifted away, somewhere over the rainbow.”
“He didn’t stick to the story,” Faye grumbled, crossing her own arms over her chest and staring at the floor.
“And you always do. Look where it’s gotten you so far. C’mon, Faye. Live a little, for once. Take a chance.”
Faye blew her cheeks out. Was Kimi right? Was that the reason the judges had chosen Albrich? If Kimi was wrong, Faye would go home in disgrace, another year a failure. And this was her senior year: she didn’t have any more chances to make her mark at Baker High School. But something had given Albrich the edge over the last couple of years. It was all or nothing.
“I can’t believe I’m endorsing this,” she grumbled as the timer went off.
Kimi turned back to the icing with a smile, and Faye stalked off to the oven, snatching her oven mitt from the corner of the workstation as if she intended to strangle it.
A half hour later, when the cake had cooled enough to frost, Faye spread the coconut icing all around the outside in decorative whirls, and sprinkled more toasted coconut on top. She topped it with Kimi’s spun sugar décor of a glass shoe. Her hands shook as she carefully placed the decoration in just the right place. Her gamble was about to pay off, or backfire horribly.
The bell rang, announcing it was time for the contestants to approach the judging table with their concoctions.
“You carry it,” Faye told Kimi. “I’m too nervous.”
“Don’t worry,” Kimi replied. “If nothing else, your cake will certainly be entertaining.”
“That’s what I’m afraid of,” Faye muttered.
The other teams had come up with various dishes all designed to get Cinderella to the ball. One team presented sugar mice, another a silk mousse with taffy taffeta . Someone had even made a pumpkin pie. At least Faye had opted for a cake and not gone with the most obvious choice. Albrich carried a pumpkin roll. It looked delectable, with a fluffy white topping.
Faye watched as he set it down in front of his judge. The judges were all teenage girls, chosen for their resemblance to Cinderella. They were in various states of filthiness and rags. Most of them stared at the confections before them as if they’d never seen them before. Poor waifs. The competition committee must have trolled the slums to find these girls.
As they each dug into the dish before them, smiles lit faces and magic started going off like crazy. The cameras were ill-pressed to capture it all as each girl poofed into one form of magical princess or another. They all wore incredible ball gowns made of yards and yards of expensive fabrics, glistening and glittering like a row of diamonds.
Albrich’s judge lit up happily as she bit into the pumpkin roll. “Is that a meringue topping?” she squeaked just before her shabby rags swirled into a ball gown of the richest blue satin that set off her swarthy skin. “What an unusual ingredient,” she continued in a voice turned melodic and mellow. Albrich bowed slightly.
Faye stared at him. Meringue. Albrich had stolen her special ingredient!
She was distracted from seething at the insufferable boy next to her by the squawk of her own judge. A mousy bedraggled sot of a girl, she took a bite of the pumpkin cake, and immediately filled out into a robust Polynesian woman wearing a gown made of woven grass and flowers that swayed gently around her bare feet. She waved gracefully as a pumpkin canoe rowed up, sporting a young man strumming a ukulele.
“Aloha oi!” she said cheerfully as she stepped into the carriage and was whisked away with the other judges.
Faye rolled her eyes. “Told you so,” she whispered to Kimi.
“Wait for it,” Kimi whispered back.
“Wait for what? To get thrown out on my backside?”
Ms. Perrault, the arbitrator of the competition, walked forward, impossibly high heels clicking against the tile floor. She held up delicate hands and peered at the teams over the top of her glasses.
“I have just been informed that all the Cinderellas arrived in time for their respective balls. Ladies and gentlemen, you have all done a wonderful job this year, and I commend you for your efforts.”
Faye glanced at Albrich from the corner of her eye and caught him smiling at her. How dare he flirt when he had just cheated by stealing her special ingredient! She would tell Ms. Perrault about this and he would be disqualified. They would take back the winner’s crown and give it to someone else, someone more deserving, someone who didn’t cheat…
Her thoughts were interrupted by Ms. Perrault.
“…all wonderful,” she was saying, “but there was one transformation that stood out from the rest for its originality and creativity. That is why this year’s winner will be…”
Kimi grabbed Faye’s arm tightly. Faye didn’t mind as her heart leapt into her throat.
Her jaw dropped in shock. She had been so sure she could never win with a Hawaiian princess. Yet, Ms. Perrault held out a hand to her, inviting her to come forward as everyone around them clapped.
Kimi still had a death grip on Faye’s arm and dragged her forward to shake hands with Ms. Perrault.
“Wonderful work,” Ms. Perrault said, handing her the bake off trophy.
Faye was in shock. Ms. Perrault turned her to face the audience, and she gave a wooden bow. Then she saw Albrich. His eyes were bright, his smile genuine—not the forced smile of someone who has just lost something they wanted very much, but the genuine smile of a person who has just gotten the very thing they desired. Her eyes narrowed.
The clapping finally died down, and headmistress Grimm came bustling in to help clean up and prepare them to return to school.
Once she was sure the whole world was no longer watching, Faye stormed over to Albrich’s station and poked a finger at his chest.
“You did that on purpose!” Faye hissed.
Albrich stepped back from her and waved a wet rag like a white flag. “No idea what you’re talking about.” Even his voice was attractive.
She shook off the thought. “The coconut!” she said, emphasizing the word with another good jab. “I know my meringue was on the ingredients tray when I set up this morning, but when I went to make the icing, all I could find was coconut.”
“Hey, don’t blame me if your assistant didn’t know the difference and swapped them out,” Albrich said. But the smile playing at the corners of his mouth belied his words.
“You know perfectly well that isn’t what happened!” Faye growled. “Besides, Kimi would never do that. She knows her stuff!”
Albrich shrugged and went back to wiping down the counter. “If you say so.”
“I don’t know why you’re so mad,”Albrich said in a friendly, conversational tone. “You won. Doesn’t that make you happy?”
Faye snorted, but his words made her think. Didn’t it make her happy? What was wrong with her? She’d won the competition, something she’d dreamed of her whole life.
“Maybe—” she cleared her throat, “maybe I’m upset because it was your idea. I’m not original like that. They gave the award to the wrong chef.”
Albrich looked up, surprise on his face. “Originality isn’t everything, Faye. It’s just an idea; a place to start. It took skill to make the magic work like you did. Don’t sell yourself short.”
Faye bit her lip, trying to decide if she should yell at him some more or find a big rock to hide under.
Albrich left the cloth and put his hands on her shoulders. She thought she might faint, right then and there.
“I think you had the creativity inside you all along,” he said. “You just needed a little push to get you past your fears so it could shine.”
He was making her too nervous, with his closeness and the smell of vanilla on his apron. She backed away, a step at a time.
“Well, thank you—I think,” she stammered. “Although I still believe the award should have gone to you.”
Albrich smiled and his eyes twinkled. “We’d make a pretty good team in the kitchen, Faye. What do you say to crepes at my house tomorrow and maybe a movie afterward?”
Faye thought she might swallow her tongue. She felt a jab in her back and realized she had backed clear up to her own station into Kimi and that the whole kitchen had just heard Albrich ask her out.
“Say yes!” Kimi hissed in her ear, jabbing a rolling pin in her back for good measure.
Faye glanced around at all the expectant faces turned toward her. She licked her lips.
“I’ll come on one condition,” she said, lifting her chin and trying to act less afraid than she really was.
“What’s that?” Albrich arched an eyebrow.
“I get to bring my own ingredients.”
BONUS! Here’s Faye’s Pumpkin Cake Recipe:
Hawaiian Cinderella Cake
Serving Size: 12
Preheat: 350 degrees
Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Bake Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup sugar
2 cups mashed pumpkin
1 1/4 cups oil
2 cups flour
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
½ cup chopped nuts
½ cup coconut
Combine first 4 ingredients. Add remaining ingredients. Pour into greased and floured 9×13 pan and bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes.
½ cup butter
1 ½ cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
8oz cream cheese
½ cup coconut
½ cup chopped nuts
Combine and frost cooled cake.