All The Right Ingredients

Making her signature chocolate fudge cake brought back so many happy memories for Kim – and for Buster…

“We have most of the ingredients we need Buster, except dark chocolate for the icing.”

Kim rummaged in her baking cupboard, the one she didn’t venture into often these days.

There was a reason there was no dark chocolate, because if she bought dark chocolate there would soon be – no dark chocolate.

But chocolate fudge cake without icing? Well…

“We need to go out, Buster,” Kim said.

Buster disappeared, only to return with his lead in his mouth, indicating that he was all in favour of that.

Kim smiled. For Buster the journey was more important than the destination.

Buster waited by the front door, sort of patiently, as Kim popped her coat on.

The pair were back within the hour. The shop was only ten minutes away, but they’d detoured to the park.

Kim’s cheeks were rosy from the exercise, she’d chatted with a neighbour, and Buster looked ready for a nap, which would give her time to bake.

The recipe was ingrained in Kim; she’d made it that often when Nat was small.

It had become their go-to comfort food, especially when they became a two person household after Nat’s dad disappeared into the night.

And she always made it for his birthday. Always.

She loved the process. Creaming together butter and sugar, sieving flour into the bowl, then folding both gently
and firmly.

“Nearly done, Buster,” she whispered, scraping the mixture into the tin and heading for the pre-heated oven.

Buster stirred, opened one eye, then drifted off again, head resting on his paws.

When Nat was small he’d have stood on a chair next to Kim, “helping”.

It was a much quicker process without him there, but it wasn’t the same.

No flicks of chocolate mixture on the floor, walls and faces, giggles as a tongue reached for the bowl that was “saved for later”.

No rapid beating at the folding stage, causing Kim to wince at the thought of air being beaten from out of the mixture.

“Can I lick the spoon, Mum?” he’d ask, halfway through.

“Not yet, love,” she’d smile. “Wait until the end.”

His face told her how hard it was to wait when you were six.

“Is it ready yet?” he’d call from his position in front of the TV about 10 minutes later.

Still, despite Nat not “helping” today, Kim enjoyed herself, careful not to trip over Buster when she took the cakes from the oven.

She glanced at the clock. 2pm. The cakes were at last cool enough to be smothered in icing.

Buster woke at the sound of the fridge opening. His food instinct was as sharp as Nat’s, Kim thought.

She fed Buster leftovers and made herself a sandwich before glancing at the clock again.

2.45pm. Still too soon.

She had time to clear up, just.

Buster wandered off at this point, like Nat used to do.

Nat and Buster shared numerous attributes – both bounded with energy, liked their sleep, and were always happy to see Kim.

3pm. It was time.

Kim opened her computer and clicked “connect”. In no time Nat’s face appeared.

Her son was an adult now, 24 today.

“Happy birthday, love,” Kim smiled at her son’s sleepy face. It was 8am on the other side of America where he was lucky enough to be studying for the next few months. He’d never been an early riser.

“And Buster says happy birthday too,” Kim said.

“I miss him,” Nat replied. “You too, Mum.”

Buster barked and turned in happy circles at the sound of Nat.

“That’s enough of that for now,” Kim said, looking away, hoping the tears on her cheeks didn’t show. “Look,” she turned to the screen. “I made fudge cake.”

Nat pretended to blow out the candles.

“And you had one delivered too, Mum,” Nat said, producing a box.

“Good, it came,” Kim said.

“It won’t be as delicious as yours, but at least there’s no washing up.”

“Ours,” Kim said. “You always helped with the cooking, remember.”

“Helped is stretching it, Mum, but I was present when you made it.”

“Enjoy!” they both said at the same time, tucking into a slice.

Once they’d chatted for a while Kim ended the video call so Nat could attend his lectures.

While she sipped a coffee and cuddled Buster on the sofa Kim thought about how she’d used the same ingredients as always today, and that how making the cake stirred happy memories.

It had been lovely to share the online time with Nat.

It wasn’t the same as him standing next to her on a chair, but it was still good.

You have to adapt, she thought, accept change, but hold onto the best bits of the past too.

Maybe it was time for another slice of cake. Just a small one. She headed for the kitchen, and Buster followed.

Our My Weekly Favourites series of feel-good fiction from our archives continues on Mondays and Thursdays. Look out for the next one.
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