"So long, honey. I'll be home by six," Tom smiled as he kissed his bride and headed out the door.
"Please don't be late, sweetie," Gina replied, matching his kiss with one of her own. "Remember, your parents are coming to dinner tonight. They should be here around six-thirty."
Gina held her smile, waving at Tom until the elevator doors swallowed him up. A heavy sigh escaped her lips as she closed the apartment door behind her. Tom's mother was a gourmet cook; his father a patissier. She couldn't hope to match their expertise, but she was determined that this dinner would be a success. So much to do! Where to start?
First, the cake. Chocolate, of course, as it was Tom's favorite. He liked raspberry jam between the layers, and a chocolate butter cream frosting. Gina pulled out her recipe file and donned her lucky apron - the one with all the indelible food stains. The kitchen soon was engulfed in a fine, white flour-y mist; canisters of sugar and salt sat on the counter top, their mouths agape. Eggshells littered the sink as egg white after egg white refused to separate cleanly from its yolk. At last, Gina was able to pour the cake batter into two cake pans, and place them into the preheated oven.
Flushed with success - and her exertions - Gina checked her watch. Already 11:30! Better clean up the kitchen. She reached for the canister lids, closing the flour, sugar and salt bins in their turn. Wait a moment; that didn't look right, Gina told herself. She was almost out of salt. Could she have mixed up the salt and sugar when measuring the ingredients? Nah, she decided. Not possible.
By noon, the kitchen was tidy and she was ready to tackle the roast. She seasoned the meat, placed it in the roasting pan, and surrounded it with sliced Russet potatoes. The tossed salad was next. She'd deal with the hot vegetable later. Gina checked her cake; it had risen perfectly. She removed the cake pans from the oven, placed them on racks to cool, and breathed a sigh of relief.
For the next couple of hours, the nervous newlywed tidied up the small apartment and set the dining room table for dinner - using the 'good' tableware given to the young couple by Tom's parents. She stood at the head of the table and surveyed the results of her efforts. Everything looked perfect. Now to remove the cake layers from their pans and assemble the finished product.
After a quarter-hour of wrestling, Gina surveyed the wreckage. Too late, she realized that she had forgotten to grease the pans. Her perfect cake layers were now scattered chunks of chocolate crumb. Oh well, she thought, I'll make extra frosting for camouflage. She assembled the bottom layer on her best pedestal cake plate, slathered it with raspberry jam, and pieced together a second layer on top. There were a few gaps and crevasses, which she filled as best she could with the remaining crumbs that she salvaged from the cake pans. She licked a few crumbs from her fingers. Salty! She had made a mistake in measuring the ingredients, after all. Well, she'd make the frosting extra-sweet to compensate. Maybe no one would notice.
Gina reached into the refrigerator for the butter. There was only half a stick left. The rest was in the cake. After a moment of panic, she checked the pantry. What could she use for the frosting? There! In the back corner - a large can of Crisco. All she had to do was add confectioner's sugar and cocoa powder, and it would make a picture-perfect frosting. She could even use sweetened Crisco dyed with food coloring to add a few decorative touches. Beautiful! Gina carried the finished cake to the dining room and positioned it in the place of honor on the sideboard.
To be continued...