Feedback: Always welcome
Summary: A birthday surprise
Notes: So I was watching the food network tonight and they were having a cake challenge and then I started to crave cake...this is better for my waist line!
Piece of Cake
He turned the oven on to preheat and dug through the lower cabinets to find the bowls and pans he needed. He still wasn't sure if he could pull this off, but because it was such a special occasion, a land mark in the life of his best friend, he had to try.
The table was set. A green cloth covered the worn wooden top and the good ceramic plates sat stacked on the end. He had the forks and knives carefully wrapped in linen napkins and fluted glasses placed next to the iron ice bucket. The best bottle of merlot he could afford was chilling in the ice.
The borrowed serving trays stayed warm over the Sterno burning pots and the rich aroma of lasagna and egg plant parmesan permeated the dinning room. A crisp arugula and red onion salad with homemade raspberry vinaigrette and crusty garlic bread finished the spread.
Now he had only one more thing to do.
He had sifted through an old box holding scraps of paper and old cards earlier in the day. The odd assortment of holiday cards and hand written notes held another treasure. A few recipes had been jotted down by aging hands many years ago. His Nina had taught him many things, but cooking and baking were the lessons he loved best.
Finding what he was looking for, he placed the lid back on the box and put it back on the top shelf of his closet. Tucking the aging note card into his pocket, he set out to finish the dinner preparations first.
Now all he had to do was combine the ingredients and let the oven do its job.
Two sticks of real butter sat warming on the counter along with a can of coconut milk and vanilla extract. He sifted three cups of self rising flour into a large bowl and mixed in two cups of sugar.
The mixer he found in the storage unit was washed and dried and ready to use. The butter was beat under the double blades until they were creamy and fluffy. He added four eggs, one by one. The flour, sugar and coconut milk came next and then finally the vanilla.
He greased two pans and divided the batter, holding them a few inches above the counter and letting them drop, just like his Nina had shown him all those years ago. She had told him it was to be sure to get rid of any bubbles and level the cakes, but he suspected it was more because it added a little excitement to their baking.
Placing them in the hot oven, he knew they would be done in under half an hour and he needed to get started on the filling and frosting.
He mixed more sugar and sour cream into another bowl, folding in some milk and fresh coconut.
Then he got out a pot, filled it with water and placed it over the burner. When the water was just about to boil, he used his last mixing bowl to combine sugar with some cream of tarter. He added a dash of salt, a little water, some egg whites and vanilla, noting the quantity from the recipe card. Once everything was mixed well, he put the glass bowl over the boiling pot, beating the mixture with his mixer for a bit, sitting it aside once it had stiffened up to cool down.
The cakes came out of the oven and were turned out onto the cooling rack. He put the first one on a pedestal he found in the storage unit too, using the other end of his wooden spoon to poke holes over the entire cake.
He poured half the filling over the bottom layer and then repeated the process with the top one, using some toothpicks to keep the layers from shifting.
Now he searched the drawers for a long knife or spatula for the frosting. Some sheets of parchment paper were tucked under the cake to keep the plate clean and then he frosted the cake, scooping a big dollop on top and working the icing down the sides like his Nina had shown him.
Next came the fresh coconut, sprinkled on the top and sides, sticking to the sweet confection. The smells reminded him of a time long ago, of a little kitchen, standing on a chair at the counter, and getting more batter on him than in the pan.
But the end results were sweet, both in his mouth and his memory.
With the cake done, he removed the parchment and placed it on the end of the table.
Moments later the doorbell rang and he opened it to his guests. Simon and Joel first, then came Henry and Rafe, handing him coats and wrapped presents. Megan came last, bearing a large box.
Now all they needed was the birthday boy.
He could hear the key rattle in the lock and then the door opened. The small gathering of people yelled surprise! and he smiled as his friend staggered back a step, his hand going to his chest to calm his startled heart.
"Oh, man…what's all this?"
Jim moved forward, taking Blair by the elbow. "It's for you Chief. For your birthday."
"Oh, come on Sandy. Jim can't keep a secret from you. You had to have known."
"No," Blair protested. "Not this time."
Jim led Blair through the small knit group of friends, taking him to the table and handing him a plate.
"Oh, WOW…all my favorites, Jim…how did you have the time…"
"I had a little help," he said, looking around the room to each smiling face. "Now, let's eat."
Blair scooped up a portion of each, letting Rafe fill his glass with the dark red wine.
They moved to the living room, eating and chatting, enjoying each others company and then presents were passed and carefully opened. Heartfelt gratitude was expressed for the thoughtfulness as Jim excused himself and went to the kitchen.
He opened the cutlery drawer and dug in the back to pull out the box of white candles he had hidden there. He counted out thirty and covered the top of the cake, lighting each one.
The conversation came to a close as he moved into the living room, placing the cake on the coffee table in front of Blair. "Happy birthday, Chief."
"Happy birthday, Sandburg…Yeah, happy birthday, man…happy birthday Sandy..."
Blair looked around the room, a small smile on his face and Jim thought maybe even a tear or two in his bright eyes.
"Thank you all so much. This has been the best birthday."
The cake was cut and passed out. Conversation among friends continued until the hour grew late and the second bottle of wine was nearly empty.
"Good night, guys," Blair patted backs and got a few half hugs in return, handing out coats. "Good night Megan." He stood on his toes, kissing her on the cheek. "Thanks again."
Once the loft was empty, they cleaned up the leftover food and Blair poured the last of the wine into their glasses. "Um…I just wanted to thank you again, man. It means a lot, ya know…"
"Hey, it was just a little get together, No biggie." They ended up on the couch, sipping wine, the pedestal of half eaten cake still on the coffee table in front of them.
Blair reached forward, running a finger up the frosting and putting a large scoop in his mouth, clearly savoring Jim's hard work. "Well, it was a big deal to me." he told Jim, reaching into his pocket and pulling out the worn recipe card, reading the title aloud. "Nina's coconut cake, made mostly with love."
Jim took the card from Blair, turning it over in his hands, spying the writing on the back and the recipe for red velvet. "Yeah," Jim smiled. "Yeah, I know. For me too, Chief."
They finished their wine and ate too much cake, talking and laughing into the wee hours of the morning, just enjoying the company and companionship, breaking all kinds of house rules.
But thirty only came around once.
And it was a mile stone Jim was blessed to share.
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