Birthdays and Cakes

It would be too simple to just buy a cake from the supermarket delicatessen stall; even Sophie would recognise this even allowing for her single minded belief in the superiority of home made cakes. But she decides that it is worth the extra trouble of spending half a day preparing a cake for someone special, so she buy pounds of Bourneville chocolate.

Since morning they have passed cane sugar, self raising flower , egg white, grated almonds, raspberry jam through sundry processes which are a requirement for the Sacher Torte which Sophie is intending to make so assiduously – this cake which is the finest element in the luminous starscape which is her cooking repertory. Anyway the kitchen is soon occluded under the impact of the ingredients, the tools, the platters, the glasses and the fine sheen of self raising flower hanging in the air like a mist (causing Sam who has asthma to exit from the kitchen coughing, reaching for his Ventolin) either way it has begun to resemble a laboratory rather than a kitchin fit only to be described by Primo Levi. Friends who have come by to discuss the changes wrought by the government perambulations, the latest movie or some inter-personal relations, quite common in Steve and Sophie’s existence but the atmosphere has become so choked in flour that only friends wearing Japanese cyber-punk metallic cycle masks can survive in the kitchen. Steve watches her benignly because he has returned from work happy (after a day of post weekly report writing, happiness which is reworked like post-coitial bliss). Anyway he quite likes Visio and is toying with the idea of constructing a flow chart of the cake-making process, in the dark recesses of his heart he is thinking of lighting a match and causing a flash fire (always having sexual phantasies of Sophie being totally bald.

Sophie has a great deal of experience in these matters and besides it is for Mary’s birthday which means double chocolate and unsalted butter. It is not easy making a good chocolate sauce, don’t use confectioners chocolate but proper bourneville chocolate from the confectioners counter, Cadbury’s chocolate works very well. This sauce is then mixed with Italian ground almonds, egg white, icing suger and other things which when combined and mixed together forms a brown paste with the consistency of soft volcanic lava embedded with small bubbles. This is poured into a small baking tin and cooked and raised for ages whilst coffee is drunk and music sung, Tallis and Palestrina being exceptionally good for cake making, the angels make the cake raise which is all that remains of a belief in the supernatural…. and then after it is taken from the oven, checked with a skewer, cooled, sliced in half and then iced and decorated like something reminiscent of a Taupes painting but with flecks of colour ala Sonia Delauney derived from smarties, almonds and chocolate sauce melted over the top. Except for the text which is painted over the top in Helvetica 24pt Happy Birthday just for you. This Steve thinks is a bit excessive of Sophie but then she seems to be a bit over the top today. He thinks she is walking on air but is careful not to look down at her feet.

When the cake is complete and it is time to go round to Mary’s to deliver it she puts it carefully into a white cake box and then gets changed into a dark blue summer dress, pearl necklace, amber ankle chain etc. So at party time Sophie and Steve make their way across town to Levallios and go into the manor house. The party is in the back garden, the dance band playing in the marquee and whilst Steve goes to see Gerald who is playing multiplayer Quake over the internet on an ISDN line (his team is losing badly) Sophie takes the cake across the lawn balencing it on one hand whilst with the other she pushes people aside (Steve meanwhile has joined forces with Gerald and is slaughtering strange cartoon men dressed in red jump suits and with very square heads he can almost smell the testosterone through the pores of the screen) – his handle is "singslikeaswan" (zeitgeist).

Sophie has now moved aside half a dozen of Mary’s relations and friends and an equal number of people She’d never seen before. But they looked surprised at the size of the package and consequently the focus of attention gradually turns towards Sophie, who moves inexorably towards the Mary before her, who is sitting with friends and family around an Italian white plastic table. The noise of the drinking revellors seems to have got louder, shouting, applause and so on. A passage has naturally cleared between them and on the brink of decision she pauses. (Steve meanwhile has achieved a personal best of sixteen kills and two deaths which he is pleased with. Gerald tells him he has improved and suggests a few tactics he should try.) Sophie takes the cake and stepping forward says ‘This is specially for you’ and throws it at Mary’s face. Splat. This takes not much more time than it takes for Sophie to get thrown out of the house and Steve to hear the shocked silence, emerge from Gerald’s room with an ‘Oh shit – same as last year – got to go – see you later.’ And begins to push through the crowd out of the house, Mary is sobbing in the hall. Steve says hello and scrapes a line of chocolate icing off her face tells her it’s a nice cake and leaves.

Steve, red shoes in the square

Introduction to the Hypertext Novel

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Steve de Vos - London 06/07/98