FICTION: The Secret Ingredient - Part Two

By Drum Digital
23 March 2017

Let me just give it more time, I mustn't panic,” she told herself inwardly. Sadly, an hour later her heart sank as the cake was still uncooked in the centre. Grace was devastated, and slumped onto the kitchen floor. Her stinging eyes couldn't even weep.

By Learnmore Mahere

“How's it going, Sis?” Sihle asked as she placed her hand on Grace’s shoulder.

“I've given up, Sihle. Life is so cruel – and I will never understand it. It’s like a blow from every angle,” Grace muttered in a barely audible voice.

“Look Sis, I know this is probably far-fetched – and I really don’t know anything about baking – but why don’t you give Ma's banana cake a try? I'm sure she gave you the secret ingredient before she died, as you were the only one she trusted with her recipes.”

“Thanks Sihle, but this has to be something really wow, not just some cake Ma learnt from her grandmother,” said Grace.

Sihle could tell her presence was no longer welcome, so she bade her sister goodnight. After all, it was well after midnight. Grace thought hard about what to do.

Finally, she told herself: Well, I guess I have to give them something. Maybe Sihle was right, so let me use Ma’s tried and tested recipe. She smiled, remembering Ma’s secret ingredient: “My dear daughter, the secret ingredient of this cake is neither the pineapple syrup nor sweet potato puree, it is the honest, caring and loving heart of the baker, one who puts herself to work in order to see her family smile.”

Grace thought: I am doing this for the whole family. If I win this prize, Sihle can pursue her education, Mpo can go to a good school and I can also go to culinary school and pursue my dreams. If I can work, I can always take care of the family.

So at 1 am Grace set to work on the banana cake. She surprised herself as she started humming, and memories of baking with her mother filled her mind. It was almost as if her mother was right there in the kitchen. By 7 am she had finished, the cake was decorated quite simply but with a touch of elegance, fresh cream topped with assorted fruits.

Later, at the competition venue, Grace walked up to put her cake on the judges table. Her heart sank when she noticed how elaborate and extravagant the other finalists’ cakes looked. The judges, who were in a separate room, came and tasted all the cakes submitted by the final four contestants, but their faces gave nothing away. After a few minutes of jotting down comments and whispered deliberations at the judges table, the presenter stood up.

“Ladies and gentlemen, our judges have two cakes tied for the first position. So we will now ask Mr Khumalo, the CEO of Khumalo Bakeries, to come and give the deciding vote.”

Grace was certain the tie was between the two most fancily-decorated cakes. To her surprise she saw a piece of her cake being cut and handed to Mr Khumalo to taste. Could it be possible that she actually stood a chance?  Mr Khumalo seemed really pleased with the other competitor’s cake.

The presenter once again returned to the podium, and announced: “I'm glad to say we have reached a decision. The winner of the Khumalo Bakery Glorious Cake Competition and the R150 000 prize, is Cake Entry 2, Banana Cake by Grace Maseko!”

The room filled with deafening cheers and screams. Grace could not believe it and had to be helped to her feet while Sihle and Mpo were shouting, “We won, we won!”

Grace finally realised she was not dreaming when Mr Khumalo himself shook her hand and presented her with the giant cheque with her name on it. She could not speak, and broke down in tears. Then a gentle hand slowly lifted her chin up – it was Wesley.

“Well done Grace, I knew you could do it!” He handed her a bunch of roses and as she reached out to embrace him she was surprised to be met by a warm kiss on the lips. “I never doubted you, my love,” said Wesley.

The End

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