Cake is often a major part of life’s celebrations, both big and small. From birthdays to wedding days, cake, in all its delectable concoctions, marks joyous occasions with a sweetness that can’t be beat. But even better is the love that is shared when two people connect over a sweet confection. Maybe it’s a cute new guy wreaking havoc on a broken heart, or a beautiful woman testing the limits of love, or an old beau stirring up long lost desires. Whatever the circumstances, cake can always be relied upon to save the day when it comes to affairs of the heart. In this collection of short stories,cake is the delicious center around which each tale unfolds and romance blooms.
When single mom and journalist, Olivia, sets out to find romance in Cindy Arora’s“Cake Therapy,” she gets a little help from her friends and more than a few slices of cake to coax her off the couch and into the arms of a truly great love. Lucie Simone’s “AprezVous” finds success-driven Tara in Paris reminiscing of her long lost love, Jean Marc, and her niece bound and determined to reunite them. In “The Heart-Shaped Secret of Raspberry Jam” by Sue Watson, cake enthusiast,Milly, meets her match in the kitchen, and other places, when new owners take over the tea rooms where she works and her talents and her heart are put to the test. And Scott, mayor of a small seaside community, flirts with political suicide in Joel Zlotnik’s “Her Charms” when he falls for new-in-town Nicole, an entrepreneur with a passion for cupcakes, and whose latest venture proves a little too sexy for the sleepy beach town.
From San Francisco to Paris, from small towns to tea rooms, this anthology tempts readers with humor, style, romance, and the powerful aphrodisiac that is cake.Petit Four is four stories, frosted with love.
Excerpt from “The Heart-Shaped Secret of Raspberry Jam” by Sue Watson
He gazed into the menu while she watched him, thinking what a lovely suit he was wearing. It was navy blue and beautifully cut, probably very expensive, worn with an open-necked shirt. She was staring at his neck when he looked up and into her eyes. Despite his cool demeanour, she saw a flicker of something. He had gorgeous brown eyes, soft around the edges, the colour of coffee cake, and they were smiling.
“Now, what would you recommend from the menu?” he asked.
“Ooh, we have an extensive cake range, sir. All classic recipes, but I particularly like the Black Forest,” she said, warming to her favourite subject—cake. “I’m a purist when it comes to the old Black Forest combo: chocolate, cherries,kirsch. It speaks for itself, in my view. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” She said this in an American accent and immediately regretted it. She wasn’t very good at accents, and it came out all wrong.
He smiled, clearly trying not to laugh at her, but she carried on anyway. “We also do a good coffee and walnut. What’s not to love? Delicious walnut sponge made with freshly ground coffee, which is echoed in the rich buttercream. I love coffee and walnut, but I make it at home with coffee liqueur for an extra kick. It makes it a little more, I don’t know, somehow edgier. I mean, coffee and walnut can be a bit of a well-worn cliché, so you need to ‘sex it up’ a little.”
He watched her patiently. She couldn’t tell whether he was bored or mesmerised by her cake monologue.
“The same applies to my grown-up lemon cupcakes. Classic recipe with a sexy twist…limoncello.” She said this with an awful Italian accent and kissed her fingers. He didn’t flinch. She felt rather silly. Why did she feel the need to get ‘in character’ with every cake she mentioned?
“Then, next on the menu is lemon drizzle cake,” she continued, being more serious now. “Another favourite. It’s citrusy and bittersweet and makes your jaws ache. I like to add a little fresh lemon zest just before it leaves the kitchen, to give that lemony punch. The aroma always reminds me of summer. Then, there are some bad boy brownies. Oh, and we have kickass Battenberg. Lovely almondy marzipan edged around cute little squares of pink and yellow sponge. But then there’s also chocolate fudge cake, which is delicious warm, bathed in ice cream.” Her pen was now poised over her notebook. “So what will it be?”
“I’m sorry, could you tell me again? I’ve forgotten what you said.”
Milly was open-mouthed, until she realised he was teasing. “Ha. It would take me hours to say all that again. I’m glad I don’t have to choose. I wouldn’t know what to pick. Hell, I’d order them all.” She giggled.
“Well, if that’s your considered advice? Okay.” He put down the menu. “And I’ll have a pot of Earl Grey tea to go with that.”
“To go with….”
“To go with the cake.”
“Yes, but which cake?”
“The ones you recommended.”
“But I recommended them all.”
“Yes, and I’d like to try them all.”
“When I said, if it were me, I’d order them all, I didn’t mean…”
“You’re my waitress. You suggested I order them all, so I’m taking your advice. As I am paying for them, I believe I can order as many cakes as I like.”
“Of course.” She felt stupid again.
“Oh, I see there are also cupcakes on the menu, too?”
She was hoping the cupcakes didn’t come up, but she had to be honest.
“Well, I’m afraid they aren’t ready, sir.”
“Oh, what a disappointment. I’d heard they were quite good here.”
“Yes. It’s just…the baker had a few technical problems, and he had to leave early.”
“Technical problems? With cupcakes? That’s a new one.”
She felt awkward now. “They are only out of the oven and need frosting. I haven’t had time to do them yet.”
“I could try one without?”
“A naked cupcake? I’m sorry, I couldn’t serve an undressed cupcake. It would be indecent.”
‘Petit Four’ Authors
Lucie Simone has a passion for travel, romance and all things chick lit. She also has a degree in Journalism and a Master of Fine Arts in Television Production. She is the author of novels, Hollywood Ending and Picture Perfect, both offering an insider’s take on life in the City of Angels. Her love of comedy (and living under the delusion that she might one day be an actress) resulted in a stint studying improvisation, which, ironically enough, taught her to be a better writer. She lives in Los Angeles (and loves it), but considers New York City her imaginary second home and visits the Big Apple as often as her bank account will allow. For more information on Lucie, please visit her website at www.luciesimone.com.
Cindy Arora was a staff writer at The San Gabriel Valley Tribune, The Orange County Register and Sacramento Magazine. She’s been published in Saveur, Tasting Table, Orange Coast Magazine and Fodor’s. She’s also mama to an adorable little boy, a feminist, a whiskey enthusiast, and proud to call herself a Chick Lit author. She is the author of Heartbreak Cake, a delicious debut novel, and a contributor to the anthology, Merry & Bright, with her story, “Christmas at Mulberry Inn.” To learn more about Cindy, please visit www.cindyarora.com.
Sue Watson is a former BBC TV Producer who woke up one morning to the realisation that there was no such thing as ‘having it all.’ Marriage, motherhood and a full-time career were taking over her life and what she really wanted to do was stay home all day, bake and eat cake, watch reality TV and write… in that order. So she quit the day job, baked a year’s supply of cupcakes and chased the dream. What followed was a lot of cake and many hours in the company of ‘The Real Housewives of New Jersey,’ ‘The Biggest Loser,’ and ‘Keeping up with the Kardashians.’ During this, time Sue also managed to write a few books too: Fat Girls and Fairy Cakes; Younger, Thinner, Blonder; Love, Lies and Lemon Cake; and her latest cake offering, Snow Angels, Secrets and Christmas Cake.Learn more about Sue by visiting www.suewatsonbooks.com.
Joel Zlotnik is a former Southern California journalist who was lucky enough to find a second career on the other side of the notepad, answering questions instead of asking them. He recently cancelled his cable so he would write more and quickly discovered online binge watching. You can find him living at the beach in South Orange County, where he listens to records, reads and watches the waves. Find some of his essays and short fiction at www.joelzlotnik.com