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We called the cake The Mistake.

It rose like a golden belly and jiggled every time I opened the oven door. The inside was the consistency of a milkshake. “It’s not going to set!” I mumbled crouching in front of my mother-in-law’s oven. “I stuffed it.”

Our baking marathon started at 9pm when we attempted to make almond crescent biscuits similar to kurabiye, Turkish shortbreads.

“Beat three egg whites till it’s fluffy,” Jenny said, squinting at the handwriting that curved on a white bit of paper.

I beat the eggs until it foamed with my pride. For once I was following a recipe and not detouring like I usually did in my kitchen.

“Some vanilla essence…” Two capfuls turned the egg whites orange. “Shit, is that too much?”

I laughed. Even the smell was potent. “Who cares, we can adjust it later—”

“Why are you baking anyway?” my husband said.

“Leave it till the weekend, Jen,” said my father-in-law.

They scratched their heads like commentators at a footy match after a dodgy call.

“Why not? It’s a simple recipe, it will take fifteen minutes.”

“Don’t worry about them, Jenny. What’s next?”

She poured three cups of caster sugar into the orange foam turning it into white silk.

“This is going to be delicious!” I said. “Just look at it—”

“Oh shit! It was supposed to be one cup of sugar!” Her mouth dropped open and she doubled over on the bench top among the eggshells and trays. “I was meant to put three cups of almond meal!”

My heart sank.

The commentators shook their heads.

“It’s okay,” I said. “The sweeter the better—”

“Throw it out, Dem. We’ll start again.”

“Tsk, it tastes too good to throw out.” I was seduced by its creamy smooth texture, the sweet smell of vanilla. “I’ll make a cake with it.”

It was 9.30pm and all we had was botched up white batter and a biscuit recipe scribbled on a bit of paper. We launched into phase two of our baking experience: saving our pride. I googled recipes and borrowed ingredients from butter and sponge cakes while Jenny beat a new lot of egg whites for the biscuits.

“Too many cooks spoil the broth,” my father-in-law said laughing. He retired from his post at the commentary corner and went to bed. My husband followed, crashing on the couch.

“We can only try,” Jenny said. “That’s the whole point of experimenting.”

“True!” I was in my element, making things up, feeling my way through like I did in a story. I added two more eggs to my white batter, three cups of plain flour, more vanilla essence, a few hundred grams of lumpy butter, coconut, lemon juice and rind and beat the crap out of it in an electric mixer. We worked bumping into each other, taste testing the batter, adjusting the flavour.

Once the batter had a creamy consistency, I put it in the oven next to the almond crescent biscuits and kept a vigil in front of the oven door.

Within half an hour, the cake turned into a milkshake. Its insides shook like my nerves. “It’s a bloody cake shake!” I sank closer to the floor. It had to set!

“It will work out,” Jenny said. “If it doesn’t at least we had fun trying.”

The biscuits were out and cooling and still the cake refused to gel.

“You’re the only person that can turn a cake into a milkshake!” my husband said, scoffing down an almond biscuit.

“Ha ha.” My legs cramped and I moved to the lounge. “Oh well, if it’s meant to be it will be.”

Twenty minutes later, the cake bounced when I touched the top. We poked it with a wooden BBQ skewer to make sure there were no liquid pockets. It was clean. We laughed with relief while my husband circled The Mistake, eyes gleaming.

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