‘Don’t ask about the birthday cake,’ Saloni bursts on the phone.
‘Why?’ Leena sounds confused. ‘Didn’t he like the cake?’
‘Yes, of course,’ Saloni replies in a sulking voice.
‘Then why are you so upset?’
‘Because the cake is not being enjoyed the way it was supposed to.’
‘Saloni, do you really want to talk or should I hang up?’ Leena feels impatient at Saloni’s erratic behaviour.
‘Don’t hang up. Please,’ Saloni pleads.
‘Then, for God’s sake, talk clearly.’
Saloni takes a deep breath. ‘I am never going to bake a birthday cake again.’
‘Hold on…what did you say? Bake a birthday cake?’ comes Leena’s surprised voice from the other end.
‘Yes. I thought what better gift can a husband get on his birthday than a cake baked by his newly-wedded wife ?’ Saloni blushes even in the midst of her bouts of disappointment.
‘You never told me that you can bake,’ as far as Leena knows Saloni’s culinary expertise is still in the play school level. She can bag a gold medal though if there is any competition to prepare Maggi.
‘That’s because I have never baked before,’ Saloni speaks something sensible for the first time in the entire conversation. ‘I took help from Google.’
‘Oh ! Sure,’ Leena clears her throat.
‘Whatever the website instructed- butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla extract, baking powder, white flour, milk and salt, I didn’t miss any ingredient, but….’
‘Wait a minute….’ Leena interrupts her friend. ‘Salt ?! What the…..? Who puts salt inside a cake?
‘How do I know? It was written there,’ Saloni defies herself like a rebel. Although she too had the same confusion,but she doesn’t want to be the perfect example of stupidity for her best friend who already thinks Saloni is insane.
‘Forget it. Do you guys have an oven?’
‘No…um….just a microwave,’ Saloni replies gingerly as she knows her biggest mistake.
‘Okay,’ Leena waits patiently.
‘I whisked everything into a batter and switched on the microwave for fifteen minutes,’ Saloni secretly regrets that she never bothered to see how her mother baked at home. She was only interested in the fluffy cake that came out of the oven.
‘Then?’ Leena feels curious.
‘The cake’s colour was white when I checked it after fifteen minutes. Maybe, it wasn’t baked well. So, I kept it for another fifteen minutes….’
‘In short, you baked the cake for half an hour in the microwave,’ Leena can’t understand why she is getting a hunch where the birthday cake saga is going.
‘Yeah….’ Saloni gives a faint nod. ‘I took it out when the cake was golden brown. It was little hard on the edges though. I kept the cake inside the refrigerator until midnight.’ Saloni pauses for a moment.
‘Don’t stop. Go on…..’ Leena realises the story is reaching it’s climax.
‘I never knew a cake can turn into a brick. Vikram had to rub the kitchen knife against the cake’s edges hard to break even a tiny piece.’
‘What ?!’ Leena bursts into a loud laughter. ‘Was he lucky enough to even taste it?’
‘See. That’s why I didn’t want to tell you anything,’ Saloni gets angry. She needs someone who will tell her that the recipe was horribly wrong, else it is impossible for anyone to bake such a cake. Mockery is the last thing that Saloni is expecting.
‘Sorry. Very sorry.’ Leena controls her laughing fits somehow and asks, ‘What did Mr. Vikram Saluja comment after cutting…er..breaking his birthday cake?’
‘Vikram is not like you. He knows how to appreciate effort.’ Saloni makes a face.
‘How do you know? No husband would dare criticise his newly-wedded wife. By the way, what did you guys do with the cake?’ a giggle escapes from Leena’s voice.
‘LEENA…..’ Saloni protests. ‘Enough. I will talk to you later.’
‘Sure,’ Leena is still giggling. ‘Bye.’ She hangs up.
‘Why didn’t I purchase a cake?’ Saloni thinks. It is a crime to mess with your husband’s birthday cake and that too the first one since the wedding. Her idea was simply to surprise Vikram with a cake that would show her love for him. Could a cake baked by someone else do this job?
A sigh escapes from Saloni as she looks at the biscuit jar holding her love as the brick solid cake cubes inside it.