Don’t Judge a Cake by Its Cover

by Evan C


Don't Judge a Cake by its Cover
Evan C.
As Sydney arrived home right after sunset and unlocked the front door to her suburban Massachusetts home, she dumped her usual groceries on the counter. Sydney did not bother to organize the groceries; instead, she opened her cupboard and took a swig of her half-opened bottle of tequila. She thought about all the work she needed to accomplish. 

Opening her used laptop, she reread the instructions for the 2016 83rd annual Boston Baking Competition, and her eyes, as always, immediately shot to the bold “Grand Prize: $250k”

message. Held on the winter solstice, the competition loomed closer as it would occur in less than a month. Her mother recently received a stage three breast cancer diagnosis, and the treatment price skyrocketed past the family’s
combined savings. The competition remained the only possibility to save her mother’s life. Though Sydney hated cooking, she brightened at an opportunity, however slim, to help her family. She reluctantly walked over a cockroach to the kitchen and preheated the old and rundown oven.
On the other side of the country, in metropolitan San Francisco,
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Jonas Boschnek, the Chief Executive Officer for Boschnek Wholesale Product Manufacturing Co. crunched numbers and indolently tried to meet his deadline. Boschnek negotiated an agreement ten months ago with an electronics company, and in exchange for money, he would publicize their product eight times in the span of one year. Unfortunately, the CEO procrastinated and spent all his father’s hard-earned inheritance on the newest gadgets for his daughter instead of advertisements and publicity as originally agreed upon.
A new forwarded message popped up in his inbox. The Boston Baking Competition Qualifiers will begin in 27 days. The CEO smirked introspectively, “What an easy way to finish this deal. All I have to do is call my personal chef.”
The day of the qualifiers arrived, and Sydney presented a magnificent almond carrot cake. She placed first by a landslide, and a news reporter even interviewed her on how she created this cake. Although Sydney refused to reveal her secrets, she maintained a kind face and stoically hid her real depression behind a bright and cheerful mask, knowing that she still needed to place first in the final to receive the grand prize. Sydney told the reporter about her mother’s situation and her growing passion and desperation to save her mother. 
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After the event, while Sydney walked back to her 2006 Honda Accord, a mysterious man wearing a three-piece suit
approached her and asked her about her cake. The man introduced himself as the Chief Executive Officer for Boschnek Wholesale Product Manufacturing Co. and attempted to coerce Sydney into disclosing her prized recipe.
When Sydney declined, the man started shaking aggressively and muttered under his breath. 
entering the competition finals. She needed to make a tough decision. Considering her current financial state, Sydney could do so much with $50,000, whether upgrading her kitchen, purchasing a new vehicle, or contributing to her retirement. On the other hand, Sydney knew she
Later that day, Sydney received an anonymous phone call that offered her $50,000 in cold, hard cash in exchange for not
phone call
needed to prioritize her mother’s care and $50,000 would barely make a dent in her mother’s medical bills, so she rejected the man’s offer.
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Boschnek adamantly planned a new way to rid this little hindrance. If he couldn’t convince her to forfeit, Boschnek maintained no other choice but to sabotage Sydney. On the night before the finale, Boschnek hired four hitmen through the strands of the dark web who secretly broke the flimsy, off-brand fiberglass window of Sydney’s quaint home and silently ransacked her house of all the special ingredients Sydney had planned out. The barbarians threw flour all over the walls, cracked eggs in the sink, poured milk on the floor, and wrecked anything they could get their hands on. Sydney’s overworking, underpaying corporate job the day before had exhausted her to the point where she slept like a baby through the entire pilferage. 

The next morning, Sydney stayed in bed scrolling through social media until she heard a faint dripping noise coming from the kitchen sink. Believing she forgot to turn it off the previous night, she reluctantly grabbed her glasses and walked down the hallway to the kitchen. When she first reached the kitchen, she thought she hallucinated. Sydney could not believe it. The dedication and work Sydney had poured into picking out the ingredients and planning a recipe disappeared in the blink of an eye. She sobbed. After what seemed like hours, Sydney doggedly envisioned a brand new plan. She started to mop the floors, scrub the walls, and wash the dishes. She realized her
goal to support her mother, the only person who comforted Sydney her whole life when she wished for it most. 
The young woman combed through her mind for a recipe she understood—one from her late father, who possessed a unique passion for cooking. Eventually, she recalled the recipe she
sought: her father’s famous tartlet, featuring pears and goat cheese. Sydney exhausted the next two hours by testing and creating minor modifications to add her own quirk. Whether using the remaining things she found around her house like apples instead of pears or creating a cheesecake filling instead, she poured her heart into this gateau. 
The final day had arrived. The day that would ultimately determine her mother’s life. Sydney looked down at her small, hazel, and fruit-filled cake. Looking over to the right, she glared at the towering, glamorous cake covered in fondant, as if the sheer extravagance taunted her. Boschnek presided over “his” cake with an arrogant smile and confidently believed he could easily defeat Sydney simply due to the fact that her cake appeared hideous. Although she had not executed her original plan, Sydney tried her best, and she knew wholly her cake
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