The bride had asked for “a cake with hints of ginger and citrus. Vegan.” Jean and Jane, owners of Two Sisters Bakery, agreed. They’d made a cake for every bride in the town for the last twenty-five years. Of course, they’d made the same cake for every bride, but they were confident, until they did some reading.
“Whoever heard of a cake with no milk, butter, or eggs? What in the world is wrong with Sarah Grace?”
“You mean S.G. Monroe.”
Jean dropped the recipe book she was looking through onto the table, “Yes, the famous S.G. Monroe. I suppose I do, but really.”
The sisters got back to reading. For twenty-five years they’d run a tiny bakery business making local favorites. Most folks did their own baking when they started, but as the economy ended the days of stay-at-home motherhood even in rural towns, business picked up. You could see the calendar reflected in their offerings; sugar cookies for Christmas, cupcakes during the school year, fresh fruit pies in the summer, and of course traditional white almond wedding cakes year round. Most local brides expected and accepted a wedding cake that looked like a 1960s photo, though over the years there were the occasional requests for different colors for the icing flowers. Not Sarah Grace Monroe.
Sarah Grace, who now called herself S.G. Monroe, had gone off to a fancy college on a scholarship. She’d become a journalist, then a podcaster, and finally an author who wrote an almost biographical first novel called, Hillbilly Hipster. Why she came back to town to get married was a mystery. It certainly wasn’t because she loved her roots or her family.
“Look, Sarah Grace…”
“What?” Sarah Grace raised her gaze from her phone and took a sip of coffee. Her younger sister looked fat. True, she’d just had another baby a few months ago, but Sarah Grace wondered how her sister’s baby belly was going to look in the wedding photos.
“Please don’t yell. You’ll wake up the baby. I know getting a wedding planned is hard, but do you have to scream at everyone?”
“I’m not screaming. I’m being assertive.”
“Fine. Can you please be assertive in a tone that doesn’t wake my son? I need to get supper cooked.”
Sarah Grace nodded and held her tongue. She needed to stay on good terms with her sister this week, since staying at her mother’s house meant no internet access. Access to the internet, plus all the other niceties of civilization is why she told all her out-of-town guests to stay in hotels in the next town over. It was going to be worth it though. Getting married back here where she grew up was so on brand. She could see the first pages of S.G. Monroe’s next novel forming before her.
While the town’s most famous Bridezilla was contemplating her next big success, Jean and Jane were throwing away the remains of their latest test cake.
“I don’t understand; we did exactly what the recipe said.”
“Well, we’ve fooled around as long as we can, we gotta bake the real one tonight or it won’t be ready in time for the wedding.”
Like a well-oiled machine, the sisters sprang back into action. They’d nurse their bruised egos with a bourbon after the bride and her husband drove out of town. Jane scrubbed down the bowls, the counter, and the mixer. Jean put on a fresh pot of coffee.
The finished product looked much better than the previous test cakes, but there was only one way to be sure. Jean cut a tiny core out of the largest layer. On the count of three they each took a bite. In tandem they reached for their cups to wash down the bitter, grainy, confection.
“Oh, God. It’s so sour. It’s like orange juice flavored sawdust.”
“Don’t be overly dramatic.”
The sisters looked at each other and burst into hysterical laughter. It was the only thing they could do when faced with an impending disaster.
“I thought we could pull it off, Jean, but this is awful. No one is going to eat this…no matter how much liquor they pour out at the open bar.”
“Look it’s terrible, but most of those fancy-pants friends Sarah Grace invited don’t look like they eat much anyway. We’ll just bury it in tons of super sweet icing.”
“No, we gotta tell Sarah Grace. Maybe she could order a cake from a bigger bakery in the next county or something. She’s famous now, they’d deliver it quick as a bunny, you know for a price.”
“We can’t tell her. She’s made the whole town miserable with this damn wedding. The manicure girl down at the beauty parlor threatened to quit after one of the famous S.G.’s tantrums. Her mom’s busted out crying at least twice in public. No. We’re not tellin’.”
“We have to. Imagine what will happen to our business if anyone eats this mess.”
“No one’s gonna care. Everyone has already heard that Sarah Grace has been asking for vegan this and organic that and all kinds of stuff no one’s ever heard of all week long. Even after Betty down at the diner offered to cook all her family’s favorites for cost. No.”
By ten o’clock the next morning the cake, covered in mountains of extra sweet icing and baby’s breath sprigs, was on a table in the fellowship hall of the local church. Jean and Jane placed a delicate tent of parchment paper over the creation to keep it safe until after the wedding.
Sarah Grace continued to make her wedding visit a special sort of hell for her hometown. She and the whole wedding party woke on the day of the event hung over and demanding. The bridesmaids, with the exception of her sister, spent the morning swilling champagne in the beauty salon and complaining about the “hicks who couldn’t master a messy updo.” The groomsmen dragged in from the next town over and proceeded to turn Betty’s diner into a frat house. They slammed cups of coffee spiked with whiskey and congratulated each other on the sexual exploits of the bachelor party the night before.
Despite all the drama, the actual wedding ceremony was quiet and dignified. This was perhaps due to the exhaustion and blood alcohol levels of the main participants, or maybe being in church still had an effect on folks. As the wedding party walked down the sidewalk from the sanctuary to the reception hall, Jane and Jean were half-hidden in a corner still bickering.
“We have to tell her. She’s going to have a fit.”
“No. It’s too late now. Besides, did you see that crew? They’re all so drunk or hung that anything they eat is gonna taste like sweat socks for days.”
In the end, the whole cake ended up splattered on the wedding party and the floor. Just as Sarah Grace was sliding the ribbon decorated knife through the fluted frosting, the best man whispered to her the mistake the groom had made the night before with two of the bridesmaids.