While unpacking the groceries on the counter, I checked the ingredients against the recipe from my new cookbook. Yup, I had all the right stuff. Daydreaming, I couldn’t help but picture the look of pure elation on Keith’s face when he would taste his favorite Christmas Eve dessert—only this time baked by me instead of his grandmother. I’d invited her to come over as well, so I would surprise ‘em both.
I can’t believe Vivian put this recipe in her cookbook. After keeping it a secret for years, she’d finally decided to pass it on to her grandchildren before she got too old or too sick to do so. What a blessing, I thought.
I preheated the oven to 350, just as the recipe said. I already had the mixing bowls and loaf pans ready to go. Even though I’d never baked anything that wasn’t from a box before, I felt prepared, thanks to Vivan’s specific and thorough instructions.
“Okay. ‘Cream the butter and sugar.’ I think I know what that means…” I put the two sticks of butter and the two cups of sugar together, mixing them until they looked creamy.
“That’ll do. Now, ‘Add eggs—one at a time.’” I continued to follow the recipe, line by line. After sifting the flour, I folded in the remaining ingredients. I spread a layer of the nut mixture on the bottom of the pan, added the dough, then the nut mixture again. It was ready to go.
My husband walked in just as I was putting the two loaf pans in the oven. “Whatcha doin’, Punkin?”
“Making you a Christmas present you’ll never forget,” I flirted, winking to add to the mystery.
Keith looked around the kitchen for clues, and I slammed the cookbook shut just in the nick of time.
“Oooooo, something from Grandmother’s cookbook, eh?” he teased back.
“Yes, Dear, now scoot before you spoil your surprise.” I chased him out of the kitchen with a wooden spoon in hand. “Shoo!”
An hour later, Keith entered the kitchen to find me sitting in the middle of the floor in tears. As he ran to comfort me, I saw him do a horrified double take at the mystery creation on the counter. “Oh sweetie, it’s okay.”
“I—was—trying—to—make—your—grandmother’s—sour—cream—coffee—cake—for—you—for—Christmas. But it’s a big meeeeeeeessss!” A basketcase, I sobbed a puddle onto Keith’s shoulders.
“Oh, Punkin, that is so sweet. That is the most loving thing you've ever done. Please don’t cry.”
When the doorbell rang, Keith helped me off of the floor as I quickly regained my composure.
“Merry Christmas!” Vivian said. “I brought my sweeties a surprise.”
My tears began again as I glared at the perfectly baked loaf of sour cream coffee cake in Vivian’s grasp. She handed it to Keith and immediately came to comfort me.
“What’s wrong, Darling? It smells wonderful in here, and your tree is so beautiful. And most of all, you look beautiful.”
I led her to the kitchen and pointed to the loaves of burned pecans on top of baked brown goo. “I wanted to surprise you both and make your recipe from the Christmas cookbook you gave me, and I messed it all up. I’m the worst cook ever!”
Vivan looked down at the open book and over at Keith, then sighed. “Sweet Leah—no, Sweetheart—your cooking is just fine, Dear.”
“No, it’s not, look at it!”
Grabbing Keith’s arm in one hand and the cookbook in the other, Vivian scolded, “Keith, Dear. Do you remember my asking you to relay a particular message to your wife about this recipe?”
“Huh?” Keith mumbled, looking dumbfounded. “A message?”
“You don’t remember the error you made when you typed this recipe for me?”
Keith’s face flushed through the shades of the candy cane—red, white, then red again. He put his hand over his face. “Oh no.”
I crossed my arms. “’Oh no’ what, Keith?”
“He forgot to tell you that he accidentally omitted the baking powder from the recipe, so where it says to mix the remaining ingredients, you didn’t know you were supposed to add it,” Vivian said, laying the open cookbook in front of her grandson.
We looked over at the perfect loaf of sour cream coffee cake in Keith’s hands. He tiptoed to me as if on eggshells, then extended the gift to me. “Um,” he gulped, “Merry Christmas…?”
The smell of Vivian’s coffee cake and echoes of laughter surrounded the room, filling this Christmas Eve with all the right stuff.
“Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy…”
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