Recipes from the Alchemist’s Cookbook!
“Don’t judge me,” said the Wizard.
“I’m not judging,” replied Murph, juggling the plate on his knee.
“You look like you’re judging.”
“I do not,” Murph shook his head, then shoveled another forkful of cake in his mouth, “If anything I look like a pig.”
“A glutton,” corrected the Wizard, wrapping his cape around his shoulders, “I can sense your disapproval.”
“Oh my gods,” Murph leaned his head back and looked up muttering a few names. “I don’t, I really, I can’t… Listen, Benjamin, if you choose to use your time and magic energy on something as trite as a birthday cake, instead of just going out and buying one at Costco, it’s your business not mine.”
“I knew you disapproved.”
“Okay, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean anything. Besides this cake is delicious.”
“Thank you.” Benjamin bowed slightly, “I wouldn’t be much of an alchemist if I couldn’t make a cake.”
Murph laughed, “Ah, of course, the transformation of rude raw materials into something noble.”
“Yes, well, it was rather a hurried job, luckily I had my new apprentice to help me,” said the Wizard brightly.
“Yes. Percy seems to enjoy working with you,” Murph looked over his shoulder towards the other room where the party was proceeding apace. “This frosting is delicious.”
“Mmm, I’m glad you like it.”
Percy’s birthday was November 11, 2011, a very auspicious numerological date to be born. Coincidentally, the Wizard Benjamin’s birthday was also November 11, though decades earlier in 1981. It was decided, mostly by Sabby, Percy’s mother, that the boy should become Benjamin’s apprentice when he turned 8, so this birthday party was something extra special. Murph, her husband, didn’t have much to say in the matter, but managed to convince the rest of the coven that it would be a good idea to spread their tentacles a little and make an ally of the Prime Alchemist, Benjamin. He was a well connected and fully certified Wizard.
Getting him to bake the birthday cake had been Sabby’s idea. This hadn’t gone over smoothly, but being a senior alchemist, Benjamin felt an inordinate amount of pride in his cooking skills, and Sabby appealed to his vanity, she may also have cast a little spell. Reluctantly he finally agreed, though he immediately regretted it. Taking an apprentice on his birthing day was a good thing, the day would make certain rites flow easier, and frankly, the young Percy had taken to the ‘job’ naturally. Still, it was also Benjamin’s birthday, and there were spells he wanted to cast during the Birthing Day grace period that smoothed over many difficulties. If he didn’t cast then, he’d have to wait almost 12 years until the next ripe moment.
The day passed by quickly and it was well into the hour of Jupiter and he still hadn’t made the cake. With an effort he ceased the Summoning of Roshawni Crystals. He had already pulled a dozen through the portal, and he could probably reap another dozen, but he had the cake to make and not much time.
A quick perusal of the pantry turned up two loaves of slightly stale bread (useful for luring birds to the roof for feathers and droppings,) a large box of baking powder (sodium bicarbonate was serious stuff, the Egyptians called the embalming elixir made from the stuff, God liquid!) a box of rock salt (fake kosher,) a couple of chicken eggs, brown and spotted leftovers from a cleansing party led by Manuelito Garces (there’d probably be some dirty spirits floating around in the albumen, but they’d do.) Stopping by the fridge, he found a bag of sugar and a box of condensed milk and almost a pound of sweet butter. He was only been missing some vanilla and some chocolate. He stood silent, pushing his mind outwards.
Percy came into the kitchen, and interrupted the vision quest, “Can I help?”
“Ah, Percy lad. Yes, yes, please. It’s almost the hour of the Moon. Do you know what that means?”
“Four o’clock?” smiled Percy.
“Yes, and therefore late. The party starts in two hours. This cake must be done by then.”
“Is there cake mix?” Percy asked.
“No!” Benjamin stood up straight, “never!”
“Okay, that’s just how my mom makes cake.”
“Well, we’re alchemists! We do things from scratch! Get that through your wooly head,” he said rubbing the boy’s head. “Baking a cake is a perfect transformative exercise. You’ll see.”
“Okay!” Percy said smiling.
“Alexa!” Benjamin called out, “Give me a recipe for chocolate cake!”
Twenty minutes later they had mashed the stale bread into a big damp mound, smooshed together with butter, dried milk, eggs and water.
“Percy,” said the Wizard, “go into my office and find some vanilla beans. This cake dough needs something special.”
Benjamin kept up the smooshing and churning, sprinkling in sugar and chanting in Latin.
“I found these,” said Percy appearing in front of the mixing bowl. In his hands were a long dried vanilla bean, and four raw cocoa beans.
Pushing at the cocoa beans, Benjamin said, “No more of these?”
“Mmm, okay.” The Wizard took the vanilla bean, and crushed it in a mortar, then poured the dust into the mixing bowl. He nodded to Percy, and said,
“Mix this in.”
Looking closely at the four beans, Benjamin rubbed them in between his hands, then raising them up to the skylight, he chanted, “Zer — -doz, Acta — -zet, Doz.” And a small flame burst in his hands. After a minute, the flames stopped and in his hands were four roasted cocoa beans. A wisp of smoke drifted up from his palms.
Benjamin slowly opened his eyes, and said, “Is there any butter left?”
“No sir. We put it all in…here.” Percy nodded down to the big bowl of mess.
“Mmmm, we’ll need a vehicle for these beans to make the frosting. These four beans aren’t enough on their own.” Benjamin stood and thought. “Ah, go to my upstairs closet, in there you’ll find a tin of brown shoe polish.”
Benjamin winked, “Don’t worry, we’ll transform it, no one will ever know the difference. We’ll just have to add a dash of glammer.”
Benjamin used the spreading knife as deftly as if he were making a sacrifice. He leaned back and motioned to Percy to come view the work of art. The Birthday Cake was perfect, it smelled of rich vanilla and eggy butteriness, and the chocolate frosting was brown and shiny with sugar beads. He turned to his apprentice and offered him the frosting bowl, “Wanna lick the spoon?”
Percy peered up at his master, then smiled and slowly shook his head.