Three pairs of eyes level with the kitchen table watched as Mum lifted the Swiss roll out of the oven and transferred it onto the cooling rack. Its glorious, chocolatey scent filled the warm room. Mum whipped up the gooey dark chocolate icing, spread some of it onto the cake and began, carefully, rolling it up.
Right on cue the bickering started. ‘Can I have an end piece, Mum?’
‘I want an end piece, too.’
‘Mum, I helped wash the dishes after dinner. I should have an end bit.’
‘But I’m the eldest.’
‘What’s you being the eldest got to do with anything? Mu-um, pleeease…’
The bare facts were these. The chocolate log cake Mum made every Christmas had two ends. She had three children. As usual, we all wanted an end; the pieces covered with extra icing.
Mum sighed, ‘Girls, stop arguing, please. What a fuss you’re all making. It’s only a cake.’
She stood still for a moment, frowning. We waited expectantly. Taking a knife, she cut a third off the Swiss roll at angle. Pasting some icing onto the cut end, she stuck the two pieces of cake back together. We watched, fascinated, as she smoothed the remaining icing over the oddly shaped cake. Finally, she placed a plastic robin and a piece of holly on the top and dusted the whole cake with icing sugar. Wiping her hands on her apron, she glanced in our direction. ‘Well now, girls. I think that should stop any more arguments. I hope you’re all happy now.’ We stared at the chocolate log cake. Mum had added an extra branch and it was now Y-shaped. It was a chocolate log with three ends. One each. We were delighted.
The chocolate log cake with three ends became a well-loved tradition. It took pride of place on the tea table on Christmas Day. Decorated as always with the plastic robin, a piece of holly and a sprinkling of icing sugar snow.
As the years passed, at times my sisters and I lived too far distant to meet up regularly. This year we had made the effort to return home for Christmas. After our huge turkey dinner, all three of us were trying unsuccessfully to coax Mum out of the kitchen and to take over washing the dishes.
Once in the kitchen, we spotted the chocolate log cake on the worktop. ‘Oh, now you’ve spoiled the surprise,’ Mum said.
I grinned. ‘It wouldn’t be a family Christmas without a chocolate log cake with three ends.’
My youngest sister was pregnant with twins. ‘We need one with more than three ends these days,’ she said. ‘Mum, I loved the way you thought of a solution instead of just telling us off for arguing over the cake. It was genius.’
I nodded in agreement. ‘Yep, you really spoilt us, Mum.’
Mum looked at the three of us in astonishment and started to laugh. We watched, mystified, as she laughed until tears rolled down her thin, lined cheeks.
‘Mum? What’s so funny?’
‘Why are you laughing?’
‘Oh, my goodness,’ she gasped, wiping her eyes with the backs of her hands. ‘After all this time and you never guessed. Don’t tell me you never figured it out.’
‘Figured out what?’
‘Mum, what are you on about?’
‘You all got an end piece and were happy with that.’ She paused, still red-faced and out of breath from laughing. ‘I always thought one day you were bound to find me out. Haven’t any of you really never tried making a Y-shaped log cake? Well,’ she confessed. ‘I never let on, even to your Dad. I needed a ton of icing to stick on that extra branch. The middle piece of log cake, with the thickest layers of icing, that was my secret Christmas treat for years.’
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:
When my sisters and I were young, my mum did invent a Christmas chocolate log cake with three ends to stop arguments over which of us would have an end piece. It has become a well-loved Christmas tradition.
Denise D'Souza lives with her husband in Surrey in the UK. After graduating with a BA in English, she worked in publishing. She was voted Spillwords Author of the Month in June 2020. Her short stories, articles and poems have been published in e-magazines and Clarendon House anthologies Cadence, Miracle, Blaze, Poetica, Gleam, Lantern and Poetica 2. Two of her poems appear in Alpha One, the inaugural anthology of Linden Books.