Cup Cakes

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

How one woman made a successful business out of something simple.


Fayreston had always been there for those who wanted to visit or stay for a while, long enough to soak up the ambience of the country without being too deep inside. Anyone passing through it would have thought it was the most boring place on earth. The majority of the population was not to be seen, except in the evenings when those who worked away returned home after a day in the city. Then at weekends people appeared out of nowhere and the small streets and shops came alive with the noise of vehicles and chatter and children playing. So for five days of the week there reigned a gentile quiet, and for the other two days the place livened up, showing to the stranger that there were real people living in it.
It was the beginning of February, so Tansy saw Fayreston under a mantle of snow and a grey sky, which gave a haunting and sad air to everything. The trees were black skeletons against the sky, the bushes were dark masses. There was nothing green at all. The only colour in the village was in the houses and the street lights, the pub, the Dark Horse Inn, being the most welcoming. Few cars were moving slowing along the main road in the slush, hardly anyone was walking on the pavements. Although it was four o’clock in the afternoon it might just as well have been night time, the light was so dismal. She drove into the pub car park and stopped. Tansy got out and went inside to amber lights and cosiness. A man behind the bar was polishing glasses. “We’re not open yet?”
“Good afternoon, I’m Tansy Newton. I rang and booked a room for a few nights,” Tansy said to the man.
The man said, “Eh! Good afternoon, please excuse me. I’m Melrose Clark, the owner of this establishment. The reception is just out here. Yes, I remember you ringing reserving a room for an unknown length of time.”
Tansy looked directly at him, while he was checking her out on the computer. The pub had the look of agedness, but that could be false, Tansy thought to herself. Melrose handed her a key and information pamphlets about the village.
“I hope you enjoy your stay here, pity the weather is so bad. We can only hope it gets better for your stay here, I’ll show you to your room. The staff hasn’t arrived for the late afternoon and evening shift yet, and my wife is getting ready. You’ll meet her later on. Dinner is served from seven o’clock to nine o’clock. If you prefer not to have dinner there is a variety of hot food available in the bars.”
Tansy went into her room and went to the window and looked out onto the slushy street. The room was warm and cosy. She washed her face and hands and then sat down on a chair near the window and started to think about what had brought her there.

Six months before she booked the room in Fayreston, Tansy had been living in another village and had been invited to Sonia’s house for tea. The day was warm and sunny, and Tansy, who although the wrong side of forty, still managed to get away with youthful clothes and make-up, drove to Sonia’s front door. The two women had met on a singles cruise and had become friends, if only because everyone else seemed to have someone with them. Tansy was not all that talkative, whereas Sonia never stopped. They discovered that they both came from the same village, albeit from different parts. Tansy had gone there after her partner had decided to take up with someone younger, thus leaving her to get on with life alone. Sonia was several times divorced and had a healthy income from her ex-husbands. And so the two had kept up a relaxed relationship after the cruise was over. They met on rare occasions, which suited both of them. Sonia opened the front door and welcomed Tansy in. “Come in and meet the other participants in my little party. This is Val, and this is Estelle. Girls, this is Tansy, we met on the Mediterranean cruise.”
Val and Estelle were both middle-aged, like Sonia and Tansy. Val was a typical country woman, expensively dressed but drab. Estelle was better dressed and made up, but it was clear to see, as Tansy stared at them, neither of them were in Sonia’s league and she wondered what the connection could be.
“I shan’t be long going to get the goodies,” Sonia said, and left the living-room, closing the door behind her.
The three smiled politely at each other and then Sonia returned with plates of tiny canapés and cakes. The cakes were decorated in the most outlandish manner. Sonia invited her guests to try the goodies. “These canapés are chicken, and these cream cheese and chives. The cakes are the latest rage - cup cakes. Just everyone is eating them at home and in restaurants,” Sonia declared looking the others in the eye.
Tansy shuddered at the tiny canapés, what intrigued her were the cup cakes. Val and Estelle each took a canapé. Tansy thought she had better do the same. The four ladies drank enough tea to necessitate Sonia’s having to go to the kitchen to make an even larger pot. Tansy would have preferred a glass of fruit juice, but maintained a dignified silence while waiting for Sonia to bring the desired pot of freshly brewed tea.
“Lovely food, isn’t it?” Val commented, looking from Estelle to Tansy.
“Yes, Dear, absolutely lovely. What do you think, Tansy? I must say, I’ve never met a Tansy before. It’s like Pansy but with a ‘T’ instead of a ‘P’,” Estelle added.
Tansy ignored the remark, as she always had done. There was always someone who had to make a crack about her name, which she liked very much as it also was the name of a plant. She always remembered her mother’s words, that you can never account for other people’s ignorance.
Sonia returned with the tea and the invitation to try the cup cakes, “I’m sure you’ll all like them. I got the recipe off the television. Decoration is the most important thing, the basic recipe is always the same, just changing the flavour, that’s all.”
There were so many cup cakes that the plate was hidden by them. It was obvious that a lot of work had gone into the making of them. Val and Estelle didn’t delay in popping one into their mouths.
Tansy, was busy thinking of other things. What a way to make money! After the first taste it was easy to see what the trick was. A small cake smothered in icing sugar and any decoration the maker fancied. Tansy was worse than bored, she lacked motivation. The cup cakes had struck a spark in her mind. She thought she could do this. After all it was no different from making any other sponge cake.
That afternoon after getting back home from Sonia’s, Tansy switched on her laptop and looked up ‘cup cakes’. Delighted with what she saw, Tansy made a list of the ingredients. The very next day she drove into the nearest big town and bought what she needed for her first batch of cup cakes. She switched off her mobile phone and prepared herself for the initial attack. The mixture didn’t cause her any grief, then one by one she filled the tiny cake cups which she had purchased in many different colours. Inside the uncooked cake were placed currants and raisins, candied fruits, jam, chocolate, anything else Tansy could think of. The baking tray laden with the cup cakes was put in the centre of the oven. During the cooking time, Tansy waited anxiously to see the result. When the oven bell rang she opened the door in trepidation. Tansy had nothing to fear. The cup cakes were perfect. There was a temptation to try one but Tansy resisted, they were for selling not for her to eat, as were Sonia’s.
Now she had to find a buyer. This would be a case of trial and error, she thought to herself. As she didn’t need money as much as something to keep herself occupied,  Tansy got into her car and drove from her village to a couple of others where she thought cup cakes would be popular. A couple of pubs with restaurants, and three tearooms decided to take a chance on Tansy’s cakes. One of the owners told her that she was saving them time and money by delivering them freshly made. That first morning Tansy had sold all of her cup cakes. She hadn’t made many but they had all gone. The money she made that first time out, was for buying more ingredients.
A couple of days later, one of her customers rang her to order fifty cup cakes. Tansy could hardly believe her ears. There was nothing specialised in the order, only that they be the same as the first batch. I wonder if it’s beginner’s luck, Tansy thought to herself. She worked out how much she needed for such a large batch and how much gas she would use and how long it would take her to fulfil the order. Working out all the details on her computer and calculator, she soon arrived at a sum that was what she considered affordable. The decorations would stay for the moment, as she got more into the business she’d try different alternatives.
Tansy’s cup cakes went from strength to strength and after making the batch of fifty, she went out and bought a bigger oven so that she was able to produce more cup cakes at one time. Three times a week she put the trays of her wares into the back of a little van she had rented for that activity, and drove from village to village delivering. At times, Tansy got rather tired, and she became slipshod in her standards. She began using too much fat and sugar, the cup cakes to all appearances were just as good as the first ones, but of course they weren’t. The extra fat made them tastier and people bought more of them.
It had to happen that Sonia, Val, and Estelle took to visiting other villages for interest and tea. On one of their excursions they saw a very prettily decorated tea-room with cup cakes as a speciality. The trio entered and sat down at a circular table done out with a white lace table cloth over a soft blue one. A small vase of garden flowers stood in the centre. A lady dressed in pink gingham went over to them with a smile on her face. “Good afternoon, Ladies. What would you like with your afternoon tea?”
Sonia spoke for the other two, “Good afternoon, we’d like tea and cup cakes, please.”
“Will there be anything else, for example we do crumpets and a variety of dainty sandwiches ?”
“Thank you, but the cup cakes and tea will be fine for the moment,” Sonia replied.
Val and Estelle had been looking around the tea room while Sonia had put in their order. “Sonia, the cup cakes are very colourful and the designs are quite scandalous. Take a look at the display cabinet over there near the counter. What sort should we try?” Val asked Sonia.
“Does it matter? This is just another tea room on our list of those we have visited.”
Estelle who was always the last to speak, now did so. “Do you think they make their own cup cakes?”
Sonia didn’t answer as the gingham gowned waitress wheeled a trolley to their table. A teapot matching the flowery bone china tea-set already on the table was placed near Sonia. A large plate of cup cakes was put down near the vase.
“Thank you,” the trio said, gazing at the brightly coloured icing placed before them.
They all tucked in and made short shrift of the cakes, which were gratefully swallowed down with the tea. Not a lot of talking was done. When they had cleared the plate of its contents, they sat back and eased their waist bands.
“What lovely cup cakes! I wonder if they can be bought?” Estelle said.
“I shouldn’t think so,” Val added. “If they can be bought in a cake shop, the tea rooms would go out of business.”
Sonia stood up, “Come on, it’s time we left.” She went to the cash desk and spoke to the cashier. “Are the cup cakes made on the premises? They are better than average.”
The cashier returned Sonia’s credit card, and said, “The cup cakes are made by a lady who lives out of this area and delivers them when we send her an order. I take it you liked them, then!”
“Yes, they’re excellent. Is it possible to buy them?” asked Estelle.
“No, I don’t think so,” the cashier answered.
“You don’t know where she lives, do you?” Val inquired.
“No, I’m sorry, I don’t,” the cashier told her.
The three friends left the tea room and walked to Val’s car. Every excursion meant a change of car and owner.
Sonia waved goodbye to her friends and went indoors. In her kitchen she opened her handbag and took out a cup cake wrapped in a paper napkin. For a minute she sat and stared at the cake, then got out her scales. I thought so, came into her mind. It was heavier than a cup cake should be. She wondered as to who the mystery cup cake maker might be.
Tansy saw the advert in the newspaper that was shared by several villages. It was for a Giant Cup Cake Competition, to be held during the Christmas festivities. Entrance was open to everyone who wanted to make a giant cup cake. The prize was an interview on local television, radio, and in the newspaper. There was also a cash prize of a considerable sum of money. Sonia, Val, and Estelle decided to enter and so did every lady within distance who considered herself a good cake maker. The cakes would be displayed in the Town Hall during Christmas week, and then be judged in time for their creators to take them home to be eaten by their families. The cakes in the competition were not really for eating, but of larger size with an irresistible appeal, was what the organisers were looking for.
All those interested in winning the prize took to making the cup cakes bigger and bigger. When they were being transported to the Town Hall they looked pretty horrendous, some of the decoration was in lurid colours and others were extremely pale colours, much too wishy-washy. Sonia took hers along and was more than pleased with the result. She looked around at the others and thought hers the best. Val and Estelle had done what they could, but as usual their icing was all right for their families, like the majority, but nowhere in Tansy’s class. All the cakes were given numbers, making it impossible to identify the owner until the final winner was announced. Tansy saw the other three arrive at the Town Hall and went for a drive round till they had gone. She staggered inside with the cup cake on a trolley and set it up at the end of a table. It was easily the biggest. Thank goodness, it wasn’t to be eaten, Tansy thought, it would probably make someone throw up, with the strange ingredients which she had used to make it so big. Tansy preferred not to think about that. She handed in an entrance paper and a number was placed on her cake. It certainly resembled a monster instead of a dainty delicacy.
The voting day came and the Town Hall was overcrowded, wondering who had made the giant cup cake. The judges had it easy, Tansy’s cup cake won hands down. When her name was announced she was absent. Sonia ,Val, and Estelle stared around to see whether she was there. She wasn’t. The thought of being a local celebrity horrified Tansy. She had made some good money with her business but now she was sick to death of cup cakes. The local media was disappointed by her absence, so they began talking to some of the other entrants.
Sonia rang Tansy telling her she had won the Giant Cup Cake Competition.
“I guessed I would, it was so big, and I was determined to win. I’m grateful to you, Sonia, because if it hadn’t been for you making cup cakes on my visit to your house in the summer I would never have had the idea of making a business out of them.”
There was an odd silence from Sonia’s end of the line, “Did you ever deliver cup cakes to tea rooms in the surrounding villages?”
“Oh, yes, I did very good business with them. I don’t understand why you never made a business out of cup cakes. Yours were so good.”
Sonia had never imagined Tansy, or anyone else, making a business out of anything so ordinary. She was speechless with surprise - and disappointment. Why had Tansy never told her? Sonia recuperated her breath, and said, “You really are a dark horse, aren’t you?”
Tansy smiled to herself, said she was busy, and rang off.

While spending Christmas with relatives and friends, Tansy had seen an advertisement for holidays and short stays at an inn called The Dark Horse in Fayreston. The name of the inn rang a bell in Tansy’s memory, and Sonia’s words on the telephone came back to her.
It was a sign for her to move on and try something new. However, it took her till February before it was possible for her to take the next step in what was proving to be a rather eventful life.

Submitted: June 09, 2013

© Copyright 2022 Georgina V Solly. All rights reserved.

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