While writing my Christmas story set in a small-town bakery, Wishes Come True (part of the Christmas Magic anthology from Still Moments Publishing) had so much fun researching recipes. When showing the heroine in her world, I needed to know what she’d be serving.
Here’s a recipe for one of the cakes that is mentioned in the story.
Hammond Family Recipe for Lemon Cake
1 pkg each lemon cake mix and lemon jello
¾ c water
¼ c cooking oil
½ c unsweetened applesauce
2 whole eggs + 2 egg whites (or egg substitute to equal 4 eggs)
Pour dry ingredients into mixing bowl, add water, oil & applesauce; mix. Add eggs one at a time, stir well and beat two minutes on medium speed. Bake in greased and floured 9x13” pan at 350 for 35-40 minutes. Test with toothpick. Remove from oven and cool two minutes. While cake is still hot, pierce in an all-over pattern with fork and pour glaze over top surface.
2 C confectioner’s sugar. sifted
¼ c lemon juice
1T grated lemon zest
“Not really.” She lifted a shoulder in what she hoped looked like a nonchalant shrug. This was probably the first of many anticipated explanations she’d have to give. “I’ve always wanted to live in a big city.”
“Let me consult my files. I’ll see what I can do for you, Tora.” Mr. Trenton juggled the cup and his sack while opening the umbrella. “This bakery is such a tradition here that I can’t imagine the good citizens of Dorado without it.” Bells jangled as he hurried through the door.
A pang of guilt pinched her conscience. His words formed the base of every argument she had with herself about keeping the bakery open for the past three years. “I’m sorry for the interruption. Now, you wanted hot chocolate and coffee…”
His narrowed gaze scrutinized her face, and a slow smile spread across his lips. “Are you Tora Hammond?”
A thrill danced down her neck. He knows me? But how? “That’s me. Have we met?”
“I grew up in Dorado. I was several years ahead of you in school, but I remember seeing you here in the shop.” He stepped close and extended a hand over the counter. “Ryan Dawson.”
At the clasping of their hands, her mind filled with images of the town’s golden boy—star quarterback of the Dorado Cougars and the school’s ace baseball pitcher. They hadn’t shared the high school hallways during her years there, but his trophies filled the top shelf of the Athletic Department’s display case.
“Of course. Nice to see you again, Mr. Dawson.”
His hand eased away and lowered to the little girl’s shoulder. “Call me Ryan, please. And this is my daughter, Jenna.”
Tora stood on tip-toes and leaned over the counter to smile at the girl who gripped her father’s hand. A hand she knew from recent first-hand experience was strong and capable. “Hi, Jenna. I’m happy to meet you. All the kids call me Tora.”
“Hi, Miss Tora.”
“I’ll get your drinks.” She turned toward the back of the counter.
“Hold off a moment. I have to echo what that man said.” Ryan rested a forearm on the counter, his mouth pulled into a tight line. “Dorado without a bakery run by a Hammond woman would not be the town I remember.”
His praise warmed her heart, and she wished Gram could hear his comment. But Tora had a plan and that involved making a big change. “I have confidence the townspeople will survive.”
“People in the big cities survive, but people in small towns know how to live life. They know their neighbors and show them they care.” A finger tapped the donation coffee can and a metallic jingle sounded. “Believe me, I’ve lived in both settings and there’s no comparison. You’re better off here.”
How could he know that? She bit her tongue to keep from arguing with a customer and forced a polite smile. “Well, I can’t wait to experience life in the big city so I can see for myself.”
“Daddy?” Jenna’s voice trembled. “I’m cold.”
The child’s interruption came at the right time. “I’m sure you are, sweetie. I’ll get your hot chocolate right away.” Without another glance at Big City Dawson, she turned to her task. A few minutes later, she approached the round table where they’d situated themselves and couldn’t help but notice he’d draped his coat around his daughter’s thin shoulders.
After placing the mugs on the table, she held out a spoon and whispered to the quiet girl, “Careful, the cocoa’s hot. Better start with the whipped cream.”
Her eyes lit up, her mouth spread in a smile showing off rows of small teeth, and she grabbed her spoon.
For some strange reason, that tiny response thrilled Tora. The child looked like she didn’t smile much. “May I bring pastries or coffee cake?”
Ryan leaned back in the ladderback chair and glanced over his shoulder. “Do you still sell apple fritters? Those were always my favorite.”
“We do. Shall I bring two?” She started to turn but felt his warm fingers on her wrist. Ripples of awareness shot up her arm. When she turned to look, she was captured by his gaze, steady and concerned. Her insides felt as quivery as the middle of a jelly doughnut. What is this? She’d never experienced such an immediate reaction to a man.
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