The Cream Heist

This post is dedicated to my sister and my mother, with due apologies to the former and a drum roll of honour for the latter.

My sister, S, and I would have been 8 and 5 respectively (or 7 and 4, I don’t quite remember) when mummy took to baking. If there’s one thing you should know about our mother, it’s that there are no half-measures for her. Whatever she does, she does with professional perfection. Come to think of it, she is the OG obsessive mom.

She enrolled in a baking class and for a while, it turned into a fixation.

After every lesson, she’d bring with her, scraps of goodies. She’d then get down to practising at home, to our immense gastronomical delight.

With amazing patience (which was not at all her strong suit) she sifted and creamed and whipped and buttered till egg whites stood to attention and the cream levitated.

We had a large round oven out of which appeared cakes and pastries and biscuits and muffins. As the smell of baking filled the house we hopped around impatiently, peering into the glass topped oven.

I don’t quite recollect any of her trials going South. All I do remember are crisp choco vanilla biscuits, gorgeously spongy cakes decorated with pink icing sugar roses and batches and batches of delicious pastries.

Of all her wares, it was her pineapple pastries that took pride of place.

Two layers of deliciously moist sponge held between them tiny pieces of pineapple on a bed of whipped-to-perfection, light-as-air cream. On the top came another layer of cream with more pieces of pineapple and a cherry to complete the delectable ensemble. The subtly-sweet sponge and cream were the perfect foil for the tangy tropical flavour of pineapple.

They were the softest, fluffiest, most delightful melt-in-your-mouth creations we had ever seen. They could easily stand their ground against wares from the finest patisseries.

I tell you, they were small pieces of heaven.

One day just as mummy was giving finishing touches to the very last pastry of the very last batch, the doorbell rang.

Those were times of no cell phones; in fact, no phones at all and it was perfectly normal for friends to come by unannounced. Unlike these days, there were no military schedules to be adhered to and people could invite themselves over for late-night coffee meets without being labelled inconsiderate. While the adults chatted we kids hung around or slept off as we pleased.

After a happy hour the evening wound down and the friends got up to leave. We trailed along to see them off lingering over that last anecdote, a last laugh and long drawn-out goodbyes, reluctant to bring the night to a close.

When we finally came back, we found, to our bewildered dismay, that the cream from each and every one of those pastries had been licked clean off.

Now, there’s one more thing you need to know about our mother – she combines Michelin star baking skills with incisive Miss Marple-level sleuthing skills.

What followed were unending rounds of investigation and stern questioning. Some threat of violence may also have been involved. More effective than all of that, however, was the ultimatum of forever being banned from baked goods.

Out came the confession, then.

Apparently, when we had all gone to see off our friends the cream thief had been unable to tear herself away from those enticing pastries, as they sat on the rack beckoning her for a sampling. Lucifer, it would seem, had come down from the apple tree himself lurking amidst the pastries, luring her on.

The poor child really had no choice.

Yeah, it was S.

For once, mummy gave rest to her famous temper. She was more amused than annoyed and the story was told and retold till it became part of family lore just like her pineapple pastries.

No matter what corner of the world we and all our cousins go to, each time anyone digs into a pineapple pastry, mummy’s culinary skills and S’s daring cream heist are sure to be remembered.

This post is a part of Blogchatter Blog Hop.

20 Replies to “The Cream Heist”

  1. The way you described your Mum’s baking process reminded me of the movie Julia & Julia. The description was almost visual. I wonder how your sister feels about her story crossing the family folklore and stepping out into the online world.
    I have a story of my own when I was sent off to buy jalebi for Sunday breakfast and I brought home a kilogram of jalebi because I found it to be dirt cheap at Rs. 18. It was too much and I was asked to go back to return 750 gms of it. I refused having faced some embarrassment already at the shop so my brother was sent to do the duty. This story has stayed fresh in the family for the last 33 years now waiting to be passed on to my son and my nephew.
    As for the friends coming over unannounced, you made me recall that era. How did our parents manage that! If somebody does this to me now, I will unabashedly break all ties with that friend. But then my friends know me very well so they know they have to message me prior to setting up a phone call with me.

    1. Is there really something like too much jalebi? Also, I get the being embarrassed bit. My sister and I used to hate going out for household chores. Returning stuff would be a million times worse.
      My sister doesn’t seem to mind, going by the fact that she was the first one to comment on the post :-).
      Oh and I’m pretty much the same with friends. Though there is a tiny handful of them who I don’t mind coming over unannounced. Usually when the doorbell rings we know exactly who it is, the routine of our lives has become so unshakeable.

  2. That was adorable, Tulika. My mum got the same round oven with glass top without temp controls as I remembered it. My sister took Home Science for a couple of years in 11th and 12th grade along with Science. And she whipped up lovely baked dishes including baked vegetables with creamy sauce. Mum used to make a lovely sponge cake in this oven. I was only interested in eating. I was in 7th grade back then. You brought forth beautiful memories from my childhood. I would so love to meet your mum.

    1. I think back then those ovens were quite popular. Oh and I also had home science as a subject in ICSE but unlike your sister I learnt nothing at all. And I never got around to using that oven. We now have an OTG which we use occasionally. My mom also makes the most delicious baked vegetables. Cooking and baking are such wonderful skills.

  3. What a delightful read! Your vivid description of your mom’s pineapple pastries and other mouthwatering goodies made me drool. This story reminded me of a similar incident from my childhood when my sister was caught red handed munching on fish fry at my grandparents house. 🙂

  4. I love how these stories stay on for years later, sometimes with embellishments. My story is about the time I broke a brand new bottle of Rooh Afza. Can you imagine how difficult it was to clean off the floor and everywhere it went? It was an accident, but the story kept changing and every time a Rooh Afza ad came on there was sniggering all around!

    1. Oooh that’s epic. I can just imagine how redolent your home must have been with that flowery aroma. And yes, cleaning up that thick syrup would have been a task.

  5. This is the sweetest post I have read today, Tulika, and I am droolinggggg!
    Oh, that para describing the pineapple pastries has driven me nuts! I am actually allergic to pineapple, but the pastry….I need to eat one NOW! Kya kiya yaar, Tulika? I was trying to avoid my after-lunch dessert to give my aching tooth some relief, but now, I won’t wait anymore. I will eat my sweet treat and imagine it to be your mother’s pineapple pastry. 🙂
    Loved your post!

  6. This was such an endearing anecdote…Would you believe me if I said Pineapple Pastries were my favourite for a while. I think I had it for the first time in Gorakhpur when I was in hostel there. Your description made me want to order one right away!

    1. I can well imagine Naba. There was a time all we had were Pineapple, Chocolate and Butterscotch. Isn’t it unbelievable the variety we have today?

  7. I would like to taste some baked stuff from your side, Tulika. I am sure you must have also taken some culinary skills from your mom.

    1. Arey nothing Geethica. I’m no good. Baking skills skipped a generation – my son is the family baker. Thanks for dropping by.

  8. Hahaha, such an adorable post. Very nostalgia inducing too.

    I’ll always think of this post when I look at a pineapple pastry now 😀

    1. Yes they are. They’ve been told and retold so many times I don;t even know how much is true and how much is embellishment.

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