~A Surprise Ingredient~
That single moment was bliss at its finest. Nothing so juicy, so moist, and so rich in flavor had ever tingled your taste buds quite like this. The dark color was a bonus, too. The texture was flawless: smooth and refined. The desire-factor: insatiable. After your first taste, you licked your lips and dug into another bite hoping to satisfy the ravenous appetite that awoke inside of your belly hungry for more.
"Is it good, __________?" the devilishly handsome Spaniard who made your devil's food cake asked you in a husky voice.
"Mm-hmm," you smiled and let your newest piece slide slowly off your fork and into your mouth, removing the miniature metallic pitchfork from your chocolate-laden lips ever so slowly.
Your boyfriend, Antonio, couldn't help but return your smile with a sunny, innocent grin instead of a seductive twinkle in his lustrous emerald eyes.
"If you'd like, I could teach you how to make it," he offered nearly making the cake in your mouth go down the wrong tube.
"Really?" you strained after swallowing your piece of cake whole.
Antonio nodded and rested his cheek against his palm with a dreamy stare playing in the reflection of his irises.
"It has something special inside the cake," he said, his voice dripping with a hint of lust, teasing you with his narrowed eyes. There was something about the way he said "special" that sent an electrifying shiver down your spine and prickled your insides until they melted into a gooey puddle.
"I'd like to know what it is," you smiled and took another bite of your boyfriend's cake making sure he was able to notice your interest. Not too indulged, not too apathetic, just right. That would convince him in a heartbeat.
"We can go to my house tomorrow," he suggested. "I think one cake a day is enough."
"You're right," you chuckled. "Tomorrow it is, then."
Antonio gave you one of his winning smiles and a quick kiss on your cheek.
"I'll be here tomorrow to pick you up at noon, ___________," he whispered into your ear, tickling your skin with his soft brown locks.
"And I'll be waiting," you smiled as you took another helping of chocolate cake on your fork.
Sure enough, the next day, Antonio was waiting for you outside of your house dressed in a casual polo and khakis. He looked adorably handsome but not to the point where anything you would have worn would have looked out of place.
"Ready to learn how to bake, ___________?" he asked as he took your hand in his and lead you down the road to his house.
"Ready as I'll ever be, Toni," you answered on a light note.
Antonio smiled. "Let's go then."
When the two of you arrived at his house, the ingredients were already laid out on the counter waiting to be used to make the most delicious devil's food cake ever.
"The first thing we should do is wash our hands," Antonio recommended rolling up his sleeves and going over to his sink. You did the same and dried off your hands so none of the stray flour would stick to your skin.
After adding sifting the dry ingredients together and preparing the egg, sugar, and butter mixture, you noticed that there was a basket of tomatoes on the corner of the counter. It was typical of your boyfriend to snack on the occasional tomato as most people would any other piece of fruit, and it made you smile seeing how he had a basket of sun-ripened tomatoes bringing a vibrant color to his homely kitchen.
"We're going to mix the dry and wet ingredients together, right?" you asked as the wet ingredients were thoroughly mixed together.
"There's one more step," Antonio said before sifting through the dry ingredients one last time. From where you were standing, you could smell the rich cocoa powder emitting from the stainless steel bowl.
"Is it the special ingredient?" you asked emphasizing "special."
"It is," your boyfriend smiled and walked over to you.
Oh. You knew what this was. It was one of those moments were he was going to say the special ingredient was love, and after he said that, he was going to kiss you. Well, no point in avoiding the inevitable. You loved him, too. So, without any hesitation, you stood with your eyes closed, and your lips awaiting a soft kiss from your boyfriend.
But the kiss never came. Confused, you opened your eyes and looked in front of you thinking Antonio was just teasing you. He wasn't there.
"___________, help me pick out the best ones," you heard your boyfriend say from behind you. When you turned around, you saw Antonio rummaging through his basket of tomatoes that he always kept on his counter.
Your mouth dropped open. "Wha…? Toni, what are you doing? This is no time to eat tomatoes. What about the cake?"
"We're making it right now," Antonio grinned and continued to examine each tomato while you stood flabbergasted and confused at what he was doing. Then, he held up a ripened, flawless tomato out. "Here's a good one. Can you wash this?"
You were too stunned to speak so you simply took the tomato without saying anything and washed it without protest. After you helped Antonio pick out a few more tomatoes and washed them, your boyfriend began to take off the stems and leaves and plopped them into a blender much to your horror.
"Toni! What are you doing?" you gasped recognizing those tomatoes as only the freshest and highest quality of heirloom tomatoes. Anyone who knew the tomato-loving Spaniard knew that heirloom tomatoes were his favorite types of tomatoes, and yet here he was ready to blend them up into pulp.
"This is the special ingredient," Antonio laughed.
You blinked unsure you heart that right. "What?"
"The special ingredient is tomato juice," your boyfriend told you. "I used it last time."
Before you could utter another word, or so much as make a sound, Antonio plopped the cap on the blender and began to blend his precious heirloom tomatoes up into a frothy tomato pulp and slurry. When the blender turned off, all that remained was a thick pinkish liquid of seeds and tomato remains.
"Oh, Toni…" you breathed, your heart feeling heavy with guilt. "Your tomatoes…But I don't get it. How do tomatoes go in the cake? I didn't taste any of it last time."
Antonio shrugged and got a strainer and clean cloth. "I didn't expect you to be able to taste it, but tomato juice adds a wonderful kick to the chocolate cake. Speaking of the cake, you can go ahead and mix the ingredients together while I do this."
"Okay," you said and went to mix the dry ingredients with the wet ones. When you looked at the finished mixture, you noticed that the color wasn't as brilliant as the cake your boyfriend made yesterday. Not only that, but it lacked the succulent chocolaty aroma. Since you were done with your task, you watched Antonio finish separating the seeds and unwanted pulp from the juice. Finally, he had a cup full of thin pink liquid still containing some foam from the blending and straining process.
"Now all that's left to do is to put this in and get to the baking process," he explained with a smile. You could smell the acidic, fruity scent of tomato juice still lingering on his hands as he poured the tomato juice into the cake batter.
At first, you thought Antonio was insane. The smells didn't mix at all, and the pink liquid in such a wonderful chocolate mixture seemed absolutely horrid. Still, you watched as he emptied the cup of its contents and began to mix everything together. Slowly but surely, you noticed a dramatic change in the way the batter looked and smelled—and if you dared to try, you would have bet that the taste was different. The color became a lighter, appealing shade of brown, and the aroma turned from a musky chocolate scent to one of zing and pop mixed with a strong kick of cocoa. Now the cake batter was ready to be baked.
After Antonio finished putting the cake pan complete with tomato juice-mixed chocolate cake batter inside the oven, he redirected his attention to you.
"So what do you think, __________?" he asked with a smile still beaming on his sunny face. "Now do you believe me when I said there was going to be a special ingredient?"
"More like a surprise ingredient," you chuckled. "I didn't know you put tomato juice in there. If I knew you were going to use your tomatoes, I wouldn't have asked you to make another cake. I know how much you like tomatoes."
Your boyfriend wrapped his arm around your shoulder. "It's fine, ___________," he smiled. "Besides, knowing you love the cake so much is better than eating all of the tomatoes in the world—because I'll get an acid reflux disease."
"O-Oh…" you chuckled. "That was sweet of you."
"Anytime, ____________," Antonio murmured and nuzzled your neck sending you off into daydreaming land. Suddenly, your thoughts were interrupted when the timer on the oven began to beep.
"I'll get it," you offered and went to take the cake out of the oven and onto the cooling rack.
Once the cake was done cooling, both of you helped yourself to a slice, each.
"It's delicious, isn't it?" he asked in between bites.
"Mm-hmm," you answered with a satisfied smile on your face.
Antonio frowned which was rare of him to do. "I actually think it's missing something," he said, his vivid green eyes searching for the exact ingredient that was absent from his cake.
You rolled your eyes. "Don't tell me you forgot to add beets."
"It's nothing like that, ___________," Antonio laughed. "It's something you can't see."
Clever Antonio. What a way for him to wait until you were satisfied and full of devil's food before making a move on you. Well, it worked.
"It's love, isn't it?" you guessed.
Your boyfriend licked his lips maybe because there was cake on his lips—or maybe because of what he was going to do.
"You guessed right, ____________," he chuckled and moved in closer for a kiss, his lips tasting like a love-rich medley of chocolate and the faint taste of tomatoes. It might not have been a completely surprising ingredient, but it was definitely special nonetheless.