Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake (Winner Bakes All #1) - Alexis Hall

Week One



“MOST OF THE bakers have opted for a traditional sponge mix, consisting of, like, eggs and flour and shit,” narrated Lauren helpfully or—from a different and more correct perspective—unhelpfully. “Single MILF Rosaline, however . . .”

Rosaline looked up from her food processor, whose capacity for raw beetroot she had wildly overestimated. “The BBC are not going to describe me as a single MILF.”

“Maybe not, but”—and here Lauren fluttered her eyelashes outrageously—“it’s how I think of you.”

“And what,” asked Rosaline, laughing, “does your wife have to say about that?”

“Allison thinks you’re a MILF too.”

“You know it’s still objectification if you’re a lesbian.”

“Actually, I think you’ll find it’s empowering.”

“No, it isn’t.” Rosaline grabbed a wooden spoon and tried to scrape the worst of the purple gunk out of her coarse grater attachment. “And besides, I bet Allison’s never used the word ‘MILF’ in her life.”

“Well, nobody’s perfect.” Scooting her stool closer to the bench, Lauren dipped her finger into the molten chocolate that Rosaline had set aside to cool. “Look, why are you putting beetroot in this otherwise perfectly good cake?”

“It’s a beetroot cake. It wouldn’t be a beetroot cake without beetroot in it.”

“Most of the bakers”—Lauren went back to her narrator voice—“have chosen to make something a human being might want to eat. Kitchen temptress Rosaline, however, has decided to add beetroot for no fucking reason.”

This was just Lauren being Lauren. And normally Rosaline was fine with Lauren being Lauren. But right now, it was the last thing she needed. “It’s not for no fucking reason. It’s for a very good fucking reason, which is I want to stand out and not get sent home immediately because my cake was too ordinary.”

“They don’t send people home in week one for being ordinary,” said Lauren cheerfully. “Ordinary gets you to at least week four.”

Rosaline combined her ingredients in a sufficiently jabby way that she was sure she’d knocked the air out of her egg whites. “I don’t want to get to week four. I want to win. And I have to win because otherwise I’m spending the rest of my life working shit minimum wage jobs to support my daughter while my parents shake their heads sadly and occasionally make me beg them for money.”

“I . . . understand where you’re coming from.” This was about as close to gentle as Lauren could get. “But honestly, going on a reality TV show feels like a bit of a Hail Mary.”

“I mean, yes,” Rosaline admitted. “But I have actually thought this through. Best-case scenario, I win, pay my parents back with the prize money, and get a slightly better job. Worst-case scenario, I get eliminated, and what have I lost?” She stared into the bowl of brownish-purple cake batter that was supposed to be velvety and was definitely not. “Apart from my time. And my pride. And any sense of privacy. And all hope for the future. And what little remains of my family’s respect. Fuck me, you’re right. This is a terrible idea.”

“It’s not terrible. It’s . . . ” There was a pause while Lauren, who was a professional word-finder and should have been able to do it more quickly, searched for a word. “Bold. And that’s good. It’s good to be bold.”

“The last bold thing I did was decide I was keeping the baby, and while I’m glad I did, as decisions go it’s not exactly been without consequences.”

“Ah, yes. I believe that’s what they call life.”

Rosaline glanced at the clock, then at the oven, then at the clock again. “Well, today’s consequences are that I had to go directly from taking Amelie to school to an extra shift at work to make up for the time I’m taking off, and I got back late because the bus was late, and now I can’t finish my practice cake before we have to go and pick Amelie up again, so I can say goodbye to her before running off to spend a weekend—”

“Gallivanting around a stately home showing off your buns?” asked Lauren.

“You know”—Rosaline made an unmistakable gesture with the nearest utensil—“I’m this close to stabbing you in the eye with a spatula.”

“Stabbing me in the eye with a spatula will make it very hard for me to either drive you to the station or spend my free time looking after your daughter.”

“Oh, well fished. Of course, your altruism is somewhat marred by the fact Allison is going to be in Glasgow for the week and you blatantly have nothing better