MISE-EN-PLACE

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Dessert

Dessert is the usually sweet course that concludes a meal. This definition includes a range of courses anywhere from fruits or dried nuts to multi-ingredient cakes and pies. Dessert is known the world over as being the only real point of eating a healthy meal.

The first apple pie recipe was printed in 1381, and the first cupcake recipe was printed in 1740.

Meyer Lemon Cake with Lavender Buttercream

Cake:

2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted, for brushing pan

5 large eggs, separated

3/4 C sugar, divided

3/4 C extra-virgin olive oil

1 tbsp grated Meyer lemon zest

3 tablespoons Meyer lemon juice

1 C cake flour (not self-rising)

1/2 tsp salt

Lemon filling:

1/2 C plus 1 tbsp sugar

3 tbsps all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp grated Meyer lemon zest plus 3/4 C Meyer lemon juice

1 large egg yolk

1 tbsp unsalted butter

Lavender buttercream:

1 C milk

3 tbsp food grade lavender flowers

1/2 C butter, softened

About 5 C powdered sugar

Salt

For the cake: Preheat oven to 325°F. Prepare a springform pan with butter, chill; line with parchment paper; butter, chill again; dust with flour. Beat together yolks and 1/2 C sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer on high until pale and thick. At medium speed, beat in oil, lemon zest, and juice. Sift in flour and mix at low speed. Beat whites with salt in another large bowl with cleaned beaters at medium-high speed until foamy, then add remaining 1/4 cup sugar a little at a time, beating until whites hold soft peaks. Fold one third of whites into yolk mixture, then fold in remaining whites. Transfer batter to springform pan. Bake until golden brown and a wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 40-50 mins. Cool cake to room temperature.

For the lemon filling: Whisk together sugar, flour, and salt in a small heavy saucepan, then add lemon juice in a slow stream, whisking until combined. Bring to a boil, then simmer, whisking constantly, until thickened. Remove from heat. Whisk yolk in a small bowl, then add about one fourth of lemon-juice mixture, whisking vigorously. Add into remaining lemon-juice mixture and gently boil, whisking, 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in butter and zest. Transfer filling to a bowl and cover with buttered parchment paper. Chill.

For the lavender buttercream: Create a lavender tea bag with a coffee filter and twine. Pour milk over tea bag in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over low heat. Just as the milk begins to bubble, remove from heat and let steep for 10-15 mins. Let cool completely. Beat butter and 2 tbsp of the milk together. Beat in a hearty pinch of salt. Add 2.5 C of powdered sugar and beat until well incorporated. Begin alternating between additions of more sugar (about a half cup at a time) and adding more milk (a couple of teaspoons at a time). You can use gel food coloring to tint the frosting. Place frosting in a Tupperware container and chill in fridge.

To assemble the cake: Invert cake and discard parchment. Use the standard three-layer method to slice and fill the cake. Frost the cake with the buttercream, then chill. After 15 mins, it will have formed a crust. Use a high-quality paper towel to gently buff the wrinkles out of the buttercream until it's smooth.

M-e-P

If this was weird, I'd quit. I would quit. If it was weird. How could it not be weird?

My paper towel made gentle, shushing noises on the buttercream as I smoothed it. The sound was advice and a salve all at once. I buffed out every wrinkle I could find, erased every blemish. This cake would be perfect. No one would mistake my work for an amateur's. I was a professional.

I wiped the counters down: long, exact strokes from the backsplash to the edge, making sure every stray grain of flour or icing sugar ended up in my cupped hand. Everything was clean. After I brushed my hands off and wiped them with a towel, I slid my finished cake back into the fridge, into the same space I'd cleared for the Entremet a month earlier. It wasn't his favorite recipe—no dark chocolate, no red fruit. The light, lavender-lemon cake was my favorite. It'd taken me hours to make.

I'd quit like I told myself I would, go back to being a restaurant chef like I'd planned. Work the hot line. My stomach clenched. He'd still write me that recommendation, right? He'd have to. After three years of performing my duties perfectly, of course he'd have to.

I glanced at the clock. Edward would be touching down in eight hours. I sighed. Time to go grocery shopping.

"Bella."

I whirled around. Standing in the doorway, holding his overstuffed messenger bag and a coat, was—oh! Edward. He looked like shit: dark circles under his eyes, stooped shoulders, wrinkled t-shirt.

"You're early." Jesus. I don't see the guy for a month and that's the best I can do?

"I caught an earlier flight. I… I couldn't stay away, be apart from you any more." He paused and shifted his weight from foot to foot. The distance between us felt much greater than the actual ten-or-so feet.

In my mind, I replayed the dozens of phone calls, text messages, and voicemails he'd made while he was gone. At first, I just declined his calls. Ignored his ass. He persisted, and I let him have a few seconds—just long enough to say Bella, I'm sorry before I hung up. My insides twisted each time. As much as it felt good to vent my frustrations, I wanted that feeling of balance that came from being close with him. By the end of the second week, I let him apologize for a few minutes. Then five. Then ten. He explained about Victoria, that she felt I wasn't a 'smart move for his career,' which is to say, I wasn't famous enough. When he told me he'd fired her, I accepted his apologies. I made it clear that wasn't the same as actually forgiving him.

That goddamned silence stretched on, and I opened my mouth to ask for a reference, to tell him I loved him, to beg him to say something for fuck's sake. His eyes were burning, the green even darker against the purple shadows underneath. The look he gave me pinned me in place, a butterfly in a curio cabinet—but the words he spoke set me free again, fluttering away.

"That was the longest fucking month of my life. I felt like I left a part of myself here with you. Never again, Bella. I swear to God, I'll never do something that stupid again. Just, please, baby, please... don't leave me. I'm so, so fucking sorry."

My breath whooshed out of me. Edward dropped his things and took a step forward—paused—then three more long, quick strides and we were finally, finally touching again. He wrapped his arms around me and pressed his face against my shoulder. When my body met his again, a month-long ache in my chest evaporated. A seeping warmth replaced it, milky Earl Grey on a cold morning.

Edward kissed my shoulder on either side of my tank top strap and up my neck. He licked his lips—the lightest flick of the tip of his tongue brushed against my collarbone—and groaned.

"You taste sweeter than usual."

"Baking." I placed my palms against the sides of his stomach and slid them around until I held him in a loose embrace.

"For me?"

"You never got the cake I made… before."

Edward pulled back and nodded, eyes cast down. "I'm such an asshole."

"Yeah."

"I fucked up."

"Yeah."

"D'you think you can forgive me?"

"Eventually."

He looked at me, searching. God, I'd missed him. Fuck it all, but I did.

He kissed me, and I tasted the sorry in the flavor of his lips. The sweetness of reunion swirled around us. His tongue stroked mine and firecracker-bursts of red burned behind my eyelids. I moaned, tilted my head, and opened my mouth wider to him. His shoulders were deliciously solid and strong beneath my hands, so I flattened my palms against the breadth of them to touch him with every possible inch of my skin.

A familiar hard surface appeared under my ass. "No," I murmured against his lips. "No counters. Bed."

"Oh God," he groaned. He pulled back. "I swear, Bella, I will get you in my bed as soon as fucking possible, but I have to tell you something first, and you have to be on this counter for me to do it."

My heartbeat quickened. I tried to calm my breathing, but I still sounded like I had just run a mile or ten. Edward was giving me that look, the one I used to hate. That look used to twist my insides in confusion and taunt my heart with what couldn't be. It would make tiny, fantastical whispers of maybe and if only skitter through my mind. It beckoned me across that gap between employer and employee… the gap that, though smaller than ever, still stretched between us. My heart prickled, cut by the knife's edge it was balanced on.

But now, I only felt a thrill, looking in his eyes. I bit my lip and he looked like he might devour me again. He shook his head.

"Bella…"

I held my breath again.

"I love you." He put his hands on either side of my face to hold my gaze. As if I'd look anywhere else. "I love you. So much. I know it took me too long to figure it out, and too long to get my shit together after that. But I'm in love with you, so fucking in love with you, and you have to know that."

I stared at him. An explosion rocked through my chest and I sighed raggedly. The gentle comfort of his presence was replaced—obliterated—by this intense, bright, lightness. It burned from my heart, through my veins, until it tingled in my fingertips. Knowing Edward loved me too was like peppermint in my blood; I was trembling, fresh with energy.

"Say something, please." Edward was looking a little panicked. I chuckled. Fucking with him a bit crossed my mind, but I couldn't keep myself waiting any longer.

"I love you, too." I beamed at him. Relieved, Edward laughed. He pressed his lips to mine again. The kiss didn't deepen, despite my teasing licks at his bottom lip. We were both smiling too much.

"The counter?" I asked.

"It's sentimental." When he kissed me this time, and I licked his lip again, he did open up for me. I sucked on the tip of his tongue. He tasted like airline coffee and Scope. He grunted and his hips snapped forward. Liked that, huh? His hand slid around my ribs to cup my breast, and we had to get off this counter or we were going to fuck on it.

"Not for our first time," I murmured in between kisses.

"Huh?" He circled my nipple, hard against my shirt, with his thumb.

"Edward, take me upstairs. Now."

He grinned. I loved it when Edward grinned. He helped me slip off the counter—only to throw me over his shoulder. I laughed the whole trip up the stairs.

AN: While I was at TFMU, both Mise-en-Place and A Bullet from Chekhov's Gun surpassed 1,000 reviews. I'm stunned and amazed. To celebrate this incredible milestone, I'd like to do something special. Is there something you'd like me to write? A futuretake/sideshot/alternate POV for either story? Just an ABFCG update, period? Something else? This is democracy in action, folks. Let me know in a review or ping me on Twitter. I'll take the best idea and run with it.

Thank you all from the bottom of my heart.