Actions

Work Header

Death by Chocolate Cake

Work Text:

"You weigh out the dry ingredients and I'll do the wet." Evelyn finally found some suitably sized bowls in the cupboard by the sink and set one on the table in front of the Doctor, who frowned at it.

"Why don't you do the dry and I do the wet?"

She rolled her eyes. Sometimes she thought the Doctor complained just for the sake of complaining. He'd fit in well with the rest of the history faculty. "Because I remember what happened the last time you broke some eggs."

"That wasn't my fault." He pulled the bowl towards him, pouting. "You didn't specify how you wanted them broken."

"I thought it was obvious." She sniffed the milk, made a face, then exchanged it for an unopened bottle. "You did say you could cook."

"Well, yes." His answer was muffled as he was now kneeling on the floor with his head in a cupboard. "Aha!" He pulled an old fashioned balance scale from the back of it. Unnoticed by him, one of the smaller weights slid off onto the floor. "But cooking isn't the same as baking."

"No, you can't cook chocolate cake," Evelyn said drily, looking for something to measure the milk in.

"Who said we were making a chocolate cake?" the Doctor asked, looking round at her.

"I did. I like chocolate cake." Giving up on her quest, she added, "Is there a measuring jug in there?"

The Doctor bent back down to peer into the cupboard. "So do I, but couldn't we just make a jam sponge for a change?"

"No." She folded her arms and watched him.

He sounded a little petulant, as he stood back up, without a measuring jug. "Why not?"

"There's no jam." Something even he couldn't argue with. "And did you find anything in there?"

The Doctor looked confused. "What?"

She sighed. She should have learnt by now what it was like trying to tell the Doctor what to do. Although she always got her way in the end, he didn't half put up a fuss first. "You were looking for a measuring jug."

"Ah, yes, so I was." He bent back down again.

"And you're always saying how much you liked my chocolate cake."

"I do, but isn't it a secret?" He stood back up again, accidentally kicking the weight under the table. "There's no measuring jug in there."

That wasn't a surprise, given what else they hadn't found. She'd thought a big kitchen like this would be better equipped. "It's not that much of a secret. Besides, we should be making the best cake we can in the circumstances and the best cake I can make is chocolate."

"I suppose you're right." He sighed. "So what is the secret?"

"Cocoa powder." Evelyn set down the tin she'd found earlier. "Lots of cocoa powder."

"Really?" The Doctor picked up the tin looking unimpressed.

"Yes," she said firmly. "You can never have too much cocoa in a chocolate cake."

"And that's it? That's the whole secret?"

She nodded. "That's it."

"Well, all right." He didn't sound sure, but put the tin down and turned to the other ingredients. "How much of this flour do I need?"

"Six and a half ounces." While he was busy with that, Evelyn turned away to make a start on the eggs.

"I don't think these scales do ounces."

"Oh." She paused to think, but she'd always used imperial measurements and wasn't used to converting to metric. "What's that in grams?"

"I don't think it does grams either."

"What does it measure in? Cups?" And now she was distracted she hadn't broken the egg cleanly. She glanced over at the Doctor to make sure he wasn't looking while she fished a piece of shell out.

"Er, yK," he concluded, after picking up the weights that went with the scales and peering at them.

"yK?" Evelyn put the piece of shell down and came over to see for herself. The biggest weight clearly did say it measured 10yK. Whatever that meant. "You've visited lots of planets, what's yK a measurement of?"

"I don't know, I didn't stop to ask any of them what units they use to measure baking ingredients."

She stepped back, arms folded. "Don't you get huffy at me."

The Doctor put the weight he'd been examining back down on the table, but didn't apologise. They'd been travelling together long enough that Evelyn didn't expect him to any more.

"Well, we'll just have to guess and hope for the best, but it means I'll have to pour everything out. You can stir." At least that meant he'd be doing the hard work and since they were working to her recipe he couldn't really object to that. Well, he tried, but Evelyn ignored him while she tried to imagine what six and a half ounces of flour looked like in an unfamiliar bowl.

After that the Doctor did as he was told. But she should have known that was too good to last.

"I think need we need more flour," he said, putting the bowl down and wiping his forehead.

She ignored his dramatics. "You just need to stir it for a bit longer," she concluded, giving the mixture an experimental poke with the wooden spoon.

"I might not know how to make chocolate cake, but I do know that something that wet-" he pointed at the mixture "-isn't going to get any drier just by stirring it."

"All right," she agreed reluctantly and poured a little more flour in. "Have you seen any cake tins?"

"I don't think so," he replied after a moment's stirring.

"I'll just have to look in all the cupboards again." It took a while - there were a lot of cupboards and few of them were organised in any logical fashion. When she did find the tins they were behind a pile of plates and some of them were stacked in a saucepan. "How's it going?" she asked the Doctor, bringing the only two tins that were the same shape over to the table to grease them.

"Done, I think." He put the bowl down. "Are cake tins supposed to be that shape?"

"I can't see that making it hexagonal is going to make much difference." It was at least an improvement on the triangular ones and the pentagons that looked like they were made of gold. She didn't see how that would work at all.

"I suppose not." He began pouring the mixture out into the greased tins, sloshing some of it onto the table. It was just as well they had plenty of it.

"Right, now, where's the oven?" Evelyn asked, moving some between the tins so both halves of the cake would be the same size.

"Ah."

She gave him a look.

His expression was a guilty one, and not just because he'd been caught running his finger round the bowl, then licking it. "There isn't one, I'm afraid."

She placed the spoon down on the table a little harder than she'd intended. "Why didn't you say so when I asked you to pre-heat it?"

"You were busy at the time." He did look like a little boy being told off. She'd have laughed if she hadn't been so annoyed with him. "What about a blow torch? There might be one of them around."

Honestly. Left to the Doctor's devices he'd start on a cake and end up with half a motorbike. Although why one of the TARDIS's kitchens was also a workshop he wouldn't say. She certainly wasn't going to do any baking in it. "This is chocolate cake, not crème brûlée."

He shrugged. "Have you got any better ideas?"

She threw her hands up. "No, I've always used an oven. Have you ever seen a kitchen without one?"

"Yes, actually."

She raised her eyebrows.

"This one."

Her only answer was a glare.

"Don't worry," he said hurriedly, "I'll find something."

He smiled and patted her shoulder in a way that was supposed to be comforting. And then, because her expression hadn't changed, he rushed out with the tins, going goodness knows where. After a moment she decided she might as well get on and make the icing. At least that didn't need to be anything fancy, but some chocolate icing would go down a treat and they had plenty of cocoa powder left.

She'd just about finished and was thinking about making a start on the washing up when the Doctor returned with two baked halves of cake.

"How did you bake them so quickly?" she asked. They were even cool. But still, she hesitated.

"There may have been some time travel involved," he admitted sheepishly. "Well, we don't have a lot of time to make this cake," he added, at her look. "And it's you they want to keep here, not me."

And that wasn't something she would let him forget in a hurry, given that it was his fault. "All right." He did have a point there. "I'll ice it and you find something to display it on."

"We do work well together," he said, smiling as he opened all the cupboards in turn.

"Well, when you do as I say." Although she smiled too. With one half of the cake out on a baking rack, she set about spreading the filling on it.

She was nearly finished when he came over with a diamond studded plate. "You'd have got on wonderfully on the Great British Bake Off."

"The what?" She looked up from her icing to frown at him.

"Oh, after your time." He waved it off.

She shook her head and stepped back to admire her work. "I think that's as good as we're going to get in the circumstances."

"Shouldn't we taste it first? Just in case we got the proportions wrong."

She didn't miss that 'we', but slapped at his wrist before he could poke the cake. "The Emperor will notice if there's a piece missing."

That didn't stop him from picking up a crumb leftover in the tin. "Tastes good to me. Let's go and see what the Emperor thinks."

"Shouldn't we clear up first?" The kitchen was a bit of a mess - the Doctor had a tendency to get over excited when pouring and stirring and there were patches of various ingredients across the table. To say nothing of the number of bowls and spoons they'd got through, trying to get all the ingredients in proportion.

"Don't bother, he has slaves for that." She was going to protest, but he added, "and I don't want to spend any longer here than I have to."

Since she felt the same way, she didn't protest.

He held the door open for her, as she headed out of the kitchen and to the Emperor's throne room. The guards waiting outside followed them and Evelyn tried not to think of all the knives on their belts. She hoped the Doctor had a plan to get them out of here if the Emperor reneged on his promise. She had no intention of being the Emperor's new Royal Baker for the next ten years.

"Your cake, Emperor S'ousa." Evelyn attempted a curtsy as she presented the cake, the Doctor bowing beside her. At least they didn't have to kneel - she didn't think her knees would take it.

She kept her head bent, but the firelight reflected off the diamonds, making patterns of light on the polished floor and her eyes watered. All this opulence was a bit much and she wished they could have stayed long enough to find out what the people thought of it. She was sure there would be a revolution sometime and that was just the sort of thing the Doctor liked to get involved in. She wouldn't mind seeing some of it first hand, she just wasn't going to admit it, in case it gave the Doctor ideas.

One of the Emperor's tall, graceful, handmaids took the cake from her. There was an agonising wait as another cut a slice, then knelt at the Emperor's feet, holding it out on a gold studded plate.

The Emperor showed no emotion at first, and Evelyn gripped the Doctor's hand for support. The Doctor squeezed her hand, not looking worried at all. The Emperor ate slowly, savouring every bite. "The Doctor was right," he said at last. "You are an excellent baker, Dr Smythe."

The Doctor smiled and Evelyn let out a breath. "So you'll let us go?" he asked.

The Emperor kept them in suspense while he ate another piece and Evelyn worried. But finally he sighed and said, "With regret. I wish I could keep her and have her bake me a cake every day. But I did promise to let her go and let no one say Emperor S'ousa doesn't keep his promises."

"Thank you," the Doctor said, and Evelyn echoed him.

The Emperor sat up straight suddenly, glaring at the Doctor. "I only ask that you never return here."

"I certainly won't. I don't take kindly to my friends being taken hostage, just because I--" he broke off when Evelyn pressed her foot down on his. "Er, I think we should go now."

"Goodbye, Dr Smythe." The Emperor smiled at her. "If you ever return you would be most welcome."

As they left Evelyn considered telling him what she thought of being held hostage and forced to bake a cake, just because the Doctor accidentally insulted the Emperor's prized baker, but thought better of it. If they asked the Doctor to demonstrate his baking abilities, they'd never get out of here.