Prompt & Pairing, Please: Baking Practice

Friendly warning: I got hungry while I was writing this.

Gabriel and Cams were a surprise in my writing “career” — Cams is from Fall Like Rain, but Gabriel came out of nowhere and is probably my most talkative LI. I would often “complain” about him online because he often finds his way in my headspace, and seems to be a very extroverted character that my love for him rivals my love for Nico. Technically, they were my second “book” then I added their story in You Could Be the One because they’re friends who became lovers, thanks to online dating.

Yes, they will have a book. But since this book is a bit far away from the pipeline, this fic is the best that I could do for now while I work on my other things first. Time for him to shine for now and all that.

This fic’s prompt is: Cams joins a televised baking competition, and Gabriel is her supportive stage boyfriend.

This story occurs sometime after It’s a Match. Originally, this was sort of a prequel to what I planned in the book but then the fic would be a little sad and we don’t want that? So I stepped it back a bit to keep it happy. The fictional show here was inspired by Sugar Rush and the cupcakes here were inspired by Cupcake Wars recipes, although I never made or tasted them so I have no idea if they are really good.

Happy reading!

Baking Practice

“Time?”

Gabriel swiped at his iPad’s screen to check the timer he had set earlier and said, “Fifteen minutes left.”

No reply. A minute later, a loud ding! echoed in the room. He looked up to see a triumphant Cams grinning at him, one hand over the flower-patterned library bell she brought today, the other poised over the happy line of cupcakes on the counter. “Done!”

Gabriel smiled and clapped his hands slowly. “Great job,” he said, rising from his seat and walking over to Cams’ workspace—his kitchen, which she had borrowed for the afternoon so she could test recipes and practice baking under time pressure in preparation her upcoming stint in Dream Baker, the newest baking competition show on TVs

“Is that your ideal time, though?” he asked, pulling one of the wooden stools closer to the counter and taking a seat, leaning his elbows on the smooth granite.

Cams shrugged, tucking the strands of hair that had fallen loose from her braid behind her ear. “It could be better,” she admitted. “But I made and frosted five kinds of cupcakes in the last hour, so I think this is still good.”

“Overachiever,” Gabriel teased, reaching over to give her a braid a light tug, making her laugh. “Okay, so I managed to watch a few episodes of Dream Baker last night. Three rounds, right? Cookies, cupcakes, cake?”

“Yup. We have to follow a theme and we need to include the surprise ingredients they’ll give us at each round.”

“Are you going to think of recipes on the fly?”

“They emailed the theme to us last week, but the surprise ingredients remain a surprise. I just did a bit of research on the theme and figured that at least one of these different things I brought here today would somehow be one of them.” Cams pulled out her phone, tapped on the screen several times and pushed it to him. “Oh, and I also got some from your pantry, sorry.”

“I did tell you the kitchen is all yours this afternoon so no need to apologize,” he replied, glancing at her phone. On the email on her screen, the theme jumped at him, in red and boldfaced letters. “Love?”

“Yep, that’s the theme.” Cams wrinkled her nose. “It is kind of cheesy, but at least it’s easy? Unlike, I don’t know, a horror movie or basketball or something.”

“Come on. You can bake anything.” Gabriel, meanwhile, didn’t. The love for food and the skill in making food ran in the entire Evangelista family, but Gabriel somehow missed out on the baking gene, if there was a thing. Ask him to make smoked bacon or roast chicken or plan a full course meal and he’d do it without thinking so much, but bake? Technically, he can bake—a decent pan of brownies and maybe a loaf of bread, if really needed—but it wasn’t his favorite way of making food for people.

“You’re just saying that because you’re my boyfriend.” Cams rolled her eyes. “Anyway, I bet I’d be competing against all these bakers who have been in the business for decades. Sometimes I wonder why they a sideline baker like me get in.”

“Cams.” Gabriel pushed the phone back to her, catching the hand that received it into his. “The fact that you even got in as a contestant out of all the thousands that try to get qualified means you’ve got something, and they see it. Don’t listen to those gremlins in your head, okay?”

“You’ve been listening to Brené Brown again, are you?” Cams said with a smile. She looked down at their hands, took one deep breath then looked back at him, her expression grateful. “Thanks, Gabriel.”

He shuffled around the counter to stand beside Cams and gave her a kiss on the cheek. “So what do you need me to do now?”

Cams brightened. “Taste test!”

“My favorite part!” Gabriel may not be a baker but that didn’t lessen his appreciation of baked goods. Food is food, after all.

“Oh, but you have to pretend you’re one of the judges and give me feedback,” she added. “And don’t hold back on the comments because I’m your girlfriend, okay? Do it like how you did back when we first met.”

Ah, that time. Gabriel met Cams in a baking class that his cousin Pia taught, which he had wormed his way into because he needed to find someone to provide desserts for his bar, Urban & Luke’s. Cams’ cupcakes were easily one of the best ones he’d had, although he had to admit that he hadn’t held back on the feedback when they sat to talk business after.

“Okay then, tell me what you made.”

Cams launched into explaining her creations. First was a chocolate whiskey strawberry shortcake cupcake, followed by a vanilla cupcake with mango filling and coconut-flavored frosting. Then she served a dainty mojito cupcake with white chocolate drizzle that had such a strong kick of rum that Gabriel felt a little dizzy. Another shot of alcohol followed in her extra dark chocolate champagne cupcake with basil cream cheese frosting and dried strawberries that formed a heart. Finally, she gave him a maple sticky date cupcake with cashew cream frosting and cupid-shaped prosciutto. The last one looked a little strange at first, but it turned out to be his favorite.

And Gabriel did his best to give objective feedback—maybe switch the shortcake to cheesecake, less sweet frosting on the tropical cupcake, less alcohol in the mojito cupcake or nix it all together, change the dark chocolate base into something lighter to complement the champagne, and maybe add some date fruit chunks in the last cupcake. He gave comments on the decoration and presentation and asked Cams what challenges she had with each recipe so they could figure out how to solve or avoid them, and eventually helped her choose which three recipes she’ll focus on for the competition.

The taste test was his favorite not only because he got to eat, but because Cams always looked so animated and alive when talking about what she made. The baking thing started as a way for her to move on from her past relationship, and it had grown into something more than that. Gabriel was proud of all that she had achieved, and he considered it a great honor to watch her grow into who she was now.

“So what happens to all of these when the show is over?” Gabriel asked as he worked his way through his second sticky date cupcake. “This is easily a dozen cupcakes per recipe, and what, four bakers? Who eats all of this?”

“I’m not very sure exactly. I guess someone brings it home? Or the crew eats it? Don’t forget we’ll have cookies and cakes, there, too.”

“Too bad you can only have one person to be there for you at the studio,” Gabriel said, pouting. Cams was bringing Charlie, her sister. “Can you bring some back home?”

“You just want more of those date cupcakes.” Cams laughed, closing her notebook where she had written all of Gabriel’s feedback and walked toward the coffee maker across the kitchen. She was the only one besides his cousin and his best friend who had spent so much time there that she knew where everything was and moved around like she owned the place. A pleasant, warm feeling filled his chest at the thought of this, making him smile again.

As if reading his mind, Cams said, “Thanks for letting me use your kitchen again, Gabriel. I love your oven, I swear.”

“Even more than you love me?” he teased, laughing as she made a face at him. “You’re welcome. You know I love having you here.”

His remark made Cams blush, so she turned to focus on making their drinks. The smell of brewing coffee permeated the air, mixing with the still lingering leftover scent of sugar from all the small cakes on the counter.

“You know, I really want to win this contest,” she said, turning around to face him again, leaning her hip against the counter as the machine gurgled. “I could use the prize money to buy a new mixer and new supplies.”

“Then use the leftover to open your own cupcake shop?”

“Ugh, that’s the dream,” Cams said with a sigh. “Or, maybe I can go to baking school. Get formal training so I can get better at this.”

“That’s a great idea.” Gabriel nodded. “You know, Pia went to school before opening her restaurant, too. I can ask for her lists and she can tell you all about her experience there, so you know what you’re getting into.”

“Oh yes, please, that would be awesome.” Cams paused. “But you know that if I do that, it would be on top of my day job. And then you know, it would take time, and we probably won’t be able to do this…” she waved a hand in the general direction of the kitchen.

Gabriel smiled at the note of concern in her voice. He jumped off his seat and joined her by the coffee machine, his hands finding her waist to pull her closer to him.

“Camilla,” he said slowly, in a low voice. He heard her breath catch at the sound of her full name. “It’s like you don’t know me. If this is what you want, then I will support you. And the only time we won’t have time is if we won’t make time for this.”

 “That’s too much ‘time’ in one sentence but okay, I get what you mean.” Cams’ laugh was low and soft, tickling his ears as she wrapped her arms around his neck. “Yes, you always do that. Thank you, Gabriel.”

She leaned over to kiss him then, her lips gentle and tentative, almost as if inviting him to lean in—so he did. The warm feeling he got at watching her move around his space multiplied inside him as they kissed, filling him up and convincing him that his life would be incomplete if he couldn’t spend time with her and kiss her like this every day for the rest of his life.

The coffee machine turned itself off with a loud snap, interrupting their kiss. Gabriel groaned as she broke it off, making her giggle before she pulled away from him to get some mugs. He watched Cams make her way to the cupboard where he kept the mugs then walk back to him.

A notification sound came from his iPad as she passed by where he left it earlier, lighting up the screen. Her eyes flickered quickly at the device then she stopped in her tracks, his eyebrows lifting.

“Gabe?”

“Yeah?”

“What’s this?” She put the empty mugs on the table and picked up the iPad, tapping on the screen. He was one of the people who didn’t have the auto-lock on his iPad since he mostly used it at home for games and social media, plus some non-confidential work things. There, on the screen, was an ad for the next event that Ruth had sent him earlier.

Oops, busted.

“A Dream Baker watch party? At Urban & Luke’s? Is this for real?” Cams looked at the ad again and her eyebrows went up further if that was even possible. “An open event?”

“Well…” He reached up to scratch his neck, grinning sheepishly. “Cams, our regular patrons love your cupcakes, so it makes sense, right? Since we can’t be there to support you at the studio, this is our way to support you.”

She put the iPad back down on the table and placed her hands on her hips. “You know the show isn’t live, right? So by the time it airs, I’ll be watching it with the rest of you.”

“Even better!” Gabriel noticed the alarm in her eyes and took a step back, “But look, if you don’t want this, it’s okay. I’m sorry. I haven’t released it yet anyway, since I don’t know when your episode is airing, so we can totally–“

“Gabe,” she interrupted with an exasperated sigh. “It’s not that I don’t want it. And I appreciate it, really. It’s just that…” Cams paused, chewing her bottom lip like she was trying to gather courage for what she was about to say next. “Gabe,  what if I lose? And everyone’s there to see it?”

“But what if you win?”

“You don’t know that.”

“I don’t,” Gabriel admitted. “I know you’ll say that we don’t know your competition or that a thousand things can happen while you’re there. But I know you, and I remember that look you had in your eyes when we first met. You wanted to win that small contest then, and you did. So I know you have what it takes it in you to win this one, too.”

He paused, walking toward her then taking her hands from her hips and holding them firmly in his. “And if you don’t get it, then it’s totally fine, too. We’ll eat good food, celebrate your TV debut and sell your new flavors at the bar. You’re still a winner.”

With that, she rolled her eyes, but Gabriel noticed that there was a light sheen in them, like she was trying to hold back tears.  Her smile was grateful, though, as she squeezed his hands and let out a breath. “I’m so glad you’re on my side, Gabriel.”

“Always, Camilla.” He pulled her into a hug, planting a kiss on the top of her head. “Now come on. There’s no room for negativity in this kitchen, especially in front of those cupcakes. Let’s have that coffee and see how many more we can eat before we call my friends for reinforcements.”

Another long one, woops. Also the stock photo I used here features the models I used from the first cover of It’s a Match, thanks to rawpixel. Huhu they’re so perfect.

You can find all the Prompt & Pairing, Please! fics this week by #romanceclass authors here!

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