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Dreamflower's Mathoms II  by Dreamflower

 Rating: G
Author’s Notes: This story takes place between Chapters 16 and 17 of my story “A Conspiracy of Hobbits”.
Summary: Lily Cotton bakes Frodo’s last birthday cake before he leaves on the Quest…

Taking the Cake

“Missus Lily!” Marigold burst into the Cotton’s kitchen with Rose at her heels.

Rose saw her mother look around from her cleaning, with a startled and annoyed expression on her face. “Bless me, lasses! You did make me jump! What news could possibly be worth such a pother?”

It was Marigold who answered. Rose’s mind was elsewhere, as she remembered how bold she had been earlier in the day. If her mother ever knew how she had kissed Sam like a shameless hussy, there would be a pother, sure enough! But she couldn’t have borne to let Sam go off and not let him know how it stood for her-- that she’d wait for him, no matter what!

Marigold was bouncing on the balls of her feet in excitement. “Mr. Freddy Bolger-- Mr. Frodo’s cousin from Budgeford-- he wants you to make a birthday cake for Mr. Frodo’s birthday tomorrow!”

Lily’s eyes grew wide. “No!”

Rose shook herself from thoughts of Sam. “Oh, Mam! He said he knows it’s short notice and that you won’t have time to make one as fancy as usual, but he said he’d pay extra for your trouble! He said he just wants it as big as possible and he knows it will be delicious!”

“ ‘Extra for the trouble’!” Lily exclaimed. “If that’s not just like a gentlehobbit. All the coin there is won’t put an extra hour in the day! What am I to do? Why it’s nearly two hours past luncheon as is, and tea and supper to see to! But there’s nothing for it, I suppose, as it’s for Mr. Frodo! I’m sure he’ll need a cake to cheer him, what with having to leave his lovely hole to the likes of Lobelia Sackville-Baggins and that son of hers, and move off to the wilds of Buckland across the River! But Rose, I’ll need all your help!”

“I can help, too, Missus Lily!” said Marigold eagerly. “I already told the Gaffer I’d stay over with Rosie tonight, and he said as it’s all right!”

Lily wiped her hands on her apron, and said “Well then, you two lasses finish the washing up.” She went to the kitchen door, and called. “Nibs!”

Her youngest son was busy chopping firewood, and he looked up at her call. “What is it, Mam?”

“You run across the field to tell your Aunt Delphie I’ve a mighty baking to do on short notice tonight, and as it’s for coin, I’d appreciate if you lads and your Dad can take your tea and supper over there. I’ll need the kitchen to meself tonight.”

Nibs nodded, and put down his axe. But before he could dart off, his mother called again. “Tell her I’ve got a big pot of pork stew on already, and if she says yes, then I’ll send it along. No need of it going to waste, and she won’t have to stretch her larder to feed you lot.”

Rose went over to her mother as she turned. “The dishes are all done, Mam. What do you want me and Mari to do now?”

“Make sure that the table is clear for us to work. And fetch out the mixing bowls and pans. I’m going to check the larder to see what we have that will make a nice cake. Mr. Freddy wants a big one, does he?”

Rose nodded. Mr. Freddy had stressed that. “Frodo needs some distraction, Miss Rose, and worrying about what to do with leftover cake is better than worrying over his move. Assuming of course, that there are any leftovers with Pippin around!” He had laughed heartily at that, and Rose could not help but chuckle as well. Mr. Pippin was well known for his sweet tooth.

Lily turned and went into her well-stocked larder. Rose could hear her mother muttering to herself. “No sugar, no time to make sugar paste even if I had some; honey’ll have to do. Plenty of butter from this morning’s churning…I think I still have that tin of marzipan from Cousin Handy…”

Rose and Marigold made short work of the table, scrubbing and drying it, and then Rose took a chair to rummage in the upper cabinets for her mother’s special baking bowls and pans. Those had been a wedding gift from Lily’s Uncle Perry Noakes. He had been a renowned baker, and in her tweens, Lily had worked for him in his bakery in Michel Delving. After she had wed Tom Cotton, he had supplied her with special ingredients on his birthday or at Yule, and his son, Cousin Handfast kept up the tradition. On his last birthday her mother had received a tin of marzipan, nearly a pound of white sugar, and a precious vanilla bean, sealed up in waxed parchment and kept in a little glass jar. Last year he had given her some of the precious sticks of cinnamon that gave off such a wonderful scent, and her mother still had more than half of them left.

But the white sugar was gone, for a month ago, her mother had used the last of it on Hyssop Goodbody’s wedding cake. It was just as well; sugar paste took a lot of time to make and the fancy decorations and such that her mother knew how to make took days.

As the ingredients were laid out upon the table, Rose saw to firing up the brick oven built into the side of the huge kitchen fireplace. She shoveled in some embers from the hearth, as well as some wood. Once the embers began to glow, her Mam would check to make sure it was not too hot. “For cakes, lass, the oven should be not too low nor too hot. A nice medium heat is best for baking…” It would take a while to get the temperature just right.

Marigold had put the kettle on, to make tea for them as they worked, while Lily double checked to make sure she had everything on hand.

Just then Nibs came rushing back into the kitchen, his cousin Rufus on his heels. “Aunt Delphie says we can take supper there and welcome to us. I’ll let Dad and the others know.” He dashed back out.

Rufus was holding a small covered bowl. “Ma sent these over-- some of her candied cherries. She thought as you might could use them, Aunt Lily.”

“Bless her!” said Lily. She gave Rufus a large dishtowel, and she took the stew off the hearth. “You take this back to Delphinium with my thanks, Rufus!”

“Yes, Aunt Lily! ‘Bye Rose! Bye Marigold!” And off he went, a bit more carefully than he had come.

Rose watched him walk off, and then turned to her mother. “Er, Mam?”

“Yes, lass?”

“What will we have for supper, then?”

Her mother smiled. “We’ll not starve. There is plenty of bread, cold ham and cold roast chicken in the larder. Now to work.”

Soon Lily was busy mixing the flour and leavening together, as Rose beat together the butter and honey and eggs, and Marigold chopped the fruit.


As her mother blended the ingredients together, Rose prepared the special cake pans, wiping them generously with butter and then sprinkling them with flour so they would not stick.

Soon the first four cake pans were filled and placed in the oven, and the three tired bakers sat down to a well deserved meal.

“I’m so hot, Missus Lily!” said Marigold as she wiped her brow. “I guess that this cold supper is better than the stew.” She began to munch on a pear-- she’d made short work of the sandwich she had made of cold ham and sharp cheese.

Rose only nodded, as her mouth was full.

Her mother looked at Marigold. “How’s the Gaffer taking it, then, his Sam moving off to Buckland to do for Mr. Frodo?”

Rose blushed, and looked down into her teacup; fortunately, her mother was looking to Marigold to answer.

“He’d be happier about it, I think, if only Mr. Frodo had not sold Bag End to Mistress Lobelia and that Lotho of hers. I s’pose we’ll be having to say ‘Mr. Lotho’ to him before long. But the Gaffer says I’m not to be going up there to do for them any longer.” She sighed. “But, bless him, Sam’s been saving up since he learned about his going off. He put four month’s pay by, and he says that he’ll see we have more. He doesn’t want me working for that Lotho either! I don’t know what’ll become of the gardens, but the Gaffer’s not up to working up there anymore. And I think they’ll find it hard to hire someone new.”

Rose bit her lip and gathered up their dishes, carrying them away to the sink. She knew from the feeling at her back that her Mam and Mari were watching, wondering what she thought of Sam’s going away. But if they didn’t bring it up, she wasn’t going to. ‘Twas bad enough when she thought that Buckland was as far as they were going, and there’d been no talk of her joining him there; then she had begun to suspect that there was more to it, and that Buckland was just the first stopping place out of the Shire and into the Wide World for some reason. Sam hadn’t confirmed her suspicions-- and he had not denied them either. But he’d be back. She knew it in her heart of hearts.

Lily went to check the cake layers, and she drew them forth. The fruity and spicy aroma filled the kitchen. She placed them on folded dishtowels at one end of the table to cool, and they began to prepare the next layers.

“Four more, Mam?” Rose asked, as her mother once more began to fill the pans. She was surprised, for her mother had once said that seven was enough layers for any cake.

Her mother turned to her with a wink and a grin. “Well, we’ve worked hard enough-- and I expect we need to be sure it’s good enough for the gentry, don’t you?”

Both lasses smiled widely. They had been tantalized by the wonderful smells of the baking, but had not thought they’d get a taste.

Once the final layers were in to bake, the three made short work of the washing up. The cooled layers were carefully wrapped in clean damp muslin, and placed in the cool larder, for it would be easier to finish the cake when it was completely cool and settled.

All save the last layer. Her dad, Tom, Jolly and Nibs returned from their dinner at the home of their Uncle Wilcome and Aunt Delphie. Nick had gone to The Green Dragon, where he was now working part of the time.

The hobbits left one slice for Nick when he returned, and went to their rest.

Rose and Marigold talked about their day, giggling over the morning at Bag End, and Rose confessed that she had kissed Sam. But she did not confess why. Mari giggled, and said “I’ve kissed your brother oftener than you’ve kissed mine!”

“Mari, you wicked lass!” Rose exclaimed, as though she had not known it all along.

Marigold snickered, and then turned her back. Soon Rose could hear her soft snores.

But Rose lay awake for a long time, thinking of her Sam.

 xxxxx

Sam, Merry and Pippin finally finished loading the various items into the waggon-- the last of Frodo’s possessions to be given away, things that were not included in the sale to the S.-B.s or had not been shipped to Buckland.

“Will the Cottons be able to use all these things, Sam?” Pippin asked as he shoved in a large box.

“Nay, Mr. Pippin,” Sam answered, “but they’ll know who can. Old Tom knows the hobbits thereabouts in Bywater, those who can use these things. Though I think Missus Lily will be pleased with that set of Dwarven pans that Mr. Bilbo had.”

Fatty Bolger came out of Bag End, and gestured to Merry, who turned and went over to him. Freddy nodded, handed him something, and patted Merry on the shoulder. “Take care, lads,” he called, “and be back before noon!”

“No worries,” laughed Merry. “We know!” He clambered up onto the waggon seat to join Sam and Pippin, and as they drove off, he held up a pouch and shook it so that it jingled. “Payment for the cake!” he said. “This was most certainly a clever diversion on Fatty’s part, I must say!”

“I think so!” Pippin exclaimed with a grin.

Both Merry and Sam laughed heartily.

Sam shook the reins, and the ponies headed off down the road. Merry looked at Sam seriously. “Sam, is all going to be well for your family while you are away?”

Sam did not pretend to misunderstand. “Yes, Mr. Merry. Mr. Frodo has advanced me eight months wages-- we’ve left it with Mr. Grubb, with instructions to deliver it to the Gaffer and Marigold after four months. And I had saved up four months wages that I gave to the Gaffer t’ other day. That should see them through, I reckon, till we get back.”

Pippin blinked. “A year? Do you really think we’ll be gone so long?”

Merry shook his head. “It only took Bilbo from April to Midsummer to get to Rivendell, which is as far as I expect we’ll be going. But I think Sam’s wise. We don’t know what might happen to delay us along the way--especially as Gandalf hasn’t returned yet.”

“He will,” Pippin said confidently. “Gandalf always does what he says he will.”

“I hope so, Pip!”

“I don’t ‘spect we’ll be gone so long either, Mr. Pippin. But as my old Gaffer says, “Better safe than sorry!” And I’m sure that Mr. Gandalf will turn up!”

The conversation lapsed, and after a few moments, Pippin began to sing, and was soon joined by Sam and than by Merry. Before long they were turning down the lane that led to the Cotton’s farm.

Sam’s thoughts went back to the day before, when Rosie had given him such a kiss as she never had before in all the time they’d been walking out. He blushed to remember it. She’d guessed, she had, that Mr. Frodo was going further away than just Buckland, but she’d asked no questions, not his Rosie. She’d just kissed him till he couldn’t breathe nor even think straight, and then she’d told him right sharp to come home when he was done. His Rose was clever-- the cleverest and bonniest lass in all the Shire. And he’d see her again today.

____________________________________

The Cottons and Marigold had finished first breakfast, and Farmer Cotton and his lads had been sent off about their morning chores. Rose and Marigold did the washing up, while Lily set about assembling the cake. First came the fancy plate, which would later be returned.

Then over each layer was spread a generous amount of raspberry preserves before the next layer was added. Great care was taken in adding the last layer, and then Lily carefully inserted four of the clean wooden rods that Jolly whittled for her, to keep the layers from sliding apart. Finally, she rolled out a circle of marzipan and placed on top.

She stood back and looked at it. It needed a little something…”Rosie! Go out to the cutting garden, and make me a small nosegay--about so big.” She held out her hands a very small distance apart.

“Yes, Mam!” Rose went around to the south side of the house, where the small garden of cutting flowers grew. She soon had a nice little posy of calendulas and cosmos and late-blooming dianthus. Just as she was about to go back into the kitchen and give them to her mother, she heard the sounds of a waggon approaching, and she raced to the front of the house.

“Good morning, Miss Rose!” Mr. Merry called. “We’ve brought those things we mentioned yesterday, and we’ve come to pick up the cake.”

She walked over to the waggon, trying to avoid Sam’s eye. “Good morning, Mr. Merry, Mr. Pippin… Sam.”

“Hullo, Rose,” Sam answered softly.

She dared a glance up at him, and felt her face flame. It was some consolation, though to see that he was just as red as she felt! Mr. Merry grinned knowingly, and Mr. Pippin gave a low chuckle, and Rose felt her face grow even warmer. They couldn’t know-- Sam would never tell. But perhaps they’d guessed. Rose bit her lip, and then said, “The cake’s very nearly done, Mr. Merry! If you wish to come in and see it?”

The three of them trailed her into the kitchen. Her mother greeted Mr. Merry and Mr. Pippin politely as befitted gentry, and Sam warmly. She was pleased with the flowers, and placing them atop the cake said:

“There! Now it’s pretty enough, I daresay, for all that I had to rush!”

Mr. Merry laughed. “I know it was short notice, Mrs. Cotton.” He took out a pouch of coin and handed it to her. “Fatty said to keep the difference, to make up for all the trouble he must have caused you. Well, we shall go and find a couple of your sturdy sons to help us unload that waggon, and then we shall come back in and fetch the cake. Is there anything we need to know about carrying it back?” He looked at the cake anxiously. It was very large!

“Just to take care, Mr. Merry! I’m sure Mr. Bolger would not be happy if it were dropped along the way!”

“I’m sure he would not either! And it will be just as delicious as all of your other beautiful cakes!”

Rose watched her mother blush. Mr. Merry could be quite as charming as his cousin when he wished.

The three turned to go out of the kitchen, but Rose caught Sam’s eye for an instant, and the look in it made her heart skip a beat, it was such a look of love and sorrow. Then they were out the kitchen door, and she heard Mr. Pippin yelling: “Hoy, Nibs! Nick!”

“Mercy!” her mother exclaimed.

Rose turned to see that her mother had emptied the coins on the table. She stared.

Her mother looked up. “Why this is more than twice what I would have charged! I can’t take this much!”

Rose laughed. “You will have to, Mam! If you try to give any of it back, Mr. Merry will just wave his hand and say that’s what Mr. Freddy gave him for you, and he won’t take it.”

Lily sat down and blinked.

A couple of hours later, Rose watched as Sam and Mr. Merry and Mr. Pippin drove slowly off, so as not to jostle the cake. Mr. Pippin sat in the back to keep it steady. Sam turned and waved a farewell, and Rose lifted her hand to wave back. She kept waving as long as she could.

Who knew when she’d see her Sam again?

 Lily Cotton’s Famous Layer Cake
(This is a much smaller version. It only makes three small layers, rather than seven giant ones!)

˝ cup butter or margarine, softened (but not melted)
1 cup honey
2 eggs
1 cup applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla

2˝ cups flour, sifted
2˝ teaspoons baking powder
˝ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon

˝ cup raisins (or currents)
Ľ cup candied cherries, chopped
1 apple, peeled, cored and finely diced
(Optional: ˝ cup chopped nuts)

1 small jar raspberry preserves

(Optional: prepared marzipan or fondant)

 
 
Preheat oven to 325°. Grease and flour three 8” round baking pans.
1. In a large bowl, cream the softened butter and the honey. Gradually whisk in the eggs and applesauce and vanilla, until thoroughly blended.
2. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Stir in fruit (and nuts if using) until it is coated with the flour.
3. Mix together the dry ingredients and the wet with a wooden or plastic spoon-- about 50 strokes, or until well blended. Batter will be thick.
4. Divide evenly into three 8” baking pans.
5. Bake at 325° for about 30 to 35 minutes, or until no longer soft in the center.
6. Allow the layers to cool completely before removing from the pans. Use wax paper or parchment to keep them divided, cover with plastic wrap and leave overnight. (You can refrigerate if you like.)
The next day, put one layer on a plate. Spread generously with raspberry preserves. Repeat with the second layer. Put the top layer on. Roll out a circle of marzipan or fondant 8” in diameter, and place on top. Decorate as you like. (You can leave off the marzipan or fondant if you want, and just frost with regular frosting if you choose.)
 
Here is a link to a picture of the cake: http://i257.photobucket.com/albums/hh216/dreamflower2/068.jpg




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