At last, it’s the finale of the full course meal, the greatest highlight, the dessert. The servants have just brought in the 80% completed Imperial Torte, which is nothing more than chocolate sponge cake that I have baked prior to this banquet. That is still not enough to be called the supreme cake. There’s still some finishing touches left.
My prototype chocolate cake, Sachertorte, was a baked chocolate-flavored sponge cake with plenty of butter and chocolate. I put apricot jam to glaze over the surface, and then I coated the whole cake with sugary fondant that contained chocolate as its finishing. With just that much, it was already called the king of chocolate cakes.
In order to make Imperial Torte which surpassed that Sachertorte, I used walnut oil in exchange for the butter and mildly added Western liquor to spice it up. After that, in exchange with the apricot jam, I used Pinal jam from the peach-like fruit that had received all the blessings of the elven village. I sliced it into two layers and made fruit cream layer as well.
“Fufufu, dark-colored cake? It’s yet another queer one again. Is it the effect of that thing called chocolate, I wonder?”
“Yes, that is indeed correct, Duke Härtling. This is a pastry for adults, guaranteed to give you the most elevated taste.”
Around the time I replied with a smile, the servants brought up a polished marble plate. It’s the absolutely indispensable tool in making Imperial Torte. Now, I shall begin the finishing touch.
“From now on, I’ll be making the finishing touches in front of all the honored guests. Please, have a look.”
Firstly, I’m having Tina heat up a bowl of chocolate until it turns into liquid form. The temperature is about 40-50 degree of Celsius. This is important.
I pour 2/3 parts of the melted chocolate to the large marble plate. The dark liquid spreads on the plate, and it exudes the alluring smell of heated chocolate. After all, it’s the highest grade of chocolate made from cocoa beans. Not only it is of a great quality, I also adjusted it to be the most suitable ingredient for Imperial Torte only. This smell will even entice the most sensible man in the room. The Four Great Dukes who smell this for the first time must be unable to endure any longer, right? Their eyes are perfectly glued to it.
I spread the chocolate thinly on the large marble plate, then I mix it all together again with spatula. This process is called tempering. By processing the chocolate like this, the cocoa butter will crystallize; it will harden to give the crisp mouthfeel texture and shine in brilliant luster finish.
The processing temperature, thinness when it’s spread, all of them allow no room to compromise and demand all of my focus. Even the most trivial miss will result in the lack of glossy finish of the chocolate and harm the texture. The ability to perfectly conduct a tempering is one of the proofs of a first rate pastry chef. Thinner, even more endlessly thinner. Looking at the sight of my cooking process seems to take away the breath of those around me.
Gradually, as the temperature is cooling down, I withdraw the spatula and form horn swirls that holds up. It’s the evidence of a successful crystallization. I mix the chocolate that I’ve safely tempered into the bowl with the 1/3 remaining chocolate inside. If I fail here, everything will come to nothing.
I plaster the jam made of pinal fruit that has been immersed in liquor onto the chocolate sponge cake.
The liquor taste is a great match with the chocolate. The jam made from the finest quality pinal fruits grown with the elves’ blessing is already so delicious on its own. It’s exceptionally compatible with chocolate.
Then, I coat the surface of the chocolate cake that has pinal jam plastered on with the chocolate that has been tempered.
Swiftly, evenly. All in a second. The chocolate coating spread turns solid just like that.
Just in case, I’m having Tina take away the heat too. It’s not about applying cold air onto it, but taking away the heat itself so that the cake will firm up without any bad influence. The perfectly tempered chocolate emits an endlessly gorgeous luster finish.
Looking at my cooking process, Duchess Renalier uttered that word absentmindedly. The technique of a craftsman who has gone to the extreme will be a beautiful work of art in itself.
With this, my cake is completed. It’s literally a shining cake. This is the improved version of Sachertorte, Imperial Torte.
“This is my finished dessert. I will cut it now.”
I cut the Imperial Torte into portions. Except for the Four Great Dukes’ table, the guests receive a serving of Imperial Torte that I have baked yesterday.
“Then, please enjoy. This is the best pastry that I am able to humbly present to you.”
I can hear someone gulping. The Four Great Dukes reach their Imperial Torte.
Their expression turns sloppy as they sink in ecstasy. They are at loss for words and can only indulge greedily in the cake as if in a trance. Just like that, the cake is all gone. Everyone in the room wear the same sated look on their faces. Until they finish eating, not a single person in the room make any words. When something is truly delicious, people will be rendered speechless.
To be able to draw out this kind of reaction from them is not only credited to the power of the best cake, but to all the full course meal leading to the dessert which have served to make the cake as delicious as possible. The seeds sowed from the beginning bore the fruits at the finish line.
After quite some time has passed, the nobles finally open their mouths to speak.
“I was thoroughly surprised. When I was enjoying the high class bitter flavor and the sweet chocolate exterior that snapped in my mouth, it revealed a gentle sourness from the jam, and it even hid a soft decadent cake in the inside. Those bitter, sweet, and sour tastes blended into one flavor that is so emotionally moving..... ah, indeed, it’s just as you said. All the dishes that I highly praised before only served as the opening performance for this. Ah, no, I’m quite sure that I didn’t just eat a cake. I wonder what that is.”
Duke Härtling looks dazed in disbelief.
“This chocolate thing is really amazing. However, one needs talent to perfectly draw out that chocolate’s potential. As expected, there’s nothing to complain about, whatsoever. Duchess Renalier, it’s your victory. I’m unable to deny that the full course that you have presented is truly the best, newest full course meal.”
Eichhorn of the west has already surrendered.
Duchess Renalier smiles.
“It is my pleasure to be able to deliver. I wonder if that means you have acknowledged the height of the cultural development in the east that I manage. Is it?”
“That’s right, I admit it. It’s the full course that is 100 years more advanced than the rest of us. However... Is this truly the power of the east?”
“And what are you trying to say with those words, Duke Härtling?”
“No, no reason in particular. Today is truly the best banquet of all times, Duchess Renalier.”
After that, they engage in a pleasant chat.
Somehow, the banquet has successfully ended. It was a good experience for me to be able to use the highest grade ingredients as I liked, but I wish I could avoid another pressuring job like this.
“That’s right, today’s full course menu was all prepared under your direction. Is that correct, Kurt Arnold, heir of the Baronetcy of Arnold?”
“That is correct.”
“It’s the first time I’ve ever tasted a full course meal this amazing. I absolutely need to thank you. I will present you a gift later on.”
“As expected from Duke Härtling of the west. You have a deep pocket. It won’t do if I fall behind the duke of west. I will also send over a present for you later on.”
Personal gifts from the dukes. Most likely, they will be things that I can never even lay my eyes on, in my whole life. I do wish that I can accept them to further advance the Arnold fief. However......
“I terribly apologize, because I cannot accept those gifts. I was only moving to assist Duchess Renalier, not a single speck more. This amazing banquet is all the meritorious deed of the person who chose me as her assistant, Duchess Renalier. If I accept presents, they will be from Her Grace’s hands. I cannot possibly accept any other present.”
I can only say that, because jumping on board of this openly headhunting maneuver will only result in bad reputation in a short term and increase the number of my enemies.
“Ahahahahaha! Kurt-kun, you...... You are really good.”
Duke Härtling’s voice is cheerful and amicable, but his frame is trembling.
“Forget the speech just now. However, let me say this at the very least. I wish to eat your food again. I can’t endure only tasting it once. Can you serve more for me?”
“That possibility depends on Duchess Renalier.”
“Ahahaha, that’s right. It is indeed as you said. Un, but I’m still surprised. A black kite can give birth to a dragon, let alone an eagle.”
And that is the end of my conversation with Duke Härtling. Duchess Renalier flashes a smile at me. That was probably the correct answer. After that, the banquet gradually ties into a close.
“Since we’ve stuffed our bellies, let’s move to the dance hall. A place for casual chats has been prepared beforehand. You may freely participate, so I wish you all will do as you please.”
Along with those words, people move in crowds. Free participation means the ideal opportunity to build the network. No aristocrat will miss it. I stand still in my spot. If possible, I don’t wish to join in, but I shouldn’t be like that, right? Though the lowest of the kind, I’m still of nobility too. Though, most likely, there are many nobles who will approach me as I’m seen as Duchess Renalier’s person of interest, which sounds troublesome.
I simply take a small break now. After all, I’m mentally exhausted. I’m simply standing still, watching the servants and the nobles that they’re escorting.
An elderly man call out to me in that state. It’s Duke Ortlöpp of the north. He’s Duchess Renalier’s ally from the imperial faction.
“Thank you for the wonderful food. I’m also grateful for the help you’ve sent to Duchess Renalier.”
“I only completed my tasks.”
“Even moreso. That girl only has a small number of allies. By thoroughly completing your task, becoming an existence that she can trust, you give her a great mental support.”
I’m at loss for words to reply. In a conversation with this person, I don’t want to show any disrespect by saying something clumsy.
“Your food was great, young lad. Not just the taste, even thoughtfulness you put into it was amazing. Today, my body feels lighter compared to when I haven’t eaten, I also thoroughly enjoyed the performance. I never thought that it could happen to someone from eating something. You are a great chef, young lad. Like that Härtling, I’d love to enjoy your food again in another opportunity.”
Without waiting for my reply, Duke Ortlöpp turns around. And then, he spoke even though I can’t see it from where I’m standing.
“I shall bestow one advice from an old man like me. You’ve shown too much power. After this, people with bad intention will approach you, and your old allies will see you with greed, perhaps make a full change in front of you. Don’t be too trusting, but don’t be too doubtful. To live longer as a noble, that is the crux that you must engrave in your mind.”
He’s a person a I cannot fathom. There’s a weight of a person who has lived long enough in his words. His figure gradually disappears from my sight. While being all alone, I mutter on my own.
“That’s indeed true. A pastry chef’s power is not enough. I must learn a lot more.”
In my past life’s knowledge, I have the knowledge of pastry and food, but I haven’t learned anything about this world other than those. And then, as a noble, the presented opportunity for Arnold is too small. My ability cannot be limited to simply being a pastry chef. A simple pastry chef will only be the prey in the thriving and rampantly running evil in the noble society. I’ve painfully experienced that by myself.
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