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Heaven's Blue Ribbon

A widow receives a helping hand from beyond in baking a prize-winning chocolate cake.

By Bonnie Chocallo, Wyoming, Pennsylvania

As appeared in

Two years in a row, my Hershey Cocoa Cake took the blue ribbon at the Luzerne County Fair. Much of the credit belonged to my husband, Mike. He was my official taste tester, helping me perfect my recipes and suggesting what I should try next.

“Delicious!” he’d say, pressing the last crumbs of my latest confection into his mouth. “My wife is the world’s best baker!”

“Oh, you. You always say that,” I’d say as I scrubbed my mixing bowls. Mike was my biggest fan.

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After Mike died, it was hard to muster up the energy to continue baking, much less compete. With the county fair looming, I sat at the table and looked around my quiet kitchen. Mike would be so disappointed if I didn’t at least enter this year’s competition, I thought.

I had all the ingredients for the cocoa cake right in my cupboard. I dug out my measuring cups. Soon I had a bowl of brown batter. But when tried to preheat the oven, the digital display stayed blank. The oven wouldn’t heat. I called my son, who came right over to have a look.

“Looks like the thermostat is totally shot,” he said. “It’s an old oven, Mom. You’ll have to buy a whole new appliance.”

I couldn’t believe my rotten luck. If Mike were here, he’d find a way to help, I thought. Out of frustration, I grabbed the oven knob and gave it a hard twist. The digital display flashed. The oven was working!

I poured the batter into a pan and popped it in. The rich scent of warm cocoa filled the kitchen.

I did have to buy a new oven, like my son had told me. But my old oven won me a third blue ribbon—with a little help from heaven.

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