Cheating the Cake

“I entered a few cake competitions over the years. I always wondered how honestly they were decided. Not in the least because I never made the top ten. Jealous determination to win does that too a person. Just made they were a little unfair though…”

I wrote this story in answer to the following prompts:
Ragtag Daily Prompt — Pneumonia
Pensitivity’s three things challenge – Appeal – Prize – Squashed

Cheating the Cake

“What? No — that’s not, right?” Hannah clapped her shaking hands to her forehead in dismay. She’d just been allowed back into the tent for the annual Norfolk Cake Bakers Championship. Somehow, she’d lost horrendously.

To begin with, Hannah thought she’d have to miss out this year. A near-drowning incident at the local swimming pool had left her with pneumonia. Antibiotics and sheer determination had seen her get better in time to compete.

Today, Hannah made it into the top five with her classic Victoria Sandwich cake. Only the top three would get rosettes and prize money.

“Hey, are you okay?” asked Bradley her boyfriend watching the tent fill with contestants and spectators all wanting to see who’d won.

“No, I came fourth. I didn’t expect to win, that chocolate fudge cake is divine and the lemon drizzle cake is wonderful,” Hannah conceded. “But to lose to that squashed, under-baked, red velvet — hurts!” she finished wiping her eyes.

The owner of the winning red velvet, Tara Philips, was stood looking like a princess with a pompous almost evil grin on her face. When her eyes met Hannah’s she gave a cutesy wave.

Hannah glowered back with the desire to slap her.

Bradley put an arm around her as he looked at the winner’s table. It was clad in a plastic tablecloth featuring fantasy cakes. The red velvet with its gold rosette sat on top of the podium. It looked awful alongside the other beautifully baked, iced and filled cakes. Hannah’s with its delicately sliced strawberries fanning out of the neatly scalloped buttercream; looked the tastiest by miles. “How did that awful thing even make it into the top five?”

“I don’t know. Let’s just pack up and go home,” Hannah said looking down at her blue and white flowered dress despondently.

“Not yet, something’s wrong here.” Bradley took her hand and pulled her through the crowds of people. He approached a man wearing a smart coffee-brown suit. A tobacco pipe was peaking past the corsage in his breast pocket. “Excuse me, sir. You’re the independent adjudicator, correct?”

“Yes, young man. I’m Richard Heyman of the British baking Association. Can I help?” he asked while polishing his glasses.  

“I hope so. This competition was rigged. I formally appeal to you to investigate.” Bradley demanded.

“On what grounds?” Richard asked.

“Because the winning cake shouldn’t even be in the top five. Look at it,” Bradley indicated the red mess. “It’s squashed, it’s underbaked, the icing is gritty looking. Alongside the other entries, it looks like a dog made it.”

Richard looked from the cakes to Bradley. Then his gaze fell upon Hannah causing him to smile. “Oh, I get it. You’re Hannah Jacobs. Your boyfriend is fighting for you because you lost out, right?”

Hannah felt her ire rising, she opened her mouth to speak but Bradley prevented her.

“Hannah is competing. However, I came to appeal to you independently based on the evidence on the winning podium,” Bradley saw no change in the adjudicator’s expression. “Look, Hannah and I don’t mind if she loses fair and square. The fact is, the winning cake is a disgrace to baking and you know it. For the honour and integrity of this competition you have to step in.”  

The adjudicator fixed his tie as he looked along the line of cakes again.

Hannah saw his head give an infinitesimal nod and felt a little hope rising.

“Ladies and gentlemen, will now proceed to hand the winners their prizes,” announced Margaret Ainsworth the chief judge stood proud in her gaudy red dress and flamboyant summer hat. “In first place with her red velvet is Miss —”

“Hold on one moment, please.” Richard cut in loudly.

Hannah held her breath as she watched him walk along the row of winning cakes. He removed each rosette before approaching Margaret. The two conversed in a low whisper for a few moments.

“Ladies and gentlemen there’s going to be a slight delay. There has been an appeal launched into the decision. Therefore, the votes must be recounted,” Margaret told everybody. “I’d like the top five cake bakers to approach the winner’s table, please. Everybody else, can I ask you to leave the tent. We’ll reconvene in half an hour. Thank you very much!”

“That put the cat among the pigeons!” Hannah said catching a furious look from Tara. She hid a pleased look by focusing on Richard who was talking to Margaret again.

“Indeed, maybe this competition will be fair now.” Bradley kissed her hand. “Come on. Let’s see what happens now.”

Hannah took a deep breath as she approached the top table. She came to a stop in front of her cake. Each contestant had to bake three cakes to enter. Two had been sliced for taste-testing and for spectators to try. The third always remained whole to allow people to see the complete entry. Even having lost, Hannah was proud of her Victoria Sandwich.

“Hannah, Leroy, Geoffrey, Hazel and Tara; your five cakes were elected the top five. In light of the appeal, I must warn you that may change,” began Margaret looking stern. “As you know the six judges all tasted the cakes. They then independently put their top five choices in the ballot box. They then repeated that with the top five to agree upon the winner. We must recount the votes and ensure everything was done fairly before we can proceed.”

“Yes, that will be done in front of you all, right now,” Richard said having placed both the first and second-round ballots on the table.

Hannah felt her legs shaking. This was it, those ballots would either prove or disprove the competition to have been fair.

Richard tipped out the first ballots. He picked up each judge’s card and read them aloud. Hannah, Leroy, Geoffrey, Hazel had all been chosen by each judge. “Now, we come to a problem. The judges did not select Tara’s Philip’s red velvet to be in the top five. They chose Tanya Redgrave’s red velvet.”

“Liar!” Tara pointed at Hannah. “She sabotaged me!”

“And made you win? I think not.” Hannah replied folding her arms.

“Enough!” Margret clapped her hands. “Tara, I believe you switched Tanya’s cake for your own.”

“Ms Philips did more than that too,” Richard said with a top-five ballot paper in hand. He showed Margaret then focused on the contestants. “These ballot cards were all filled in by the same person. I suspect the real ballots were replaced by these.”

“Then we have no choice. We must redo the top five count. Tara Philips, you are hereby dismissed from the competition for cheating. You will be banned from competing for five years. I will confer with the judges now. I suspect Tanya Redgrave’s cake will be replaced in the top five as originally ordained by their ballot. I will then have them re-judge the final five.”

Hannah left the tent with a nervous smile, “You did it, Bradley. Now, the competition will be judged fairly. I don’t care if I don’t get a better place so long as I know it’s been fairly decided.”

Bradley brushed his lips against hers; giving a rewarding kiss. “Your cake will always be a winner to —”

Hannah shrieked as Bradley coughed beside her. He’d been hit square in the face by a large red cake with white buttercream.

“That’s for ruining everything!” Tara screamed as two security guards seized her by the arms.

“Pah! Even as a weapon your red velvet sucks!” Bradley gasped as he tried to shake the cake from his ruined grey tweed sports coat, shirt and trousers.

“Guards, take away before I kill her!” Hannah stamped the foot and pointed toward the field gate. She had to smile as Tara was dragged away kicking and screaming. “Can’t believe she did that!”

“I can. Sore losers never change.” Bradley said. “I’ll just use the facilities and clean up a bit.”

“Okay, sweetheart. I’ll be in the cake tent.”

Fifteen minutes later Margaret was standing at the top table again. With a newly rearranged podium of cakes. “Ladies and gentlemen, it was discovered that the results of the competition had been tampered with. The results have changed as follows: In fifth place Hazel West with her coffee and walnut cake. In fourth place, Tanya Redgrave with her red velvet. In third place, Geoffrey Grover with his lemon drizzle cake. In second place, Hannah Jacobs with her Victoria Sponge …”

Hannah barely heard Leroy Barnes winning with his chocolate fudge. She didn’t care. Through all the adversity she’d taken the second-place rosette and a cheque for a thousand pounds. More than she’d ever won before. “Thank you, Bradley. I got second because of you stepping in today,” she said kissing him.

He shook his head. “No, you got second because your cake is scrumptious and you deserve it!” He returned the kiss. “I hope everybody learned; cheaters never win!”

The End

Thanks for reading my friends.

There’s more in the Poetry CornerPoetry Nook, Short Stories. Short Stories 2. and Short Stories 3 tabs.

Have a great day!

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