The Great Cupcake Caper

Mystery Solved! Country Woman magazine's "Finish-the-Story" Contest had a very happy ending.

Below is the unsolved mystery, written by editorial staffer Mark Hagen, followed by the first-place ending, penned by Samantha Lang of Rochester Hills, Michigan. Her well-worded detective work earned her $300. Congratulations, Samantha!

Molly Malloy couldn't believe her luck—or lack of it. Her wonderful friends in the garden club, the Lilies of the Valley, had such faith in her that they'd asked her to enter her cupcakes in the town bake-off, already planning a "dream greenhouse" with the cash prize.

But a series of unlucky interruptions had left her rushed, and now she was hoping not to let her friends down.

"My Peanut Butter and Jelly Cupcakes won't win a cent without this," Molly sighed as she looked at an empty jam jar. "I guess I'll just try grape jelly in the filling instead of my traditional strawberry jam."

As the goodies baked, Molly checked the kitchen clock again. She preferred using her grandmother's butter cream frosting when she had the luxury of time. But with the judging at noon, a can of cream cheese frosting would have to do.

"Where are those famous cupcakes?" an enthusiastic voice soon called through the screen door. It was Dottie Brookes, the liveliest—and loudest—of the Lilies. Molly adored her, but laughed at the question. She was too modest to consider anything from her kitchen "famous." Popular, perhaps—her baking had earned three blue ribbons over the years.

"Mmm…these cupcakes are winners for sure," Dottie said, entering the kitchen and giving Molly a hug. "You made the PB&J ones we're all crazy about, right?"

Before Molly could answer, her husband, Del, walked in, fresh from the wheat field. "What beauties!" he said, giving Molly a peck on the cheek. "You and Dottie look nice, too, honey," he added with a boyish grin, reaching toward the cupcakes.

"Don't!" the women cried in unison.

Stiff Competition

Del laughed. "That's right—they're for the contest, although, I'm not sure why you went to the trouble," he teased. "Everyone knows that Sam from my sportsmen's club is going to win."

What Molly was to the Lilies of the Valley, Sam Peters was to the sportsmen. They were convinced his Marshmallow Brownies would claim the bake-off prize, and planned to put the money toward a chartered fishing trip.

"Besides," Del continued, "your cupcakes have already won a few times. Maybe someone else should get a crack at it this year."

"Well, it's not going to be Sam Peters," Dottie volleyed back. "You boys can save his brownies for your next fishing trip. They'll be perfect for bait."

"Enough, you two," Molly interrupted, smiling. "Dottie, pick out the five best cupcakes for judging and get them ready. I'll get my coat."

Dottie selected the prettiest and set them on a serving plate. Molly gave Del a quick good-bye hug, and he promised to meet her in town for the judging after he cleaned up a bit.

The town hall was buzzing when the women arrived. Dottie took the platter of cupcakes to the judging table while Molly filled out an entry form and greeted the friendly faces around her. The men from the sportsmen's club were there, as were the other Lilies of the Valley—Della, Charlotte, Velma and Kay.

Eventually, Molly made her way to the judging table. "No worries, sugar," Dottie whispered. "Sam's brownies look like roofing shingles topped with shaving cream."

The two surveyed the other entries, but stopped in their tracks when they came to Molly's platter. It was empty!

Vanishing Act

"Where are they?" Molly gasped.

"I…I don't know," Dottie sputtered. "They were there 10 minutes ago."

"Well, I made 2 dozen, so let's just grab some more," Molly said calmly. "Where'd you put the rest?"

"Oh, no!" Dottie exclaimed. "I forgot about the bake sale after the judging. I only brought the five!"

A frantic search began. It wasn't long before the other Lilies joined the hunt, as did Del, who'd just arrived in the pickup.

Sheriff Bosley soon came on the scene. "What's going on?" he asked, popping the last of a golden pastry into his mouth.

The garden club members rushed him. "Molly's delicious cupcakes are missing," Dottie blurted.

"Yes, the ones with the cream cheese frosting," Della explained.

"And grape filling," said Charlotte, as Velma nodded. "That's grape jelly," Kay clarified, seeing the sheriff reach for his notepad.

Even Sam Peters graciously added, "Maybe we should postpone the contest."

Molly looked at Del, who gave her a wink. "Never mind, sheriff," she chuckled. "I think I know exactly what happened to the cupcakes."

"Finish-the-Story" First-Place Winner

Here's where contest-winner Samantha picks up the story…

With a nod, the sheriff left with Sam and Del.

"Anyway, I shouldn't have changed the recipe," Molly scoffed. "Grape jelly!"

"Oh no, Molly!" Kay interjected. "They were top-notch."

"We ate every extra," Della added.

"Extras!" exclaimed Molly. "I only brought five for judging."

Velma frowned. "Sam brought us five cupcakes. Sam!"

The Lilies gasped.

But there wasn't time for action. A judge called for attention. "This bake-off was no contest," she announced. "Congratulations to…"

Dottie squeezed Molly's arm. "You gave it your best. Just wait until…"

"Molly Malloy and her Peanut Butter and Jelly Cupcake!"

"Cupcake?" Molly echoed. Suddenly, Del and Sam appeared. "Del," Molly sputtered. "How…why…?"

Del grinned. "I happened to grab a few cupcakes for the road after washing up. Fortunately for you," he winked, "I ate all but one."

A sheepish Sam held up a plate adorned with an honorable mention ribbon.

"Marshmallow Brownie, anyone?"