Stoneybrook is playing host to a baking contest. There will be a junior division (9 to 15 years old) and and adult division (16 nd up) and the winner from each will get $1000 and have the winning recipe published in a cookbook. Claudia decides to enter, and since teams of up to three people are allowed, Mary Anne and Shea Rodowsky join her. The contest will run over two weekends, and ( as usual) the whole BSC is involved. Mary Anne, Claudia, and Logan are the only members who are actually entering the contest (Logan is on a team with his sister and Austin Bentley); the rest of them are going to help run the day care that's being set up so the adult contestants have a place to leave their kids while they're baking.
The day before the start of the contest, the girls head to SHS (that's where the contest is being held) to meet with Marty Nisson, the guy who's helping them get the day care set up. He also asks one of them to be a "Cake Cop:" someone who walks around and makes sure everyone is following the rules. Wanna guess who signs up for that? Yep, it's Kristy. On the first day of the contest, the adults are up first, so everyone in the BSC is in the day care, helping. It's a little hectic, since the teacher's lounge is pretty small, and not really designed for the purpose. PRetty soon, though, the afternoon rolls around and it's time for Mary Anne and Claudia to start baking. Strange things start to happen right away; someone substitutes flour for baking soda, causing Claud, Mary Anne, and Shea's cake to come out flat. Someone also turns the temperature on the oven that Logan's team is using, and increases the baking time. Claudia immediately suspects Grace Blume and Mari Drabek; nothing went wrong for them, and they've never gotten along with the BSC. The next day, though, there's a fire in Grace and Mari's oven, and they suspect Claudia and her friends of causing it. Not so; someone had subsituted baking powder for the cornstarch that was supposed to be used in their recipe, causing the batter to rise, spill over the pan, and catch fire. Grace and Mari are given an extension , but still don't finish.
Not long after, Claudia is picking up some things at the hardware store for her parents when she runs into Grace Blume. Grace accuses Claud and her friends of being behind all the sabotage, and Claud accuses her right back. They both deny it and convince each other that they're being truthful. They decide to join forces to try and figure out who's behind the sabotage. There are a few suspects; several of the parents of the younger contestants have been hanging around, trying to interfere (against the rules of the contest). A couple of them have even been escorted out by Kristy the Cake Cop. Jackie Rodowsky has also been acting strangely. He disappears from the day care, and reappears later, covered in white powder. The BSC knocks him off the suspect list pretty quickly; he's been borrowing ingredients to make his own cake, just to prove that he can do what big brother Shea is doing.
When the results of the qualifying round are announced, Claud's team, Logan's team, and Grace's team have all made it into the finals. They celebrate with pizza, and more discussion about who's trying to sabotage the contest. They realize that the culprit seems to be targeting the more successful bakers (duh), but aren't any closer to figuring out who that culprit is. They arrive early on the day of the finals, and another piece is added to the puzzle. They spot one of the older contestants in the junior divison getting out of her car....with Marty Nisson. It's pretty clear they're together. COuld Marty want to help his girlfriend win badly enough to try and wreck other contestants' chances? Yep. Claudia's team sets up a little sting operation to try and catch the culprit. They mix up their cake, and when it's time to bake, they use Grace and Mari's oven. They let it be known that they'll all be away from their cooking station, and they hide in another station across the room to watch. Sure enough, Marty sneaks in and tries tampering with their oven. Claudia had put a thin layer of flour all over everything, so even if Marty had managed to get away, it would have been clear that he was the guilty party. He's not the only one; his girlfriend entered the contest illegally. After all, the junior division is for kids ages 9 to 15. Why would a 15 year old be driving a car?
The rest of the contest runs smoothly. Claud and her team are all nervous when it comes time to announce the winners. They didn't need to be; their chocolate cherry cake (a favorite recipe of Mary Anne's mother) is the big winner.
Thoughts and Things
- Wow...Claudia's hair isn't in a side ponytail on this cover! I guess that would be kind of hard to manage, given the chef's hat.
- Remember my plan to get through the rest of the mysteries by picturing Sgt. Johnson as super hot? That's been a little tough, considering he hasn't been in any of the mysteries since I made that decision. Oh, well....at least this one had plenty of cake. And pizza!
- I really like Grace Blume in this book, and it's a shame that her friendship with the BSC didn't really continue in any future books. That might have made for some interesting conflicts.
- I wonder what methods Kristy used to escort rule breaking parents out the contest? I'm guessing that most of them were bigger than her, but it only says that she got help once.
- Claudia has a Hershey's Kiss charm on her charm bracelet...which is pretty awesome.
- Claudia also spends half a chapter talking about how awesome her family's new cordless phone is. She's excited about the fact that she can almost walk into the neighbor's yard before it gets staticy. She'd probably pee herself if someone told her about cell phones...