The Bride Wore Chocolate

By: Shirley Jump

1 cup granulated sugar

2 cups butter

1 cup water





1 teaspoon instant coffee


1 pound high-quality, amazing-tasting semisweet chocolate

8 eggs, beaten slightly





Put the oven on 350 degrees. Grease up a 9-inch springform pan (and if it helps any, pretend the pan is a good-looking man). In a saucepan, heat sugar, butter, water, coffee and chocolate, stirring like your life depended on it (and actually it does—this is chocolate). Remove from heat when chocolate is melted and smooth. Take one taste to ensure you've used good-quality ingredients.



Okay, take another, just to be positive.



Stir in those eggs and ignore that nasty phase before they're properly mixed.



Now it's time to let it go. I know, I know. It looks good already but truly, you have to cook it. Salmonella and all that. Wouldn't want your groom to be indisposed on the big day. Pour the gorgeous chocolate batter into the pan. Bake 45-50 minutes. Try desperately not to think about the cake until after the timer goes off. Remove from oven and while it's cooling, put on “Chapel of Love.” When you're finally in that wedding mood, indulge. Liberally.





CHAPTER 1





Candace Woodrow stared at the gooey, sunken mess inverting onto itself like there was a Hoover under the table. “This was supposed to be a groom's cake, not a pancake.”

Rebecca poked at the chocolate failure. “Did you cook it long enough?”

“I thought I did,” Candace said. “I lost track of time because Trifecta needed to go out.”

“I've seen you with that dog.” Maria wagged a finger at her. “Taking a three-legged dog for a walk is a comedy of errors.” She gave an indulgent smile to Candace's shelter-rescued mutt, dozing in the front part of the shop, separated from the kitchen by a glass door. “We still love ya, Trifecta, even if you are a living tripod.”

Candace laughed. The best thing about working with her friends every day was the laughter. Without them, she swore she'd have gone crazy planning her wedding.

Two years ago, the three of them had started Gift Baskets to Die For in the basement of Candace's Dorchester duplex. Within a year, their food-themed baskets had hit it big with the corporations in Boston, allowing them to open a storefront in a quaint building not far from Faneuil Hall Marketplace. Business had been brisk enough to pay both the rent and decent salaries for all of them.

Candace's life was settled, secure. On an even, planned keel. She was twenty-seven, three weeks from being married, and her life was chugging along on the path she'd laid out.

Everything was perfect—except the cake.

“Maybe the eggs were spoiled,” Candace said. “I mean, look at this thing. It's an overgrown hockey puck.”

“It's a sign.” Maria nodded and her shoulder-length chestnut curls shook in emphasis. “Yep. Definitely a sign.”

Rebecca shushed her. “Will you stop with that? This is Candace's wedding we're talking about. Don't make her more nervous than she already is.” She took another look at the cake. “I think you just underbaked it. Besides, this was a trial run. We'll make another one before the wedding.”

“What if it is a sign?” Candace threw up her hands. “Look at all that's gone wrong with my wedding. The DJ I booked had a heart attack—”

“He said the wheelchair won't stop him from spinning CDs,” Rebecca pointed out.

“If he doesn't electrocute himself with the IV drip,” Maria added.

“And then last week Father Kenny ran off with the church secretary.”

“Who turned out to be a Daniel, not a Danielle like we all thought.” Maria grabbed a raspberry thumbprint cookie from the Tupperware container on the counter and took a bite. Maria Pagliano's method of dieting involved buying the latest issues of Cosmo, Glamour and Woman's World, picking and choosing the parts she liked from their diets of the month, then chucking the whole thing on weekends.

“Don't forget the fire at the dress shop. I still can't believe the store burned to the ground, and with your dress inside.” Rebecca twisted a scrunchie around her straight brown hair, creating a jaunty ponytail. On Rebecca Hamilton, almost any hairstyle looked good. She had one of those long, delicate faces made for Cover Girl. “It was kind of heroic, though, how that cute fireman kept you from going in after it. He saved your life.”

“I would have rather he saved my dress,” Candace muttered. “At least I have insurance. But I still need to find another dress. I can't get that particular one anymore and even if I could, there's not enough time to order it.”

“You haven't bought one yet?” Maria's jaw dropped. “But Candace, the wedding's only three weeks away.”