“Oh no! The ice cream melted!” said the father of 11-year-old Celeste Peterson.
On the warm December day, John Peterson leaned against the door of his rainbow-painted Ice Cream Truck. It sat in the driveway of his brown brick home, dripping with desserts. The wiring in the freezer had frizzled and left him with nothing but a river of cream and sugar.
“I’m the Ice Cream Truck Man! My ice cream can’t melt away,” he said, adjusting his red-striped hat. Celeste shrugged her shoulders, licking two melting popsicles at once.
“Now I have nothing to sell to the children today,” Mr. Peterson said to Celeste.
“It’s already harder to sell ice cream in the winter. It’s usually so cold outside!” he said, enjoying the winter sunshine. “It’s going to cost me a bundle to pay to fix the freezer. There will be no money left for Christmas gifts.”
Every Saturday afternoon, neighborhood children gathered at his truck when they heard its jingle.
“Well, Dad, the next best thing to ice cream is angel food cake,” Celeste said. “Angels eat angel food cake. I think there might even be angels in the cake . . .”
“Angels in the cake? What are you talking about, Celeste?” her dad said, mopping up the truck.
“I’m going to make you angel food cakes, so you can sell them and pay to fix the freezer!” she said. “We’ll still have money left for Christmas gifts. Maybe we’ll meet some angels if we fill the truck with cakes.”
Celeste ran into her father’s kitchen and pulled the mixer from the lower cabinet. She mixed into the bowl the main ingredients: sugar, flour, egg whites, vanilla, and salt. Then she sent the mixer arms spinning, whipping the batter into a thick mixture. She took her rubber spatula and tasted a mouthful of the batter.
“Umm! Yummy!” she said, sticking her nose into the mixer’s bowl. “No wonder the angels like to eat angel food cake. It’s so good that I feel like becoming an angel.”
She scraped the mixture into baking tins and placed them in the warm oven. When the angel food cake finished baking, she made sure that her father ate the first slice.
“Dad, come have a piece of cake!” Celeste called to him from the window. He had spent most of the day fiddling with the broken freezer in the ice cream truck.
“It’s wonderful!” Mr. Peterson said, sitting at the kitchen table eating a large slice of cake.
“Next weekend, we’ll sell enough angel food cake to buy a new freezer,” Celeste said.
“Who’s going to buy angel food cake from an ice cream truck in December?” her dad said in a weary voice.
“Mom would say that the angels are going to buy it. It’s angel food,” Celeste said. “Since she’s with the angels, she’ll send angels to buy the cakes,” the child said, thinking of her mom in heaven.
Mrs. Peterson had passed away last Christmas, and Mr. Peterson had been heartbroken ever since. “I’m still going to try to fix the freezer, Celeste,” Mr. Peterson said, finishing his dessert. “Your mom would like the angel food cake; just try not to overdo it,” he said, looking at Mrs. Peterson’s picture.
“Dad, I never overdo anything, but I might have to take the week off from school,” Celeste said.
“Your teacher will never agree to you taking the week off from school . . . will she?” he said.
“She might, because I’m baking my own miracle for the angels to come!” she said. “If I bake enough angel food cake, angels will come to help us from every part of heaven.”
Just in case Celeste was right, Mr. Peterson grabbed a pad of paper from the side desk and scratched out a quick note.
“Mrs. Rogers, Celeste has a stomachache and can’t come to school this week,” her dad wrote. Then he scribbled: “She ate too much sugar. I’m sure you understand. Yours, Mr. Peterson.”
He knew it was better not to argue with Celeste, because she would do what she wanted to do anyhow. Mr. Peterson put a stamp on his letter, popped the letter in the post, and kept tinkering with his truck.
The next day, Mrs. Rogers, Celeste’s sixth-grade teacher, called to inquire about Mr. Peterson’s letter.
“Mr. Peterson, why did you write me a letter in the mail? Most people in this century use the telephone! What’s that daughter of yours up to now? She always has some sort of magical idea in her head!” Mrs. Rogers said.
“Celeste has just been so excited about Christmas that she ate one too many angel food cakes,” he said. “It sort of went to her head if you know what I mean. But don’t you worry about her. Merry Christmas!”
Before Mrs. Rogers could argue with him, Mr. Peterson hung up the phone and pulled the cord from the wall.
He stared at the angel on top of their Christmas tree, hoping Mrs. Rogers would not show up at his front door. During the next week, Celeste set about making enough angel food cakes to fill the entire ice cream truck. Mid-way through the week, Mrs. Rogers appeared unannounced, pressing her nose against the kitchen window.
“What are you doing in there, Celeste?” Mrs. Rogers said. “I don’t believe for one minute that you’re sick!”
“Of course, I’m sick!” Celeste said, putting the blender on high and turning up the Christmas carols on the radio.
“If this behavior continues, you’ll be expelled from school!” Mrs. Rogers said. “Or you’ll at least be suspended.”
“Good! Then, I can stay home and make angel food cakes,” Celeste called to Mrs. Rogers through the window.
As a peace offering, Celeste slipped an angel food cake through the kitchen’s pet door, wrapped in aluminum foil.
Mrs. Rogers grabbed the cake and stomped off in disgust: “I’m calling your father as soon as I get home!”
“Too bad! He pulled the phone cord from the wall,” Celeste said, singing “Angels We Have Heard On High.”
Despite Mrs. Rogers’ protest, Celeste added red and green food coloring and icing to the cakes. She even added Christmas colors of white whipped cream, red strawberries, and green mint leaves to the desserts.
Then she carefully stacked the finished cakes one by one on top of each other in the truck. Every now and then, the cakes toppled over, and Celeste had to dust them off and restack them. On Friday night, while Celeste restacked the cakes with her dad, Mrs. Rogers came up behind her in the driveway.
Mr. Peterson put a bag on his head and hid in the ice cream truck, ducking beneath the counter next to the broken freezer.
“Child, what in the heavens have you been doing?” Mrs. Rogers said. “Home economics doesn’t start until seventh grade, and then you start with something small like garlic rolls or chocolate chip cookies. Where is your father?”
“I’m making food for the angels,” Celeste said. “Don’t you believe in angels, Mrs. Rogers?”
“I believe we have to start home economics class in the sixth grade,” Mrs. Rogers said, taking a cake from the stack.
“Make sure you come back tomorrow morning, Mrs. Rogers, when the angels come to buy cakes!” Celeste said.
“I’ll be here, but unless you plan to grow angel wings, you better pass your math exam next week!” Mrs. Rogers said.
When Saturday morning finally came, it turned out to be a beautiful December day with an inch of snow.
So many strangers, including Christmas carolers, visited the truck that Celeste knew they were angels. Customers from everywhere bought angel food cakes for their families, friends, and neighbors. Even Mrs. Rogers bought an angel food cake for her husband to enjoy for dessert that evening.
“Celeste, get your derrière in my classroom bright and early on Monday morning!” Mrs. Rogers said.
“Yes, Mrs. Rogers, thank you for your business,” Celeste said, as she counted every nickel in the cash drawer.
Her father made so much money from the cakes that he bought a new truck instead of fixing the broken freezer.
“I’m naming this the Angel Food Cake Ice Cream Truck,” Mr. Peterson said, displaying a picture of Celeste’s mom.
“I told you the next best thing to ice cream is angel food cake,” Celeste said, eating the cake with ice cream.
On Christmas morning, there were enough presents beneath Celeste’s tree for everyone in the neighborhood. From then on, Celeste and Mr. Peterson sold angel food cake with ice cream and never lacked a thing.
Celeste told everyone it was because her mother sent the angels from heaven—who had their cake, and ate it, too. She even hung a sign on the new truck that said: “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”
Copyright 2016 Jennifer Waters
Dedicated to my grandmother, Dorothy Moyer, for her love of angel food cakes.