Kevin Kinney will pay whatever it takes to bring home the Death By Chocolate Cake.

This year, that was $800.

Kinney was the top bidder for Bonnie Estes' Death By Chocolate Cake at the 10th annual Love, Inc. banquet and dessert silent auction held last month at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center. 

The five-layer chocolate cake — three on the bottom tier and two on the top — was one of more than 215 spectacular desserts made by more than 150 volunteer bakers that raised thousands of dollars for the local faith-based charity.

Any of those confections would make a delicious conclusion to a holiday meal, especially seasonal desserts such as  Gingerbread Cake with Candied Pistachios; Cranberry Walnut Layer Cake or Mrs. Santa's Hot Fudge Sauce. 

Nothing says Christmas quite like Gingerbread, and Barb Vargo's Gingerbread Cake with Candied Pistachios packs an extra punch of the pungent, peppery spice.

"My favorite part is the fresh ginger chunks in the cake — hot and sweet," said Vargo. "You can double the amount if you like that part of it, too."

Kristol McKie's Mrs. Santa's Hot Fudge Sauce has been a staple of her Christmas gift-giving for years.

"I have made up up to 30 jars of this each Christmas as teacher gifts and for family and friends," McKie said. The delicious dessert sauce keeps for up to one year when stored in the refrigerator.

None of those tempted Kinney, however. The South Dakota Highway Patrol sergeant has made it his mission for the last four years to buy Estes' cake, whatever the price. With a little help from his friends and neighbors, he bid $800 this year; $600 last year; the year before that $450.

"I think this is the fourth year I've won it," he said. "It's kind of a competition. It's something I really enjoy doing because I know the money is going to a good cause. This is a great way for us to support a great ministry."

This year, Kinney raised almost $1,000 for the cake, all of which goes to the cause. "If there's extra, it just gets given to Love, Inc., too," Kinney said.

He and his wife, Megan, host a table for the banquet and everyone they invite contributes to his goal of winning the cake. So do other friends and neighbors, and Kinney shares the oversize cake with them all. In fact, he shares it with competing bidders, too.

"The cake is big enough. We're more than willing to share with them," he said. Whatever is left over after the banquet-goers eat their fill, he takes home and hands out to others to thank them for their contributions, or to tempt them to contribute to next year's auction.

But Love,  Inc. is definitely better off with him as a buyer, than as a baker, Kinney said. "The cake is excellent, but you can only eat about one piece. It's very sweet and very rich," he said.

In fact, the only thing missing is some vanilla ice cream, which Kinney said he plans to bring with him next year.

Estes usually limits her cake baking to supporting ministries. 

"That's one of the gifts of my life, that I can make desserts," she said. Using that skill to raise thousands of dollars for Love, INC., over the years is a "wonderful" feeling, she said. "It's such a blessing to help people that are in need."

One of her favorites is Love, INC.  "We really just love the way Love, INC. teaches people how to be wise with their money," Estes said.

For a spectacular dessert for your Christmas party or New Year's Eve celebration, here's Estes' recipe for Death by Chocolate Cake and a  sampling of other holiday recipes sold at the Love, Inc. auction.

Death by Chocolate Cake

(Bonnie Estes)

1 box fudge cake mix

1 small package chocolate instant pudding mix

1 12-ounce package chocolate chips

4 eggs

8 ounces sour cream

½ cup vegetable oil

½ cup water


Blend all ingredients except chocolate chips until thoroughly mixed. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour into two 9-inch round cake pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes. Cool about 20 minutes before removing from pan.

Chocolate Frosting:

9 ounces bittersweet chocolate chopped

1 cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon dark rum (optional)

Place the chocolate into a medium bowl. Heat the cream in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Bring just to a boil. Watch very carefully or it will boil out of the pot. When the cream has come to a boil, pour it over the chopped chocolate and whisk until smooth. Stir in the rum if desired. Allow the ganache to cool slightly before pouring over the cake.


Mrs. Santa’s Hot Fudge Sauce

(Kristol McKie)

¼ cup butter 

1  1/2 squares unsweetened chocolate  

¾ cup granulated sugar

¼ cup dry cocoa

dash of salt

1/2 cup cream

1 teaspoon vanilla

Melt butter and chocolate over low heat.  Mix sugar, cocoa and salt and add to chocolate mixture.  Mix until smooth; add cream slowly and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat immediately and add vanilla.  Refrigerated this sauce will keep for up to a year. Serve over ice cream or cheesecake. 

Gingerbread Cake with Candied Pistachios

(Barb Vargo)

Candied Pistachios:

1 cup chopped pistachios

1 tablespoon corn syrup

2 tablespoons sugar

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line baking sheet with foil. Mix pistachios and corn syrup and quickly toss in sugar and spread on baking sheet. Bake 8 minutes, checking off to prevent burning. Cool.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour 2 to 3 8-inch pans.

1 cup Guinness Extra Stout

1 cup molasses

1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 cups flour

1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoons cloves

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon cardamon

3 eggs

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

3/4 cup vegetable oil

1 tablespoon minced/peeled fresh ginger, or more to taste

Bring stout and molasses to boil. Remove from heat and stir in baking soda. Cool 1 hour. Blend together flour, baking powder and spices. Whisk eggs and sugars. Whisk oil and cooled stout mixture with eggs. Slowly add wet mixture to  flour mixture. Stir in fresh ginger. Bake 25-35 minutes, more if using 2 pans, less if using three pans.

Cool and frost. Add candied pistachios just before serving.


2 8-ounce packages cream cheese

1/2 cup butter

3/4 teaspoon grated orange peel

2 cups powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

Beat all ingredients together at room temperature.

 Cranberry Pecan Layer Cake

(Lorys Eisland)

2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries

1 package white cake mix (2 layer size)

1 cup water

1/3 cup oil

3 eggs

1 cup chopped pecans, toasted

1 tablespoon finely shredded orange peel

Rinse and drain cranberries. Chop and set aside. Grease and flour two 9 x 1 1/2 inch round cake pans. Set aside.

In large mixing bowl combine cake mix, water, oil and eggs. Beat on low just until combined. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Fold in cranberries, 1 cup pecans, and the orange peel. Divide between prepared pans, spreading evenly.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool cake layers in pans on wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove cake layers from pans. Cool completely on wire racks.

Place one layer on serving plate. Spread with some of the cream cheese frosting. Top with the second layer. Spread top and sides of cake with remaining frosting. Sprinkle with the 1/4 cup pecans. Serve immediately or cover loosely and store in the refrigerator. Let chilled cake stand at room temperature about 30 minutes before serving. Makes 12 servings.

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 teaspoon vanilla

4 3/4 to 5 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1/2 teaspoon finely shredded orange peel

1/4 cup chopped pecans

In a large mixing bowl beat cream cheese, butter and vanilla with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in enough powdered sugar to reach spreading consistency. Stir in finely shredded orange peel. Makes about 3 1/4 cups.

Strawberry Cheesecake

(Jennifer Friedman)


20 whole graham crackers, crushed

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, diced

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

Cake filling:

4 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature

1 3/4 cups white sugar

3 tablespoons lemon juice

2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

pinch salt

3 tablespoons flour

5 large eggs

Cake topping:

2 cups sour cream

3 tablespoons white sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 16-ounce basket hulled strawberries

1 18-ounce jar raspberry jelly

Mix crust ingredients and press into a 10-inch spring form pan and up sides. Bake 10 minutes at 350 degrees. For filling, beat cheese, sugar, lemon juice, vanilla and salt until smooth. Beat in flour. Add eggs and beat just until blended. Pour into crust and bake 55 minutes. Cool 10 minutes. For topping, mix sour cream, sugar and vanilla and spread on the cake. Bake 5 minutes. Cool in pan. Chill overnight. Remove pan sides. Arrange berries with points up. Cover cake. Heat jelly until just melted. Cool to lukewarm and brush over berries and drip in between them, being sure to cover berries completely with jelly to prevent them from drying out. Cover cake and refrigerate until serving.





Contact Mary Garrigan at 394-8424 or

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