Carly's Cupcakes

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Carly makes -beautiful, delicious, inventive, cupcakes in her bakery. Carlotta keeps the synagogue running and dreams of trying one of Carly's cupcakes, but doesn't have the money to splurge on sweet treats. When the two cross paths, a sweet tale of tzedakah and community begins. 

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This episode was all about tzedakah (and cupcakes). If you want to keep the fun going, make your very own tzedakah box and start a practice together

illustration of a homemade tzedakah box

DIY Tzedakah box instructions

Now that your tzedakah box is all set, you can also share a little love with a sweet treat. Whether you're a first time baker or an expert confectioner, "short-cut" cupcakes provide lots of room experiment with flavors, just like Carly does in the story. 

Siblings bite into homemade cupcakes

Short-cut Cupcake Recipe:


  • One box of cake mix
  • One can (about 3/4 of a cup) of your favorite carbonated beverage.

Preheat the oven according to the directions on the cake mix package
Coat a cupcake tin with non-stick cooking spray
In a bowl combine your boxed cake mix and your carbonated beverage
Mix until well combined and all lumps are gone
Fill each cupcake 3/4 full with your mixture
Pop your cakes in the oven. Follow the instructions for the original baking time adding 3-5 minutes.
Let cupcakes cool, then decorate and enjoy.

TIP: Plain seltzer water works great, but you can have fun changing up flavors just like Carly does. What happens, for example, if you mix orange soda with vanilla cake mix? How about cherry cola with a box of dark chocolate cake? 

If you liked this story, you’ll love one of these books:

Tikkun olam (literally, “repairing the world”) is a basic Jewish tenet. By demonstrating care for others and for the earth, we hope to bring about wholeness and peace in the world. And, as Carly and Carlotta show us, everyone can help do their part (even when they don't know they're doing it). For more stories about repairing the world through tzedakah, righteous giving, check out one of these books:


Browse other Jewish children’s books about tzedakah


Episode Notes

Carly and Carlotta's story is based on an old folktale, commonly called challah in the ark. There are several different versions, including a Sephardic story featuring a hero named Jacobi. They each share the same main plot points: a kind person, looking to feel closer to God, leaves challah (or another baked good) in the ark, and in doing so, feeds a neighbor in need. Upon learning that their exchange is person to person, the bread maker realizes how helping even a single person in the community is an act of justice, and ultimately, a way to repair the world.  

While many people think of tzedakah as charity, the word actually means "justice," specifically, doing the right things by helping people or causes in need. As Rabbi Naomi points out to Carly, being generous and giving doesn't just feel good - it's also part of a unique, Jewish heritage.

Episode Credits

Have I Got a Story For You is a production of PJ Library

Executive producers: Meredith Lewis, Alli Thresher
Director: Alli Thresher
Additional production: Craig Rossein
Website design: Christina Rizer
Audio editing, mixing and mastering: Peter Moore
Score: Peter Moore
Recorded at Palace of Purpose Studios in Malden, MA.
Cover art: Barb Bastian
Original story, Carly's Cupcakes by Naomi Shulman
Podcast episode written by Jan Schwaid


Narrator, Rita Toomey: Madelaine Ripley
Carly: Gwen D'Angelo
Carlotta: Deirdre Wade
Rabbi Naomi: Jennifer Kenneally
Carlotta's Children: Danielle Geist and Payton James Osborne