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Ellen DeGeneres Surprises Furloughed Maryland Sisters with $20,000 Cheesecake Order

Two Maryland sisters got quite the surprise recently when daytime talk show host Ellen DeGeneres gifted them with $20,000 for a single order of their delicious cheesecakes.

Jaqi Wright and Nikki Howard, who live in Oxon Hill, recently launched their business selling cheesecake while being furloughed from their jobs during the partial government shutdown, Washington station ABC 7 reported. DeGeneres hoped to give their business a boost and, with the help of Cheerios, placed what could be the priciest cheesecake order ever.

Ellen DeGeneres

Host Ellen DeGeneres surprised two furloughed government workers with $20,000 in exchange for one of their cheesecakes. (EllenTube video screenshot)

“The government shutdown left these sisters in a tough spot, so our friends at Cheerios helped me purchase the most expensive cheesecake in history,” the comedienne tweeted last Friday.

Wright and Howard, who work for the U.S. Department of Justice and the Food and Drug Administration, respectively, have been furloughed since Dec. 22 and told DeGeneres that their situation has been “horrible.” Bills are due, and the sisters said they’re unable to use their furlough letters to buy groceries or gas.

“It’s either cry or get up and do something, so we decided to get up and do something,”  Howard told the news station.

During their “Ellen Show” appearance, Wright recalled when her sister sent her home New Year’s Day with one of her homemade cheesecakes. After just one bite, Wright said she nearly forgot about the furlough because the cake was just that delicious. She handed a slice to her mom, who was equally amazed at how great it tasted.

“My mother said, ‘Girl, you could sell these cheesecakes,’” Wright told DeGeneres. “And I sat up straight and I’m like ‘ding, ding, ding.’ We can sell it, sister! And so I said let’s call it the Furlough Cheesecake, and that’s how it happened.”

Howard, who bakes the cakes, said her goal is to make 75 to 100 cheesecakes each day, although the sisters say they’re taking in more orders than they’re pushing out desserts.

DeGeneres said their orders were bound to skyrocket after the appearance and, moments later, surprised the duo with a whopping $20,000 in exchange for a cheesecake.

“All right, that’s to buy one cheesecake!” the host said. “So you use that $20,000 and send me a cheesecake because I love cheesecake.”

To purchase a cheesecake, visit

Watch more in the video below.

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