- Use a high-quality cocoa powder for a rich chocolate flavor to the cupcake. We used a combo of Dutch cocoa powder and black cocoa and loved the results.
- Stock up on Terry’s Chocolate Oranges when you find them. They’re seasonal and can be hard to find
- Because the orange extract goes in both the batter and the frosting, use a high-quality brand for a natural tasting citrus flavor. We like these citrus oils from the King Arthur Baking Company. Fresh juice and zest is key also.
2023 Minnesota State Fair Special Baking Contests Celebrate Healthy Cookies, Low-Sugar Chocolate Desserts, Citrus Cakes & More
Minneapolis-St Paul, MN – June 20, 2023 – Minnesota hobby bakers and home cooks are hitting their kitchens to vie for big blue ribbon bragging rights and prizes in our special contest series at the 2023 Minnesota State Fair.
Register by Tue Aug 1, 2023, 4:30pm, All Baking Contests Sat Aug 19, 2023
At the Minnesota State Fair, our hometown fair, look for these new special contests, each with $100 to $200 for first place, plus runner-up prizes. Registration is now open. It closes Tue Aug 1, 2023, 4:30pm CT. All contests happen Sat Aug 19, 2023, drop off 9:30am to 1pm, Creative Activities Building. Winners announced Thu Aug 24, 2023. Having trouble finding what you need? Drop us a line here.
Kowalski’s Markets “Citrus Cake Contest”
Bring sunshine to the table with your best and brightest, citrus-flavored cakes. Feature lemon, lime, orange, or other tangy citrus ingredients in your cake, solo or with any complimentary flavors. Wow the judges and our taste buds. Entries can be any size or shape: layer, sheet, tube, cupcake or bite-sized. Prizes: $100 1st, $50 2nd, $25 3rd (gift cards).
Join Kowalski’s Markets in celebrating opening day of the fair Thursday August 24th, with their Cambria Kitchen “takeover,” an event, not to be missed They’ll feature local growers with demos and off complimentary samples and other giveaways throughout the day.
Splenda Magic Baker “Low-To-No Sugar Showdown” Theme: Chocolate Desserts
Make your favorite chocolate sweet treats for this Low-To-No Sugar Showdown. Use little to no added sugar. Think pies, pastries, puddings, custards, cakes, cookies, or cheesecakes. Sweeten your entry with 1/4 cup or more of any Splenda product, such as Splenda Magic Baker, a new plant-based, zero-calorie sweetener. It measures and tastes like sugar. Use it 1 to 1 for replacing sugar. Prizes: $200 1st, $100 2nd, $50 3rd (gift cards).
UnitedHealthcare “Healthy Cookie Contest”
Make energy bars, on-the-go sweet treats or any cookie that has a health-minded twist or theme. Use “good-for-you” ingredients that help you power through the day, have nutritional value, or are a fit for special diets. Think protein powders, nuts, nut butters, fruits, and seeds. You can even simply “healthify” your favorite cookie to have less sugar, fat or calories. Your entry can be baked or no-bake style. The term “cookie” is open to interpretation and that’s intentional. Prizes: $200 1st, $100 2nd, $50 3rd.
Blue Ribbon Baker Awards
In addition to the Minnesota State Fair Special Baking Contests 2023, we also organized Minnesota State Fair Blue ribbon baker awards for anyone winning 1st place for any cookie and cake classes in general baking. Each will receive a $25 gift card.
Key Dates to Remember
- Competitors Register by Tue Aug 1, 2023, 4:30pm
- Drop Off Day Sat Aug 19, 2022, 9:30am to 1pm
- View Winner Displays & Recipe Demos Aug 24 to Sep 4 in Creative Activities Building
First Time Participant or Need a Refresher?
All registration goes through the Minnesota State Fair competition department. Registration is free! Once you’re signed up, there is no obligation if you later can’t participate. Go to the Competitions/Creative Activities/Baked Products section at MNStateFair.org to sign up (under the Participants tab).
- Find all baking rules, regs, open classes, and cool special contests here and be sure to download the Creative Activities/Baked Goods Premium Book Section. Jump to pages 12-14 for the special contests, page by page.
- Sign up for the Competition Department email list here and be sure to choose “Creative Activities” as your email list.
- Create your online account here (then be sure your registration clears and is confirmed).
- For step-by-step guidance, go here.
Lime Pistachio Bundt Cake: this cake, with it’s bright tangy flavor and distinct nutty taste is a sure-fire crowd pleaser.
If you’re a fan of citrus, this is the cake for you. We also invite you to compete at the 2023 Minnesota State Fair, in the new Kowalski’s Markets Citrus Cake Contest. Learn more about the 2023 special contests here.
These Minnesota State Fair Mojito Lime Cookies are THE citrus sweet treat you need this summer. Have you ever had a Mojito? That delightful Cuban drink with crushed mint and fresh lime? I hope you have. It is one of my favorite cocktails to have on vacation and in warmer temps. The cocktail also served as direct inspiration for these award-winning Minnesota State Fair Mojito Lime Cookies.
Created by hobby baker Greg Boe, these cookies won second place at the 2013 Minnesota State Fair. He cleverly titled them “Incognito Mojitos.”
My cohort Crystal was the lucky one to remake Greg’s recipe. Find her step-by-step tips below that walk you through baking process. Or if you’re already ready to bake them, hit the “jump to recipe” button.
Every bite of these winning cookies will make you think of sunshine. The texture is light and chewy. Their aroma is magical. The lush lime flavor will transport you to the tropics. Enjoy!
Step by Step: Minnesota State Fair Mojito Lime Cookies
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, with the rack in the middle of the oven. Next, zest your lime and set aside.
Mix together flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Melt your butter in the microwave. In another bowl, put in the sugar and cream cheese, and pour the warmed, melted butter on top. Whisk to combine, making sure there are no clumps of cream cheese visible.
To this mixture, add the oil, egg, lime zest, lime juice, and vanilla extract. Whisk everything smooth. Gently fold in the flour mixture until a consistent dough is formed. Roll the dough in balls of approximately 2-3 tablespoons. Place on a parchment lined cookie sheet.
Bake 10-12 minutes, or until the edges just begin to brown.
Icing Adds a Sweet Minty Finish
Finely chop the mint for the icing and set aside. Mix the milk and confectioners’ sugar until smooth. Then add/blend in the corn syrup, vanilla extract and chopped mint. Mix until icing is shiny and smooth. Make sure you let the cookies completely cool before applying icing.
Spread the icing onto the cooled cookies. You may want to let the iced cookies sit before serving to give the icing a chance to harden. The hardened icing is like a candy shell on top of the chewy cookie! Yum! Enjoy!
This Blackberry Mojito Cream Pie won our best cream pie contest at the 2022 Minnesota State Fair. The award-winning pie combines a luscious key lime filling with a blackberry mint purée you swirl on top.
There’s a classic graham cracker crust at the bottom and homemade whipped cream on top. You finish this beauty with fresh blackberries and fresh mint as your garnishes. It makes for a striking presentation.
Blackberry Mojito Cream Pie
“Exceptional” was how the deciding judge described this creative key lime pie. And each slice is gorgeous.
Melinda Chapel is the pie’s creator. She was bursting with pride upon learning she won.
Melinda says you can make the pie with fresh or frozen blackberries. We used fresh in our trial and loved the results. You’ll want to make the fruit purée in advance. You could also pre-make the graham cracker crust.
You muddle fresh mint leaves for the blackberry purée. Mint is also featured in the filling, which you make with fresh key lime juice steeped in mint leaves. Sweetened condensed milk and egg yolks do the magic of sweetening and setting the filling. The result is nothing short of perfection.
Run, don’t walk, to the grocery store for this winning recipe’s ingredients. And if you’re looking for more Minnesota State Fair winning creations, use the search option and enter “Minnesota,” from any page on our blog. The MN Blackout Cake has been especially popular.
These Crispy Creamy Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies are a 2022 blue ribbon winner, a 1st Place creative cookie at the Minnesota State Fair.
Betsy Faber created these for one of the new 2022 special contests. Here’s what hers looked like. Perfection!
Betsy won $100 in King Arthur Baking Company gift cards and lots of accolades.
These Crispy Creamy Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies are exceedingly delicious. The cookies themselves are candy-like and the filling is magical. They are said to blur the line between candy and cookie.
Recreate these award-winning cookies today! Be sure to follow the recipe because Betsy gives lots of tips and tricks. Here are a few we found to be extra important.
Using no oil peanut butter is key. You want a brand that is 100% peanuts. No sugar, oil or anything else added. Otherwise the oil makes them spread out to thinly. You want them thin and solid but definitely not brittle.
Be sure not to overheat the “dough” part. It will harden once it’s heated by the time in the oven.
The dough really spreads out when in the oven so spread them out when baking.
Admittedly, this cookie takes some finesse to make. We botched our first batch and had to chop them into chewy toffee cookie chunks. They ended up being a perfect mix-in for homemade ice cream.
You are going to want to make these time and time again!
p.s. We updated this post with additional text and new photos after our testing activities.
Minnesota State Fair 2022 Baking Competition Winners Announced
Blue Ribbon Group special contests celebrate the best in home baking & cooking
Find the complete Creative Activities Building winner list here
Take in daily live demos/tasting Events in the Cambria Kitchen, starting with Kowalski’s Markets opening day
Minneapolis-St Paul, August 25, 2022 – Please join the Blue Ribbon Group in congratulating all the talented and creative entrants in our Blue Ribbon Special Contest Series at the Minnesota State Fair.
Splenda Magic Baker “Low-To-No Sugar Showdown” Winners
1st Place – Gina Walker of Savage for “Gina’s Sugar-Free Gourmet Banana Bread”
2nd Place – Billie Holterman-Schniepp of Cottage Grove for “Low-Sugar Apple Coffee Cake”
3rd Place – Christina Bergstrom of Twin Lakes for “Peaches & Cream Coffee Cake”
Kowalski’s “Great Chocolate Cake Contest” Winners
1st Place – Michelle Seyward of Woodbury for “MN Black Out Cake”
2nd Place – Erin Dooley of St Paul for “Tribute to Mexican Hot Chocolate Cake”
3rd Place – Colleen Jensen of Woodbury for “Merry’s Chocolate Orange Cupcakes”
Kowalski’s Supreme Sourdough Contest Winners
1st Place – Guillermo Guardia of Minneapolis for “Peruvian Sourdough Croissants”
2nd Place – Karen Cope of Minneapolis for “Beer & Cheese Sourdough Bread Twist”
3rd Place – Molly Abbattista of Minneapolis for “Sourdough Focaccia Barese”
Blue Ribbon “Best Peanut Butter Cookie” Contest Winners
1st Place – Betsy Faber of St. Paul for “Crispy Creamy Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies”
2nd Place – Emily York of Hopkins for “Peanut Butter & Chocolate Macarons”
3rd Place – Sheila Mullen of Woodbury for “Salted Caramel Nougat-Filled Peanut Butter Cookies”
Blue Ribbon “Best Cream Pie” Contest Winners
1st Place – Melinda Chapel of Rosemount for “Blueberry Mojito Pie”
2nd Place – Randy Ferguson of Randolph for “The Pie-phrodisiac” (Chocolate Almond Coconut Pie)
3rd Place – Rachael Hood of St. Louis Park for “Blackberry Smash Cream Pie”
Blue Ribbon “Salad Bowl Tournament” Winners
1st Place – Amy Ellenberger of St Paul for “Lemony Summer Kale Salad”
2nd Place – Mia Bremer of Minneapolis for “Herby Tortellini Harvest Salad”
3rd Place – Ellen Joseph of Minneapolis for “Peppery Greens with Shrimp, Soba Noodles & Crunch Herbs”
3 Cricketeers “Energy Bars & Power Balls” Recipe Contest
1st Place – Amy Ellenberger of St. Paul for “Magic Chai Power Balls”
2nd Place – Tiffany Mainella of Rochester for “Apple Pie Energy Balls”
3rd Place – Eamon Whiteaker of St. Paul for “Cherry Chocolate Almond Energy Balls”
Find the Minnesota State Fair’s complete Creative Activities Building winner list here. During the fair, visit the Creative Activities Building to view entries across all baking classes and categories. To get involved:
- Sign up for Creative Activities Mailing list (Under Participant tab at MNSTATEFAIR.org)
- Follow Blue Ribbon Foodies on Instagram or Facebook
Thank you to the brands that made this Minnesota blue ribbon contest line-up possible:
This Almond Blueberry Coffee Cake (Sugar-Free) recipe is one of the easiest and most delicious quick breads I’ve ever made.
It features – you guessed it – almonds and blueberries. We used sliced almonds and loved the end result. There’s a light crunch when you dig in, creating a delightful texture contrast.
The bread portion is tender and filled with blueberries, which hold up well and provide a pop of fruity sweetness in every bite. We used fresh blueberries, but frozen would work well too. The batter is thick and spreadable. Because of this, the blueberries suspend throughout the quick bread and don’t sink down to the bottom, as they do often in other quick bread recipes. Here’s a look at the batter before I added the topping.
How is this recipe sugar-free?
Thanks to the Splenda granulated sugar, this recipe is sugar-free. It bakes fast and gets a beautiful golden brown color. That color comes from tossing sliced almonds in egg white. With the Splenda granulated sweetener added, that combo gives the coffee cake that fantastic, aforementioned texture contrast.
This type of recipe is called a quick bread for a reason, as it’s quick to make. It took me barely an hour from start to finish.
This almond blueberry coffee cake (sugar-free) creation was inspired by this one, from Splenda. I substituted heavy cream for 2%, but either will work. With no sugar, this recipe is diabetes-friendly. It’s ideal for my mother, who has type 2 diabetes, which she controls with her diet. According to my calculations, each serving has about 20 carbs, which makes it a sweet-treat that’s relatively low in carbs, especially compared to ones with sugar.
Upcoming recipe contest
Watch for more sugar-free desserts in the coming months as we experiment more with zero calorie sweeteners. Plus we have a 5 state fair recipe contest in the works with Splenda, so stay-tuned for more details on that this summer.
These homemade, aromatic, prize-winning parmesan & chive scones are simply the best savory scones, in more ways than one.
You will relish their phenomenal taste and tender yet firm texture. Their golden brown appearance is drool-worthy for sure. If you love savory scones like we do, be sure to bake these soon! They are perfect for weekend brunches and snacks in between meals.
This remarkable recipe comes from Amy Ellenberger.
Amy won “Best Scones” at the 2021 Minnesota State Fair with this recipe. One taste and you’ll know why this one is a winner.
We asked Amy what her secret to winning was. In her words: “Because scones are a fairly simple baked good (as in few ingredients), it is important to use the best quality ingredients, as there isn’t much to hide behind. For this recipe I like to use (Minnesota-based) Hope Creamery butter, a sour cream (like Daisy) that doesn’t contain thickeners and other artificial ingredients, garden fresh chives, and high-quality Parmesan cheese that is freshly grated.”
Step by Step Tutorial
Take Amy’s top tip and begin with the best ingredients.
You start by mixing the dry ingredients with the cheese and chives.
Next, you cut in the cold butter. By the way, Amy’s family buys Hope Creamery butter by the case.
At this stage you want to see the chilled butter in tiny clumps, roughly the size of peas.
You also use both sour cream and buttermilk in the recipe, plus an egg.
Mix the sour cream, buttermilk and egg smooth, then combine that mixture with your flour mixture.
Once everything is together, you want a shaggy look to the dough.
Be careful not to overwork the dough. Shape it into a flat circle. You want it 1 ½ inches thick.
Then cut out the scones. You should get 12 (2-inch size) rounds (or squares if you prefer that shape).
As your final step, you brush each with heavy cream, then sprinkle with parmesan, a pinch of sea salt, and fresh cracked black pepper. You also want to chill them 30 minutes at this stage.
From Amy: Don’t skip the chilling step. This ensures the butter is solid and won’t leak out of your scones during baking.
After the chill time, the only thing to do is wait for them to bake (at 350 degrees Fahrenheit) for 25-30 minutes.
Prize-Winning Parmesan & Chive Scones: every bite will be pure delight. Seriously. Hit the kitchen and bake these now!
p.s. Scones are best eaten shortly after they are baked. However, you can opt to freeze the dough to fresh bake the scones later (ideally within 2 months). Or you can freeze them after baking. Just pop a frozen one in the microwave for about 30 seconds before you nosh.