- 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.
This State Fair Apple Raspberry Pie is a show stopper. It won both “best creative apple pie” and “best overall pie” at the 2021 Minnesota State Fair. Carol Marsh is the star state fair baker here. Her pie is beautifully designed and absolutely delicious. The filling tastes fantastic and has a firm yet tender texture. Fresh raspberries add a splash of color. Their sweetness pairs perfectly with tart apples.
Carol has been competing at the Minnesota State Fair since 2010 and baking since she a child. This year, 2021, was a big year, with her winning four blue ribbons. They were for a 2-layer chocolate cake, a raisin bread, a classic apple pie, and this creative apple pie, which won best overall pie also. This makes her a 6 time pie sweepstakes winner (best overall pie 6x since 2010). That brings her total to 36 Minnesota State Fair ribbons for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place wins.
Carol, like a lot of us, finds much joy in baking. She knows the ideal texture of pie dough and how to have a thick filling. As a result, she finds baking pies a breeze. She has it down to a science.
Carol has won multiple times at the Minnesota State Fair with this recipe and slight variations on it. Carol recently baked her pie for me and we brought you along to experience the journey of making a perfect pie. Seeing her in action was so much fun!
Carol’s Pie Baking Tips – Step by Step
Chill your bowl and all your pie crust dough ingredients (dry, wet and shortening).
Dough mixture (with chilled shortening already cut in) should resemble cornmeal.
Carol strains her egg/vinegar mixture into the crust’s dry ingredients.
Allow enough time to also chill the dough, for at least an hour. Check out the beautiful texture Carol gets.
For the filling, Carol prefers using a combo of Granny Smith, Braeburn, and Pink Lady apples.
Layer the apples, butter, and raspberries. You’ll get a colorful look that doesn’t “bleed” much or look messy.
Let your artistic side out by cutting and etching the leaves for the top crust like Carol did.
Layer and distribute the leaves evenly, so the top crust will bake uniformly.
Brush with beaten egg white and sprinkle with sugar for some beautiful browning and sparkle.
The pie will be heaping with apples. While baking, the apples shrink, resulting in a full, lush-looking pie.
The pie cuts beautifully and has a firm yet tender filling.
This State Fair Apple Raspberry Pie is a classic. Put it on your holiday baking list. And if you want another 2021 Minnesota State Fair winning pie, check out this blue ribbon winner also.
At the 2021 Minnesota State Fair baking competition, no one could have predicted how tasty this Coconut Curry Mango Cake was going to be, including me. With surprising ingredients and a colorful exterior, the cake stood out for its perfectly balanced flavors, rich taste, and tender yet firm texture.
Recipe credit goes to Maggie MacIntosh. She used a Cooks Illustrated coconut cake recipe as a starting point and began experimenting.
Garam masala, turmeric, mango nectar, and mango crystals are among the unique ingredients Maggie features in this award winning cake. Between that creativity, how well she combined all the ingredient amounts, and how perfectly she baked the cakes, this Coconut Curry Mango Cake really stood out. Plus Maggie nailed it with the coconut aroma, in both the cake itself and the frosting. The mango filling was a colorful element that added yet another dimension to the cake. Well done!
Maggie won 1st place in our Blue Ribbon Best Coconut Cake Contest with this cake. She wins $100 in King Arthur Baking Company gift cards. Here’s a shot of Maggie and her daughter, celebrating her win and all the fun the fair has to offer. Congratulations Maggie!
If you’re curious about the winner selection process, here’s the judging criteria.
- Unique, innovative, creative recipe……………………………………………25%
- Appearance, color, presentation………………………………………………..25%
- Texture, internal appearance…………………………………………………….25%
- Flavor, aroma…………………………………………………………………………. 25%
Coconut Curry Mango Cake – Step by Step
Want to re-create the magic of Maggie’s coconut curry cake and its mango filling? We walk you through it with a detailed overview, including photos.
Here’s everything that goes into the batter, from the cake flour and spices, to butter, sugar, and eggs.
You starting with whipping the egg and egg whites before adding cream of coconut, water, and extracts.
Next, you mix the dry ingredients: cake flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, garam masala, and turmeric.
Then you mix in the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, until mixture resembles coarse meal.
Once you slowly combine everything together……you divide the batter between your prepped 8-inch pans. It makes a nice thick batter. Spread it around.
While those bake and cool, get your filling ingredients together. Whip that up.
Do the same with your buttercream frosting.
Whip it good. It should form stiff peaks. Here’s a shot when it’s reaching perfection.
Last, you slice each cake in half to get 4 equal layers, then assemble everything together. A great tip from Maggie was to pipe the frosting on the edge of each layer to help hold in the filling.
We didn’t get shots of this, but applying a crumb coat–thinly frosting top and sides of cake before fully frosting the cake–prevents a messy look.
To finish, sprinkle toasted coconut on top and press into sides of cake. This will give the cake a classic look, like this.
Or you can opt to dye the toasted coconut in one or more colors and decorate in circular patterns on top (as winner did).
These resemble the colors Maggie used: yellow, orange, and red.
And this is her stencil she used decorating the top of her cake.
Feel free to reach out to us direct if you want help re-creating the multi-color decor Maggie used. We have additional notes from our test runs and Maggie we can share.
If you love this cake’s concept but want a faster, easier version of the recipe, stay tuned. We are working on a sheet cake version of this magical Coconut Curry Mango Cake we will share later.
In the meantime though, this cake makes a fun fall baking experience. Fun fact: some of our tasters thought the curry/turmeric combo was a tastier, gingery pumpkin spice. Give it a try and see what you taste.
This Best Strawberry Rhubarb Pie recipe from Kathleen McCarron took first place at the 2021 Minnesota State Fair. Kathleen won top honors in the Blue Ribbon Best Fruit Pie special contest (and won $100 in King Arthur Baking Company gift cards). Her pie has a delicious, flaky crust you make with shortening, cold water, and of course, flour, sugar, and salt. The filling is chopped rhubarb and sliced fresh strawberries, making for a sweet, slightly tart taste to every bite.
Read on for some insights direct from Kathleen with our Winner Q&A:
What is your secret to baking great pies?
For me, the secret to a great pie is having a great crust. I love my family’s recipe, and rarely bother to use anything else, but (a perfect pie crust) is fairly tricky. It took me a number of years and at least a dozen pies to actually get the technique right, as judging exactly how far to cut the shortening into the dry ingredients took practice. To me, the effort is worth it because it tastes so good. We’ll sometimes bake the crust on it’s own with a bit of cinnamon sugar and eat it like cookies.
What can you tell me about your strawberry rhubarb pie and how the recipe came to be?
I first made this pie at the request of my father-in-law. I asked him what dessert he would like me to bring for a Father’s Day celebration, and he said that strawberry rhubarb was his favorite. After a quick google search, this one looked the best to me, as it had the least amount of sugar and he mentioned liking a tarter pie. I then doubled the cinnamon and substituted my family’s pie crust.
Do you have any helpful tips for someone making your recipe?
The trickiest part is the crust. Cutting the shortening to the size of small peas is important. A pastry cutter is faster, but it is possible to do this with a fork as well, as I did that for years. Leaving time to chill is also important, if you don’t rolling out will be more difficult.
Presentation is important. What are some of your tricks?
If I’m honest, I’ve always focused on taste first, presentation second. People will ooh and aah when something looks pretty, me included, but they only come back for more if it tastes good. Once I’m happy with the flavor, my next goal is usually to make it neatly, though sometimes I can’t even manage that. I almost didn’t turn this pie in because the juices burst through, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to try. And I won despite the untidiness!
What is the worst disaster you have had in the kitchen and how did you deal with it?
My family has a recipe for an apple cake with fudgy frosting that’s to die for. My mom had always made it as either a bundt cake or in a 9×13 pan, but I decided to try making it as a three layer cake. The first layer came out fine, but I didn’t leave time for the frosting to set before turning out the second layer, and the cake itself was too loose to hold together anyway. It was just this mound of broken cake and gloopy frosting. Unfortunately, I was making this cake for my sister’s birthday party, and didn’t have the time or ingredients to make anything else. Instead I just shoved some candles on top and apologized. Everyone at the party had a huge laugh, as this was by far the ugliest thing I had ever baked for them. Still tasted great!
Who does most of the cooking in your home?
I am both the cook and baker in my home, though both of my children are very interested in what goes on in the kitchen, particularly my son. There are times that I’m rushing to get dinner on the table, and it just doesn’t work to have a three year old helping. I have to promise him that he can help me make a dessert after we eat, and then he’ll happily mix together a box of pudding for us to enjoy.
What are some of your favorite family recipes?
I’ve always loved my mom’s apple pie, which is funny because she thinks it’s nothing special. She also makes a wonderful chicken salad and beef stew. For myself, I have a chocolate chip cookie recipe that I love, and there’s peach and apricot pie I’ve made that gets really great reviews. This summer I’ve been experimenting with fancy burgers, and I also once made a beef Wellington that had the flavors of Rouladen that was particularly superb.
What advice would you give young people wanting to cook/bake more?
The biggest advice I can give is to read the recipe all the way through! More than once, I’ve gotten stuck when I realize that a step I had just skimmed over was actually far more intense or difficult than I initially realized.
Also, it helps to have someone you can talk to about cooking, but who won’t step in and take over. I first really learned to cook during the summer after my senior year of high school. My parents told me that I was in charge of dinner on Tuesday nights. Inevitably, I would end up calling my dad 2-4 times over the course of the day to ask questions. What does this step mean? It calls for this cut of meat, but can I use this instead? I’ve watched mom make this before, but I’ve never seen her do this step, can I skip it? I think he really looked forward to those calls, and both of my parents were very encouraging about the meals I made. I think I only needed to throw the whole thing out once and declare a pizza night instead.
What has been your biggest win in recipe competitions?
I think this blue ribbon is my biggest win to date.
What do you do for work?
Before the pandemic, I worked at the University of Minnesota in the Theater Department as a draper in the costume shop and as an adjunct professor. Lockdown decimated the theater industry, so now I am back in school working on my Initial Licensure/M.Ed degree for English Education.
Other hobbies besides baking?
I don’t have much free time between school and family, but I like to sew, particularly cross stitch.
We highly recommend Kathleen’s winning pie. Happy baking ya’ll!
This luscious Lemon Loaf Pound Cake is a citrus lover’s dream. That’s especially true if said citrus lover also loves moist, flavorful cakes that are easy to make. The amazing aroma of this cake comes from combining vanilla extract, lemon extract, fresh-squeezed lemon juice, and lemon zest.
Grab a bag of lemons and make this winning recipe. You’ll marvel at its deliciousness.
If you want a super creative, one of a kind ginger cookie, this recipe for Citrus Ginger Swirl Cookies is for you! Orange zest, lemon zest, molasses, and fresh grated ginger are just a few of its key ingredients. You also get a hints of cinnamon, cloves, allspice, and nutmeg. A pinch of cayenne rounds out the list of spices used.
Citrus Ginger Swirl Cookies are from our Minnesota State Fair winning cookie archives. Recipe credit goes to Patrice Johnson who created this recipe for a creative cookie contest we organized for Gold Medal Flour. She won 1st place with it in 2015.
Patrice originally named the cookie “pinchies” after her ginger colored cat. These creative sweet treats are impressive in more ways than one. Their design is wonderfully whimsical. Fresh ginger and an inventive mix of ingredients give them a complex yet perfectly balanced flavor. Nice work Patrice!
Besides being a culinary delight, they also have creative artsy look to them which we love.
Bake like a blue ribbon winner and give them a try.
p.s. If you’re a big citrus fan like I am, be sure to try these simple orange cookies. They’re flavor really pops also.