Tag: Wisconsin State Fair

Toasted Pecan Shortbread Cookies

Toasted Pecan Shortbread Cookies: these are an outstanding winning recipe from the Wisconsin State Fair, created by Joan Giesfeldt. They are an all-time-favorite from our archives, winning 1st place a decade ago, 2014.

They are an impressive cookie, and Joan shared a few tips about preparing them:

Toasted Pecan Shortbread Cookies 2

Toast the pecans ahead of time to bring out their nutty aroma and flavor. (Note: Browning the butter for the filling is going to boost that nuttiness also.)

Toasted pecans

For the vanilla ingredient, Joan says she prefers a Madagascar version. She also used an ultra-fine baker’s sugar for sprinkling on the top half of the cookie.

Bowl of flour

With the richness of the dough, her other tip is to handle the dough as little as possible once it comes out of the freezer. The cookies will keep their form a bit better.

Toasted Pecan Shortbread Cookies Step 3

When we test ran these toasted pecan shortbread cookies, they were a favorite among our tasters. Let’s just say one off them said they were magical!

Cookie lovers and baking fans: take the time to bake a batch of these sooner rather than later. They are totally worth your time!


P.S. Looking for more Wisconsin winning recipes? Don’t miss this one, yet another all-time favorite.

Apple Pie Cookies

These lattice-topped Apple Pie Cookies are totally tasty and so much fun to make. They won first place at the 2015 Wisconsin State Fair in one of our special contests. The blue ribbon winning cookie recipe comes from Linda Faust. They are an all-time favorite we highly recommend baking.

Linda’s crust calls for coconut oil and uses both white and wheat flours.

Base of Apple Pie Cookies

As a result, the sturdier crust works great to hold the filling and its shape.

Assembly of Apple Pie Cookies

The apple pie cookies recipe is below. You’ll follow these seven easy steps.

  • Pulse the ingredients in a blender or food processor.
  • Roll out into 2 equal 9-inch square portions
  • Cut 1 portion into 1/2-inch strips
  • Cut second portion into 3-inch side-by-side circles
  • Spoon filling into center
  • Weave lattice with strips on top and seal
  • Brush with egg wash and bake

4 Ingredient Filling

The cookie filling has just 4 ingredients:

  • apples
  • cinnamon
  • sugar
  • nutmeg

You cook the apples in a microwave, so it’s ready in minutes. The assembly is the fun part. They’ll be ready for the oven in no time.

The recipe makes 9 cookies. Feel free to double the recipe if you want a bigger batch.

Note: If you’re looking for a whole apple pie, make this blue ribbon winner.





2023 “Top 30 State Fairs” List

2023 “Top 30 State Fairs” List  

As long-time state fair baking/cooking contest managers, the Blue Ribbon Group is excited to share, for the first time publicly, our 2023 “Top 30 State Fairs” list. With this list we offer our answer to the often-asked question: What are the best state fairs in the United States?

This new compilation is based exclusively on two factors: per day attendance numbers (total 2022 attendance divided by total days open) and their baking competitions (history of past Blue Ribbon Group special contests).  All 30 fairs have higher per day attendance than any other U.S. state fairs happening July to October each year.

2023 "Top 30 State Fairs" List

Top 10

Topping this 2023 “Top 30 State Fairs” list is the Minnesota State Fair, followed by the Tulsa State Fair, State Fair of Texas, Iowa State Fair, and Wisconsin State Fair. Here are the top 10, listed in order, followed by the complete list noting each fairs’ dates and attendance numbers. 

  1. Minnesota State Fair
  2. Tulsa State Fair
  3. State Fair of Texas
  4. Iowa State Fair
  5. Wisconsin State Fair
  6. North Carolina State Fair
  7. Oklahoma State Fair
  8. Ohio State Fair
  9. New York State Fair
  10. Illinois State Fair

Best State Fairs w/ Blue Ribbon Baking Contests

Awesome Attendance Numbers

  • Attendance numbers in 2022, ranged from 26,224 to 153,519 for per day averages, and 287,367 to 2,500,000 for overall total attendances.
  • All take place between July and November, with the majority happening in August, September and October. 
  • All are official state fairs with two caveats. The Tennessee State Fair and Wilson County Fair essentially merged in 2021, with the Wilson County Fairgrounds location becoming it’s home. The Salem Fair is the largest in Virginia with a 350,000 attendance in 2022.  

Since 2006, Blue Ribbon Group has managed special recipe contests at large state, county and regional fairs. Find a collection of winning recipes at BlueRibbonGroup.net and featured on BlueRibbonFoodies on Instagram and Facebook



Baking Contest Seeks Best Low-To-No Sugar Pies, Cookies, Cakes, Breads, Chocolate Desserts, Citrus Sweet Treats

Minneapolis-St Paul, MN – June 20, 2023 – Watch for the Splenda Magic Baker “Low-To-No-Sugar Showdown” 2023 state fair recipe contest series this summer in 6 different cities in the Midwest and two southern states. If you love cakes, cookies, pies, and other sweet treats but prefer them with little to now sugar, this competition is for you!

$350 in Prizes at Each of 6 Fairs

Six prominent state fairs will host the contest, including Indiana, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Texas, and Arkansas. Prizes are $200 for 1st place, $100 for 2nd place, and $50 for 3rd place. Judges choose winners for the best flavor combinations, taste and aroma, among other criteria.

Splenda Magic Baker Low to No Sugar Showdown

The pop-up events will feature giveaways of Splenda Magic Baker, the brand’s new zero-calories, zero-sugar sweetener, while supplies last. Splenda Magic Baker comes in 16 ounce bags. It measures and tastes like sugar. Use it 1 to 1 for replacing sugar. You can find recipes and baking tips at Splenda.com.


Six Fairs – Six Sets of Prizes

Here’s a quick run-down of when each fair is, a link to their competition department, their contest theme, register by date, contest date, and location at the fairgrounds. Most fair’s require advance registration, which bakers do, directly with each fair’s competition department.

For questions about competing, contact the fair’s entry office or the Blue Ribbon Group here.  If you can’t compete at any of the above 6 fairs, don’t fret. Read below about our bonus prizes for low to no sugar state fair winning recipes.

Want to Win Year’s Supply of Splenda Magic Baker Sweetener?

Bonus Prizes for Sugar-Free Winning Bakers at ANY Blue Ribbon Group Top 30 Fair

We invite you to compete in any general baking class/category at ANY of our top 30 fairs for a shot at winning a year’s supply of Splenda Magic Baker ($96 value). To qualify, use any Splenda product and place 1st, 2nd or 3rd at your fair, in any general baking class/category. Then submit your details, winning recipe, and photo here by 11:59pm on October 13, 2023. We will choose up to 6 winners: 1 for each of 6 U.S. regions, if applicable: Midwest, Southwest, Southeast, Northeast, Pacific, or Rocky Mountain regions. Winners will be chosen and contacted by year-end, by 11:59pm on December 31, 2023.

Good luck to all the participants!

This post was originally published June 20, 2023 and was updated July 13, 2023.


Splenda Low-To-No-Sugar-Showdown

New Splenda “Low-To-No Sugar Showdown” Recipe Contest Celebrates Sugar-Free Blue Ribbon Baking at State Fairs

$350 in Cash Awards for Top Winners in Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Texas, Arkansas; Bonus Prizes for Sugar-Free Bakers Nationally-

If you love cakes, cookies, pies, and other sweet treats but prefer them sugar-free or diabetes-friendly, check out the new Splenda “Low-To-No Sugar Showdown.” The state fair recipe contest series takes place this summer and fall at 5 prominent fairs.

  • Ohio State Fair  Runs 7/27/22 – 8/7/22   Judging 7/24/22 in Rhodes Center Building
  • Wisconsin State Fair   Runs 8/4/22 – 8/14/22   Judging 8/7/22 in Grand Champion Hall
  • Minnesota State Fair  Runs 8/25/22 – 9/5/22   Judging 8/20/22 in Creative Activities Building
  • State Fair of Texas  Runs 9/30/22 – 10/23/22   Judging 10/5/22 in Creative Arts Building
  • Arkansas State Fair  Runs 10/14/22 – 10/23/22   Judging 10/19/22 in Arts & Craft Center

Note: Most fairs require advance registration, which bakers do directly with each fair’s competition office. If you can’t compete at any of these fairs, you can still participate. See below.

The Low-Down on the “Low-To-No Sugar Showdown” (Product Giveaway!)

  • At each event, home-baking fairgoers receive a free 16 ounce bag of Splenda’s new plant-based, zero-calorie sweetener, Magic Baker (one per person, while supplies last).
  • All winning entries will feature Splenda Magic Baker or some other Splenda product.
  • Cookies, cakes, and diabetes-friendly desserts are among the varied themes at each showdown.
  • $350 in cash awards are up for grabs at each of the fairs.
  • 3 winners will receive cash prizes at each fair: 1st Place is $200, 2nd is $100, 3rd is $50.
  • Judges choose winners for being unique and creative, with great taste, flavor and aroma, as well as presentation and texture.
  • Look for a winning recipe collection on Blue Ribbon Group website and Blue Ribbon Foodies social media channels.

For contest details and complete competition guidelines, contact the fair’s entry office or the Blue Ribbon Group (here).

Bonus Prizes for Sugar-Free Baking Nationally

If you compete with a sugar-free/no added sugar recipe at ANY state fair (one of the above or other) and use Splenda, we invite you to share it with us for a chance to win a $25 gift card. To qualify, post before October 23, 2022 on social media — Facebook or Instagram, using #splenda, #lowtonosugar, #blueribbonfoodies, #blueribbonbaking, #statefair among your hashtags – and submit your sugar-free blue-ribbon-worthy baked good here. We will choose winning recipes (1 for each of 5 U.S. regions, if applicable) and feature them on our website and Blue Ribbon Foodies social media channels. Each baker with a winning recipe receives a $25 gift card.

Wisconsin Gemütlichkeit SPAM Sandwich

Allow me to introduce you to this Wisconsin Gemütlichkeit SPAM Sandwich. It won the national SPAM brand recipe contest which I managed for 15+ years.

Wisconsin Gemütlichkeit Spam Sandwich Hold

Panko-crusted SPAM is paired with a warm cabbage slaw and served on pretzel buns. The award-winning sandwich comes from Lisa Dziadulewicz who first won her blue ribbon bragging rights at the 2015 Wisconsin State Fair. She went on to win national honors as well.

Wisconsin Gemütlichkeit Spam Sandwich

The schnitzel-inspired sandwich is a nod to the Midwest’s broad German heritage, and more specifically Wisconsin, where the home cook and creator lives.

When I saw “German Sandwich Day” (September 24) on the national today calendar, I knew the time was ripe to pull this indulgent, blissfully delicious recipe from our archives.

This Wisconsin Gemütlichkeit SPAM Sandwich recipe is an all-time favorite recipe because it is tasty and brings on so many fond memories of the SPAM contest. Plus, my family ate pork schnitzel almost every Christmas when I was growing up. I hope you make this sandwich soon and love it as much as we do.

German Slaw

Recipe Prep Tips

  • You can make the warm cabbage slaw ahead of time and freeze portions of it so it’s ready on the fly when you’re ready to fry up a few of these sandwiches. This works well if you don’t want to make all 12 sandwiches at the same time.
  • If you are making the full batch at the same time, keep the fried SPAM slices in a pan in a warm oven while you work your way through prepping all 12.  Served warm, these sandwiches really bring on the gemütlichkeit.
  • If you can’t find pretzel rolls, any hard rolls, like Kaiser or ciabatta will work also.
  • Be sure to get the panko-crusted SPAM nice and golden brown as that texture makes for an amazing bite each time.

Breaded fried SPAM Slices


Gemütlichkeit, pronounced “guh-MOOT-luh-kite,” refers to something “welcoming” and “cheerful.” While this recipe clearly embraces the German food theme, the sandwich has broad appeal as well.

Half Wisconsin Gemütlichkeit Spam Sandwich

The tender savory SPAM with its crispy coating is a delight to bite into as it perfectly complements the pretzel bread and zippy mustard. When topped with the bacon-rich, colorful red cabbage, you have something epic in your hands.



p.s. If you’re into globe-trotting eats-wise: for dessert, we recommend whipping up a batch of these Guinness-themed cookies, another Wisconsin State Fair winner.


Pistachio Lemon Butter Cookies

These Pistachio Lemon Butter Cookies bring three things together I adore: citrus, butter and my favorite nut, the pistachio.

With a triple threat of fresh lemon juice, lemon zest and lemon extract, these cookies burst with citrus flavor. Using all three of those ingredients together is the ticket. Put that in a rich butter cookie and I’m in love at first bite. A schmear of white chocolate lemon frosting on top adds another delightful dimension. You finish them with a sprinkling of extra pistachios. That texture contrast is a joyful experience. To be honest though, I have skipped the frosting before as they are delicious enough to stand alone. Unfrosted, they also stack well for transporting and storage.

Pistachio Lemon Butter Cookies overhead

Recipe credit goes to Denise Sokolowski who won a best cookie contest with it at the Wisconsin State Fair (2016). She came in second place, just behind those great Guinness Chocolate Cookies we previously shared.

These Pistachio Lemon Butter Cookies are perfect for celebrating National Pistachio Day – February 26, but you don’t need any excuse. Bake them any day of the year. The batch is pretty big. It made 60 cookies. What’s great about that is you can freeze the rolled balls of dough, in a single layer so they don’t stick together. Just bring them to room temperature before putting them in the oven. I hope you enjoy these cookies as much as I do.




Guinness Chocolate Cookies

These Guinness Chocolate Cookies feature the notorious dark beer from Ireland and four different types of chocolate: cocoa powder, dark chocolate, milk chocolate, and semi-sweet chocolate chips.

They are super easy to make, a bit like our spicy snickerdoodles, which I  also love. The hardest part about making these Guinness Chocolate Cookies is waiting for the dough to chill two hours. The chocolate intensity of these cookies make them a treat to eat. Every time I make these I think, why don’t I make these more often!

Plated Guinness Chocolate Cookies

Recipe credit goes to Lora Pelzek who won at the Wisconsin State Fair, in a Gold Medal Flour cookie contest (2016).

Bake these for any chocolate lovers in your life, or for yourself.