Last week when I was going through the plastic tubs of lake stuff in the basement I stumbled across this picture of me and my niece, Mady, from the Tulsa State Fair a few years ago.
No I am not pregnant in this photo although I understand why you might think that by the way I’m holding my hand over my belly. Good grief.
Anyway, Mady had called and asked me if I would participate with her in the C & H We Love Desserts baking contest. Several of her fellow Girl Scout troop members were participating in other contests as well, so I was delighted to take part in their event. I was even more delighted that Mady and I won First place in the contest.
But this was not my first rodeo at the fair (so to speak) – Mady had asked me the previous year as well. Using the classic S’more as my inspiration (a tribute to my darling niece who so lovingly made me a delicious microwave S’more once when I was visiting), I came up with a S’more pie kinda thing with a graham cracker crust, nutella, cream cheese, and marshmallow crème. At judging we thought we had a good shot at a ribbon because Chef Landry and his team came back not once, but twice to taste our submission. But alas we didn’t even get an honorable mention. I was disappointed because I knew our dessert was delicious, but the problem was that it wasn’t pretty. All the winners had lovely decorated layer cakes or pies with intricate detailed pastry crust decorations.
So the next year when Mady asked if I wanted to enter the contest I again, I didn’t hesitate to say yes. One the phone I told my darling niece, “Well sure sweetie, I’d love to.” while inside the bloodthirsty monster that had been unleashed was declaring to our competition, “Look out bitches…it’s on!”
I honestly don’t know what gets in to me sometimes.
In planning what kind of dessert to make, I knew it had to be delicious AND pretty. An elegant layer cake seemed like an obvious choice and I thought it might be good to incorporate some kind of seasonal fruit. Since it was Fall, apples came to mind so I made my pitch to Mady – an apple cake with cream cheese frosting – and she was on board.
I researched lots of recipes for apple cakes and most of them called for apple chunks or apple sauce which didn’t really appeal to me. Then I thought, “I wonder what would happen if I shredded them like I would do with carrots for carrot cake?” and that’s when the recipe really took shape. My first attempt was tasty, but the cake really lacked a wow factor. I asked myself, “What would the Barefoot Contessa do?” Then I did a little more internet research and noticed that a lot of bakers use simple syrups to keep their cakes super moist. That gave me the idea to create a citrus infused simple syrup to jazz up the flavor a bit. So I made another attempt at my apple cake incorporating the simple syrup then invited Mady and her family over for a taste test. Everyone loved it, and that’s when Mady and I knew that we might have a real contender on our hand.
On judging day I told Mady, “Sweetie, it doesn’t matter if we win or lose, because I enjoyed every minute of our special time together. I am super proud of you for all your hard work.” Meanwhile the ruthless competitor inside was growling, “Are you freaking kidding me!?”
I wonder if there is a Competitive-Overachiever-Perfectionists Anonymous.
Anyway, Mady and I sat anxiously on the bench while Chef Landry and his staff carefully examined each of the entries on the display. One by one they tasted each dessert and surreptitiously made notes on their official score sheets. Starting with the honorable mention and working upwards, the results were finally announced. And when Chef Landry called our name as the First place winner, we both squealed in delight and then I wrapped my sweet niece in a huge hug.
I may also have uttered a giant “YES!!!” under my breath as well.
Hi, my name is Kelly and I’m an overachiever.
I uploaded my original recipe for Mady’s Special Apple and Walnut Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting or you can follow along with my slightly updated cupcake recipe here.
Either way, they are both winners in my book. Just like my sweet niece Madysen.