Saturday, December 7, 2013
I had the honor, and my stomach had the privilege, of judging the March of Dimes Charity Baking Contest on Sunday.
That meant, basically, staring down tables groaning with dozens of cupcakes and pies. Mostly pies, since that was the category I was assigned to.
RECIPE ALERT: The winning recipe in the Fruit Pie category is down below, at the end of this post, if you want to just skip over everything else and go straight to the goodies.
The contest was held just outside Jane St. Pierre’s cute little kitchen store, Kitchen & Cork, in the Cabela’s plaza parking lot, and raised $628 for the March of Dimes. The major sponsors were King Arthur Flour and Emile Henry.
Judges for the pie competition were myself; Maine Today content producer and food writer Susan Axelrod; and Kitchen & Cork blogger Paula Anderson, who also writes the “What’s Cooking” column in The Boothbay Register.
Cupcake judges were Michael Lagasse, a pastry chef and line cook at El Rayo Taqueria who also teaches at Kitchen & Cork; Suzanne Doane-Stiles, owner of Auntie’s Kitchen in South Portland; and a representative of the March of Dimes.
All of the judges agreed that everyone really stepped up their game this year. Here’s a look at some of the entries, followed by a list of the winners.
These little guys are all dressed up for a night on the town:
Some of the cupcakes looked simple….
….but revealed a little surprise when they were cut open for the judges:
Who doesn’t love chocolate?
Here’s a cupcake pretending to be a pie:
Rose petal toppers:
This banana split cupcake had the March of Dimes logo on it – in chocolate!
First place in the Best Decorated Cupcake, youth division, went to Jeffrey Kustron for his Maple Carrot Cupcake with Macadamia Nut Frosting. Jeffrey also took first place, with the same cupcake, in the Best Tasting Cupcake category, youth division. Jeffrey took home quite a number of prizes last year as well, so this guy must have a baking career in his future!
Second place for Best Decorated Cupcake, youth division, went to Iris Bates for her “What’s for Dinner” cupcake. I didn’t get a photo of this one because I was too busy eating pie. There was no third place.
Second place for Best Tasting Cupcake, youth division, went to Alexandria Poland for her Chocolate Raspberry cupcake. Third place went to Iris Bates.
In the adult division, first place in the Best Decorated Cupcake category went to Devin Bee for her “FALL”ing for You cupcake.
Second place went to Casey Brown for a campfire cupcake.
Third place went to Melissa Wolfanger for her Chocolate Cherry Jubilee cupcake.
First place in the Best Tasting Cupcake category, adult division, went to Jaime Jamieson for her Whoopie Cake Cupcake.
Second place went to Melisssa Wolfanger for her Blood Orange Chocolate Cosmopolitan Cupcake, and third place went to Jennifer Palmer for her Chocolate Sea Salt Caramel Cupcake.
Now for the pies.
We got a wide variety of entries in three categories. We even got a savory tomato pie:
A Key lime pie to remind you of summer:
This one came decorated for fall:
I’ll start with the cream pie category. First place went to Abbie Teacher for her light, smooth and delicious Peanut Butter Cream Pie. I must admit I did not think I would like this one, but I was wrong, wrong wrong. Amazing pie.
Here’s how it looked before it was sliced:
And here is a slice:
I didn’t get a photo of Abbie because she wasn’t at the awards ceremony. First place winners in the pie categories received a $75 gift card to King Arthur Flour and an Emile Henry deep dish pie plate, and measuring cups and spoons from Architec Housewares.
Second and third place winners also took home great loot. Here’s the second place prize, which also includes a $50 King Arthur gift certificate.
Second place went to Melissa Wolfanger for her Summer Celebration Pie, a cream pie topped with a lotus-like design of strawberries. Melissa won this category last year with this pie, which had an incredible burst of flavor in every bite. She wowed not only the pie judges last year but also the cupcake judges, who clamored for a bite.
Well, this year, there was just something missing. One judge thought it needed more fruit to balance the cream filling; Paula and I (who were also judges last year) both felt something was missing in the flavor of the cream filling. It’s still a great pie – good enough to win second place.
Third place went to Lauren Swett for her Boston Cream Pie, which was basically a Boston Cream Pie cake nestled into a chocolate pie crust..
In the Alternative Pie category, Lynn Gagnon won first place for her Poached Pears Cheesecake Pie. The cheesecake part of the pie was more like a custard, and some of the pear slices seemed a little under done, but altogether the flavors came together nicely. This would be a great pie to serve at a dinner party.
By the way, this was her first pie contest – congrats, Lynn! Not bad for the first try.
Second place went to Kelly Verano and her Almond Joy Truffle Pie.
Third place went to Junita Greenleaf for her Leftover Thanksgiving Pie:
And now for the Fruit Pies, which was this year’s most competitive category. I’ll work backwards on this one…..
Third place went to Melissa Wolfanger and her beautiful Apple Custard Pie:
First and second place were separated by just a point or two. Both pies were worthy of top prizes. You know, when you judge food contests, you learn to temper yourself and just take a bite or two of each entry. Otherwise, you’d never be able to finish. It’s a mark of how good these pies were that they were the only two where the judges hoarded their slices because they wanted to eat a whole piece. (That doesn’t mean we actually did, although in my case, yes, I ate a whole slice of the winning pie. But it was small.)
For second place, we chose Mary Murphy Wood’s Lime Blueberry Pie. I can’t tell you how refreshing it is, and interesting, to have lime in a blueberry pie instead of lemon. There were lots of whole berries in the pie, it had a sturdy bottom crust, and the overall look of it was stunning.
But the top crust was a little too thick (and slightly under done) in a couple of spots, and that was the difference between second and first place. These were minor issues, though. It’s like when there’s .0005 seconds between the gold and silver medal in the Olympic luge.
The winner in the Fruit Pie category…drum roll please….was Mary Cattadoris for her Lemon Supreme Pie. I think it’s safe to say this was the judges’ overall favorite as well.
The shortbread crust was light and buttery tasting. The filling was creamy and not too tart. But don’t take our word for it. Cattadoris graciously shared her recipe, so you can make it yourself:
Lemon Supreme Pie
(makes 2 pie crusts- Stick one in the freezer for last minute guests)
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
½ cup confectioners sugar
2 cups flour
¼ tsp. baking powder
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
In a large bowl, cream butter and confectioners' sugar until light and fluffy. Stir together flour and baking powder; blend into butter mixture. Chill to roll out (I do it between wax paper) or pat into a 9 inch pie plate. Bake in preheated oven for 14 to 18 minutes, or until edges are lightly browned
1 ¼ cups sugar, divided
6 tblsp cornstarch
½ tsp salt
1 ¼ cups water
2 tblsp butter
2 tsp. grated lemon peel
½ cup fresh lemon juice (from about 8 lemons
4 to 5 drops yellow food coloring, (optional )
For lemon filling, combine 3/4 cup sugar, cornstarch and salt. Stir
in water until smooth. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce
heat; add the remaining sugar. Cook and stir for 2 minutes or until
thickened and bubbly. Remove from the heat; stir in butter, lemon
peel and food coloring (if desired). Gently stir in lemon juice. Cool
to room temperature, about 1 hour.
CREAM CHEESE FILLING:
2 packages (one 8 ounces, one 3 ounces) cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1-1/2 cups whipped cream
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
For cream cheese filling, beat the cream cheese and sugar in a large
bowl until smooth. Fold in whipped cream and lemon juice.
Refrigerate 1/2 cup for garnish. Spread remaining cream cheese
mixture into pie shell; top with lemon filling. Refrigerate
Pipe or dollop remaining cream cheese mixture on top of pie.
Meredith Goad has harvested oysters on the Chesapeake Bay, eaten reindeer in Finland and sipped hot chai in the Himalayas. She writes the weekly Soup to Nuts column and enjoys a good cocktail.
Susan Axelrod's food writing career began in the kitchen; she owned a restaurant and catering business before turning to journalism more than a decade ago. To relax, she bakes, gardens and hikes with her husband and their two dogs. A newcomer to Portland, she is an online content producer for the Press Herald.
Susan can be contacted at 791-6310 or saxelrod [at] pressherald.com.
On Twitter: @susansaxelrod