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May 8, 2013

Make Mom bake-off winner on her day

This Sunday is Mother’s Day and one thing Mom might like is a homemade cake from one of her favorite decades; a time when baking and cooking was a big part of her life. There are a lot of cakes to choose from if you look to the Pillsbury Bake-Off grand-prize winners; she may even remember some of the winning recipes.

The Pillsbury Bake-Off contest became more than just about baking; certainly desserts were the focus since Magic Marshmallow Crescent Puffs won, and Chocolate Silk Pecan Pie, as well as the Tunnel of Fudge Cake, which became a household name in 1966. Wonderful savory dishes began to win, such as Cowboy Steak ’n’ Veggie Soup, Grilled Chicken and Mango Corn Salad, Italian Zucchini Crescent Pie and the now-famous California Casserole, which captured the Grand Prize in 1956 and won its creator, Margaret Hatheway, a tour abroad, where she introduced this most American of dishes to cooks all across Europe.

In research for this column, I read some stories relating to the contest that were interesting, from 1955 winner Rosemary Sport’s prize, a new pink stove, which provided her family with the motivation to become new homeowners, to 1996’s $1 million Grand Prize-winner, single parent Kurt Wait, whose son helped him develop his winning recipe Macadamia Fudge Torte.

One funny-sad story was of an exhausted contestant who accidentally sat on her finished cake entry; now there is a story to tell her grandchildren.

In 1959, Eunice Surles of Louisiana became the first southern woman to win the Pillsbury Bake-Off. She won the Grand Prize with this Mardi Gras Party Cake, a heavenly concoction of butterscotch, coconut and “sea foam” frosting. This is the cake I have chosen to make for Mother’s Day.

Mardi Gras Party Cake

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