The Spatula Has Been Passed

It’s official. The torch has been passed. Well, in this case, the spatula has been passed! Read on to learn the full story.

Competing in the Iowa State Fair food department began when I was a new Iowa bride. In 1974, I challenged myself to bake and enter 11 layer cakes.

The thermometer tacked on to our wooden fence post registered 95 degrees, and the humidity was sky high! We had a window air conditioner in the dining room that usually did an adequate job of cooling our home. But I was baking overtime! I asked that little ole air conditioner to shift into overdrive to gallantly blow cool air into our home. I needed relief from the stifling heat that was produced by my avocado green stove as it continuously baked for hours at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Once the cakes were baked, filled, and frosted and entry tags and recipe cards attached, I loaded them into the back seat of my parents-in-law’s car for the 1-1/2-hour trip to Des Moines. Their big grey Buick had air conditioning. Our little yellow Toyota had manually operated windows and air vents. To this day, I have been thankful for their generous offer of transportation! Can you imagine how those cakes would have appeared at the entry check-in tables had they not had the luxury of basking in cool air for the trip’s duration? I received first, second, and third place ribbons out of the gallery of cakes I had entered.

My, how the years of state fair competition have been educationally rewarding! The knowledge gained in this apprenticeship has exponentially advanced my baking and product presentation skills. Always learning…always improving. The championship ribbons have been pretty exciting, too!

Now, however, a new day has dawned. With the full-fledge effort to grow my dessert-baking business into a national brand name, I am no longer considered an amateur baker–a state fair requirement. My spatula has been passed to my daughters and granddaughter. I cannot deny though that three days before the fair started this year, there was some melancholy within my heart knowing in previous years I would have been creating yeast breads for competition. State-fair-competition withdrawal had overcome me but was short lived! How fun it is now to serve as a competitive baking coach for my family members!

This year, our five-year-old granddaughter who I shall refer to as “Little Missy,” competed for the second year in a row with her baked products at the Iowa State Fair. Her mommy and she have had many memory-making moments in the kitchen. What great bonding times and teaching opportunities have resulted because of this! I must say that this little princess has inherited a competitive drive. For when the postcard from the Iowa State Fair came to Little Missy’s mailbox in the late spring, she couldn’t wait to show me so we could begin planning her entries.

Thanks to a great family friend, the recipe for a chocolate cream pie had been occupying my recipe box for years. Batter splatters on the card reminded me that I had made this recipe often. The pie had to-die-for rich chocolate fudgy flavor combined with a flaky pie crust and creamy topping. Plus, it certainly would be easy enough for Little Missy to prepare.

I made a pie for her family to taste. Upon sampling, it was named THE recipe to use for this year’s competition.

Little Missy began practicing in July with my basic chocolate cream pie recipe. However, she added peanut butter to create her own uniquely delicious entry that was awarded first place and second place in two different contests. What judge could resist the combination of chocolate and peanut butter? Wouldn’t you agree?

With a broad smile from ear to ear and ribbon in hand, excitement poured forth as she stepped outside the food building. It would not have surprised me had she done precise cartwheels across the fairgrounds! But she did exuberantly dance and twirl her little body into figures-of-eight as the ribbon trailed like a kite flying in the breeze. She was the epitome of a walking newspaper with the front page headline reading “HAPPINESS SHINES AT STATE FAIR TODAY”!

Since this recipe is Little Missy’s proprietary creation, I asked her permission to share it. She immediately obliged. (The recipe is printed as it was for her state fair entries.)

Heavenly Peanut Butter Chocolate Cream Pie
¼ cup butter
3 regular-sized (1.55 oz) Hershey bars
1 tub (15.9 oz) Jiff Chocolate Peanut Butter Whips
1 container (12 oz) Cool Whip
1 frozen, deep-dish pie crust (can use a pre-baked or graham cracker crust as well)

METHOD: Thaw pie crust for 10-20 min. Using a fork, poke holes all around the inside of the crust. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake for 11-13 minutes or until crust is golden brown. (My mommy helps me take the pie crust out of the hot oven.)
Break apart Hershey’s bars into a small pan. Melt chocolate and butter together. Cool slightly. Stir in 6 oz. of Cool Whip and 1 tub of Jiff Whips. Pour into pre-baked pie crust.
Spread remaining 6 oz. of Cool Whip over top of the pie. Decorate with chocolate sprinkles.

Dear readers, I’ve chatted about the joys of competitive baking. I’ve passed the spatula of state fair competition to the next generations in our family. Above all, though, I want you to know that the lessons that are learned in the kitchen between adult and child indeed garner the gold-plated ribbons. It’s an opportunity not to be missed.

Miss NiNi

Want to talk “Baking” with Miss NiNi? Send an email to Miss NiNi at chat@missnini.com