Wednesday, August 23, 2017

State Fair Throughout the Years

My very first year, I entered 5 items and I won three blue ribbons.  I won a first place ribbon for a beautiful cake I made with Nutella filling and pirouette cookies on the outside.  I also won two first place ribbons (First in my class and first in the overall division) for my lavender lemon cupcakes.  I was hooked, and so proud of myself for winning BLUE ribbons in my first outing. (My mother in law bought me that shadow box and I spent forever framing my ribbons from my first year.  It hangs on the wall in my kitchen.  I'd love to frame the rest of the years, I just don't have the motivation, or the shadow boxes.)


My second year, I bit off more than I could chew.  I put wedding planning aside for a few weeks and tried to cram 20 entries in.  I won a huge second place ribbon and $750 for some turkey lettuce wraps that Arnold convinced me to enter, as well as a second place ribbon for some whiskey lemon bars.  I won a third place for some cilantro lime cookies, and two honorable mentions for a chocolate pound cake and an apple tart.  I'll admit, I was a bit disappointed in myself, but it motivated me to come back organized and prepared the next two years.


Last year, I did 10 entries, 8 months pregnant.  I won a first place for my mardi gras pizza, a second for my banana upside down cake, and a third place ribbon for an oreo truffle stuffed peanut butter cookie.


This year I entered 20 items.  I entered a lot of cookies and cakes I'd been making for years, and a few new things (I had only made wings once before the fair, and that recipe just came to me as I was driving one day.)  I won first place ribbons for chocolate cake and tiramisu cupcakes.  I won one second place ribbon for my decorated cookies, and four third place ribbons for macarons, wings, pineapple upside down cake and a decorated cake.  I'm pretty happy with 7 ribbons, and I am already thinking up recipes for next year.
I have been looking at some of my grandma's old recipes, wondering how they would stand up to the current competition, so look for some Gma Link recipes in 2018 alongside some new ones from me.



Which one is your favorite?  Mine is the tiramisu cupcakes, I think.  Or the decorated cookies... or the decorated cakes.  Sheesh.  Or the macarons!

Monday, August 21, 2017

State Fair Judges Critiques

I've let this poor blog die, but it seems like the best medium to post all of my critiques for 20 entries through the duration of the fair.  So check it out below.  The judge's reactions, and then my reaction to their reaction.

Creation with Cake Mix: Tiramisu Cupcakes- First Place
Judge: Beautiful presentation, delicious flavor, moist, tiramisu flavor throughout. 94%
Me: Texture got my only points deducted.  Wish I knew what was off with the texture, because it doesn't note that in the critique.

Chocolate Cake - First Place
Judge: Nice appearance.  Can taste the coffee.  I like the ganache on top of it. Very moist. Delicious flavor - not overly rich. 100%!
Me: Dang! 100%!!! WOOT!  Best chocolate cake in Iowa.

Decorated cookies - Second Place
I misunderstood and didn't pick this one up... I guess they thought I would want to take the cookies with me so they left them in the display case.  Ew.   They're mailing it to me.  Wah wah.

French Macarons: Strawberry Cheesecake Macarons - 3rd Place
Judge: Very dainty - lightly browned. Nice strawberry jam in the middle.  Very good. 96%
Me: I think they were slightly under done in the middle and over done on the outside.  I'm getting an oven thermometer before I try them again because I have long suspected my oven runs hot.

Have your Cake and Eat it too: Kids Cake - Ice Cream Drip Cake - 3rd Place
Judge: Very original idea. Looks quite yummy and smells good.  A bit coarse, but very moist.  The cake has a wonderful flavor.  90%
Great cake. The design is very cute 96%
Very moist cake. Texture good.  Cute idea. Decorations very nice. Loved eye appeal.  98%
Me: Out of detail, originality, flavor, texture and eye appeal, each judge dinged me for something different.  While I would have loved to have all of the judges give me the reaction the third gave me, it's cool to see that there are different strokes for different folks.  I also noticed that the two that won had colorful cake as well as a fun design, so maybe a note in there that they were looking for something with detail on the inside as well.  Just something that might help me for next year.

Taste of Honey: Honey Challenge - Pomegranate, blueberry jalapeno wings - 3rd Place
Judge: Looks like hell. Taste divine.  Very creative sauce. Wings are a great way to present.  88%
Me: One of my lowest scores.  Sometimes the best food looks like hell.  Glad it won though, because I had faith in my recipe.

Cake Mix Fix Up - Pineapple Upside Down Cake - 3rd Place
Judge: Moist cake - nice pineapple flavor.  A little wet in the middle on top.  Should have caramelized the top a little more.  Edges are nice. 89%
Me: All valid points.  My cashiers, however, say it's delicious.

Now on to the not-so-winners.
Gluten Free Dessert: Strawberry Cheesecake Macarons
Judge: It is a great macaron. Great texture, perfect amount of flavoring. Very nice overall. 95%
Great story, beautiful presentation. Would have liked more of the macaron and less filling.  A little too sweet. 70%
Me: Yall two need to work this out.  Clearly judge #2 doesn't like macarons.  All three winners had chocolate in them.  I'll remember that for next year.

Molasses Cookies
Judge: Cake like texture. Slight floury taste. Uniform shapes. 88%
Me: A better % than I thought I'd get.  I agree that something was off with these.  When I made them for Christmas, they were my favorite cookie ever.  But then I couldn't quite get the bake time right this time.

Sweet Treats: Cookie/Bar Cranberry Orange Cookies
Judge: Love the cranberries, can taste the orange, too.  85%
Me: So basically I gather that you tasted these cookies, and not much else.

Chocolate Chip Cookies (With walnuts)
Judge: Uniform size.  Evenly baked.  Walnuts blended in nicely.  Very chewy. 85%
Me: Seems like a low score for all positive critiques.  However, I think it just missed placing, because I saw two "honorable mentions" in this category, and my cookies were in the top 6.  Next year I might try adding something.  Not sure what, yet.

Jethro's best wing sauce - Same Pomberry Peno wing sauce from before.
Judge: The jam and fruity flavor of pomegranate and berry adds to the sauce.  Blistering the pepper adds a nice flavor to the sauces.  80%
Me: I got that blistering technique from a Food Network show like 2 days before I made this. It gives the jalapenos a really charcoal taste.

No bake without crust: Lemon Tiramisu
Judge: Decorated nicely. Very refreshing dessert. 96%
Very nice tart lemon flavor.  Multiple textures. Lemon filling makes for a very flavorable and pleasant dessert.  85%
Grainy texture. attrative presentation.  Nice lemon flavor.  85%
Nice drizzles on top.  Very light, good lemon flavor.  For competition, I would place this in a smaller dish for appearance.  93%
Me: I can tell you exactly who that third judge was.  She loves things displayed in fine China.

Cinnamon Rolls
Judge: Very tasty. Not overpowering on the frosting. Nice story.  83%
Me: Again with the low score and all positive critiques.  Give me something to work with.

Judge: evenly sized and cut brownie.  under baked almost gummy 87%
Me: I don't like chocolate that much, and these were insanely chocolate, so it's hard for me to say they tasted good.  The first time I made them, they were much thinner.  Next time I'll use a larger pan.

Sugar Cookies (Drop, not cut out)
Judge: Nice uniform shapes.  Moist, tender crumb, delicate flavor. 90%
Me: I love these cookies and I stand by them.  That's all I have to say.

Lemon bars: Toasted coconut lemon bars
Judge: Beautiful toasted coconut. A little messy to eat.  I think the coconut is too toasted. It tastes a little burnt.  78%
Me: This was one judge... Saying the coconut was beautifully toasted as well as burnt.  Strange.

Cinnamon Rolls: Cardamom Cinnamon Rolls
Judge: Nice large rolls. Beings the edges were cut, they were dry.  Cardamom over powers cinnamon. Keep working, adjust recipe and bring again.  91%
Me: I'm surprised she said to bring them again.  I think they were average all around.  They were awesome the night I baked them.  Next year I'll bake them the morning I take them.  She also made a comment about hoping next year they will allow the cinnamon rolls to be connected in a pan, because that's a traditional cinnamon roll.  So hopefully that will help me.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
Judge: Evenly brown, fairly evenly uniform shape.  Good flavor! 89%
Me: Glad I worked so hard on even shapes and sizes.  They were sticklers on that.

Drop other than named: Fruity Pebble Cookies
Judge: Cookies not baked evenly. Texture is surprisingly moist.  Texture very different among cookies.  No consistency between texture of cookies 82%
Me: Well pick the one you like... No one told you to eat more than one cookie.  :)

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Drip Cakes!

I started seeing drip cakes pop up a few years ago, but I didn't know what the drip was.  I tried almond bark, but it would harden before it dripped, because I chilled my cakes after frosting them.  I had made a batch of sugar cookies with royal icing, so I gave that a try and loved it.  It's easy to color with gel colors, and the drips are shiny and beautiful.

"Traditional" drip cakes (whatever that means) use a chocolate or white chocolate ganache.  You can see that in the three cakes with a chocolate drip.  I say, use whatever you want.

Find more photos of my goodies at @butterybunbakerydsm and @alisa_who on Instagram.

S'mores cake

2017 Blue Ribbon Winner at the Iowa State Fair

2017 Third Place winner at the Iowa State Fair

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

American Flag Cake

So my good friend Stephanie invited some friends over Sunday for the World Cup game, and so we could check out her basement, decorated by the folks at West End Salvage for their HGTV show!  The game was a heartbreaker and I don't really want to talk about it... But we are still in it with one win and a draw.  Now we just have to set our sights on beating Germany! 

Full disclosure, soccer isn't my favorite sport in the world, it ranks up there between badminton and squash (Fellow ISU Rec Service employees know what I'm talking about... the marks a squash ball leave on the walls are near impossible to get off, and setting up a badminton court on a Friday night when all the basketball courts are full is a battle you can't win).  But Soccer has always been just eh for me.  I don't really love to run, and there is a lot of running involved.  But the whole world is excited about the World Cup, and just like every 4 years when I get really excited about Olympic swimming, I'm 100% all in for America right now. 

And this party did not disappoint.  We chowed down on pulled pork and corndogs and drank red white and blue cocktails!  Seriously, Stephanie is the hostess with the mostess.  She trusted me and bought this patriotic cake from me without exactly knowing what she was getting herself into, and I think it turned out splendid.

I started with two red 9" circle cakes, two white 9" circle cakes and a blue 9" circle cake.  I will say, homemade is better in this case.  Boxed cake is so incredibly tender that it falls apart easily, making it very difficult to frost and even more difficult to cut in thin pieces.  

I cut the cakes in even slices, giving me two layers per cake. 

Make sure the layers are the same size using a cake cutter.  I used this one:

Then I alternated red, white, red, white with a thin layer of frosting in between each.  You want it to be very thin so it doesn't get in the way of your stripes.

I cut a hole in the middle of the blue cake, cutting carefully around a cup.

And layered that on top of my red and white layers.

I filled the hole in the middle with circles of red, white and red in the same shape of the hole. 

I pressed it down into the hole to make sure it was flush to the top of my cake.  You will have some leftover cake if you make these... I recommend Cake Balls

Then I gave it a thin coat of white buttercream.

I frosted it with some festive colors to hint at what you might find inside...

But no one was ready for the amazingness that is this cake. 

Dare I say, it turned out better than I even thought it would!  The colors were bold, the pattern was perfectly proportioned, and I nearly broke out into the national anthem when I cut it open.


I'll be putting it up on my website soon for purchase for the 4th of July.  $45 for a 9" round American Flag cake.  I can deliver in the Des Moines area the morning of the 4th or the evening of the 3rd, and I'll be in Ames for deliveries around noon.  Email me at to order! Orders must be placed by July 1st.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Beast Mode Workout

I have to sneak (I just wrote snack... freudian slip) in and tell you guys about my workout today.

One word.


So I workout at the Y and we have a group of us on an email chain that works out together.  Our Wednesday class (the only one I usually get to from the group) is a beast.  It's taught by two ladies that are serious athletes, running distances I get tired thinking about and tackling triathlons...  Beasts.

So today I walked down (only took 5 minutes... why have I been driving for a year and a half?) and we had our workout outside.

The workout was divided up into stations, and as soon as you were done with one station, you started the next.

Here are the stations:

1. Run around the downtown Y.
2. Sit ups
3. With a resistant band wrapped around a pole, pull your arms back like you're coming in for a hug.
4. Lunges with your back foot up on a bench
5. Laying down on one side with a weighted pole, place one end on the outside of your foot, the other end acts as a fulcrum (think teeter totter) as you lift the pole with your leg, up and down.
6. Bicep curls.

And then we did it again, a little bit different.

1. Run around the downtown Y.
2. Leg lifts
3. With a resistant band wrapped around a pole, bend your elbows this time while going in for the hug.
4. Lunges with your other back foot up on a bench
5. Teeter the other totter.  Aka do the other leg
6. Tricep lifts.  Lift the weight over your head, while keeping your elbows in by your ears, drop the weight down behind you and lift it back up.

And then we did it again... a little bit different.  

1. 5 hill sprints (I walked...)
2. Bicycles (lay down and ride your bike)  I also call this horizontal running... Pitch Perfect? no? just me? cool.
3. With a resistant band wrapped around a pole, pull your arms down, bring your bent elbows down by your sides.  A row motion.
4. Step up on the bench, and then step down... a few more times
5. Lift that teeter totter with the bottom leg.  And then switch to the other side for a bit.
6. Upright rows.  Bend over and row, row, row your boat.

And then they all did 10 burpees while I walked back to work.  Ain't nobody got time for that.  

Monday, May 19, 2014

Grilled Flatbread

I have been doing pretty well with my sugar/clean eating challenge.  I did slip up a little bit this weekend going to a Pampered Chef party and scarfing a slice of cake.  But in my defense, it was smores cake, with gooey chocolate and graham crackers and marshmallows...  Not just a slice of chocolate cake.  

And then today, I went to an event called chocolate connection... and I controlled myself pretty well, taking just a few small pieces of chocolate.  Until I won the door prize... a giant box of Chocolaterie Stam Chocolates.  Yeah... a whole... giant... box...

So I packed that up and put it in the back of my freezer in a big plastic bag.  It's there motivating me to make it through the 10 weeks and come out on the other side a little less obsessed.

Now, on to something a little less sweet.  Grilled flatbread!

I wanted to call this post "grilled pizza" but I didn't use any mozzarella on the top of it, so I couldn't, with a straight face, call this pizza.  It was, however, borderline better.  *Gasp*

When you're grilling a pizza, make sure to spray the side you're going to put down first, grill it for a bit, and then flip it and top the grilled side with sauce and goodies.  

I used a chunky sugar-free spaghetti sauce with tons of garlic and herbs and some chunks of artichokes.  And then I grilled some veggies and topped it all with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.  In all honesty, to make it a pizza, just put some mozzarella cheese on there and close the grill.  Mmmmm.

After a few bites, I added a shmear of hummus...  sheer bliss.  

And guess what? I have 1 1/2 pizzas left. MWA HAHAHAHA

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Flourless Chocolate Cake

I made a flourless cake for Easter, and I'm just getting around to posting it... 

I was a little nervous when I was making it, because it puffed up like a souffle, and it's a similar method to a souffle, but this one you don't have to worry about falling.  In fact, you WANT it to fall! You want it to fall down into a dense, delicious cake. 

Flourless Chocolate Cake
4 oz bittersweet chocolate
1 cup chocolate chips
2 sticks butter (1 cup)
6 eggs, separated
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt

Melt the butter and all of the chocolate in the microwave, stirring every 20 seconds until the chocolate is melted.

Whisk in the egg yolks, tempering them by putting a little of the chocolate mixture into the yolks and stirring to warm it up, and then transferring the whole mixture into the rest of the chocolate.  This keeps your eggs from scrambling from the warm chocolate.

Beat the egg whites, slowly adding the sugar until glossy peaks form.

Fold a scoop of the egg white mixture into the chocolate to fluff it up a little bit, and then add the rest of the eggs and fold until just combined.

Pour it into a well greased spring-form pan.  

Bake at 300 degrees for an hour to an hour and 15 minutes.  The top should be flaky and the inside should be cooked completely.

When you pull it out, the cake will fall into a dense chocolate dessert.  Let it cool for 10 minutes before removing the sides of the spring form pan.  Serve with a dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.