Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Blue Ribbon Baking Tips

It happens every year, and if the Polish Christ allows me to stay alive a few more weeks.....

Its gonna happen this year too.

It happened to Aunt Bea, when that meddling Clara shocked the world with a new and improved pickle.

It happened to Ma Ingalls, when Harriot Olsen commisioned assistance to help her bake her submissions.

It even happened to Wilma, When Betty became Judas by producing a better teradactyl berry pie.

Every year, for every person who wins a blue ribbon......

There will be dozens of people who walk away losers.

Now days, many people don't like the word loser, but when you've witnessed as many dejected souls as I have, I find it quite fitting.

How many times....

How many times....

How many times, has some downtrodden saint approached yours truly and asked.........

"Klecko, I am pretty certain my entry should have won. Wouldn't you agree?"

First off, asking afterwards is always a bad idea.

Asking before hand is typically the best way to get positive results.

So what I am about to do is give you kids a major head start towards winning a blue ribbon by listing the most common pitfalls that can knock stellar bakers from the award podium.

After reading this, if you enjoy it....feel free to forward it to your friends that might benefit from this as well.

Lets get started......

#1 -

The very first thing you need to remember, win or lose, is that there is a HUGE element of luck in winning a blue ribbon.

You have to get the proper product in front of the proper judge on a precise day.

#2 -

Always remember, and never are baking for the judges, not for yourself. Over the years I've noticed a few things.

Judges are an interesting breed of person.

Most judges are not impetuous, they are well thought out, methodical indaviduals.

So what I'm getting at here is whoever judges apples pies this year is most likely going to be judging apple pies next year, and the year after.

Some judges love the bells and whistles, while others are more conventional and will want to see items stripped down to their purest form.

I have been nothing short of blessed to live in the same city as Marjorie Johnson.

She is the worlds all time winningest blue ribbon baker.

She has won thousands and thousands of ribbons and contests.

The one thing I have learned from watching Marjorie at the Fair is, there are no shortcuts.

When other bakers have left to drink beer or cruise the middway, you'll find the blue ribbon magnet slowly strolling down the aisles with a note book.

She marks all the categories down, and then she'll enter notes like.........

The 1st place German chocolate cake had chocolate shavings on top, this has been the case 6 of the last 7 years.

Stuff like that.

Marjorie is a Master baker, but she doesn't bake what she likes.....

She bakes for the judge.

#3 -

Find categories that have fewer entries.

Its easier to win against 7 people than 142.

#4 -

Read the rules.

You would think a guy wouldn't have to remind you of this, but yeah....I've seen gold slip from between peoples fingers because they simply did not take 30 seconds to read the rules.

If you ever worked a contest from a judges side, you would have a whole new appreciation for what they have to go through.

Contestants who lose can become savages....jackels, I have seen it over and over again.

Judges have to have rules to protect you from all the creepy bakers out there that would cheat, steal and rob to possess that coveted sweepstakes award.

#5 -

Always bake multiple products when possible.

If you are entering a loaf of white bread, you are not allowed to cut it before handing it over to the judges. So bake several loaves. chances are, if one loaf has interior holes, the entire batch does.

#6 -

Hey Klecko, what's the biggest mistake the even the pro's make?

EZ....they underbake. Many entries has raw dough pockets. this is so un-sexy.

I had this girlfriend Jodi who entered banana bread a few years back. I think there was something like 112 entries.

Jodi took 2nd place.

Call her up and ask her if you don't believe me, she was going to pull the loaf out when Betty Crocker told her to. But remember....Betty is baking for dinner guests, you will be baking something that will typically sit a day or two before it is judged.

When in doubt, keep it in the oven a few minutes earlier.

#7 -

Are you hardcore?

If so, you might want to consider getting oven thermometers and meassuring the temps of all 4 corners of your oven.

an equal heat source can make a huge difference.

#8 -

When you write out your entries on the cards or internet, don't use abbreviations. Judges won't tell you this, but if they see it.....they will secretly hate you...LOL, Fact!

#9 -

Consider packaging and transportation.

Nothing on Earth is more crushing than taking hours, months and years to put together a winning baking entry only to have it toppled in transit.

It happens every-every-every year.

Think it out L.A.B. Rats.

Pack snug, do you need a cooler?

Do you need dry ice?

Wll you put your box unattended in the back of your car?

I would do every thing posible to bring a friend to help with the tranport, but that's me.

Anyways, these are just a few hurdles you should consider before daring to dream the impossible dream.

Best of luck you crazy kids.....I'm pulling for each and every one of you.


  1. This makes me laugh! Thanks! I have found most of these to be true in my 20+ years of entering! I once made a 4 berry jam that was so sweet it made your teeth was at the end of the judging day and I think that is the one thing that stood out to the sweet (but, elderly) judge. Blue Ribbon to sweet jam. Still makes me smile.

  2. I never entered anything for a contest, but that all sounds as true as it's funny.
    And believe me, it isn't so much different from a cat fanciers' show.

    1. Hanseata, you really should enter, most of the fun is just standing in line and chatting with all the other like minded people on the day you have to turn in your submission(s).

  3. Many of the same rules apply to poetry contests. (See all but 7 & 9).