The 81st Logan County Fair
July 30 thru August 6, 2017

Cake Classic warms a cool damp day and tempts the taste buds

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[August 08, 2017]  Sunday marked the last day of the Logan County Fair in Lincoln. Weather-wise the week had been a pretty good one with lots of events and activities taking place in days that were warm but not sweltering. On Sunday the temperatures cooled down considerably with a light rain on again – off again throughout the day.

That kind of weather can set the mood sometimes for baking, so it may have been an added ingredient to this year’s very successful Cake Classic.

The baking order had been decided on Friday at the ‘qualifying round’ judging. Because Angel Food and Chiffon Cakes take the most time to prepare, bake, cool and plate, the two contestants with those recipes would be the first to bake. With three ovens, there would be two groups of three working, then the final group would be only one person. A drawing was held to see who would take the next five baking spots.

Darlene Crider and Hannah Crider would do the Chiffon and Angel Food, respectively. The first number drawn then went to Joyce Conrady, who would be baking a Red Velvet Cake.

The next three contestants were Daniel Crider with a Chocolate with chocolate frosting, Jackson Johnson with a Spice Cake, and Carlene Carter with a White Butter Cake. Jeanne Runyon drew the last number and would be the solo baker on stage at the end of the day with her German Sweet Chocolate Cake.

For the bakers this was serious business, mixed on occasion with a little fun and comradery. It was not uncommon to see the bakers talking and sharing while they worked, and maybe secretly spying a little on their competitor’s progress.

For Joyce Conrady, this was her first time to enter the Classic. On Friday she had won both Angel Food and Red Velvet categories at the first round judging. She chose then to bake the Red Velvet on Sunday. Hannah Crider had also entered an Angel Food on Friday, and was offered the opportunity to bake the same cake again on Sunday.

On Friday, Jackson Johnson was not a competitor. Because the Cake Classic calls for seven entries, and because the money raised at the Sunday evening auction goes to the 4-H Foundation in Logan County, it was important to fill that slot. A call went out for someone who would be willing to bake a spice cake.

Jackson Johnson is a recent addition to the 4-H prominent Crider family having married Rebekah Crider last year in the late fall. Rebekah is a superintendent at the Cake Classic this year, so she couldn’t enter, but Jackson could, and did. On Sunday he admitted that the cake he was working on was only the second cake he had ever baked, with the first occurring the day before. None the less, as he pointed to his mother-in-law and to his wife, he observed that they were the best bakers ever so he had great coaches and a really good recipe.

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With time running down on the clock, cakes one through three in the oven, and cakes four through six on the mixing tables. Jeanne Runyon began doing some early prep work off to the side, hoping to speed up her mixing time when it became her turn to go on the stage.

When asked if drawing the last number was a big disadvantage she chuckled, perhaps a little nervously, and said she always seems to do this, she is the one who most often draws that last number. One might note though that while Jeanne’s cake was the last to go in the oven, it was also the first to go on the judges table.

While her cakes were cooling, she noted that she was going to go ahead and dress them while they were a bit warm. The frosting for all the cakes can be made ahead of time and brought to the competition. She noted that her traditional German Cake filling/frosting made with nuts, coconut, and a lot of sugar, had been made and stored away. As a result it was coming to the frosting table a bit stiff. The warm cakes would help the filling to soften and layer nicely between the three chocolate cakes.

After an afternoon of baking and frosting, all seven cakes were placed on the judges table before the 4 p.m. deadline.

The judge for Sunday was Jennifer Steele. She works in the Nutrition and Dietary Department at Abraham Lincoln Memorial Hospital in Lincoln. Steele was asked not to arrive early as she should not be able to relate the cake to the baker while she was judging. Steel came in right at 4 p.m. with all the cakes on the table, and the contestants now in the audience.

Taking small slices from each cake, Steel rated the cakes individually, making small notations on the entry sheets. When she had made it through all seven, she then ranked the top four, first through fourth place.

First place went to Hannah Crider with her Angel Food Cake. Jackson Johnson took second place with his Spice Cake. Third place went to Darlene Crider for her Orange Chiffon, and fourth place went to Carlene Carter with the White Butter Cake.

With the winners decided, the next step would be to auction off the cakes to benefit the Logan County 4-H. That Auction took place starting at about 4:30 p.m. Sunday. Mike Maske served as the auctioneer, urging the contestants to talk up their cakes, and pushing bidders to raise that bid just one more time for Logan County 4-H.

[Nila Smith]

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