One cookie submission in 1991 was all it took for Sally Kilkenny of Granger to become hooked on entering baked goods at the Iowa State Fair.
"I had never entered anything since 4-H in high school, but I entered a cookie and got my first blue ribbon," Kilkenny said. "I was hooked."
She later moved to making cakes after her daughter decided to try her hand at cookies.
"As my daughter got older, she wanted to try cookies so I switched to cakes," Kilkenny said. Although baking a cake could be intimidating to some, Kilkenny dove in head-first.
"Baking is time consuming, but it’s not like you’re making the whole cake in one day," she said. "I start prepping the cakes in mid-July and try to do so many cakes per week. The day before the fair I whip out the frozen layers and then assemble them."
Each cake has a unique flair about them, even if Kilkenny claims she is not a professional cake decorator.
"I took one class when I went to Waukee High School and it was a week-long class on cake decorating," she said. "One week was all I needed."
Kilkenny received a multitude of awards over the years and was awarded 14 ribbons this year for her cake submissions including her double chocolate-orange torte blue ribbon winner. She also received first place in spice, carrot, yellow, coconut, red waldorf, butter and unfrosted pound cake.
However, one baked item she has not tackled is cheesecake.
"I don’t know why I let cheesecake intimidate me," she said. "I’ve done well before and know it’s not hard. It’s just a mental block."
Kilkenny said she hopes to get past that block, but says submitting entries does get harder as she gets older.
"I’ve got arthritis in my feet and knees so it does take a toll on me when I’m standing," she said. "It just gets harder as you get older, and as we get older we make room for the younger people."
In the past, Kilkenny has taken up to 35 entries during one year of the Iowa State Fair, but says it’s not all about winning, but rather the camaraderie.
"After almost 20 years, I’ve learned there’s nothing I can do about it (the outcome)," she said. "It’s a different day, a different judge and a different outcome each time. If I win, I win, and if I don’t, I don’t. But being involved and getting encouragement from my friends is a huge part of what I look forward to every year."
Kilkenny bakes in her free time and is currently a special education association at the Woodward-Granger Schools.
She also serves on the Dallas County 4-H Endowment board, helps organize the Dallas County Fair Queen contest and shows as well as breeds miniature bull terriers.
Double Chocolate-Orange Torte Recipe
3 oz. unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 tablespoons orange liqueur
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon orange zest
1 tablespoon orange liqueur 1 tablespoon orange juice
1/2 cup orange marmalade
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare (butter/spray and dust with flour) and 8-by-8 inch square cake pan, set aside. In small mixing bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and set aside.
In a small mixing bowl slowly melt chocolate in the microwave, stirring until smooth.
In a large mixing bowl beat butter until smooth, add sugar, beating until light, add eggs, one at a time and beating after each addition. Mix in chocolate, 2 tablespoons of orange liqueur and zest. Add in flour mixture, alternating with water, beating until just combined.
Pour batter into prepared pan and bake 30-40 minutes or until cake tests done. Remove to wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes. Then invert pan to remove cake until completely cool.
To assemble, split cake in half horizontally. In a small bowl combine 1 tablespoon of orange liqueur, orange juice and marmalade. Place one layer, cut side up, on a serving platter and spread with marmalade mixture. Place second layer, cut side down, over the marmalade. Frost top and sides of cake with Bittersweet Chocolate Icing and garnish with chopped chocolate or as desired.
Bitterswett Chocolate Icing
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
In a small saucepan heat cream and corn syrup just to boiling, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and add chocolate, stirring constantly until completely melted. Cool to room temperature.