Sunday, October 16, 2016

The County Fair and a Pumpkin Crumb Cake #recipe

Jeannie Daniel

LUCY BURDETTE: Earlier this summer, I noticed a post on Facebook about a friend entering her cake in her local county fair—and winning. Doesn’t the sound of that bring back simpler, cozier days? I thought you would enjoy hearing about her experience. Welcome Jeannie!

JEANNIE DANIEL: The excitement starts building around July for farming communities in the south as they eagerly await the Fall fair season. It all begins with the arrival of the Exhibitors Catalog, containing all of the categories that you can enter. Each fair is a little different—they all have the usual categories such as canning, cakes, pies, candies, crafts, poultry, pigs, cattle, vegetables, flowers. But some have odd categories like Pinterest Interest and Lego building contests.

I enter two different fairs, one is a county fair and the other is a regional fair. The county fair is smaller than a regional or state fair, and the money that you receive  is normally a little smaller too. I always enter the crafts categories and the baking. 

Meghan Atchley, Jeannie's daughter
My daughter enters her jams and chickens and her sons also enter the poultry categories. The fun starts when you go through the catalog carefully and decide which categories you are going to enter and then you start perusing all of your time worn recipes in hopes of winning the blue ribbon.

Each category has different drop off dates, so you have to map out your dates and times. You have tags that have a bar code and your name, but your name is hidden so that the judges do not know who made what until after the item is judged. The day of delivery (and usually judging too) is always interesting because everyone is checking out what every one else has brought in. If you win, your stuff and animals stay there and if you don't it goes back home with you.

There is nothing quite like the satisfaction that you have received a blue ribbon for something you have worked hard on. I was lucky enough this year to win 2 blue ribbons, a best of show, and a second. I won a blue ribbon for my pumpkin crumb cake, blue ribbon for a snowman painted mason jar in Pinterest Interest class and best of show with my decorated fair themed cookies. I received a second place for my chess pie. 

Roberta/Lucy asked if I would share my recipe. I am sharing a quick version of my winning Pumpkin Crumb Cake recipe. All baked goods have to be homemade from scratch, no box mixes, no boxed kits or frozen doughs; so when I made this for the fair the yellow cake recipe was my grandmother's.

Jeannie Daniel’s Pumpkin Crumb Cake

1 yellow cake mix
4 eggs
1- 15 ounce can pumpkin (you can use fresh pumpkin you have prepared for pies)
evaporated milk
brown sugar
butter 1/2 cup melted

Set aside one cup of the dry cake mix. Mix together remaining yellow cake mix, 1/2 cup melted butter, 1 egg. Pat into the bottom of a 13 x 9 pan.

Mix together 1 can pumpkin (about 2 cups), 2/3 cups evaporated milk, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, 3 eggs. Mix well, pour over crust.

For the Topping: Mix the 1 cup of reserved cake mix, 1/2 cup sugar, and 1/4 cup unsalted butter until crumbly. Sprinkle on top of the pumpkin mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour. When slightly cool, drizzle caramel icing or caramel ice cream sauce over the cake. Can be served warm or cold. Really good warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!

LUCY: I told you this would be fun! Reds, what would you enter in the county fair?


  1. Congratulations. Jeannie . . . how exciting to win blue ribbons for your baking and your crafts.
    The pumpkin crumb cake sounds scrumptious; I can’t wait to try it! Thank you for sharing the recipe with us.
    What would I enter in the county fair? I think I’d enter bacon jam . . . .

  2. Congratulations, Jeannie. Fairs are so much fun, and winning makes them better! As for me, I'd enter my Chocolate Church Cake in baked goods and crocheted afghans in crafts. When I was five I won best of show for my guinea pig, Georgie. Guinea pigs have no tails and I knit a little outfit for him with a tufted tail. That was about the only thing I ever knit, but it made Georgie a standout!

  3. Bacon jam? Joan, you'll win in an instant!

    Kait, the guinea pig outfit was inspired:). We had several of them as I grew up and also for our kids--they were very sweet pets, no prizes though. LOL

    What would I enter though? Maybe my chocolate cake or this year's inspiration, fresh cherry cobbler!

  4. What would I enter? Nothing. I've drooled over enough food entries to know I couldn't top those! The pumpkin crumb cake sounds perfect, though, for my next sisters' breakfast. I love going to the fair and go through all the exhibits--both the local county fair and the state fair. The Ohio State fair has a life-size butter cow in the dairy exhibits, as well as the best ice cream at any fair, bar none! ;-) I especially love the crafts' exhibits--the quilt show at the state fair is awesome! And I think it's great that the nature of the exhibits are always evolving--keeping the traditional and adding more up-to-date ones!

  5. That sounds so delicious! And oh, Fairs. When I was growing up in Indiana, the Indiana State fair was such a big deal! D4H club was very hot in my high school, so I was never a member, and the state fair was there time to shine. I mostly remember trying to stay away from fried dough, and The incredible fragrances of sugar and cinnamon and corn and hotdogs and various animals :-) as you walked through the place ! Lots of baking contest, too!

  6. Oh, this crumb cake sounds fabulous. Next weekend when I have less to do...

    I don't know that I would enter a baked good. Like FChurch, I know I can't top them. I used to do very elaborate counted cross-stitch and once did a baby blanket for a friend. Maybe I could enter that.

    Hank, were you successful at staying away from the fried dough? I never am. It's my downfall.

  7. Congratulations. Jeannie on winning a blue ribbon for your pumpkin crumb cake.

    I am from (and lived in) a big city most of my life, so I have never even been to a county fair!

    But I am a good home baker, so if I had to enter a baked good at a fair contest, it would be one of my fruit pies, either peach or cherry.

    I have no ability to knit, sew or stitch anything, so that category would be a big "NO" for me!

  8. Now Jonathan and I are trying to remember, without googling, what 4H stands for. Head heart health home? Husbandry horticulture harvest home?

  9. No, Mary, if you had seen pictures of me in high school, you would know that I did not stay away from the fried dough :-) So delicious! What other food was there? Corn dogs, certainly!

  10. I'd enter my family recipe for Rhubarb Dessert - always delicious.

  11. Thanks everyone, and to Roberta for asking me to do a story. Hank Phillipi Ryan, I have a cookbook from the Indiana Fair and there are some wonderful recipes in it.

  12. One of my favorite times of year when I was a kid!!! Ulster County Fair in Forsyth Park in Kingston NY. I did it all -- livestock (my cow), baking & sewing, and club displays. Over the years, I had a couple of things get sent to the state fair (molasses cookies and a dress), but the best part was connecting with my 4-H friends!!!

  13. Grace, until not all that long ago every county in the US had a county fair, even urban ones. Hamilton County, which encompasses Cincinnati, recently stepped theirs way down, to maybe every other year, which I think is a shame. The Extension Agency, which is a part of every state's land grant university system, oversees the fairs, 4H, and a lot of other programs (including the Master Gardeners). Their funding is part of the Farm Bill, and keeps getting cut, so they have to be inventive in how they use their funds to continue to serve as many citizens as possible. Now there are a lot of urban gardeners and chicken enthusiasts, so some areas have local agencies able to focus on those aspects.

    While I myself have never submitted anything to a county fair contest, I've judged dozens of them, all in the clothing category of 4H, and all in the youth category. The youngsters in the program who work on sewing projects have to jump through a lot of hoops before they get to the state fair level, and I've judged at every level. The first is modeling, which I loved, so much; the judging takes place prior to the county fair, and during it, to prepare the kids for the big show.

    Judging at the county level for who got to go to state was a responsibility I did not take lightly. I always took the opportunity to teach, or to advise how to do better next time, or what particular standout areas they excelled in. I thought it was only fair that they should know what to do differently next time; that is, after all, the spirit of 4H. I loved seeing the projects, too. Some of them were incredible.

    There were always judges eating food samples at the same time, and I was so glad I didn't have to do that! What if you wanted to spit it out? How demoralizing to the entrant.

  14. By the way, Jeannie, your cookies well deserved Best of Show, if they taste half as delicious as they look. So professionally done!

  15. Well, sigh. I don't really bake, and I'm not crafty. I might be inclined to taste the bacon jam, though!

  16. Karen, I don't live in the US, so for us, the county fairs are only happening in the rural areas, not near the big cities at all. I am pretty sure they do occur in most counties in Ontario (where I live) but not near Toronto or Ottawa.

  17. 4H= Head, Heart, Hands, Health

    And I had to Google that! Hank, you were close...

    Karen, I am so impressed by the judging job you did! I bet lots of kids will always remember your teaching...

  18. Congratulations on your wins, Jeannie! I love everything about State Fairs, and your post makes me really miss the State Fair of Texas, (which is just winding up today) now that I live in Colorado. I loved the arts and crafts exhibits and the bake-offs. Your pumpkin crumb cakes sounds and looks divine -- can't wait to make it!

  19. I hope so! And thank you.

    Grace, sorry, I didn't realize you live in Canada.

  20. Thank you Karen! Celia it is easy to make and it smells like Fall when it is baking.

  21. Jeannie, I hope to find time to make your cake. I can almost taste it!

    I'm not good at anything that would be entered in a fair. However, if anyone here wants to try out a new recipe and needs a taste-tester, I'm your gal!

    Deb Romano

  22. Deb R, that's a generous offer! I'd do that job too:)

    Jeannie, one more question--is that a special kind of chicken your daughter is holding? what a beautiful bird!

  23. Oh, the county fair when I was growing up was indeed a big deal. When I was just a small child, the old grandstand was still standing, and I remember the white-washed seats and having to be careful about bird droppings. People would often bring newspaper to put down. The high school band would play from the special band section. By the time I was an older child, the bandstand was gone, but the fair was still a huge attraction. The highlights of our county fair were the beauty contest and the horse shows/competitions. They drew the large crowds and were held at night. I wasn't aware of too much going on in the daytime, even though I know there was lots of activity. It was the night, with the rides and food, that was exciting for me. Oh, and I got to hand out some ribbons at the horse show one year because our neighbor was in charge of it. Cool beans.

    If I were to be bold enough to enter something in a food category for the county fair, it would probably be pumpkin pie, my mother-in-law's recipe. I didn't like pumpkin pie until I ate hers. Of course, since I use canned pumpkin, I guess I would be disqualified.

    Jeannie, your cake recipe sounds so yummy. I may be fixing that for a family gathering this fall. Congratulations on your blue ribbons, for that and your snowman mason jar and fair themed cookies. I am drooling a bit over those cookies. You are so talented. And, what fun that your daughter and grandsons participate in competitions, too. That is one impressive chicken your daughter is holding.

  24. Jonathan and I were just discussing this… I have never held a live chicken. He has.

  25. Karen: No apologies necessary...I learned something about US county fairs and 4H.

  26. I have enjoyed state and county fairs over the years in Texas, Ohio, and Minnesota. I don't recall any in Louisiana. I went to the county fair my sister entered a quilting project in. I am amazed and delighted at all the categories. I told her even a noncrafty person like me could find a category, except I don't live in her county. My favorites are the animals: I could wander through the barns and exhibit halls forever.

  27. That cake recipe looks fantastic! I love county fairs, though growing up in Los Angeles and the NYC there wasn't much chance to go to one.

  28. I am so making that pumpkin bread next weekend.

    Would using canned pumpkin be enough to disqualify you? If it were only pumpkin, not a pumpkin mix (like pumpkin pie mix)?

  29. I have definitely held chickens Hank, though none that beautiful! In my Tennessee days, we had a few chickens, one favorite called Bok Bok. One day she flew away...