Many of the 37 cakes entered in the Kentucky State Fair's from-scratch "Your Favorite Cake" competition this year were beautifully decorated.
But that doesn't matter much if the cake itself is dry or the flavors don't go together.
In the judging standards, texture and taste combined account for 60% of a cake's total score. Then there's 20 points for proper baking and 20 for general appearance. This year, the blind taste-testing revealed many beautifully decorated cakes that didn't quite taste as well as they looked.
"Make sure your butter is soft, not melted, if you want to avoid a dry cake," said Judge Elizabeth Coots. "Don't overmix it. You can also use cake flour, that helps to make it less dry because it's a lighter flour. It helps to make it light and fluffy."
This year's blue-ribbon cake went to a cake that checked all the boxes: a "White Chocolate cake with lemon curd filling," by longtime baker Rita Wooldridge. The cake was one of the first few the judges tasted and a frontrunner from the start. They praised the cake's refreshing flavor, texture and cohesive combination of tastes.
"You always want to make sure the frosting goes with the cake flavor and it all blends together," said Judge Janette Chapman. "And of course we always look at the texture."
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Wooldridge said she was overjoyed to win the "Your Favorite Cake" competition. She's been entering baking categories at the Kentucky State Fair for more than 30 years. She said she earned a second-place ribbon once in the 1980s but has never gotten the coveted blue ribbon – until now.
"It seemed like for years the judges would navigate to a dark chocolate cake, and I thought, I haven't seen a white chocolate cake win in forever," she said. "I altered a recipe and changed the filling and decorated it real pretty, not knowing what they'd think of it, but that was my basis. Oh, I'm so happy."
Wooldridge said she uses quality ingredients for her cake: Kerrygold Irish butter, King Arthur flour and a nice bar of white chocolate instead of white chocolate chips. The white chocolate cake features a lemon curd filling and white chocolate Swiss merengue buttercream.
"For the icing, you beat egg yolks and put a ton of butter in it and whip it real long. Then you add white chocolate in the end to give it some consistency," she said. "Do not overbake the cake, either. I've done this so many years I can just touch it and tell when it's done. You want the toothpick to come out clean."
Second place in the "Your Favorite Cake" competition went to a "Lemon Raspberry" cake by Marolyn Smith, followed by "Orange Dreamsicle" by Laura Goodman and finally "Raspberry Chocolate Cake" by Tonya Root.
The competition was close this year: Another cake might have won, but the submission requires a recipe, and that person had only included a list of ingredients. Last year's blue ribbon went to Christy Cox for her "Chocolate Mint Cake."
Wooldridge was at work when she answered the call that notified her of her win.
"I won 'Your Favorite Cake!'" she said over her shoulder to colleagues.
"Did you really?" they replied. "Will you bring one in tomorrow?"
White chocolate cake with lemon curd filling
Courtesy of Rita Wooldridge
You will need:
6 ounces white chocolate
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
1 cup half and half
2 teaspoons vanilla
3/4 cups butter, room temperature
3 cups sugar
6 eggs, separated
4 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
Directions: Melt chocolate, whipping cream and half-and-half into microwave on low until chocolate is melted. add vanilla. Let cool. Beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg yolk until mixed in.
In medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Add this alternately with the melted chocolate to butter/sugar mixture. Do not overbeat.
Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. With an under and over motion, delicately mix egg whites into flour mixture.
Pour into three 8-inch parchment-lined and greased round pans. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes until a toothpick comes clean when placed in center of cake. Leave in pans for five minutes. Remove to cool on cooling rack.
Lemon curd filling
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 cup water
2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
4 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Directions: Combine sugar, cornstarch and water in pan over medium heat. Stir constantly until mixture thickens and comes to a boil, 3-4 minutes. Stir the boiling mixture for 1 minute more. Remove from heat.
Spoon 1/2 cup of hot mixture into small bowl with egg yolks to combine. Add this mixture back into saucepan. Return pan to medium heat and cook, stirring until the curd is thickened and lemon colored. Remove from heat. Add butter, lemon juice and zest. Let cool. Cover with plastic wrap.
White chocolate Swiss merengue
6 large egg whites
2 cups sugar
2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
6 ounces white chocolate, melted
Directions: Place bowl in pot of simmering water and stir constantly with whisk until mixture is hot and "no longer grainy to touch. "
Put bowl back on stand mixer and whisk on medium high until meringue is stiff and cooled, about 5-10 minutes. Add cubed butter and cooled chocolate, whip until smooth.
Cake is filled with lemon curd and iced with meringue buttercream.
Kentucky State Fair 2022
WHEN: Aug. 18-28
WHERE: The 2022 Kentucky State Fair is held at the Kentucky Exposition Center, 937 Phillips Lane in Louisville.
COST: Fairgoers can save when purchasing tickets online now through Aug. 28. Online tickets are $10 per person and include parking. Advance admission tickets are only available online through kystatefair.org/tickets. Children 5 and under are free. Admission at the gate is $10 per person and $10 parking per standard vehicle. Single-day Thrill Ville/Midway wristbands are $35 when purchased online Aug. 18-Aug. 28. This does not include general State Fair admission.
MORE INFORMATION: Visit kystatefair.org for more information.
This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: This cake won the 2022 Kentucky State Fair blue ribbon. Get the recipe