Bake-Off # 35: Pennsylvania Dutch Cake and Custard Pie (and my mom and daughter’s first Bake-Off!)

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The 1992 winner of the 35th Pillsbury Bake-Off was Gladys Fulton of Summerville, South Carolina.  The winning recipe, “Pennsylvania Dutch Cake and Custard Pie” has a filling of applesauce, sour cream, and  molasses, and a vanilla-flavored cake mixture baked inside a Pillsbury ready-made pie crust.  “I combined three of my favorite foods- applesauce, cake, and pie to come up with this recipe,” said Gladys, who recently had retired from a supermarket delicatessen.  “But I never in my wildest dreams thought I’d be here,” she added.  At the awards ceremony, Fulton’s husband, Wilton, burst into tears.  He said the couple would keep a little of the prize money for a vacation, and put the rest into a college fund for their four grandchildren.
Gladys (center) at the exact winning moment!
The winner!  Pennsylvania Dutch Cake and Custard Pie
This contest is the favorite of all my contests, even though I wasn’t a contestant – but my daughter Kristina, and my mom, were selected to compete.  The joy of watching them both together on the Bake-Off floor is a memory that is forever with me.  I will never forget when Kristina got the call from Pillsbury.  She was a 12-year-old and in middle school at the time.  Anyone who has a middle school age daughter knows that everything is dramatic and illuminated, including talking on the phone with girlfriends.  When the call came and Kristina answered, all I could hear was her end of the conversation, and thought something had happened to one of her friends.  She had a look on her face like I had never seen, and was just answering yes, yes, yes… hung up the phone – and screamed.  And screamed.  It took quite a while for her to calm down, actually for all of us to calm down.  And that was just the beginning.
Two days later my mom called, very excited, and told me she had just received the call that she was also a contestant.  I was so thrilled, that I went to Kristina’s school office and asked if I could talk to her for just a second.  They got on the intercom and called her down to the office.  I told her about her Grandma being selected and we were laughing and hugging, and then the office ladies and the principal joined in, too.  Everyone was so excited.  Then it hit us-  they were going to be competing against each other! 
The first thing Kristina did was think about what she would wear to all the events and even what she would wear on the plane to Orlando.  She wasn’t nervous about the cooking part; she wanted to plan her wardrobe!  Being the organized person that she was (and still is!), Kristina made up a list of all the events at the contest with what outfit to wear for each.  I kept the list for what I knew would be fun to look at in her scrapbook someday – and it is! 
Notice that what to wear while “cooking” was temporarily left blank.  She waited to find out what color the apron would be!  When she heard it was to be blue, she decided on a red shirt.  But not just any red shirt.  She wanted the Doughboy on the back.  We still have the shirt, of course.
By now, the local newspapers received press releases and Kristina became an instant celebrity in town and at school.  She loved every minute of it and I loved getting some great newspaper photos to keep:
So now it’s time to explain about the ventriloquist dummy in the photo.  When Pillsbury interviews the contestants to have a bio for the Bake-Off book, they learned that Kristina was a multiple award-winning ventriloquist, and they asked if she would bring the dummy to the contest.  Kristina had won talent shows,  fairs, and two years running, was the International Junior Ventriloquist Champion. Kristina immediately dressed up the dummy, named “Jack,”as a chef.  Pillsbury loved Jack, and he appeared many times in this Bake-Off. 
Now it was time to leave for the contest.  Clothes were packed, Jack was packed,  and we were ready to fly to the contest in Orlando where we would meet up with my mom, who was flying in from California.  However, Jack turned out to be a bit of a problem at O’Hare.  Ventriloquist dummies have a very intricate system of wires and bolts in their head for all the gears to move the eyes and mouth.  When Jack went through the security x-ray, all the wires and hardware looked like a bomb – and this was only 1992!  If it were now, I don’t even think TSA would let it board a plane- that’s how scary it looked.  Jack eventually got approved and we were off.  Upon arrival, we had a lovely buffet lunch, Kristina and mom had orientation, followed by a gala welcome dinner.  We fell into bed that night tired and excited for the events to come.  Our youngest, Kara, fell asleep immediately with her Doughboy doll:
The next morning, Sunday, we had breakfast, another contestant orientation, then free time at Disney World for the afternoon.  In the evening, dinner was at Pioneer Hall for a “Hoop-De-Do” dinner with Willard Scott as host, who was also hosting the Bake-Off.  I don’t remember ever seeing my girls laugh so hard.  It was completely joyful.  Later that evening, a dessert buffet was set up overlooking a lagoon with a beautiful light show.  Would the fun never end?  At Bake-Off’s, there is so much to do that you tend to forget why you are actually there! 
It was now Bake-Off cooking day!  Mom found the photo of her dish in the gallery of the contestant photos before walking the “Grand March” into the cooking area.  Kara was all ready with her sign of good luck to Kristina and her Grandma.
On the Bake-Off floor, Kristina and my mom received immediate  media attention for being the grandmother-granddaughter competitors.  This photo is probably my all time favorite that was taken that day:
I LOVE this photo!
So off Kristina went to her cooking area:
And mom went off to her cooking area:
Kristina waiting for her cake to be done!
Contestants must prepare their recipes two times, once for the judges, and once for photographers.  There is an optional third time to either make one more and compare it to the other two, or share it with the media and other contestants to sample.  Here are the official photographs of mom and Kristina’s dishes, as well as them holding their dishes:
Mom’s “Creamy Broccoli and Wild Rice Soup”
Kristina’s “Raspberry-Filled Apricot Cake”
After the excitement of cooking, and endless interviews and photographs, the cooking was over.  Now it was time for even more fun.  That evening was the Beach Party, another memorable event.  The girls had a ball and even danced with Mrs. Pillsbury:
The next and final day was the awards show, televised on CBS.  As all the contestants were seated, the cameras were testing to get ready for the broadcast, something happened that I have never told anyone before now, because I think Pillsbury would have died!  For just a split second, someone in the control room, or somewhere, flashed on a screen, the six $10,000 winners.  And at that split second, Kristina was in view of the screen and saw her Grandma’s name.  She turned around and tried to find us in the audience.  When she caught our eyes, she put up both hands, showing all ten fingers, and mouthed “Grandma!!”  We had no idea what she was trying to say.  Before the telecast begins, the $2,000 winners are announced in a separate awards show because there are too many (18) for the half-hour national telecast.  When Kristina’s Cake and Brownie Mix Category came up, we held our breath.  When Willard Scott announced Kristina as a $2,000 winner he gave her a huge hug, with Kristina’s happy tears running all over his suit jacket.  She was elated.  I must mention that the $2,000 was spent on saving bonds for her future and put into Kristina’s savings account and is still there – by her choice.  It’s just waiting for her whenever she wants to use it, along with her winnings from selling Girl Scout cookies. 
It was time for the telecast.  The room became silent, except you could swear you could hear the faint sound of 100 hearts beating with excitement.  As my mom’s “Frozen Vegetable” category was about to be announced, Kristina turned around and looked up at us with a thumb’s up and a grin on her face.  Good grief, I thought in that second – Kristina’s earlier flashing of her 10 fingers meant that my mom had won the category prize of $10,000??  Yes, in fact, it did.  Mom was temporarily immobilized in her chair, but then managed to somehow make it up to the stage with the other $10,000 winners, with one of them about to be the winner of the entire contest.  The winners sat in giant chairs that looked like a throne awaiting the final announcement.  Willard Scott dramatically removed the lid off the winning dish, and there was Glady’s dish.  Everyone began clapping and screaming with excitement.  I’m sure Gladys can still hear it in her ears.
Kristina and Mom received their checks, and I also managed to snap a photo of Kristina up on stage.  Cameras were not allowed to be used during the telecast, so I wasn’t able to get a photo of mom – but I do have it on tape.  There have been only a few grandmothers and granddaughters competing together in the Bake-Off, and Kristina and my mom are down in Bake-Off history books as the only duo to both win money at the same Bake-Off.
But this is not the end of the story.  After the Bake-Off, Kristina continued to receive media attention, not just because of the Bake-Off, but because of Jack, her dummy!  She was invited to appear on “The Mike and Maty Show” to make her Bake-Off winning recipe – but Jack was not invited.  Instead, “Julia Child” was invited.  “Julia” was Kristina’s newest dummy.  After she and Julia appeared on the show, Julia Child herself actually found out about it through cookbook author, our family friend Bernard Clayton, Jr, who was friends with Julia. He sent her the info and a photo.  Julia wrote back to Bernard (on her personal engraved stationary!) saying how much she loved the dummy of herself.  That letter was framed and is proudly displayed to this day on the wall of Kristina’s dining room in Los Angeles.  It is one of our family treasures.
Kristina and Julia with Mike and Maty
It’s funny how things happen in life after something like the Bake-Off or from a young girl enjoying her hobby of ventriloquism.  Kristina went on to appear on a national sitcom, LA comedy club gigs, and other shows and commercials, either with her dummy or cooking.  She graduated from Northwestern University’s Theatre School.  While no longer practicing ventriloquism as the love of cooking took over, it has become her life.  Kristina now has a successful and exciting career with her cooking talents, and it only continues to grow.   And to think it started with baking muffins at age seven, and a career as a comedian with a dummy.  You never know where a Bake-Off will take you!
To read more about the Pillsbury Bake-Off go to
To find the recipe for “Pennsylvania Dutch Cake and Custard Pie” go to 
Photo of the “Pennsylvania Dutch Cake and Custard Pie” are by my daughter, Kristina Vanni. Visit her blog at:
To read all my previous Bake-Off blogs:
Bake-Off #1:
Bake-Off #2:
Bake-Off #3:

Bake-Off #4:
Bake-Off #5:
Bake-Off #6:
Bake-Off #7:
Bake-Off #8:
Bake-Off #9:
Bake-Off #10:
Bake-Off #11:
Bake-Off #12:
Bake-Off #13:
Bake-Off #14:
Bake-Off #15:
Bake-Off #16:
Bake-Off #17:
Bake-Off #18:
Bake-Off #19:
Bake-Off #20:
Bake-Off #21:
Bake-Off #22:
Bake-Off #23
Bake-Off #24
Bake-Off #25
Bake-Off #26
Bake-Off #27
Bake-Off #28
Bake-Off #29
Bake-Off #30
Bake-Off #31
Bake-Off #32
Bake-Off #33
Bake-Off #34 (part 1)

                       (part 2)

16 Responses to Bake-Off # 35: Pennsylvania Dutch Cake and Custard Pie (and my mom and daughter’s first Bake-Off!)

  1. January 11, 2012 at 11:33 am #

    My FAVORITE post yet! Thanks so much for sharing these wonderful memories!!

  2. January 11, 2012 at 11:39 am #

    That is a magnificent retelling of what must have been the most amazing week in your family history!
    I have met Kristina at several L.A.-based blogging events, and we are now connected by Facebook, as well. She’s a treasure.

    What fun!

  3. January 11, 2012 at 11:43 am #

    What a wonderful post!

  4. January 11, 2012 at 12:39 pm #

    Thanks, Brett! I figured you would like all the photos!

  5. January 11, 2012 at 12:41 pm #

    How nice of you to say, Dorothy! I told Kristina about your comment and she thinks you are a treasure, too!

  6. January 11, 2012 at 12:41 pm #

    Glad you enjoyed it, Linda!

  7. January 11, 2012 at 1:02 pm #

    This is so darn cute!! Brings back such fun memories for me when I was there in 2004 and 2006. It was the most fun I ever had when I was contesting. Your pictures here are just priceless! Great post! Hope to see you soon 🙂

  8. January 11, 2012 at 1:08 pm #

    Thanks, Jenny! I have so many more stories, and tons more photos, but it would have been an even longer post. Maybe I should make parts 2 and 3? I bet you have so many great photos of your contests, too, with your darling boys!

  9. January 11, 2012 at 3:33 pm #

    Fabulous, just fabulous!!!!!

  10. January 11, 2012 at 3:44 pm #

    Thanks, Ronna!!

  11. January 11, 2012 at 5:10 pm #

    I think this is my favorite of all the blogs you’ve written. Such a great story, wonderful photos, and what memories all of you must have from that experience. I had no idea Kristina was a ventriloquist. I love her Julia Child dummy.

  12. January 11, 2012 at 5:40 pm #

    I will ditto what Brett said–my favorite post so far. It is one that truly comes from your heart.

  13. January 11, 2012 at 6:43 pm #

    Thanks, Lisa. I’m glad it’s the favorite post of others besides me!

  14. January 11, 2012 at 6:47 pm #

    Hi, MsZin! I guess I never mentioned that before. Julia is very cute, but she’s packed away in a closet for now. Maybe someday she will come out and cook again.

  15. January 11, 2012 at 8:34 pm #

    What a story Debbie! Honestly, how cool is this? love it!

  16. January 11, 2012 at 10:08 pm #

    Thanks, Julee!

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