Contest Queen Shirley DeSantis

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When I first began entering cooking and recipe contests, my first in the early 1970’s, I would come to learn about the people who won these contests frequently.  One of them was Shirley DeSantis, a legend in the amateur cooking contest world.  Shirley knew just about everyone who was active and would learn about us newbies to the competitions.  Back then, there used to be a contest newsletter for people who were interested in this hobby.  It was sent by snail mail, of course, on a paid basis and was delivered monthly.  It would list all the current contests, who had won recent contests, winning recipes, and sometimes a profile on the winners.  Shirley’s name was seen all the time as a winner.  Everyone knew Shirley.  Now there is no snail mail newsletter, but a site eventually developed online called Cooking Contest Central  (known in the contest world as CCC) which lists everything like the old newsletter, but more.  One of the areas of that developed early is called The Cooking Contest Central Hall of Fame, which honored Shirley as the first recipient.  My daughters grew up knowing of CCC and came to learn of Shirley and all my other contest friends, meeting many of them at competitions.  When the woman who originated CCC passed away, my daughter Kristina bought the website and still runs it today.

In those early days at some point my phone rang and it was Shirley calling.  I almost dropped the phone that the contest queen herself was calling me!  She wanted to introduce herself and congratulate me on a win that she had seen in the original newsletter.  We became good friends and are still to this day.  Shirley is retired from most competitions these days, but she still remains and always will be a legend.

Over the years, I had gathered endless newspaper articles and any clippings I could find about Shirley.  I wanted to post some here, but unfortunately they were all lost in the flood last summer of The Culinary Cellar.  I’ll never get them back but the memories will be there always.  However, I do have a cookbook to show you from Shirley that she sent after the flood.

If you haven’t guessed already, Shirley entered this “search for the perfect chocolate chip cookie” and her recipe is in this book.  It was the one I wanted to make but I couldn’t find apple butter, which is one of the ingredients in the cookie.  I remember Shirley had an affection for apple butter and she would use it in creative ways in other contests too.  Inside the book, Shirley included the letter sent to inform her of her entry selected to be in the book,  “Apple Orchard Chocolate Chippers.”

Since I couldn’t make Shirley’s cookie for the lack of apple butter, I made the grand prize-winning cookie called “Double Chocolate Chip Cookies.”  The cookie itself contains unsweetened cocoa along with chocolate chips.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Double Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • ⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 Tablespoons milk
  • 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Combine flour and baking soda in a medium mixing bowl and set aside.
  3. In bowl of electric mixer, cream butter then add vanilla and sugars and beat until fluffy. Beat in egg.
  4. At low speed beat in cocoa, then milk. Add dry ingredients and mix just until blended. Fold in nuts and chocolate chips.
  5. Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto nonstick cookie sheet or sheet covered with parchment. Bake for about 10-12 minutes then remove from oven and let sit a few minutes before cooling on wire rack. Makes about 3 dozen.

I know that I will be getting emails wanting Shirley’s cookie recipe, so here it is!

Apple Orchard Chocolate Chippers, from Shirley De Santis

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup apple butter
1-1/2 to 2 cups unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 apple, cored and shredded
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter, sugars, egg, and vanilla until light and fluffy.  Add apple butter and mix well.  Add 1 cup of flour, baking soda, and salt, and mix until well blended.  Gradually add remaining ingredients just until dough is no longer wet and sticky.  Stir in chocolate chips, shredded apple, and nuts.  Drop by teaspoonfuls onto lightly greased baking sheets, placing dough about 2 inches apart.  Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 12 to 15 minutes.  Cool on rack.  Makes 3 to 4 dozen.


Congratulations Shirley, for all your winning recipes over the years, and thank you for all the encouragement you have given to others.  You are a legend to us all.  This fun hobby would not have been the same for me without you in it.

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15 Responses to Contest Queen Shirley DeSantis

  1. June 29, 2018 at 4:46 am #

    Yes! Shirley has been a cooking contest legend for so many years! This was a very interesting and moving blog post, Debbie and I’m anxious to try out these 2 cookie recipes! Thanks for sharing!!!!!

    • June 30, 2018 at 12:46 am #

      Thanks, Ronna! Shirley is definitely admired by us all.

  2. June 29, 2018 at 8:00 am #

    I’m going to have to try this recipe out! It sure sounds yummy! I just printed it!

  3. June 29, 2018 at 11:32 am #

    Lovely post about a lovely person, Debbie. Shirley is inspiring on so many levels, and has been a good friend and confidante for many years. Our lives are richer for having Shirley as a friend.

    • June 30, 2018 at 12:41 am #

      Janice, we who know Shirley are lucky. She is a gem.

  4. June 29, 2018 at 1:02 pm #

    What a yummy looking cookie! I will have to make a batch of these!!

  5. June 29, 2018 at 1:06 pm #

    Debbie, I have a book by Gwen “101 Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies”. Do you think it has the same recipes just a different title?

    Lisa from Conroe

    • June 30, 2018 at 12:40 am #

      I think that author must love chocolate chip cookies and wrote more than one book!

  6. June 29, 2018 at 6:14 pm #

    Shirley is the best. I got to compete with her at the oyster festival. She even brought along a soup tureen for me to borrow.

    • June 30, 2018 at 12:38 am #

      Sounds like Shirley! Yes, she is the best.

  7. July 2, 2018 at 12:55 pm #

    Thanks for sharing Shirley’s story of fame and friendliness, she sounds like a lovely person. Nevertheless, it appears that those who spend much time in the kitchen preparing delicious treats and savory dishes for others are usually lovely, caring people, just like you & your daughters. 🙂

    • July 2, 2018 at 7:43 pm #

      Shirley is a lovely person. I’m lucky to know her, and never would have if not for cooking contests, just like how you and I met so many years ago!

  8. July 31, 2018 at 11:18 am #

    Debbie – I thought I’d responded to your posting! our apartment at the retirement community we moved to –I REALLY don’t cook any more.. Its just too hard and I really have no good ideas any more. 2 meals are covered for us (not ALWAYS our favorites) so its mainly breakfast or such. I DID try making 2 batches of cookies the first Christmas we were here but they weren’t great! Guess I miss having dishwasher and miss the items I couldn’t bring with me! Space is limited.
    However, I know that I and my family always enjoyed this hobby — and all the wonderful friends we made. We have many great memories,
    I think when I started entering (about a year before you) it was easier …..maybe less competition? And when computers became popular, it opened it up to a much wider group. Luckily I used one (but not THAT great at it) and now with photos, videos etc……….whew .. I’m happy I’m too old. I doubt I’d ever conquer some of thoseways.
    Look forward to reading about new and old contests and who and what wins.
    Those were fun and wonderful years. Thanks, Debbie

    • July 31, 2018 at 8:03 pm #

      Thank you for writing, Shirley. There are so many people who love hearing from an icon of the cooking world! As most of us who lived through the golden ages of cooking contests, we have many stories to tell as contests have changed so much. They definitely were fun and wonderful years, as you say. Even though the contest world has changed, thank goodness it’s still around for others to enjoy in new and different ways, but still learning from those of the past.

    • October 9, 2019 at 2:40 pm #

      Shirley, I lived in West Windsor back in the early 90’s and you were always in any of the competitions I entered. Remember the Princeton Packet? Those were fun. I agree, these days it’s not as much fun!

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