Since the Bake-Off Blog From Yesterday…

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Good things happen from my Bake-Off blogs that remind me why I write one each week honoring the winner and the contest from each year since 1949.  Case in point was yesterday when I received a lovely email from a woman named Phyllis Smith.  Phyllis’s mother, Mrs. Claude E. Hughes, won the 2nd Grand National Prize of $7,500 in 1955 at Pillsbury’s 7th “Grand National” Contest, which what it was called before it became the Pillsbury Bake-Off.  Phyllis said she was searching for information on the web about her mother’s winning cake, “Regency Ribbon Cake,” found my blog, and wondered if I had ever made the cake.  I have not made it, but you can bet I will now, and you will too,  after you see it and read the recipe.  Here is how Pillsbury describes the cake:  “A beauty of a cake with an attractive ribbon effect that’s so easy to achieve.  Mrs. Hughes’ pleasing combination of mocha and orange flavors is unique…and her luscious chocolatey frosting is smooth and extra-rich.” 

Isn’t this gorgeous?  Wouldn’t it be a great cake to make for the holidays?  I love the shiny, rich look of the frosting.  And those layers!  Pillsbury calls it “A one-bowl, one batter cake with four layers made out of two.”  In the short bio section, Mrs. Hughes writes:  “I bake almost every day for my husband and three children – this is one of their favorite desserts.  I like to try out old  recipes.  I have some that are more than 100 years old, but this cake is one I developed in my own kitchen.”

I was so thrilled when Phyllis wrote, that I asked her if she would like to share some information about her mom, who died two years ago.  Phyllis responded right away with the following memories of her mother:

“Mom was a stay-at-home mom and loved to cook.  She also did alterations and made clothes for people and custom made drapes and slipcovers.  My dad worked in a steel plant as a floor manager at the time mom was working on this cake.  She made it so much to perfect it,  that dad told her to please stop as it would never win anything.  When she got the call that she had been chosen as one of the two finalists in Virginia, she thought that dad had put someone up to calling and playing a trick on her.  As word got out, she was getting calls from newspaper reporters in surrounding counties and cities.  She and dad traveled by train to New York City in December of 1955, leaving us three children with a cousin.  (we were ages 1, 5, and 13).  The luncheon was held on Friday, December 13th, 1955.  The 13th has always been a lucky number for our family.  She won the trip to NYC, 2nd prize of $7,500, a stove, a mixer, a year’s supply of Domino’s Sugar, and several smaller gifts.  She had her picture taken with Art Linkletter, Ann Pillsbury, and Helen Trable.  Other pictures were taken of she and Mrs. Bertha Jorgensen (the grand prize winner) and the 3rd prize winner.  They gave her a 33 record with the conversation of she and Art Linkletter when he presented her with the check.  She was a celebrity in our small community.  She was also contacted by Pillsbury in 1967 when she and my dad were flown to Milwaukee to try a new test kitchen product of Pillsbury.  When in New York, they stayed at the Waldorf Astoria, got to see the Rockettes, and were actually on the Ed Sullivan Show.  She continued her baking until the week she died.  Even when in the hospital and she was not in her right frame of mind, she was baking cornbread.  I just last year took all of her recipes and had a cookbook made titled, “From Mom with Love,” and gave copies to my sister, my brother, and other cousins and close family.  We continue to bake her favorites and talk about her wonderful cooking, and how she loved to give her baked goods to others.”

It warms my heart to be able to report on Bake-Off contestants, because behind every recipe is a real person with real stories – like Mrs. Hughes.  She gave her family such a precious gift with her cooking and recipes, and now we can all enjoy her beautiful cake, as will many generations to follow.  Thank you, Phyllis, for sharing your mom with us.

12 Responses to Since the Bake-Off Blog From Yesterday…

  1. December 22, 2011 at 5:28 am #

    What a wonderful story–and another example of the memories are worth much more than prize $$ won.

  2. December 22, 2011 at 11:31 am #

    A great story! I have often mulled joining the Pillsbury contest crowd. sounds like it could be a lot of fun!

  3. March 9, 2018 at 4:04 pm #

    To Phyllis and the the people of this Website,
    I have had this cake many, many times and have probably made it at least a dozen times. Your mom’s creation is my sister’s favorite cake and as such was and still is made for her birthday. My mother was a recipe collector and she, like your mom, was an excellent baker (and seamstress for that matter). Simply put, it’s a great cake. I can’t believe your dad said it wouldn’t win! My mother had a little collection of Pillsbury contest winners’ recipes. Your mom’s by far was the most made in our house. I love the part in your mom’s bio where she says she baked nearly every day. That was my mom too. The meals and desserts we used to have. I have great memories. I just wanted to let you know that your mom touched our lives.

    • March 9, 2018 at 9:18 pm #

      Elaine, you are so kind to write this. I remember being so thrilled to have heard from Phyllis about her mom’s winning cake. I loved those early Bake-Off’s and learning about the cooks behind the story. Phyllis, if you read this, you had a very special mom who made a very special cake that people still remember. That’s quite a legacy.

  4. December 5, 2019 at 9:05 am #

    This has always been a favorite of mine since my sister shared it with me decades ago. The flavors blend together so beautifully and it’s delicious.

    • December 5, 2019 at 8:29 pm #

      Thanks, Deb! I love reviews of the old Bake-Off recipes. They are treasures!

  5. January 20, 2020 at 6:13 am #

    This cake was one we always had on special occasions. It was a family favorite. My mom baked all the time too. I guess we never had weight problems because we were always playing outside. I lost my mom in 1984 at the young age of 56 but still have her hand-written recipe cards that I cherish – one of which is this one! I just pulled it to make for a friend’s birthday. I’m so happy to have the image of the original page from the book! I so remember all of those booklets that Mom purchased at the grocery store. Thank you for posting this story and recipe!

    • January 20, 2020 at 11:20 am #

      Thank you for writing, Rosanne! I love hearing Bake-Off recipe stories, especially the early ones. I’m sorry your mom passed too young. What a treasure for you to have her handwritten recipes. I have my mom’s recipe box filled with her handwritten recipes too and I feel close to her every time I hold one.

  6. September 17, 2020 at 10:57 am #

    Hi Debbie. I was just going to make this to celebrate with a group of friends and saw that the frosting has raw eggs in it. I guess I haven’t made it in quite a while. Do you think egg substitute would work instead?

    Thank you.

    • September 17, 2020 at 8:10 pm #

      Good question, Roseanne. I have read many times that as long as the eggs are pasteurized, it will be safe to eat. I have made many desserts over the years using raw eggs and no one ever became sick. There are some who may still be skeptical, so I think it’s a personal decision to make this particular frosting or substitute a similar favorite one.

  7. September 18, 2020 at 2:50 am #

    Aaaahhh but this frosting is to die for! Good point about using pasteurized eggs. The eggs in my frig right now are fresh from the chickens at my daughter-in-law’s parent’s. I think those shouldn’t be used. Thanks so much for getting back to me! ]

    • September 18, 2020 at 4:01 pm #

      Rosanne, if the frosting is that good, definitely make it using pasteurized eggs. Those fresh ones make a great breakfast!

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