Recipe contests have been around for years and they are a way for people to share recipes, show off their creativity and cooking and baking skills, and to compete for valuable prizes. There are several opportunities available, but one of the most popular and the oldest is the Pillsbury Bake-Off, which started in 1949.

Pillsbury started the Bake-Off as a way to increase the use of their flour. Throughout the years the winning recipes have reflected the trends of what is happening in homes around the country. The popularity of some of the winning recipes has created a demand for certain products, such as in 1954 the winning entry, Open Sesame Pie, brought about such a demand for sesame seeds that the grocery stores around the country ran out of them. Every winning dish from the Pillsbury Bake-Off can be found on their website. The following recipes are all courtesy of Pillsbury.

Dublin cheeseboard-stuffed appetizer bread

The Grand Prize for 2019 was awarded last month to Melissa Jollands of Hudsonville, Michigan, with her recipe for a cheese- and meat-stuffed bread that was inspired by a vacation to Dublin, Ireland, where she, along with her husband had enjoyed a cheeseboard at a Dublin pub. They enjoyed cheeseboards there that featured cheeses, meats, dried fruits, preserves and warm bread. She wanted to relive the memories, so she created this appetizer which bakes the flavors together. When I purchased my groceries for making the recipe I was not able to find the Pillsbury refrigerated French bread even though I have seen it available in the past. I instead used the Pillsbury refrigerated pizza dough, which was available and worked well as a substitute. If goat cheese is not your choice, try a different cheese such as feta or blue cheese.

Servings: 8


1 (11 oz.) can Pillsbury refrigerated French bread

4 oz. Irish white cheddar cheese, cut into thin slices

4 oz. sliced hard salami, cut into ½-inch pieces

4 oz. honey goat cheese (chevre), crumbled

¼ teaspoon coarse sea salt

1 cup arugula

1 cup fig preserves

6 oz. dried apricots


Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly spray with cooking spray. Place refrigerated French bread dough on work surface. Cut in half crosswise to make two 6-inch loaves. Make lengthwise cuts down the center of each loaf to within ½-inch of bottom. Carefully pull apart dough and press to make two 7-by-5-inch rectangles. Top each rectangle with cheddar cheese, salami and goat cheese, to within ½-inch of edges. Bring long sides together over filling; pinch and roll top edge down to seal seam. Pinch and turn edges under loaves to seal. Place loaves in pan. Lightly brush loaves with water. Sprinkle with almonds and sea salt; press lightly to adhere. Bake 30 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 15 minutes. Meanwhile, on serving board or large platter, arrange arugula. Spoon preserves into small bowl; place on board. Cut filled loaves into 1-inch slices; arrange over arugula. Place apricots around bread slices on board.

Reese’s piece o’ bliss fudge

The top winner in the 2019 “Sweet + Simple Desserts” category was submitted by Joanna Crumley of Hubbard, Oregon. Her entry is a unique and rich combination of peanut butter cookie dough, fudge and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. The use of refrigerated cookie dough and a microwave recipe for fudge makes the dessert simple to make. All you need is a small piece to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Servings: 24


1 (16 oz.) package Pillsbury Reese’s refrigerated peanut butter cookies

½ cup butter, cut into 8 slices

⅓ cup packed brown sugar

⅓ cup plus 1 tablespoon unsweetened baking cocoa

¼ cup milk

3¼ cups powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 (1½ oz.) packages Reese’s Stuffed with Pieces peanut butter cups, each cut into 8 wedges


Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place cookie dough rounds in bottom of ungreased 8-inch square pan. Bake 22 to 24 minutes or until edges are deep golden brown. Cool 10 minutes. To make fudge layer, place butter in medium microwavable bowl. Microwave on high 45 to 60 seconds or until melted. Add brown sugar, cocoa and milk; stir with whisk until well blended. Microwave on high 1½ to 2½ minutes or until mixture comes to a boil, stirring every 30 seconds, until smooth. Add powdered sugar and vanilla; mix well. Pour fudge over baked crust; spread evenly. Sprinkle with candy wedge pieces. Cool 10 minutes. Cover and refrigerate 1 to 1½ hours or until set. To serve, cut into 6 rows by 4 rows. Store covered in refrigerator.

Tunnel of Fudge cake

The first Pillsbury Bake-Off recipe that I ever tried making was the Tunnel of Fudge cake and it is still one of my favorite cakes. It has been one of the most popular recipes of all of the Pillsbury Bake-Off winners, even though it did not claim the top prize for that year, 1966. Showing the popularity of the Bake-Off, it created a nationwide demand for the Bundt cake pan. The recipe, the creation of Ella Helfrich of Houston, Texas, used a fudge-flavored Pillsbury frosting mix to form a tunnel of fudge in the middle of the cake. It was baked in a Bundt pan, a fluted tube pan, which was a previously little-known cake pan. The recipe incited such a demand for the pans made by Nordic Ware that they had to greatly increase their production of them. Now a Bundt cake pan can be found in many American homes. The recipe has been revised since the frosting mix is no longer available, and calls for powdered sugar instead. It is recommended that you use the amount of walnuts called for to ensure the success of the recipe.

Servings: 16


1¾ cups granulated sugar

1¾ cups margarine or butter, softened

6 eggs

2 cups powdered sugar

2¼ cups all-purpose or unbleached flour

¾ cup unsweetened cocoa

2 cups chopped walnuts


¾ cup powdered sugar

¼ cup unsweetened cocoa

4 to 6 teaspoons milk


Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 12-cup fluted tube cake pan or 10-inch tube pan. In large bowl, combine sugar and margarine; beat until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually add 2 cups powdered sugar; blend well. By hand, stir in flour and remaining cake ingredients until well blended. Spoon batter into greased and floured pan; spread evenly. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes or until top is set and edges are beginning to pull evenly from sides of pan. Cool upright in pan on wire rack 1½ hours. Invert onto serving plate; cool at least 2 hours. In small bowl combine all glaze ingredients, adding enough milk for desired consistency. Spoon over top of cake, allowing some to run down sides. Store tightly covered.

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Bernie Mason writes the Local Flavor column for Lee Montana Newspapers. She was a Yellowstone County extension agent for 24 years. Mason grew up in Sidney in a family of German and Danish ancestry.


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