I've often written about the Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest.
But one of my favorite readers - Janet Krygoski of East Chicago - told me Pillsbury rival Betty Crocker has also hosted plenty of baking contests over the years.
Janet, who provided me with a great recipe for a an orange loaf cake that is featured in my third cookbook, remained an avid fan of both this column, as well as my daily entertainment column, until her death at age 73 on Dec. 23.
According to her sister Diane Traher of St. John, Janet's other "all-time favorite," besides me, was Perry Como, who she saw in concert countless times at Star Plaza Theatre, before his death a decade ago at age 88 in May 2001.
Even though Janet was not well enough to attend my book launch party and cooking show at the Star Plaza Theatre last May, Diane and husband Ed attended, seated right up front in the celebrity circle, to represent Janet.
Last September, Janet and Diane hosted a "vintage luncheon" to share with me Janet's favorite heirloom baking recipe courtesy of one of a Betty Crocker contest.
In 1938, Betty Crocker sponsored a "Name the Nameless Cake Recipe" contest, offering $8,000 in prizes, including the $5,000 grand prize, along with 50 runner-up prizes for $50 each and 500 honor mention prizes paying $1.
According to the tiny yellowing newspaper clipping provided to me from Janet, the contest asked bakers: "Just bake the cake and send a name, using the entry blank here. Get husband and friends to suggest names. Cake names will be judged on basis of uniqueness, originality and aptness. Yours may win!"
Janet baked this cake for our luncheon and it was served on 100-year-old China from her brother-in-law Ed's mother.
As for the name that eventually won: "Gypsy Round-A-Layer Cake."
But in my file, this will always be known as Janet's cake.
Betty Crocker's 1938 "Nameless Cake" with Creamy Icing
3/4 cup shortening
1-1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs, well beaten
1-3/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons cocoa
3/4 cup sour cream or buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1/2 cup coarsely chopped nuts (toasted)
1 (1-pound box) confectioners' sugar
1 stick margarine
1 cup shortening
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cocoa (optional)
DIRECTIONS: To make cake batter, cream shortening, while gradually adding sugar and then blending in eggs. Sift flour once and then measure out the needed amount. In a mixing bowl, sift together measured flour with baking powder, baking soda, salt, spices and cocoa. Add these prepared dry ingredients to the creamed ingredients, while alternating with the sour cream or buttermilk. Blend in the vanilla and lemon extract into batter and fold in nuts. Pour batter into two well-greased and floured 2-inch deep round cake pans. Bake for 30 minutes in a 350-degree oven. While cakes are cooling, make icing by beating together margarine, shortening and salt, gradually adding milk. Slowing beat in confectioners' sugar. Beat on high for 3 minutes. Add vanilla. A bit of cocoa) (about 1 tablespoon, depending how dark desired) may be added for color.
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