‘Best of Show’ and Other Pretty Ribbons

I hope you’ll allow me my ‘15 seconds, minutes or written lines of fame’ ‘cuz this is going to be one braggy blog post.


It’s my story of entering the 2011 Orange County Fair Culinary Arts Division this summer.

It all started with my husband who lovingly encouraged me to enter cookies I made for my niece’s wedding this past May. Those who love you are always your biggest fans.


Since I had a few extra left over I thought, ‘why not.’

OC Fair Wedding Cookies


  • 1st Place in Sugar Sculpture and Edible Sugar Arts
  • Division Winner in Sugar Sculpture and Edible Arts

And while I was at it I thought I’d enter my family’s favorite chocolate cake just for fun because they won’t let me make any other cake. I was curious to see if it was really that good. I decided to call it “All-American Chocolate Layer Cake.”

Of course, of all the cakes and cupcakes I’ve made with the recipe, I’ve never taken a glamor shot of it because it isn’t glamorous. It’s just the best darn chocolate cake. Ever. Plain and simple. At least to our family.

All American Choclate Cake.Marilyn Johnson


  • 1st Place 2-Layer Cakes
  • Division Winner for all Frosted Layer Cakes

There is a story behind this particular winning entry, however.

I had to register my intended submission entries online by June 1. Son2 was still up at college and I had never considered he would be interested in my culinary adventures. Now it was July and he was home for the summer waiting for his internship to begin (as my husband and I were also waiting for the internship haircut to happen). It was the night before the actual cake was to be entered in the fair for judging. Not wanting to lose him for the evening to his laptop in his bedroom upstairs, I suggested he make the cake so I could spend the time with him in the kitchen gabbing as the mixer blended away. I volunteered to be the “icing tester” (sorry excuse, I know) as he made the batter and icing. It was decided I should be the one to take the cake out of the pans (experience needed) and to frost the cake.

Besides winning 1st place and the division win, beating out all other single, double, triple and colossal cakes, we found out later the cake missed Best of Show for all cakes by 2 votes! This included the big fondant multi-tiered showy cakes. Son2 was a very happy baker.

Winner Boy

It was the only cake with a third of it gone which we thought was funny.

Fair Cakes copy

(bottom shelf, back left)

The icing on the fair cake, so to speak, was for a blog post I entered that originated right here on Pink Martinis and Pearls!


There were three classes of culinary related blog post entries –

  • Directional Blog Post – Method, Step-by-Step or “How-to” format with recipe
  • Personal Blog Post – Memoir or Personal Story with recipe
  • Informational Blog Post – Descriptive, Historical, Event Coverage with recipe

I submitted my post on Decorated Baby Bunny Cookies under the Directional Blog Post Class.

I was flabbergasted when I walked over to the display case and saw the card with my name and blog post name on it with a fancy blue ribbon attached to it and utterly astounded to see the big purple ribbon denoting I had won the big daddy $100 award for Best of Show for the Best Overall Blog Post from all the classes combined!

There were so many blog post entries that I feel particularly honored to have been chosen.


They are printing and enlarging my post for display but I haven’t seen it. They were having ‘technical difficulties’ when I was at the fair last and it was not up yet. Hopefully, it will be up for the award ceremonies.

Yep, I had a great OC Fair experience. Beginner’s luck to be sure.


Although our family recipe for the All-American Chocolate Layer Cake has the honor and distinction of being included in the 2011 Orange County Fair Online Cookbook and it is a great thrill and honor to have outside validation that others appreciate one’s work and skills when it is shared in a public venue, the real prize was sharing the experience with my son…

… in the kitchen past midnight, licking the beater, agonizing whether we should just dig into the cake with big glasses of ice-cold milk and forget the competition (we came sooo close), carefully driving 30 miles with a cake on his lap, wondering what was going to happen, hoping others liked it too and how wonderful and amazing it would be if we won.

My personal Best of Show was seeing the expression on his face when he realized the cake had won and listening to him laugh and yell out as we rode on a spinning ride high above the midway where blurred neon lights mimicked the heady, dizzying celebration of the night .

In time, the colors of the pretty ribbons will fade but I hope these memories of participating in the OC Fair with my son will stay with us both, always.


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  1. Congratulations! I’m so excited for you!!

  2. Oh that’s fantastic! Your decorating, your baking, your writing, and your motherhood. How wonderful. All I can say is, talent will out, eventually. Go you!

  3. Let me know the next time you compete in the OC! I’m just down the road a wee bit and would totally come cheer you on!


  4. Congratulations x 100! Hugs and cheers! I think you can add Sugar Bowl Queen to your Rose Bowl honors–must be all that royal icing!

  5. Kathleen says:

    I’m not a bit surprised. You are an amazing talent! The rest of the world just needs to find out! Congratulations.

  6. Hi Mona. Thank you! 🙂

    Lisa ~ hahaha. I think you’ve hit on most of my mid-life high points to date. So kind. Thank you. 🙂

    Kimmie ~ Have you gone to the fair this year? It’s still going on and my goodies are still there. Will you enter next year? I hope so! 🙂

    T&C ~ You are too funny girlie girl! What a good line. My hat’s off to you. You deserve a blue ribbon for wit! 🙂

    Kathleen ~ Sweet as ever. When is the big backyard bash? I do hope this is the right Kathleen! 🙂

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  8. HOLY CANNOLLI! I am so not surprised, you deserve every blue ribbon you won. Your things are just amaizngly beautiful and creative, its so obvious they are made with the most important ingredient, love! I love that your son was also able to take part in this successful venture, that is so sweet and he looks adorable.
    That chocolate cake sounds like its calling my name, chocolate and I have a very very cozy relationship:)
    So happy for you, I am sure you do this because you love it but those blue ribbons have just got to be the icing on the cake, no pun intended!!

  9. As if there was any doubt…you are a phenomenal & talented baker!!

    Your cookies are amazing & I only wish I could bake cookies & decorate them as beautifully as you do. And, that cake?? There’s certainly a reason it was the only cake with a 1/3 missing from it…it looked divine!!

    Congratulations to you (and Son2) on your big wins at the fair!!

  10. So very proud of you Sis! We always said you were a shinning star! 🙂

  11. Congratulations! We are entering our son into the fall fair too – well, not him but some of his crafts and cute things :O) Hopefully he will get some ribbons too!

  12. WOW!!! WAY TO GO!! How exciting and what an awesome memory. You deserve it! Congrats!!!!

  13. Congratulations!!! How fun to win so many awards at the fair! Truely exciting. Your cookies are so beautiful and that chocolate cake sounds so delicious! I feel like I need to go pour myself a glass of milk right now 🙂
    PS. Cute Vera bag!

  14. of course, you were already a WINNER with all of us – your faithful blog buddies – but it’s good to know that the OC Fair agrees with us that you’re pretty fantastic! congrats!!!

  15. Congratulations!! And what a fun night with your son! That chocolate cake looks so delish. I adore the pic of you and sweet son! XOXO


  17. So cool! My youngest (surprisingly my athelete!!) loves to cook/bake with me and I love that he’s so curious. It does give you special mom/son time doesn’t it? I love that 1/3 of the cake was missing. I think all the judges got seconds! Congrats! Well-deserved!

  18. Anonymous says:

    Marilyn, I had no idea. These cookies are the most beautiful designs I have ever seen! WOW! You are so incredibly talented. Your blog is also absolutely lovely. So feminine and girly, I love it.


  19. I actually teared up when reading this! I am so happy for you and for the memories you created with Son2. What a blessing for both of you!

    And what great entries! You are so talented, I’m glad that it was recognized like this!

  20. Wow! What lovely and thoughtful comments to come home to tonight! I can’t tell you how much I appreciate every comment left. Thank you so much!

    Tina ~ You know if were neighbors we’d we sharing that relationship over a glass of Chianti. 🙂

    Michelle ~ Thank you for the congrats. I’ll be sure to pass along the good wishes. 🙂

    Cheryl ~ <3 xoxo

    Suburban Princess ~ I hope your son has a wonderful experience. I’ll be crossing my fingers for him. 🙂

    Newlyweds in NY ~ Thank you sweetie. How is that adorable niece of yours? 🙂

    Alison ~ What a good eye you have! It’s the Boysenberry tote and I love it! Thanks for the kind words. 🙂

  21. Susan ~ Do you like my ribbon shot? 😉 You are so sweet. I’m waiting for our margarita date. 🙂

    Miss P101 ~ That picture was taken before the mandatory returning home haircut and after the ride. haha i always appreciate your encouragement. Thank you. 🙂

    Darcy ~ I am so excited to hear about your daughter’s awards! That is wonderful! Please extend my congratulations to her. I hope she keeps on baking. 🙂

    Pink in a sea of blue ~ Thank you! I love cooking with my boys. I’ll take any time with them I can get. I’m glad you are wise to a mom’s tricky agenda. 🙂

  22. Hi Lynn ~ I’m so glad you found your way over to my girlie and pink cookie-infused world. You are most welcome to join us. Thank you for the lovely compliments. I am touched. 🙂

    Angela ~ I’m sending over the adoption papers. You are just the sweetest ever! Go to the LA County Fair website. Online registration is open. I think you need to enter some of your treats. They are winners too! 🙂

  23. Congratulations! Lovely ribbons… It sounds like a fabulous memory prize ribbon is also required! Truly a magical moment for you both!! You can see your son’s pride and happiness in the photos you have shared. Way to go… and I wouldn’t say its beginner’s luck .. I would say … The beginning of many more ribbons to come!!! xo HHL

    P.S. You’ll need to share that chocolate cake recipe …xo

  24. Celia ~ Well, not the best photo with a phone on a humid night after a spinning ride but it’s the memory that counts. I’d be happy to share the recipe. 🙂

  25. I just discovered your lovely blog and I look forward to popping by again for some more inspiration! I’ve just put the finished touches on my new blog ‘Coastal Style’ It will have lots of inspiration on beach houses, resortwear, summer food, travel and anything ‘beachy’. I had a lot of fun putting it together so maybe you would like to check it out if you have a spare minute.

  26. Congrats! That is so cool! I knew your cookies and other yummy treat were to die for but now all of OC knows!

  27. Oh please, please share your chocolate cake recipe. Having won such a prestigious award I’d be most proud to serve it. I’m sure you will agree that one always needs another chocolate cake, yum yum.

  28. Hey! I sent you an email. Please check when you have time. XOXO

  29. WELLLLLL although I know that each and every ribbon was well deserved I personally think that your favorite family members should be able to have a sampling…….just to be sure!! Congratulations and HUGS!!!

  30. Melissah ~ I love me a new blog. I’ll be sure to visit. 🙂

    Frau ~ I’m really out there now that’s for sure! 🙂

    Lexy ~ I’d love to share and will post it very soon. 🙂

    P101 ~ Back at chu darlin’. Hope you got mine. 🙂

    Triplet ~ Thank you from one baker to another. It’s blog time for you, sister. Relatives. They are never shy to ask, are they? xoxo 😉

  31. congrats, that is exciting
    you have some lovely creative things going on in your blog space, it was a real pleasure to find you today

  32. I love reading your blog, everything is visually stunning- you have a lot of talent. But this post brought tears to my eyes, you are a GREAT mother. I can think of no greater gift than that kind of relationship with my son. How perfectly *sweet*…

  33. you win first place in the “Best Mom” division too!
    You should be so proud of yourself! I had already voted you “best cookie baker and decorator of all time”, but it’s so great to be officially recognized as the best of your baking peers.
    I want to see you on Cupcake Wars, what do you think? Son2 can be your assistant!

  34. No beginner’s luck there, girl! Just plain old great stuff! You are an excellent blogger (I want to be you) and a great teacher and a great baker (very apparent now) and a great mom. You deserve all the accolades you have rightly and justly received. Congratulations!

  35. Congratulations! Mother and son tandem, the best.

    Cassy from Guitar Made Easy

  36. CONGRATULATIONS!! What great memories you and your son have made!