They take the cake

August 04, 2004|by ANDREA ROWLAND

SHARPSBURG - For Sara Wiles, winning the top prize in a cake- baking contest at Ag Expo 2004 near Sharpsburg was icing on her 4-H career.

Sara, 17, of Fairplay, now reigns as the Maryland Farm Bureau's agricultural ambassador - formerly known as the farm queen. She's done well showing her dairy steers and goats since joining 4-H at age 8. And her coconut cookies won top honors at last year's Ag Expo. The grand champion cake title, however, eluded Sara.

"It's always been a goal of mine to get the grand champion cake," she said.

Sara got her wish on Friday, July 30, when her Black Forest Cake was named Ag Expo's grand champion 4-H cake. The cake drew $250 at auction. The young baker experimented with several recipes to create her winning confection - spreading canned cherry filling between the two layers of Fudge Cake, substituting milkless No-Cook Fudge Frosting for the Chocolate Butter Frosting called for in the original recipe, and topping her creation with semisweet chocolate shavings.


"You have to try different things to get the right combination," said Sara, who spent almost an hour frosting her cake. "I tried extra hard to get it to look very nice."

She credits her baking skills to lessons learned from her grandmothers and her mom, Vickie Wiles.

"I think a lot of my little secrets have come from them - stuff like adding an extra egg here or there or putting extra water or milk in the icing so it doesn't crumble," she said. Sara's father, Robert Wiles, and brothers Shawn, 15, and Derek, 14, serve as her tasters, she said.

Sara, who will attend Lancaster Bible College this fall, plans to make another run at the grand champion cake title at Ag Expo 2005 - her last.

"I'll just find a different recipe and see what I can do with it," she said.

What recipe?

Keedysville resident Reva Souders' recipe for baking success is simple: Don't use one.

Souders, 84, invented the Macadamia Nut Chiffon Cake recipe that won the grand champion cake title in the senior citizens category at this year's Ag Expo.

"There's no recipe out for that," she said. "I saw the macadamia nuts and I thought, 'I can take them and experiment with them. That's something new.'"

Souders topped her nutty chiffon cake - which was auctioned off for $40 - with the Creamy White Icing that once helped her earn the grand champion cake ribbon at a Keedysville Ruritan fair, she said. Souders also has scored four other top cake wins at Ag Expo and a grand champion ribbon at the Hagerstown Fair.


Charlotte Leggett's globe-trotting Golden Fruit Cake garnered the grand champion title in the open class at Ag Expo. It was the first time the Boonsboro resident had entered the contest - and she was thrilled to win.

"I don't know why I waited until I was 79 years old," Leggett said. "I wish now I'd have entered it several times."

A former dairy farmer and fur trapper with her husband, the late Clarence "Pete" Leggett Jr., Charlotte Leggett first took her Golden Fruit Cake on the road to a trappers' convention in New York. The cake, which sold for $70 at Ag Expo, was a hit.

"I took it up there, and everybody just thought, not to brag or anything, that it was awesome," she said. "That's how it got started."

Leggett began taking holiday orders for the fruitcake from fans as far away as Canada.

"I've got this cake personally all over the United States," she said. Leggett included her Golden Fruit Cake recipe in her 1985 family cookbook, "Farm Life Cooking."

Leggett's and Souder's cakes were chosen from a field of about 200 entries.

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