Minnesota State Fair – Baking Traditions

Posted:   08|01|2014   By:   Jamie A

One of the greatest traditions that many Minnesotans have the opportunity to, or shall I say the pleasure of, attending, is the Minnesota State Fair.  I am sure that many, if not all states, have the proverbial state fair experience but we in Minnesota love our state fair! It's the second largest state fair in America, behind Texas. If I was to describe our state fair to someone without prior knowledge of its wonder, they would probably respond with a stunned look and questions such as, “Wait, you can get fresh milk for a quarter while eating a bacon wrapped turkey leg, all while seeing a dairy princess get her likeness carved out of butter?” And my response would be, “Welcome to the Minnesota State Fair, my friend.” There is so much to see and do there that many people have to make a return trip to get everything included.

Now besides the wonderful rides, the dairy barn with butter sculptures, and the turkey legs, there are the splendid Agriculture and Horticulture sections of the Fair.

These massive concrete beauties house the finest Minnesota has to offer, with people from all around the state vying for the most beautiful blue ribbons around in their respective categories.

The categories include: Christmas Trees, Creative Activities, Crop Art & Scarecrows, Education, FFA (Future Farmers of America), Agriculture, Flowers, Fruit and Wine, Vegetable and Potato, and my personal favorite, Bee and Honey.

Why, you say, out of all these categories, would you be most interested in the Bee and Honey exhibit?

Well, I would answer:

1) The bee is an amazing creature. Just Google "bees are awesome," and you, too, will see the power of the bee.

2) To make honey, the bee must do some crazy feats. (What do they have to do, Jamie, to make the honey I know and love?)

Well I am glad you asked!

  • Honey bees must gather nectar from two million flowers to make one pound of honey.
  • One bee has to fly about 90,000  miles (three times around the globe) to make one pound of honey.
  • The average bee will make only 1/12th of a teaspoon of honey in its lifetime.
  • A honey bee visits 50 to 100 flowers during a collection trip.
  • A honey bee can fly for up to six miles, and as fast as 15 miles per hour.

Now you can see why the honey bee has garnered some extra buzz through the years. (Pun intended). Ok, enough about bees. They are fabulous, but let's get back the Fair.

Nestled in this vast building that houses the Bee and Honey section is a whole area which is dedicated to honey food products. What could taste better than food products sweetened with all-natural honey?

The honey bee food division's official stance is, "The honey food competitions strives to promote the use of honey by offering the public ideas for quality honey-sweetened foods, whether longtime family favorites or innovative new creations. Winning recipes are shared with the public so that others may enjoy them."

I don't know about you, but that sounds wonderful to me!

Every year I walked through the halls of the Ag-Hort buildings admiring these tasty honey creations, when one day it dawned on me that maybe I should throw my hat in the ring and give it a try. I thought, "I'm a decent baker and I work for the best bakeware company in the world who also happens to make a beautiful honey comb cake mold!"

Next step was to do what everyone esle does and hit the internet. I downloaded the official rules and regulations and came across the fact that they even had an unfrosted honey cake division with Bundt® cakes! This had to be my lucky day! So I read on, "Honey must have half of the sweetening agent in this recipe." I happened to know of a great honey pound cake recipe that used honey for sweetener and I knew that the denseness of the mix would create great detail. I ended up doubling the recipe to fit the size of the pan.

HONEY POUND CAKE

1 c. butter
3/4 c. honey
3 eggs
1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 c. flour, unsifted
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 c. milk

Cream butter gradually, add honey. Beat until fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla. Beat well. Then add flour, salt, and soda by spoonfuls, beating well. Heat to 350 degrees F. Pour batter into a well greased Bundt(R) or better yet, honeycomb cake pan. Bake for 45-50 minutes but check for doneness as you go. Let cake cool just 10 minutes in pan before inverting to remove.

_________________

I also thought it would be great to put some fondant bees on top. With the help of a friend, we got to make our first-ever Minnesota State Fair Honeycomb pull-apart Nordic Ware cake! My friend worked on the bees while I labored away at the cake, making trial after trial to get it to the right consistency. After all of my friend's hard work of making 15 fondant bees, and my hard work of making about 10 cakes, (let's just say my family was sick of cake by week 2), we had come up with a masterpiece.

Now I'm sure everyone is wondering if I won the coveted blue ribbon prize. Unfortunately, I did not. However, I did learn a lot about the Minnesota State Fair, honey, and how easy it is to bake a beautiful cake in a Nordic Ware pan.

I also learned a few tips and tricks for what the judges are looking for and I am now signed up for this year's competition. I think I will be using Nordic Ware's Beehive Cake Pan this year and perhaps a honey lemon recipe to really wow the judges! So next time you are at your State Fair, check out the baking sections and have you eye out for Nordic Ware's Bundts® and Nordic Ware's shapes. Don't be afraid to throw your hat into the ring for a little friendly baking competition too! Who knows, maybe you could come home with a blue ribbon!

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