LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- A 66-year-old South Carolina woman yesterday captured the 35th Pillsbury Bake-Off $50,000 grand prize for her Pennsylvania Dutch Cake and Custard Pie.
Gladys Fulton of Summerville snatched her check off the sweat-sticky forehead of emcee Willard Scott at the early morning awards ceremony at Walt Disney World. Her winning recipe combined a gooey filling of applesauce, sour cream and molasses and a vanilla-flavored cake mixture baked inside a Pillsbury ready-made pie crust.
"I combined my three favorite foods -- applesauce, cake and pie -- to come up with this recipe," said Mrs. Fulton, who recently retired from a supermarket delicatessen. "But I never in my wildest dreams though I'd be here."
Twenty-four finalists, including Mrs. Fulton, walked away with a total of $136,000 in cash and thousands of dollars worth of new Sears appliances.
On Monday 100 finalists cooked their original recipes in the Fantasia ballroom of the Contemporary Resort Hotel. The finalists were selected for the biennial contest from tens of thousands of entries. The nine-member judging team was made up of food editors, consultants and cooking instructors. They scored the dishes on taste, appearance and ease of preparation.
At the award's ceremony, Mrs. Fulton's husband, Wilton, 67, burst into tears. He said the couple were going keep a little of the prize money for themselves for a vacation and put the rest into a college fund for their four grandchildren.
A woman and her granddaughter each won prize money in two separate categories. Pat Bradley, a retired court clerk from Rohnert Park, Calif., won $10,000 for her rich, ham-studded Creamy Broccoli and Wild Rice Soup. Her granddaughter, 12-year-old Kristina Vanni of Libertyville, Ill., won $2,000 for a rich Raspberry-Filled Apricot Cake.
During the Bake-Off, Kristina had charmed onlookers in the crowded, overheated ballroom by performing skits with her ventriloquist's dummy. Her dummy, dressed up in chef's whites and a chef's toque, rested beside the stove while Kristina iced the layer cake with pudding flavored with apricot nectar.
During Monday's Bake-Off, the heat was on mentally and physically for the finalists from the moment they paraded olympic-style into the ballroom to the tune of "When the Saints Come Marching In."
From 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., the contestants made at least three versions of their recipes. One version was for the judges who were sequestered in an adjacent room, one was for display and and photography, and one was for the hundreds of media people and Pillsbury guests milling about the hall. The contestants got to pick which version was judged.
The ballroom temperature was supposed to be cool enough to make the heat from the 100 stoves bearable, but unfortunately the thermostat rose about 15 to 20 degrees hotter thanks to blazing lights on ceiling scaffolds and TV cameras.
It was so hot that cream wouldn't whip, dough turned to sticky mush and cakes that were supposed to cool at room temperature remained too hot to ice.
Houston contestant Cindy Kohlhoff was frantic because her White Chocolate Raspberry Torte wouldn't cool enough so she could glaze it with streaks of chocolate.
"I hope they [the judges] like it gooey because I think it's still hot in the center," she said as she submitted her raspberry-studded, chocolate-streaked dessert to the judges. Ms. Kohlhoff won $2,000.
Not all the contestants found the heat oppressive. One $10,000 winner, Carol Hulka, from Michigan, said she could have finished making her Kraut 'N Kielbasa Sandwich Buns faster if the temperature had been in the 80s, warm enough to raise yeast dough.
Refrigerated pie crust category:
$50,000 grand prize: Gladys Fulton, Summerville, S.C.; Pennsylvania Dutch Cake and Custard Pie.
$2,000: Betty Eder, Lytle Creek, Calif.; Apricot Tea Tart.
$2,000: Roberta Mintz Levine, Pittsburg, Pa.; Gorgonzola and Onion Pie.
$2,000: Joan Verdeal, Arvada, Colo.; Winter Fruit Pie.
Canned vegetables, canned dry beans and glass jar mushrooms:
$10,000: Reta Smith, Libertyville, Ill.; White Chili with Salsa Verde.
$2,000: Ellen Marie Anders, Big Bend, Wisc.; Great Northern Bean Stew.
$2,000: Gil Soucy, Lowell, Mass.; Bean Picadillo Tortillas.
$2,000: Marilou Robinson, Portland, Ore.; Corn and Pumpkin Soup With Jalapeno Pesto.
Flour and hot roll mix:
$10,000: Carol Hulka, Muskegon, Mich.; Kraut 'N Kielbasa Sandwich Buns.
$2,000: Cindy Kohlhoff, Houston; White Chocolate Raspberry Torte.
$2,000: Chris Vidra, Maumee, Ohio; Spinach Cheese Twist.
$2,000: Merrie Wimmer, Flower Mound, Texas; Praline Torte With Chocolate Truffle Filling.
Refrigerated crescent dinner rolls and pizza crust:
$10,000: Dave Schmitt, Phoenix, Ariz.; Black Bean Mexican Pizza.
$2,000: Lynette Dahlman, Chatsworth, Calif.; Orangeasy Pastries.
$2,000: Teresa Smith, Sacramento, Calif.; Deluxe Turkey Club Pizza.
$2,000: Carol Winder, Murray, Utah, Sweet 'N Sour Chicken Wraps.
$10,000: Pat Bradley, Rohnert Park, Calif.; Creamy Broccoli and Wild Rice Soup.
$2,000: Vickie Cox, Wilkes-Barre, Pa.; Antipasto Tortellini Salad.
$2,000: Manika Misra, North Miami Beach; Thai Curry Chicken With Vegetables.
$2,000: Karen Viveiros, Sunnyvale, Calif.; Paella Pronto.
Cake and brownie mix:
$10,000: Sharla Jack Springfield, Ore.; Fudgy Orange Cappuccino Torte.
$2,000: Kathy Gardner Middleport, Ohio; Caramel Graham Fudge Brownies.
$2,000: Christie Henson, Conway, Ark.; Tiramisu Toffee Torte.
$2,000: Kristina Vanni, Libertyville, Ill.; Raspberry-Filled Apricot Cake.