TN State Fair – Judging Desserts

rides waiting for fair-goers [and a couple prizes I was scheming to stuff into my truck!]

I was invited at the last minute to sub in for a food blogger friend to join the judging panel for the dessert submissions at this year’s TN State Fair. With visions of pies, cakes, pies, cookies, and…did I mention pies? dancing in my head, I said yes without hesitation. Any person in their sane mind should not turn down an opportunity to sample row upon row of home-baked sweet treats baked with care and love.

several of the submissions for the decorated cake category [look at that layer cake! ZOMG!]

The 15 or so judges gathered in the Creative Arts building at the TN State Fairgrounds the morning of the first day of the fair. Submissions were set up on long rows of tables by category, and then by lot within each category [i.e. cookies in one row, peanut cookies in one lot, fruit cookies in another lot]. Any judges with professional experience in a certain category were assigned to that category – the rest of us volunteered to judge based on preference or availability.

some of the submissions in the candy category

The pies looked fabulous but since this was my first time serving as a judge I decided to go with cookies given my professional experience with sweet betweens and the fact that I could take a nibble here and there and not get stuffed too quickly.

quick bread [including muffins] and yeast bread submissions – that braided challah loaf looked fabulous

The submissions that I sampled [mostly cookies and a few cakes] really ran the extremes – some were dry and tasteless while others just blew me away with their intense flavors and perfectly balanced textures.

caaaaaaake! cupcakes and cake-pops, too.

Once all lots were judged, everyone involved in judging that particular category tasted all of the blue-ribbon [1st place] winners to determine the best submission for that category. Our was a rather unassuming-looking peanut butter cookie that had an amazing balance of chew and crunch and was topped with a brown-sugar-peanut type crumble. Ah. Mazing.

pie. chocolate, lemon, lime, peanut butter, coconut..every single pie you could imagine.

Finally, all of the winners from each category were pitted against each other to vie for the title of Best In Show. All the judges crowded around the table of blue ribbon category winners and sampled to their hearts content. It was a tight race between the aforementioned peanut cookie and a decadent pumpkin spice cake with salted caramel frosting and a spiced pecan topping. You’ll have to visit the Fair [which runs through the 16th] to find out who won!

cookies – I spy lavender, compost and look at that cookiewich! I thought I stuffed ’em to the brim…

While I enjoyed judging I left the event even more excited to return next year as a contestant! My mind was running non-stop with ideas of some of my favorite desserts to submit in the different categories. Check out the guidelines here [scroll to the bottom of the page to view and/or download the pdf for the Creative Arts Catalog]. Hope I’ll get into some friendly competition with you next year!



  1. Lauren said:

    I’m so jealous that you got to do this! I’ve had dreams of judging a food competition. The only reason why I would be famous is so I can judge a round on Top Chef. ;)

    • Oh that’d be so much fun! Now that I’m an omnivore again I talk too much to The Husband during Top Chef, Master Chef, etc. about how I’d rate the dishes. Like I can taste them through the screen! :)

  2. I need to know how to get in on this judging thing!! Looks like fun. Mostly. :)

    • If they ask me to judge next year I’ll pass my spot on to you because I think I want to enter a bunch of baked goodies. I’ve got a couple blank walls in the house that could use some blue ribbons! Haha…

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