State Fair favorites: 3 sweet treats with pecans

aweigl@newsobserver.comOctober 23, 2012 

  • Pecan Pie Cake This recipe won first place in the Karo Delightful Dessert contest for Melissa Bentley of Zebulon at this year’s state fair. 1/2 cup packed brown sugar 1 1/2 cups dark corn syrup, divided 1/3 cup cornstarch 5 eggs, separated, plus another 4 egg yolks, divided 1 1/2 cups half-and-half Pinch salt 1 stick plus 3 tablespoons butter, softened, divided 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon vanilla, divided 3 cups pecans, finely chopped 1/2 cup shortening 2 cups plus 1 tablespoon sugar, divided 2 cups flour 1 teaspoon baking soda 1 cup buttermilk 2 cups whipping cream 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon Candied pecans for decoration, if desired MAKE pecan pie filling: whisk together 1/2 cup brown sugar, 3/4 cup dark corn syrup, cornstarch, 4 egg yolks, half-and-half and pinch of salt in a large, heavy saucepan until smooth. Bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking constantly, and boil for 1 minute, or until thickened. Remove from heat. Whisk in 3 tablespoons butter and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Place a sheet of wax paper (or plastic wrap) directly on surface of mixture to prevent a film from forming, and chill at least 4 hours. PREHEAT oven to 350 degrees. Sprinkle 2 cups pecans evenly into 3 generously buttered 9-inch round cake pans; shake to coat bottoms and sides of pans. BEAT 1 stick butter and shortening at medium speed with an electric mixer until fluffy, and gradually add 2 cups sugar, beating well. Add 5 egg yolks, one at a time, beating just until blended after each addition. Stir in 1 tablespoon vanilla. COMBINE flour and baking soda. Add to butter mixture alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed just until blended after each addition. Stir in remaining 1 cup pecans. WHIP 5 egg whites at medium speed until stiff peaks form, and fold one third egg whites into batter. Fold in remaining egg whites. (Do not over mix). Pour batter into prepared pans. BAKE for about 20-25 minutes until a toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks for about 10 minutes. Put some wax paper down under the wire racks and then invert cakes onto the wire racks. Brush the tops and sides of cake layers with 3/4 cup dark corn syrup, and cool completely. MAKE frosting: whip cream until soft peaks form. Gradually add 1 tablespoon sugar and cinnamon and beat until very stiff peaks form. (Just be careful. Do not beat too much and turn cream into butter.) Gently stir in 1 cup pecan pie filling until just combined. PLACE one cake, pecan side up, on serving tray. Spread half of pecan pie filling on one layer. Place second cake, pecan side up, on top of filling. Spread remaining pecan pie filling on top of second layer. Top with third cake, pecan side up. FROST outside of cake with the frosting. Sprinkle top with candied pecans if desired. Slice and serve. Yield: 8-10 slices
  • Pecan Cranberry Rolls This recipe from Gail Fuller of Raleigh won first place in the N.C. Pecan Growers Association cooking contest at this year’s N.C. State Fair. 2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened 1 cup coarsely chopped pecans 6 slices bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled 1 cup coarsely chopped dried cranberries 1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions 4 large tortillas (plain, wheat, spinach, or sun-dried tomato flavor) COMBINE cream cheese, pecans, bacon, cranberries and green onions. Spread mixture evenly among tortillas. Roll up tightly, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours. To serve, cut each wrap into 8 slices. Yield: 32 servings
  • Honey Pecan Pumpkin Pie This recipe won third place for Debra Fought of Cary in the Pillsbury Pet-Ritz Pie contest at this year’s N.C. State Fair. 1 frozen deep dish pie crust 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree 1/3 cup evaporated milk 1/3 cup honey 2 eggs 1 tablespoon flour 1 teaspoon vanilla 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg 1/2 teaspoon cloves 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 cup finely chopped pecans 1/2 cup packed brown sugar 4 teaspoons melted butter PREHEAT oven to 400 degrees. Bake crust until edges are light and golden, about 15 minutes. Place on wire rack to cool. Lower oven temperature to 350 degrees. WHISK together pumpkin, milk, honey, eggs, flour, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and salt in a large bowl. Pour into cooled crust. Combine chopped pecans, brown sugar and butter. Sprinkle on top of pie. BAKE pie in bottom third of oven at 350 degrees until filling is set and pastry if golden, about 30 minutes. Let cool. If desired before serving, drizzle honey over pie or add a spoonful of honey-sweetened whipped cream to slices. Yield: 8 slices

The cooking contests at this year’s N.C. State Fair bestowed ribbons on two recipes that are worth considering for your Thanksgiving dessert table: a pecan pie cake and a honey pecan pumpkin pie.

The two recipes and a pecan cranberry roll appetizer were highlighted by Lisa Prince, who oversees the contests each year and hosts UNC-TV’s “Flavor, NC” television show. Prince says the judges unanimously agreed – something that rarely happens – that Melissa Bentley’s pecan pie cake deserved the blue ribbon in the Karo Delightful Dessert Contest.

Bentley, 48, of Zebulon, is a regular state fair competitor. She’s won 16 ribbons in the baking and cooking contests since she started entering eight years ago. But this year was Bentley’s best showing yet: five blue ribbons, including a best in show in the baking contest.

The idea for a pecan pie cake sprung from her quest to transform the achingly sweet pecan pie into more palatable dessert. The result is a three-layer cake with pecan pie filling between each layer and a cinnamon whipped cream custard frosting.

Unlike pies with their troublesome crusts, which can be intimidating to some home cooks, Bentley believes her cake is more approachable. “I love to do things that other people will want to make,” she said.

If you would like to check out all this year’s winning recipes, go to

To see printable versions of these recipes, click on the link below:

Pecan Cranberry Rolls

Pecan Pie Cake

Honey Pecan Pumpkin Pie

Weigl: 919-829-4848

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service