Since 1949, the Pillsbury Bake-Off has provided recipes for every household’s enjoyment. Over the years, cake has been a popular winner. Photo by Betty Wrenn Day
In 1949, the Pillsbury Company launched the Grand National Recipe and Baking Contest and announced that the winner would receive $50,000 as a grand prize award. Finalists would compete at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City.
If you submitted your recipe, the only required ingredient was Pillsbury’s Best Flour. The contest, which was conceived as a way for Pillsbury to celebrate its 80th birthday, allowed regular cooks across America to submit their favorite recipes with the chance of winning big prizes.
By 2013 the 46th contest, now titled Pillsbury Bake-Off, was held in Las Vegas, Nevada, and the grand-prize winner went home with $1,000,000— plus many extra prizes such as appliances and cookware.
The story behind this cooking event, which is 60-odd years old, takes you on a journey through all these years on how amateur cooks have set trends in American cooking. A good example is the winning recipe of the 1966 Bake-Off winner who used a little-known cooking tool in her Tunnel of Fudge Cake recipe, a Bundt pan. The recipe was so popular that demand for the Bundt pan soared. It quickly became the number-one selling pan and Pillsbury joined NordicWare, the creator of the ring-shaped pans, to put out a line of special Bundt pan cake mixes.
From 1949 through 1978 the Bake-Off was an annual event. In 1980 it became a bi-annual contest. When recipes are received each is reviewed by a panel of judges from an independent agency on the basis of taste, appearance, creativity and consumer appeal. The best recipes are selected for screening by the Pillsbury Bake-Off Test kitchens. Here the recipes chosen for advancement are prepared according to directions and vetted to ensure that they have not been previously published.