Everything You Need to Know about the Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest

This Iconic Recipe Contest Takes Place Every Two Years

Peanutty Pie Crust Clusters by Beth Royals won the Simply Sweet Treats category at the 47th Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest. Image (c) Pillsbury

The Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest: an American Icon

The Pillsbury Bake-Off is a long-standing recipe contest that allows regular cooks across America to submit their favorite recipes for the chance to win big prizes. The contest, which has run since 1949, showcases Pillsbury products and challenging cooks to create highly original recipes contain ingredients from a pre-specified list.

The Bake-Off contest was originally conceived as a way for Pillsbury to celebrate their 80th birthday.

The contest was officially called the Grand National Recipe and Baking Contest, but the media seized on the name, Bake-Off. It fit so well that Pillsbury adopted the name for later contests.

The very first prize winner was Theodora Smafield, who took home $50,000 in 1946 for her No-Knead Water-Rising Twists. Theodora took home $50,000 for her win.

You might not realize it, but the Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest has probably had an effect on you, even if you've never entered. For example, if you have a Bundt pan in your kitchen, or you've enjoyed any of the popular cakes that use them, you can thank the Pillsbury Bake-Off.

The winner of the 1966 Bake-Off 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 up with NordicWare, the creators of the ring-shaped pans, to put out a line of special cake mixes for Bundt pans.

How the Pillsbury Bake-Off Works:

Originally, the Bake-Off was held every year, but today entries are accepted bi-annually. It takes a while to narrow down the entries and to select the best recipes. The winners are announced in the years when no entries are submitted.

Since 1996, the grand prize in the Pillsbury Bake-Off has been a million dollars cash.

The winner also receives additional prizes like kitchen appliances.

Each year, the contest also offers special award categories. Some examples of special Bake-Off categories in recent years include America's Favorite Recipe Award, which recognizes the recipe with the most consumer votes, the GE Imagination At Work Award which recognizes the most innovative recipe, and the Jif Peanut Butter Award which goes to the best recipe that uses peanut butter. Each of these winners receives cash and prizes.

Each recipe is reviewed by a panel of judges from an independent agency on the basis of taste, appearance, creativity , and consumer appeal. The best recipes were selected for screening by the Pillsbury Bake-Off Test Kitchens. The recipes chosen for advancement by the test kitchens were prepared according to the directions and vetted to ensure that they had not been previously published. The top 100 from those recipes were selected as the finalists.

Using the Bake-Off As Inspiration for Your Own Recipes

If you're looking for ways to improve your own recipes, either for your family to enjoy or to improve your recipe contest entries, the Bake-Off is a great place to start.

The judges take extra care to select recipes that are unique and delicious.

By trying these recipes for yourself, you can see how the ingredients were used in interesting ways to create something really new and different.

Each year, Pillsbury gathers the best Bake-Off recipes and turns them in cookbooks. You can buy them and keep them on hand to try new recipes.

You can also visit the Bake-Off Contest Recipes section of the Pillsbury website to get all of the recipes at your fingertips, without having to pay for them. If you use a tablet computer in the kitchen, the website is a particularly easy way to use the recipes. You can also print out the recipes if you don't have a computer in the kitchen.

If you want to enter the Bake-Off, reviewing the recipes can also help you boost your chances of winning. For example, a quick review of the grand-prize winners shows that over the years, more than 70% of the million-dollar winners have entered with dessert recipes like Mini Ice Cream Cookie CupsMacadamia Fudge Torte, and Buttercream Pound Cake.

Of the savory dishes that have won, many have included chicken, like Chicken Florentine Panini and Salsa Couscous Chicken, while many others have been different types of bread. Those might be good bets if you want to buck the trends and go with a savory recipe.

Doing your own analysis of the recipes can also prevent you from wasting your time by submitting a recipe that is too close to one of the previous winners'. No matter how good your recipe is, it's unlikely to win if it doesn't stand out from the others.

For more winning tips, check out How to Win the Pillsbury Bake-Off from Christina Verrelli, who created the million-dollar winning recipe, Pumpkin Ravioli with Salted Caramel Whipped Cream.