Farm show flavor: Cakes, candies take center stage in Williamsburg

WILLIAMSBURG – Judy Edwards took her time tasting each of the four angel food cakes entered in the 49th annual Williamsburg Farm Show baking contest. Then she went back and forth among them, pressing a finger into the slices and checking for texture, moistness and appearance.

“The prettiest one isn’t necessarily the best-tasting one,” Edwards said as she eyed the Creamsicle Angel Food Cake, decorated with fresh orange slices, white chocolate and candies. She declared it the prettiest one in the lot.

But her tongue told her it wasn’t quite as moist as the Coconut Cream Angel Food Cake, which got a blue ribbon for the baker, Sharon Rydbom of Tipton. The Creamsicle got the red ribbon.

This is the first year that Edwards has judged baked goods at the farm show – she’s usually rating the quilts, needlework and other crafts – and she knows a little about cakes, having been a professional cake decorator for 25 years.

Her job on Monday morning would have been busier in years past, when the tables were covered with baked goods, said Mary Harstrom, chairwoman of the food products portion of the farm show.

“Yeah, I’m disappointed,” Harstrom said. “We had, what? Six candies, one zucchini bread? The tables usually are full, and we’re having to move stuff around to judge them.”

One chocolate cake was entered, and not a single pie.

Harstrom said a scheduling snafu stems in part to Labor Day being later than usual this year and no one likes to interfere with other area farm shows. That pushed back the Williamsburg show to this week, and it officially kicked off on Sunday. Monday was the first day of classes at the local Williamsburg Community Schools.

That wasn’t a problem for the Plummer family. Jennie Plummer, who grew up not far from here, homeschools her five children. Every year, they all come over from their farm in Friedens in Somerset County to spend the week of the Williamsburg Farm Show with Plummer’s mother, June Bigelow, at her Point View Farm over on Route 22.

Monday morning, Plummer, her 2-year-old daughter, Makayla, and her mother showed up, hands full with entries into the baked goods contest. Some were made by Plummer’s sons, who were down tending to animals they had entered in the farm show.

“I remember coming here since I was very, very young,” Plummer said.

Bigelow enters the angel food cake contest every year, and she made a cherry version this year.

“I won last year,” Bigelow said, as she placed her entry on the judging table. “The winner gets to go to (the Pennsylvania Farm Show in) Harrisburg. I didn’t win there. I probably won’t win this year. But one of these days, we’re going to get lucky,” she added, explaining the $500 award that goes to the state winner.

This year, her cherry angel food cake impressed Edwards, who “oohed” when slicing it to reveal a pretty red pattern with whole cherries were baked inside. But it came in third to Rydbom’s first-place coconut cream version and the second-place creamsicle, made by Scott Felix of Alum Bank.

Rydbom said she entered cakes in the Bellwood Farm Show for years until that one was canceled due to lack of funding. She heard about the Williamsburg show last year and entered her pumpkin angel food cake, winning third place. She entered the same cake at the Hollidaysburg Farm Show – which will be held this year from Sept. 21 to 24 – and got second.

“This year, my husband said I should do my coconut cream cake, so I did,” she said.

When told it placed first this year, Rydbom was excited because her goal is to get back to the state farm show, which will be held in January in Harrisburg.

Rydbom took a first prize – and $250 – for a vegetable quick bread entry back in 2004. She was headed back to the state show a few years ago with a chocolate cake when an ice storm prevented her from going. She has taken three angel food cakes to Harrisburg, with two making the top 25.

Rydbom will be interested to see how her coconut cream fares this year. She generously revealed to the Mirror she bakes the cake two days prior to judging so it can rest.

“I think it lets the flavor settle in,” she said.

She makes the filling early, too, so it can “get good and cold” in the refrigerator. When she frosts it the day before, she decorates with a delicate basket weave that makes for a nice presentation.

“I like to cook and I like to bake,” she said. “I have entered a lot of different contests. You never know what you can do if you don’t enter.”

Mirror Staff Writer Cherie Hicks is at 949-7030.