Mar 26, 2012 • By

The 45th Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest

Wow! That’s my reaction to watching 100 people whip up recipes side-by-side under the pressure of bright lights, and questions from roving reporters and bloggers with cameras, as minutes turn into hours until they had to turn in their creations for judging.

Not to mention the great smells – don’t get me started on the aroma in the room!


Oh by the way, the winner receives a nice prize. One million dollars.

I witnessed my first Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest this morning – the 45th, walking the contest floor and talking to finalists as they followed the step-by-step instructions of their recipes that earned them one of 100 coveted spots in the iconic contest.

Just being here – as one of 100 – is quite an honor for the finalists, considering the thousands of entries that Pillsbury received. And it’s clear all 100 enjoyed the opportunity to be in the spotlight and take their place in the history of such a time-honored American tradition.

You could see it on their faces as they went into the ballroom in the contest’s Grand March this morning. Smiles were everywhere, despite their nerves.

Christena Rooks of Cincinnati, left, and Becky Pifer of Blanchard, Mich., walk in the “Grand March” at the Bake-Off.

The 95 women and five men, age 25 to 77 from 35 states, quickly took their places at their numbered cooking stations at 8 a.m. and went to work.

I spent the first half of the morning on the contest floor, escorting a crew from “The Martha Stewart Show,” led by comedian Joey Kola, as he went around talking to family members in the viewing area and then with many of the finalists.

You’ll be able to see some of those clips with Joey on the show tomorrow morning, as well as footage of Martha and other members of her team on the contest floor. (The Bake-Off winner will be revealed on her show, which airs at 10 a.m. EDT on Hallmark Channel.)

I did a few of my own interviews with some of the finalists, too. I was struck by how excited they were to be there, and how willing they were to talk about their recipes and the experience of being in the Bake-Off – despite all the stress!

Suzanne Beck, an attorney in Dayton, Ohio, told me what the contest was like and how she came up with her recipe. Here’s my interview with Suzanne:

I also did short interviews with Teresa Berkey, Keith Henn, Kelly McWherter, Elizabeth Morath, Roland Portillo, Dinah Surh and Maria Vasseur.

It was amazing to see the Bake-Off come together after many months of planning. And it was great to see so many General Mills employees on the contest floor this morning, filling various roles as needed. Some were even “runners” for the finalists, getting them their supplies and helping clear a path to the judging area, yelling “Recipe coming through!”

Here’s a shot of some of the recipes on display.

There was so much energy in the contest ballroom. It was a lot of fun to participate in this American tradition and see it firsthand.

This short video clip collection from the contest floor captures the scene for you.

Again, the winner of the Bake-Off will be announced tomorrow morning live on “The Martha Stewart Show” on Hallmark Channel, at 10 a.m. EDT. So tune in to see another chapter of Bake-Off history come to a close. I’ll have coverage here, as well.

Editor’s note: If you’re on Twitter, check out the #BakeOff hashtag for some more great photos during the event.