Five years ago, Maria Fisher entered two cakes into the Kentucky State Fair and won second place for her amaretto buttercream chocolate cake. Since then, the Louisville resident and 1993 graduate has won ribbons at the fair each year for her confections, as well as the coveted Sweepstakes Award—an engraved silver platter and large rosette ribbon—this year for earning the most points of any cake exhibitor.
She’s also learned an important secret—how to judge the judges. “I have learned over the years, by observing what has won in the past, that the judges really favor cakes with fruit,” says Fisher. It was knowledge put to good use. Over the course of two days during the summer, Fisher turned her galley-style kitchen into a production line, hired her mother as a sous chef and produced five cakes, including a peaches and cream concoction that went on to win first place.
For inspiration, Fisher scours cookbooks and magazines, and watches food shows to find new flavor combinations. “I will use a chocolate cake recipe from one cookbook,” she says, “but I will combine it with a filling that I saw in another cookbook. Then I’ll make a family recipe for the frosting. So the end result is new, but the individual components may not be.”