Robin Ralls won Best of Division honors in the Quick Breads and Pastries division of the San Diego County Fair’s Baked and Decorated Food and Candy competition.
The cranberry orange cream cheese loaf with toasted pecans also earned the Lake Elsinore resident first place in the division’s Fruit, With or Without Nuts category.
“It’s actually an original recipe, so I was a little bit excited to submit it,” Ralls said. “I’m actually just thrilled to death that it was a Best of Division award.”
Ralls enhanced her flavor with orange zest, which is finely chopped orange peel. “The secret to it is I use real orange zest in it,” she said.
Ralls also soaked the cranberries in real vanilla extract for over an hour.
In the 2016 competition Ralls did not win a Best of Division award. “Last year was very humbling for me,” she said. “I’m glad to be back with the Best of Division winners.”
Ralls first entered the county fair’s Baked and Decorated Food and Candy competition in 2014 and won Best of Division in the Candies division for a java chocolate chip truffle which also placed first in the Truffles class; she also won second place in that category for her raspberry creme truffle and received an honorable mention ribbon for her Fudge entry.
Ralls won two Best of Division honors in 2015. Her lemon creme truffle won Best of Division for Candies as well as first place in the Truffles class and her orange creme truffle placed second in that category. Ralls also won Best of Division in 2015 in the Cakes division along with first place in the Any Cake with Fruit class for her carrot cake with cream cheese filling, and her caramels dipped in dark chocolate took first place in the Dipped Candies category which is in the same Candies division as Truffles.
Last year Ralls placed second in the Banana, With or Without Nut class of the Quick Breads and Pastries division for her banana cream cheese bread with pecans and also took second place in the 2016 Truffles competition with a banana creme truffle while taking home an honorable mention ribbon in the Fudge category.
This year Ralls added a third-place ribbon in the Other Than Listed class of the Cakes division and honorable mention awards in the Fudge class of the Candies division and the Rolled category of the Cookies division.
Ralls entered a red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting. “I’m glad that I got the third place, because there were a lot of incredible cakes there,” she said.
Her Fudge entry was for fudge with marshmallows and pecans, and she entered peanut butter cookies with peanut butter chips for her other honorable mention ribbon. “I’m going to be improving those recipes, too,” Ralls said.
The first-place Fudge entry submitted by Linda Handy of Lakeside also won Best of Division for Candies. “It was a stiff competition this year,” Ralls said.
“There was a great turnout this year,” Ralls said. “I’m grateful and impressed with the turnout, and I hope it continues to grow.”
Ralls was raised in Vista and has lived in Lake Elsinore for twelve years.
“The San Diego County Fair is my favorite fair,” she said.
Teresa Jesse of Murrieta obtained a first-place ribbon for her Biscotti entry in the Cookies division. Jesse made chocolate-dipped, toasted hazelnut biscotti.
Jesse won second place in the Original Recipe Using Any Other Commercial Mix class of the Prepared Mix-Up category. Jesse submitted dark fudge brownies topped with a layer of peanut butter.
The Banana, With or Without Nut competition in the Quick Breads and Pastries division provided Jesse with a third-place result for her traditional banana bread with toasted pecans submission.
Janelle Flores of Hemet was the first-place winner in the Chocolate class of the Cakes division. Flores submitted a dark chocolate cake with chocolate ganache.
Karen Anderson of Temecula placed second in the Fondant, Wedding Cake category of the Decorated Cakes division for her tiered wedding cake with fondant hand-tooled to look like leather.