Robin Ralls and her husband made the trip from their Lake Elsinore home to the state fair in Sacramento. Their cargo included entries in the state fair’s baked goods contest July 18-21, and Ralls returned home with three ribbons including a first-place award.
Ralls won first place in the quick breads category for her cranberry orange cream cheese loaf, second place in the drop cookies class for her peanut butter cookies, and third place in the candy/truffles competition for her maple creme truffle with candied bacon.
“Winning a ribbon at the state fair is pretty impressive,” Ralls said. “The state fair’s very competitive, hundreds of entries, and they’re very critical and very thorough with the judging.”
The state fair has live judging.
“They basically pick apart the recipe and they’re very critical,” Ralls said.
The direct interaction between the entrants and judges has advantages even when the judges provide drawbacks.
“I love the live judging,” Ralls said. “I loved the feedback because it just motivates me to do better the next time.”
The cranberry orange cream cheese loaf utilized the same recipe Ralls used when she won Best of Division honors in the Quick Breads and Pastries competition at the San Diego County Fair. She enhanced her flavor with orange zest, which is finely chopped orange peel, and also soaked the cranberries in real vanilla extract for over an hour.
“Any blue ribbon at state is an accomplishment in my eyes. It’s like the best of the best,” Ralls said.
Ralls had not previously won at a county fair level for her maple cream truffle.
“I was very happy with getting a third place ribbon on the maple cream truffle,” she said.
The judges informed Ralls that the truffle lost points because the pieces were unevenly sized and the chocolate on the outside was uneven.
“The points I did get were for flavor and appearance,” she said.
The state fair competition was the second for Ralls. Last year she entered a carrot cake, but there are no baking facilities once she arrives in Sacramento so the cake was baked at home.
“Bringing a cake 500 miles took its toll,” she said.
Last year’s cake entry still provided Ralls with second place.
“I’m just looking forward to next year. Each year gets better and better,” Ralls said.
Ralls, who has lived in Lake Elsinore for twelve years, has a full-time job at the Animal Friends of the Valley shelter in Wildomar and she is also a Thrive distributor. Her baking activity is thus a tertiary job, although she accepts requests for orders and also has the Grandma’s Addiction page on Facebook for her baked goods.