No joke, cocktail cakes take first at state fair STATE FAIR

September 05, 1992|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,Staff Writer

Richard Aitken takes his cooking seriously.

L But winning contests is another matter -- a laughing matter.

"I can't tell you how much fun it's been," says Mr. Aitken, who won first place in a nationally sponsored baking contest at the Maryland State Fair this week -- and almost refused to believe it.

On a whim and not expecting to win -- men rarely get top honors -- the Ruxton retiree entered his Cocktail Corn Cakes, "somewhat of an original recipe," in the Land O'Lakes Light Sour Cream Quick Bread contest.

And when he got a call from the company, he thought it was a prank.

"OK . . . cut the jokes," he remembers saying, as he answered the phone. It was, however, no joke. Instead, it was Joyce Agnew from Minneapolis, who coordinates quick bread contests at 50 state fairs, calling to say Mr. Aitken's mini-muffins were the best of the 42 Maryland entries.

Mr. Aitken, a pianist, composer and retired music teacher, won "$100 and a huge blue ribbon and an apron and a certificate. It was the first contest I've ever gotten involved in," he says. But not the last.

Buoyed by his first win, he went right back to the fair to enter his apple cake and white bread in other competitions. The cake won a first place and the bread a second.

It's highly unusual for a man to win the quick bread contest, especially with an unusually high number of entries.

"We only have one or two men a year who win," Ms. Agnew said.

But Mr. Aitken, 64, is no rookie cook. "I've been doing it since I was 9, as a matter of necessity," he says, recalling that his mother was often ill, so she taught him to cook. "I really love to cook. I do all the cooking at home."

Mr. Aitken says he thinks his corn cakes won because they're simple. These are not breakfast muffins, Mr. Aitken stresses. He concocted them as alternatives to crackers at cocktail parties. "It's a very tasty little morsel; it's very acceptable with drinks; it just hits the spot."

WINNING RECIPE

Here's Mr. Aitken's winning recipe for Cocktail Corn Cakes:

* Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

3 eggs

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 small can (8 3/4 ounces) creamed corn

1 8-ounce carton light sour cream

* Whisk all of the above ingredients until well blended.

* In another bowl:

1 cup self-rising flour

2 ounces shredded Cheddar cheese

2 ounces real bacon bits

1 tablespoon minced dehydrated onion

* Combine these dry ingredients until well blended.

* Add flour mixture to egg mixture. Stir only until blended. Do not beat.

* Spoon batter into a well-greased, 24-cup mini-muffin pan. Sprinkle a few shreds of Cheddar cheese on each muffin cup as a glaze.

* Bake at 400 degrees for 25 to 28 minutes. Allow to remain in the pan for a few minutes. Cool on cake racks. Makes 24 bite-size muffins.

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