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Help me win an iPod- Dessert Contest!

My work is giving away an iPod to the winner of our dessert contest for our annual Thanksgiving lunch! I want to win this one for sure! Normally, I like to do a fall-ish themed dish, but there isn't usually quite this level of incentive. I was originally thinking about this cake recipe for Frosted Caramel Apple Layer Cake from Whole Foods: http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/recip... I'm just thinking that nothing will be able to beat chocolate though. I'm kind of doubting that the judges will be Chowhounds, so I need something that would be hard for the general public to resist. What do you all think? Any ideas that are a 'for sure' win?

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  1. I would do the Chocolate Bourbon Cake with Caramel Whipped Cream. Every time I've made it it disappears quicfkly and everybody is looking for more. You can find the recipe through a Chowhound search.

    4 Replies
    1. re: lattelover

      Ditto to this suggestion. This dessert is just out of this world. Andiereid was the first to post about it. I've made it a number of times and always for occasions - New Year's Eve, Cinco de Mayo CH event and a friend's 60th b-day. I do plan 2-3 days in advance.

      Day 1 Frosting because it needs to set

      Day 2 Bake Cake

      Day 3 Assemble

      It makes it more manageable. It's not difficult but it always impresses. You can also dress it up with decorations, but I never bother. Here are some posts.



      Link to recipe:


      1. re: beetlebug

        How bourbon-y is it? I'm not always a huge fan of extra boozey cakes, like rum cakes and such, so I'm a little cautious. The frosting looks really good though!

        1. re: Katie Nell

          It's not an overly boozey cake. It does have a great balance between the bourbon and chocolate. I think the bourbon somehow enhances the chocolate. But, if you are concerned about too much booze in it, you can use less bourbon to brush on each layer. I think each layer is 2T brushed on. Maybe make it 1T for each layer and keep the whipped cream at 1T.

          Every time I've made this, it's been a show stopper.

          1. re: beetlebug

            If you'd like to use this type of recipe but want to avoid the bourbon flavor (some people are simply turned off by the flavor of bourbon) you could try substituting a Marsala wine, rum, cream sherry, etc., all of which go well with chocolate.

    2. My new concept is combining the Gramercy Tavern Gingerbread and Tyler's Ultimate Cheesecake... using the gingerbread as the crust... you have to bake the gingerbread for a few minutes (10-ish) to let it just get hard enough on top so that the cheesecake batter doesn't mix into it when poured on top, then bake off in a water bath... or the other option is to bake the gingerbread first and let chill in the fridge, then stir chunks of it into the cheesecake batter before baking.

      Some Paula Deen decadent ideas
      or her french toast casserole with a brown sugar brulee for dessert

      or Ina Garten's Outrageous Brownies

      1. Suzanne Goins' Hazelnut Brown Butter Cake - when I made it my husband pronounced it the....best....dessert....ever.....made by me. Chef Goins chose it for her wedding cake. It is delicious (now, I've never had the chocolate bourbon cake with caramel whipped cream, which sounds mighty fine). It's and one-layer 9-inch cake made with ground hazelnuts among other ingredients, covered with a chocolate ganache. Strikingly simple but complex in flavor and depending on your skill with an offset spatula, does not have that homemade look. I first encountered the recipe on SmittenKitchen, here's the link:


        1. If the Thanksgiving lunch will have typical T-day items - bird, sweet potato, and the like - then chocolate might not be appropriate, although you're certainly correct that, as restaurants know, chocolate is most people's first-choice dessert.

          There's no recipe per se, but I make a fruit compote that is a little different, and works either as a stand-alone dessert or a topping for ice cream or cake - like that hazelnut brown butter one already posted. I combine dried apricots, slices of peeled, cored firm apple (Gala, Honeycrisp, Granny Smith, for example) and Bosc pear, and sometimes prunes, in a microwave-safe dish and drizzle with a little honey. Pour in a 50/50 mix of unfiltered apple cider and Tokaji Aszu wine (a raisiny dessert wine from Hungary) about half-submerging the fruit. Cover and microwave until the apple is nearly tender enough, then stir in some golden raisins. They will plump, and the fruit will soften, from the residual heat as the compote cools. The wine adds a little sophistication and an astringency that prevents the fruit from being cloyingly sweet.

          1. Chocolate Flan cake. It is awesome! Very rich and you can only eat a small piece. This recipe says to use a cake mix, which i'm sure is how the person who makes the one I've had makes it http://www.recipezaar.com/Chocolate-F...

            My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

            1. That recipe sounds good to me but I find some people don't care for whole wheat pastry flour if they're used to white flour (appealing to as many people are possible). Along the lines of the apple layer cake you're thinking of, this caramel apple upside down cake is really good. It's like a pineapple upside down cake w/ apples. I make it in a cast iron skillet.


              Two of the most popular desserts I've made, along the lines of work people are carrot cake cheesecake and dulce de leche cheesecake.


              With the dulce de leche cheesecake, I don't follow a specific recipe for it but use brown sugar in the graham cracker crust to make it more caramel-y, use a recipe that calls for egg yolks for the richness. Reserve a cup or so of the cheesecake mix, mix with dulce de leche and dollop on top, swirling a knife through. Serve w/ dulce de leche on the side. BTW, I think it's funny to have you asking for advice on this because I'd probably be looking for your advice if I wanted to do this!

              6 Replies
              1. re: chowser

                Thank you... I do like my desserts! :-) I usually over-think these things though. I just worry about making something too sophisticated for work people, because it never fails to amaze me what people think is weird or unusual. For instance, I never thought of cinnamon and chocolate being a strange combo, but a lot of people at work, when I brought something with that combo in it, were very weirded out by it!

                At any rate, lots of good options here for me to mull over! A chocolate cheesecake won last year, but last year's prize was just a $25 gift card, so I wasn't too bummed!

                1. re: Katie Nell

                  I don't know how much strategy or thought goes into the contest every year. Are the judges the same from last year to this year? Do you know their personal preferences? Is the contest soley on taste and looks? If so, then maybe the dulce de leche cheesecake is the way to go.

                  But, if a cheesecake won last year, will they also choose a cheesecake this year as well?

                  More food for thought. The book, The Sweet Spot (last 2 month's DCOTM) has interesting recipes that give a familiar dessert a little zing. My mid-western, standard eating MIL, loved the 2 cookies I made from that book because they were slightly different from her usual cookies. I don't think she has really had cinnamon and chocolate as a combo either.

                  I can internally debate this for many minutes. But, I'll stop here with my random thoughts.

                  Now, who is overthinking this contest? And, it's not even mine. But, Katie Nell, I really want you to win your Ipod. And, I hope you get to choose the color as well.

                  1. re: beetlebug

                    Well, last year everyone just voted, which is stupid, because there's no way you could taste all the desserts when everyone's going through the buffet line. In fact, some people just voted for mine because they knew it was mine. So, obviously not a lot of thought! Since I was on the committee this year, I suggested that we have judges, so I think there will be around three judges. I would imagine that they are going to be men who will eat anything, especially if it's free, so probably not too discerning of palates! (I suggested red as the color at our meeting, so my fingers are crossed! ;-)

                  2. re: Katie Nell

                    Have you ever made the Elvis Cake that krissywats posted a while ago. It just popped into my head. When I've brought it to generic group functions, people rave about it for weeks. I went to a different gym once and people pulled me aside and told me they wanted to hear more about the Elvis cake because others had talked about it incessantly.


                    Believe it or not, I like it better w/ shortening than butter (though butter is good, too, just not as tender) and use cream cheese in place of some of the butter for the frosting so it's very creamy. Basic combo of flavors, nothing that people would think is a strange combo (I love cinnamon and chocolate). When I made it, I decorated it with Reeses peanut butter cups.

                    1. re: chowser

                      I haven't made it, but I gave the recipe to a co-worker and she made it for one of our many birthday celebrations. People went crazy over it and were fighting over the crumbs! I was kind of kicking myself for having handed off the recipe! ;-) She just made it for our small group though, so there would be a lot of people at our Thanksgiving lunch that haven't had it. I don't know though... I had thought about that recipe, but now that she's made it, I kind of feel like she's known for it, you know? Again, overthinking things!

                    2. re: Katie Nell

                      I was actually going to suggest cheesecake - pumpkin cheesecake with ginger snap crust - which is very Thanksgivingish and delicious.

                      Otherwise, how about an apple cake with caramel glaze? I've noticed people go crazy for caramel so you could do an extra thick layer of it. Or carrot cake? I have a carrot cake recipe, probably from Epicurious but I'd need to check, that is triple layer and never ceases to impress.

                      Another thought is to go with a pie, like peanut butter caramel or something decadent but homey.

                      Good luck! What a fun contest.

                  3. profiterols or if you're feeling extra energetic, a croquembouche. i'd vote for you if you made either.

                    1. Just a thought, but if you're making this for the work and co-workers are judging, maybe gourmet is not the way to go.....??

                      Maybe try something like this.... can you have 2 entries?

                      I WISH IT WERE TWIX® BARS

                      Club crackers
                      1/2 c. butter
                      1/2 c. sugar
                      1/2 c. brown sugar
                      1/4 c. milk
                      1 c. graham cracker, crushed
                      2/3 c. peanut butter
                      1/2 c. butterscotch
                      1/2 c. chocolate chips

                      Line bottom of 9 x 13 inch cake pan with Club crackers.
                      Boil for 5 minutes the butter, sugar, brown sugar, milk, and graham crackers. Pour over first layer.

                      Put another layer of Club crackers on. Melt together peanut butter, butterscotch and chocolate chips; pour over crackers, spread to cover.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: janetms383

                        Oh, I'm totally thinking not-so-gourmet, but I don't think the Chocolate Bourbon Cake, or the Caramel Apple Cake, or the dulce de leche cheesecake would be too gourmet... do you?

                        If I weren't low on cash right now, I would make several options and have my husband's co-workers pick which one to bring to my work! Argh... I'm thinking this one looks good too that somebody posted a few posts down: http://www.bonappetit.com/magazine/20... Too many choices!! :-)

                        1. re: Katie Nell

                          I've had my eye on that recipe, too. A word of warning, though, for the typical office crowd. I made salted oat cookies and loved them. But, others either loved them, or thought it was a weird combination. But, this doesn't seem like it would be that salty, since it's only a pinch in the caramel, not like the sprinkling of salt on top. You're right--too many choices!!!

                      2. I made this apple cake for a bake sale and it was the only one that didn't come back into the building:

                        And when I made this German Chocolate Cake, it was the first one I wanted to bring leftovers home!

                        Chocolate is pretty hard to resist, but it's the custard "frosting" on the GC cake that really got my attention.

                        Good luck!

                        1. I love 2 recipes on Epicurious: Triple chocolate cream pie with cappuccino cream and cappuccino fudge cheesecake. Both are incredible.

                          1. What did you decide to go with. And, more importantly, did you win your Ipod?

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: beetlebug

                              Well, the short story is I lost! :-( I'll give you the long story as soon as I can find my digital camera! Thanks for reminding me!

                              1. re: Katie Nell

                                So sorry to hear that you lost. I'm sure, whatever you made, was delicious and fabulous.

                            2. Okay, so the long story! I decided I wanted to practice, so the weekend before, I made three desserts. I made the Peanut-topped Brownie Cake (from Baking from My Home to Yours), a Peanut Butter Pretzel Pie (from Foodaphilia: http://www.foodaphilia.com/2008/02/pe...), and the Chocolate Bourbon Cake with Caramel Whipped Cream.

                              I figured I would test them out on my in-laws, because they aren't the most adventurous eaters in the world so it would be in line with most of my co-workers. Well, I do think the brownie cake and pie could have won based on looks, but neither one was a winner to me. I wanted the caramel on the brownie cake to be ooey, gooey... not chewy. I know the recipe description says that it's more of a chewy caramel, but I think I refused to face that fact... until I made it. It just didn't do it for me. It looks good though! For the pie, I added a layer of fudge on top of the crust and drizzled the pie with it, and then sprinkled with Reeses PB cups. Believe me, it was good, but not a winner. And then on to the chocolate bourbon cake... by now, I was extremely frustrated and close to tears (I know, so dramatic!). I liked this cake, but my in-laws did not, and actually, my husband didn't either (who *is* an adventurous eater). I really liked how the frosting was made, but they just did not like the frosting at all. They did like the actual cake and thought it was really moist. I think I would like to make it again, when I'm not so emotional! (I didn't take a picture because I had to do a sheet cake, because my MIL did not have round cake pans.


                              So, fast forward a few days to the night before the contest. I had completely forgotten that I was taking a cooking class that night 45 minutes from home. I got home at 10 pm, and decided to make something that I was comfortable with. I went with my apple dumplings figuring they would appeal to the older crowd and the younger crowd as well. Stayed up until midnight finishing these up even though I was dog-tired! Luckily, my husband peeled and cored all the apples for me! Then, on the way to work in the morning, one dish of the dumplings dumped in my bag, and I managed to get the syrup all over my pants, coat, bag, and casserole carrying case! Ugh! The case is still sticky!

                              And then, after all that, I lost! :-( One of the manager’s wives made a pumpkin cheesecake with chocolate crust and that won. I didn’t get to taste it though. They said my dumplings were in the top 3, but no iPod for me! Traitors! ;-) At any rate, that’s the sad story…..

                              BUT WAIT…..

                              Look what I got today!!!! (last picture) The lady who was in charge of the social events committee this year at work bought me a freakin’ iPod for helping her out so much this year and supporting her when people were being big meanies! She just gave it to me today and I was so excited! Isn’t that the nicest thing in the world?! And isn’t it the most beautiful iPod you’ve ever seen?! I just love it! In the end, not such a sad story after all!

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: Katie Nell

                                I'm shocked that the bourbon chocolate cake didn't wow your in laws and husband. But, I'm so happy that you got the most beautiful Ipod. And, for just being a nice helpful person. So much better than winning a contest.


                                1. re: beetlebug

                                  I know, maybe it was the boozey factor, since neither one of them drinks much. I really do want to try it again, when I haven't made so many other things.

                              2. what a great story! and great reviews on the cakes too.

                                what was the winning cake??? and what were the other top contending cakes/desserts?

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: midtownDiner123

                                  Well, I was in the top 3, but the winner was the pumpkin cheesecake with chocolate crust. I'm not sure what the other one was in the top 3- it actually might of been another cheesecake. The funny thing is is that I make pumpkin cheesecakes often, because it's one of my husband's favorites! Of course, the person that won it needs no help in the charity category- he's the v.p. of our divsion!