The Bakers Behind Those State Fair Blue Ribbons
Author: Anne McQuary
Published: 8:49 AM EDT October 12, 2017
LOCAL 3 Articles

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Columbia, SC (WLTX) For 147 years, the South Carolina State Fair has awarded blue ribbons for the best cooking to come out of South Carolina kitchens.

WLTX took a peek behind the ribbons and talked to a few of the many bakers who have been talented enough to bring home ribbons, not just once or twice, but dozens of times.

Angela Sullivan loves baking and has a sure fire chocolate chip cookie recipe. One of her tips is too keep an eye on those cookies--just a minute or two too long can make too brittle of a cookie.

Cornelia Bell got in a fight with a pound cake and stayed away from baking for about ten years. A love of cake decorating sent her back to the kitchen so she could make a perfect cake for her decorations.

Sara Carter has always loved to be in the kitchen baking. Breads and biscuits are her true loves if you don't count her family, and being from the Midwest it was important to her that she learned to make a biscuit just like a Southerner

All three not only talked about baking but were kind enough to share their winning recipes.


The Bakers Behind Those State Fair Blue Ribbons

Chapter 1


Angela Sullivan has won numerous SC State Fair ribbons

Angela Sullivan blames her mother.

After all it was her mother who first encouraged her to enter the fair.

First by example, said Sullivan, my mother always won. She entered afghans that always won top prizes. So when her mom suggested that perhaps she should enter too.

So she did.

First afghans like her mom and she won like her mom, blue ribbons.

But Sullivan loved to cook.

With a few ribbons under her belt, she started entering her cookies. Her chocolate chip cookies.

And now she has so many blue and red ribbons, she could wall paper a room in her home.

But what Sullivan really wants, she wants to, hopes to, win a purple ribbon. The ones the fair gives for the best of the best. That ribbon has eluded her.

And for those looking to enter next year, of course the entries are closed this year,Sullivan says is to follow your recipe and don’t over think it.

“Just follow the recipe, “, said Sullivan.

And perhaps, says Sullivan, “I’ll get one of those purple ribbons this year.”

VIDEO: Angela Sullivan 'AKA" the Cookie Queen

Blue Ribbon Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe


2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs (room temperature)
2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels


PREHEAT oven to 350° F.

COMBINE flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl.

Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture.

Stir in morsels. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto un-greased baking sheets.

BAKE for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.


  1. -- If you're making cookies, don't spray the baking sheet, parchment paper if you must
  2. -- Follow the recipe
  3. -- Ingredients need to be room temperature

Chapter 2

CORNELIA BELL-- From cake decorator to blue ribbon cake baker

Cornelia Bell has won too many blue ribbons for her cakes, including her red velvet cake 

She remembers standing next to her grandmother in the kitchen.

This, she says, is where her love of cooking was born.

But not baking

Yes with fist-fulls of ribbons from the State Fair for her red velvet cake Cordelia Bell didn’t bake for ten years all because of a pound cake.

A pound cake that let her down. It went down, fell in the middle, a baker’s nightmare. She had enough. No more she thought, too much work.

Then she took a decorating class.

Then another.

And then all of them.

And then she entered one of her frosting decorations in the fair.

It won second place.

Then the next year another red ribbon.

Deciding she needed better cakes for her decorating, she headed back to the kitchen.

That’s when the blue ribbons began appearing for her cakes. Especially her red velvet cake .

And this was how a love of baking was reborn and how Tina’s Cakes and Such got started.

This year there will be no ribbons, Bell didn’t enter. Instead, since she is selling her cakes she felt like it wasn’t fair to others. So her newfound love of baking is beginning to turn into a business, not full-time yet she still is an esthetician and nail technician, but she hopes one day.

She says, “It’s all a blessing”

But, says Bell, “I’m still going to go to the fair, I want to see who wins”

Tina's Cakes and Such (803) 319-7441 Alow one week for pound cakes, two weeks for decorated cakes

VIDEO: Cornelia Bell Blue Ribbon Baker

Miss Bell's Red Velvet Cake

1/2 cup shortening
1/4 cup oil
1 1/2 cup sugar
2oz red food color
2Tbsp cocoa powder
1Tbsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp baking soda
1Tbsp vinegar

Cream shortening, oil, and sugar. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. In a small bowl mix together the food coloring, cocoa and vanilla

Mix well.

Add to the sugar mixture. Mix well. Mix the flour, salt, and soda and sift together.

Add the flour mixture and buttermilk alternately starting and ending with flour mixture.

Do not over mix.

Fold in vinegar and place in 2 9 inch layer pans. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until done.

Cream Cheese Icing

2 8oz blocks of cream cheese
3/4 cup butter soften
1 Tbsp vanilla

4 cups powered sugar

Cream together cream cheese and butter. Add vanilla and powdered sugar mixing well. Recipe will ice a 2 layer cake.

Good luck baking!!!


  1. Use popcorn salt instead of table salt, its finer and blends in better
  2. Spray baking pans over the sink so you don't get your floor/counters slick
  3. Cake in the over? Don't run or slam doors in the house

Chapter 3

SARA CARTER--Baking Biscuits Like A Southerner

Sara Carter wins state fair blue, red and even the premium purple ribbons for her baked goods including her biscuits and cranberry scones 

For Sara Carter it was easy.

She loved baking, cooking of all kinds, just not sushi. Being in the microbiology field, sushi has always been out. But baking, baking was fun and a treat for her family.

Especially the way Carter cooks.

How do we know?

Too many State Fair ribbons to count and the testimony of husband and children, son Robby and daughter Molly, who according to Carter can hold their own at the State Fair.

Her kitchen in Lexington county is cozy and warm and ringed in ribbons that sprawl across the wall, hanging over family mementos and other cooking accolades.

It all began with canning.

That was the State Fair “gateway drug” that got her hooked.

Then she began to enter baked goods—bread, cookies, and biscuits.

As Carter says, “when you live in the South, you’ve got to make biscuits.”

She entered but didn’t win.

Not the first few times.

When she started entering you could watch the State Fair judging.

She got tips.

Appearance is important. In contests it’s not all about the taste. It also needs to look beautiful. Carter compares it to gymnastics. Fractions of points lost here and there for minor things. Crumbs, not uniform in shape, too big or too small.

But bottom line, a tip for those entering is don’t quit. Keep trying. If you mess up keep going says Carter.

Whether you win or lose its just fun. Oh yea and delicious.

VIDEO: Sara Carter Biscuit Guru

Scones/ Biscuits (leave out cranberries)
3 cups flour
1 stick butter unsalted soft
Dash salt
2T sugar
2T baking powder
1 C dried cranberries
2 eggs 1 cup milk
Lemon oil to taste (optional)

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Pulse dry ingredients including cranberries in bowl of food processor or mix by hand.

Cut butter up into about 12 pieces and pulse into flour or cut into flour by hand. Combine eggs, milk and oil. Set aside 2T in separate bowl and mix remainder into dry ingredients.

Scoop out onto floured board and pat and fold in four to make layers several times. Do not overwork dough. Cut into rounds with floured biscuit cutter.

Place on parchment lined pan.

Brush with remainder milk mixture Place in oven and turn oven down to 425.

Bake about 12 minutes rotating pan half way thru.


  1. Don't be afraid, you won't make any mistakes someone else hasn't already made.
  2. Lemon Oil. Great to have in the cupboard, brings out flavor and brightens baking items
  3. Keep practicing.