Bakers flock to Westmoreland Fair for Cake & Pie Showdown
Sasha Lencoski was first in line at the Westmoreland Fair on Saturday morning, carefully cradling two bakery boxes.
One held an apple pie, the other a chocolate cake.
She had come to defend her title.
Lencoski of Latrobe won the blue ribbon for her chocolate cake at last year’s inaugural Cake & Pie Showdown.
She and her family have been bringing baked goods to the fair for many years, often taking top prizes.
“We just started it because we wanted to go to the farm show,” she said. “We keep saying we’re not going to do it anymore, but we keep coming back.”
This wasn’t her year, though.
Richard Stewart took home top prize for the pie, and Bonnie Swartz won over the judges with her cake.
The fair has always had apple pie and chocolate cake competitions, but it was only last year that these categories were put into their own special event, organizer Jackie Elliot said.
“We thought it would be fun to get more entries in and make it more of a competition,” she said. “We wanted to do something special for our bakers.”
Most baked goods are evaluated and awarded prizes on Friday, but the Cake & Pie Showdown turns judging into a spectator sport. Dozens of competitors sat outside the roped-off tables where the judges made their decisions.
There were six judges, three for pies, three for cakes. Each sampled several desserts and picked two favorites to move to the final table.
Entrants agreed it’s hard to know how to please the judges. The difference between a merely good dessert and an award winner often comes down to the judge’s personal tastes.
“There’s nothing more personal than taste,” said contestant Glenn Ganassi of Mt. Pleasant. “Some people like snails, some people don’t.”
He has been entering his snail-free apple pie for years, winning once.
Contestants are encouraged to get creative. Mary Cuff, a first-time entrant from Latrobe, created an apple pie with cranberry sauce. She wanted to do something unexpected that still tasted great.
“I think a great pie is a pie that you didn’t really think would work that way,” she said.
The winners got $100 each and the chance to enter their confections at the 2020 PA Farm Show in Harrisburg.
Jacob Tierney is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jacob at 724-836-6646, [email protected] or via Twitter .