After the overwhelming success of the first contest, the Bake-Off became an annual event until 1976 when Pillsbury decided to run it every other year—a decision that left home cooks and bakers eagerly anticipating the announcement and details of Bake-Offs to come.
(Seen above) Eleanor Roosevelt presents an award at the first-ever Bake-Off Contest in New York City, 1949.
Over time, the contest’s rules and regulations adapted to reflect evolving food trends and American culture.
In the first year, there was only one division, but in 1950, the contest was divided into a junior and senior division.
In 1968, categories were added for convenience mixes and Pillsbury dough products. By 1994, the Pillsbury Grands! refrigerated biscuits were added to the list of ingredients and the Bake-Off officially embraced its “quick and easy” niche that allows working families to sit down together at the table for dinner.
In 2013, the contest stipulations required that recipes included fewer than eight ingredients and the preparation time did not exceed thirty minutes.
Here’s a look at some of the most notable pieces of Bake-Off history throughout the decades:
- In 1950, the Bake-Off split the contest into a junior division (12-18 years old) and senior division (19 years or older).
- In 1954, Mrs. Bernard Koteen won the grand prize with her recipe for Open Sesame Pie; there was a shortage of sesame seeds in stores around the country as so many people wanted to make the pie.
- In 1957, the competition left New York City for the first time and was held in Los Angeles.
- Also in 1957, Frida Smith won the Bake-Off with her Peanut Blossoms, a cookie that can be found on almost every cookie tray during the holidays!
- In 1966, America was introduced to the Tunnel of Fudge Cake, a runner-up recipe from Ella Helfrich. The cake recipe became a cultural icon and incited a mass demand for the Bundt pan, a cake pan designed by Minnesota-based company Nordic Ware.
- In 1969, Edna Walker from Minnesota won the grand prize for her Magic Marshmallow Crescent Puffs. The recipe was especially momentous because it was the first winning recipe to use a refrigerated dough product. So many people flocked to the grocery store to buy the recipe’s ingredients that stores ran out of Pillsbury Refrigerated Crescent Dinner Rolls!
- After the 1976 contest, the Bake-Off was held every other year.
- By 1995, the total dollar amount of prizes, cash and trips awarded to contestants since the Bake-Off’s inception reached $6 million.
- In 1996, the grand prize was awarded to Kurt Wait, the first male participant to win.
- Also in 1996, the grand prize increased from $50,000 to $1,000,000 dollars.
- In 1998, there was a record-setting number of male participants in the Bake-Off.
- The 47th Bake-Off was held in 2014 in Nashville; for the first time, the public was able to vote online without tasting the entries. They selected the Peanutty Pie Crust Clusters as the grand prize winner.
- In 2014, the categories were Simply Sweet Treats, Savory Snacks and Sides, Weekend Breakfast Wows and Amazing Doable Dinners.
- In 2017, Pillsbury announced that the Bake-Off was back. Yes, you read that right! The Bake-Off is back!