Birthday Wishes??? $40,000 Bake-Off Winner

Kathy’s birthday was Saturday so I made a cake to take to our Game Night at Kathy ‘s. And oh yes, Kathy was there too. Just so you know, I’m not talking about the same Kathy … as we all know I have three friends named Kathy. (Yes, it can get confusing.) I pulled out my best cake recipe for the occasion. I always call it the “$40,000 Pillsbury Bake-Off Winner” cake so when Linda asked the name of the cake I of course said “It’s called the $40,000 Pillsbury Back-Off Winner” cake. Well, who would have guessed that’s not the real name! Not me. Imagine my surprise when I pulled out the recipe again today and looked at it. It’s not called the “$40,000 Pillsbury Bake-Off Winner” cake after all. Turns out it’s called something silly like “Chocolate Praline Layer Cake”. You know what? If I had won $40,000 baking a cake for the Pillsbury Bake Off, you can bet I would tell people it’s called the “$40,000 Pillsbury Bake Off Winner” cake!” I didn’t, but I still do.

It looked like this …. pretty nice, right?

But it created this look which I liked better.

Blow out your candles then tell us what you wished for.

What! You wished you could have the recipe? Awww, okay.

$40,000 Pillsbury Bake-Off Winner “Chocolate Praline Layer Cake” (published in the Idaho Statesman 3/16/88)


1/2 cup butter or margarine

1/4 cup Whipping Cream

1 cup packed brown sugar

3/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans

1 box Pillsbury Plus Devil’s Food Cake (mine wasn’t a Plus)

1-1/4 cups water

1/3 cup oil

3 eggs


1-3/4 cup Whipping Cream

1/4 cup powdered sugar

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Whole Pecans

Chocolate Curls

Heat oven to 325º. In heavy saucepan, combine butter, 1/4 cup whipping cream, and brown sugar. Cook over low heat just until butter is melted, stirring occasionally. Pour into two 8″ or 9″ round cake pans (do not prepare pan). Sprinkle evenly with coarse chopped pecans.

In large bowl, combine cake mix, water, oil, and eggs at low-speed until moistened. Beat two minutes at highest speed. Carefully spoon batter over pecan mixture.

Bake at 325º for 35-45 minutes or until cake springs back when touched lightly in center. Cool 5 minutes. Remove from pans and cool completely.

In small cold bowl beat 1-3/4 cups whipping cream until soft peaks form. Blend in powdered sugar and vanilla; beat until still peaks form. To assemble cake, place one layer on serving plate, praline side up. Spread with 1/2 whipped cream. Top with second layer then remaining whipped cream. Garnish with whole pecans and chocolate curls and store in refrigerator. Enjoy!

I have a fool-proof method for making my round cakes come out of the oven perfectly flat on top instead of arched in the middle and dryer on the sides. I was taught this method in the Community School Cake Decorating classes I took when my kids were in elementary school (over 20 years ago). Here’s what you do:

1. Take a terry cloth towel (an old thin bath towel would be best so you don’t have to piece lengths together) and cut it in strips the length of the towel an inch or so longer that what your pan is around, and about 3-1/2 inches wide.

2. Next, fold the strips twice to make one strip about an inch-1/2 wide (or the width of your pans). Sew it shut.

3. Once sewn lengthwise, pull the cloth tightly around the cake pan and either safety-pin it or sew it. You want it tight. I sewed mine but I will sometimes safety-pin it tighter because when they get wet (coming up), they will stretch a bit. (Note that the pictures from here on are of the actual terry strips I made over 20 years ago!)

4. Now, get the strip wet, then give it a good squeeze to get most of the water out (you want it more than damp, but not dripping).

5. Put the wet terry strip around the sides of the cake pans before you fill them with cake batter.

6. Fill your pans with cake and bake as called for in the recipe.

I know what you are thinking … f-i-r-e! but it will not catch fire. Trust me on this. The terry strips used in these pictures are the actual terry strips I made over 20 years ago and have been used dozens upon dozens of times. They are yellowed but as you can see not burned (not even the loose threads). The moistness of the cloth keeps the sides of the cake from over cooking, the top of the cake from cracking, and will make the cake itself more moist throughout. Ta Da! Don’t believe me? Try it for yourselves.

Lacey - March 27, 2011 - 11:06 PM

I love the homemade strip idea! They have strips you can buy but why pay money for something so easy as that!!! Thank you for posting ! Can’t wait to use my new toys and bake lots of yummy treats!!! Just might have to try this recipe out!

Roberta Johnston - March 28, 2011 - 4:10 AM

I never heard of this trick, I’ll have to try it and pass it on to Shari as she is the real baker in our family! I must have missed that class when I took cake decorating about the same time you did! And by the way, yeppers, the cake looked so yummy, how did you get all the calories out of it?? (;

Kathy Grover - March 28, 2011 - 11:56 AM

This is no ordinary cake and no ordinary woman that made it.

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