The Pillsbury Bake Off: Lessons Learned

While I had read and studied the Bake Off extensively, there were still some things I learned once I was able to experience it first hand.  Below is a list of totally random facts as well as some Pillsbury legends that I’ve heard through the grapevine.   The facts I have either read or was told by Pillsbury company folks at the Bake Off.  I’m a question asker, so some of these facts may seem a little weird.  If you think of something that I forgot, feel free to shoot me an email or comment below.  I’d love to add to the list!

doughboy again


*In the history of the Pillsbury Bake Off, 37 of the 46 winning recipes could be classified as desserts.  13 of those desserts were cakes.  10 were cookies. and 10 were pies, tarts, or tortes.

*Range numbers on the Bake Off floor are assigned based on the Pillsbury qualifying ingredient that your recipe used.  For instance, all of the pie crust users are together, the cookie dough users are together, crescent roll users are together, etc.

*If chosen as a finalist, you will be given a grocery and equipment list to approve prior to the Bake Off.  Items are listed to include name brand.  If you want a different brand you better speak up!  Once you sign off there’s no going back.

*The doors to the Bake Off room are heavily guarded 24/7 until the time of the Bake Off. They want to eliminate any possibility of equipment being tampered with or sabotage of any kind.

*Each mini-kitchen is equipped with enough supplies to make your dish 3 times.  That’s 3 times the grocery and 3 times the dishes.  Do the math…that’s 300 recipes! Here is a short video of the process of packing up supplies prior to the contest:

*Immediately following the Bake Off, the entire contest space is dismantled.  100 ovens and work spaces are loaded up onto 4 semi trucks and hauled back to a warehouse in Minneapolis.  I asked what they did with the ovens since they claim to use new ones every year.  Nobody seemed to know.  But, the workspaces/countertops are reused every year.  I asked how long they’d been around and the answer I got was “A long time!”  I wish they’d let us sign our names in the drawer or inside the door of the cabinet.  It’d be kind of neat to see who worked there before us.



These are statements that I’ve either heard or read and that are commonly discussed among Bake Off hopefuls. There is no proof that any of this is true, but it sure makes you wonder…..

*Seating during the awards ceremony is determined by how well you did in the contest.  If you were up for an award you were placed near an aisle or in the front row so that you were in view of the cameras and could make your way to the stage easily.  This myth was debunked last year, but only because it wasn’t televised.  You can bet I’ll be watching really close if the event is televised in the future.

*You increase your chances of becoming a finalist if you submit your recipe early.  I think there’s some truth to this, but I can’t prove it.  As the ingredient list we must use to create recipes get shorter (flour was taken off of this year’s list which means there won’t be a single entry made from scratch), the possibilities become fewer.  If someone comes up with a recipe identical, or even similar to yours then you better hope you got your entry in first!

*The Test Kitchen has a good idea of what recipes will be contenders at the Bake Off when they choose the finalists.  The theory is that maybe 25 of the final 100 recipes actually stand a chance to win some cash.  The rest are great, but not spectacular, recipes that make for great fillers in the cookbook and provide a well rounded final 100.  Here is a brief video about the test kitchen:

*Recipes with broccoli, peanut butter, spinach, seafood, or beef don’t stand a chance at the money.  I think there’s some truth to this because they want a recipe with broad consumer appeal.  But, Carolyn Gurtz won the grand prize with Double-Delight Peanut Butter Cookies and Anna Ginsberg won with Baked Chicken and Spinach Stuffing.  So, who’s to say?

Here is a tiny little glimpse into the judges room:


*How many recipes are submitted?  No one will ever know for sure just how many recipes are submitted to the Pillsbury Bake Off.  The standard answer is “tens of thousands”.  Last year I heard rumor that there were 4,000 to 8,000 recipes submitted in each of the 3 categories.  While that number seems low, I blame it on the fact that it was the first year that they went back to an annual format.  Many people weren’t expecting entries to be open again until 2014.

*How will I know if I’m disqualified during the Bake Off?  This question will haunt me forever.  The rules are very strict and nobody wants to mess up.  But, honest mistakes are going to happen.  How do I know just what mistakes truly justify an elimination?

*What is the exact process for choosing finalists?  We know that recipes are ruled out right away if there are typos, missed steps or ingredients, etc.  Even more are eliminated if they aren’t original.  How many recipes is it narrowed down to before the finalists are chosen? Edited to add: I just watched a video from 2012 where Onju Sturlaughson, contest manager in 2012, stated that about 600 recipes were sent to the test kitchen to be baked and presented to a panel.

*Is there a perfect time to turn your recipe in to the judges?  If you’re one of the first then the judges have an empty stomach and can focus on truly tasting your dish.  If you’re one of the last then your recipe will be fresh on the judges mind when it’s decision time.  Who knows?

*Where can we get one of those awesome shirts that the Kitchen Band was wearing during the awards ceremony?!

bake off shirts


Here is a list of the books I read prior to the Bake Off.  These are great reads as each of them give a different perspective of the contest.  One was written by a finalist, another by a grand prize winner, and the other by a spectator.

Baked Off

Baked Off: Memoirs of a Pillsbury Bake Off Junkie by Steve Grieger


Cookoff: Recipe Fever in America by Amy Sutherland 

This book covers many aspects of “contesting” from the Pillsbury Bake Off to Gilroy and Build a Better Burger.
Very insightful and full of valuable information.

Ellie Mathews

The Ungarnished Truth by Ellie Mathews

Elie Mathews won the Pillsbury Bake Off with her recipe for Salsa Couscous Chicken.
Her story is as real-life as you can get.  No fluff.


One thought on “The Pillsbury Bake Off: Lessons Learned

  1. Pingback: Doughboy Obsession – Part 6 | Secret Life of a Betty Crocker Wannabe

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