It’s a major award!

Image courtesy of the Iowa Tourism Office.

I won a bike when I was 9 years old. It was easily the highlight of my elementary school career — if you ignore the fact that I had to walk it home because I didn’t know how to ride a bike.

That was the last time I won anything.

My grandmother, on the other hand, won everything.

Cooking contests. Sweepstakes. Grocery store promotions. You name it, Grandma entered it — and won.

“Just imagine, with the Internet, what she could have won today,” my dad told me.

Earlier this summer, I wrote a story about the various food competitions the public could enter at this year’s Iowa State Fair. I always wanted to enter a food contest, just to see what it’s like. I’ve judged plenty, but what is it like to wait for someone to critique something you’ve made.

I pitched the idea to my editors – they loved it. I told my dad my plans.

“Your grandma entered a cooking contest once,” he said. “She won.”

Of course she did.

Grandma’s winning recipe was a chocolate and cherry brownie. My dad couldn’t recall what kind of cherries she used — fresh, Maraschino or cherry pie filling. My aunts couldn’t solve the mystery, either, so I set out to create my own cherry brownie recipe in honor of grandma.

Last month, I brought three samples of fudge brownies to the newsroom — A, B and C. Each sample used a different type of cherry. My colleagues were asked to vote for their favorite, as well as offer any feedback on the recipe.

“Max approves!”

“Other Max approves!”

“Too dry.”

“Couldn’t taste the cherries.”

“Very cherry.”

“If you must eat one brownie this year, eat this.”

“I couldn’t taste the cherries.”

“Choose this one!”

In the end, we had a tie between the fresh cherry brownies and the cherry pie filling. Our political reporter demanded a runoff vote, but baking in the hottest summer in Iowa history isn’t ideal, so I combined fresh sweet cherries and canned cherries for my final recipe.

The newsroom approved.

I will enter my Chocolate Cherry Brownies in the “Gear Up for the Ghirardelli Chocolate Championship” at the Iowa State Fair Friday. Wish me luck!


  • 12 tablespoons salted butter
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 2/3 cup Ghirardelli Chocolate Baking Unsweetened Cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup flour
  • 10 Ghirardelli Gourmet Milk 32% Cacao Creamy Devotion squares, chopped
  • 10 Ghirardelli Dark 60% Cacao squares, chopped
  • 1 cup sweet cherries, pitted and quartered
  • 8 ounces cherry pie filling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9-by-13 baking pan with parchment.

Melt butter over medium high heat, Add sugar and vanilla. Remove from heat and add cocoa. Whisk ingredients together.

In a separate bowl, beat the eggs. Pour the chocolate mixture into the bowl and whisk until combined. Add flour. Mix together.

Using a wooden spoon, add chopped chocolate and stir. Add fresh cherries and pie filling, stirring to combine.

Pour batter into the pan. Bake 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from oven and cool for 15 minutes before lifting parchment and placing brownies on a wire rack to cool completely.


One response

  1. Pingback: Happy Foodie Penpal reveal day! | What's Cooking?

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