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By Nancy E Stephen

enny Hogan of New Salem is the sugar plum queen in Union County, at least until December 23. That’s when the winner of last year’s 21st Sugar Plum Cook-Off will whip her baking skills into a delectably sweet concoction or two or three for this year’s competition. But it won’t be the fresh six-layer coconut cake that took top honors last year. Maybe a new twist on her pecan praline cake. “I want to doctor up on it some more; I’m just not happy with the praline. I want to make it better – the cake a little more moist . . . Maybe a chocolate mocha cake.” Or maybe she’ll enter a totally new confection that she hasn’t even thought of yet. Not that the pecan praline cake or the cream cheese pound cake with a gingerbread house on top that she also entered last year weren’t hits, you understand. Those cakes, and more than 70 other contest entrees, were auctioned off after the judging with bids ranging from $25 to $500 to raise funds for Hometown Heroes. When the last speck of sugar left the building, the auction had raised about $10,000. Over the last 21 years, the event has raised more than $100,000 for local charities. Jenny promises to make the famous coconut cake again for this year’s event, but not for the competition, just the auction. “If it can raise more funds,” she says, “that’s all I need.” Taking top honors was exciting, but winning isn’t all that important to her. “I don’t care about winning; I enjoy doing it. And I love that the funds go to children. They take all the kids shopping on Christmas Eve . . . it about makes you cry.” 12 Union Lifestyle l December 2013 / January 2014

When Jenny talks about baking, her enormous blue eyes sparkle with delight. It’s obvious that baking is a big part of her life.

The 23-year-old doesn’t remember not baking. “I’ve been baking ever since I could reach the counter and get to the mixer. . . If I’m lying, I’m dying.

“Mama taught me everything I know. I remember baking pound cake; that’s one of the first things I remember. And some cookies here and there.

“I was following recipes, that’s one thing Mama and I like to do – try out recipes. I remember being on a footstool helping her.”

That certainly evokes a Norman Rockwell image; Jenny leaning over the counter stirring the batter as her mother stands by in the 100-plus year old house that still stirs memories of family togetherness at the kitchen table in front of the fireplace.

Join us at the Cook-Off

To enter, take your entry(s) to Hendrick Chevrolet Cadillac in Monroe before 9 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 23. The judging will begin around 10 a.m., and the auction will begin after the judging is complete. Event presenter, The Mighty 1190 WIXE radio, will be on-location for a live broadcast of the event, which is also sponsored by Union Lifestyle. The Cook-Off also holds many memories; Jenny started entering the competition while still in her teens. “It’s become a Christmas tradition,” she explains. “I do all my baking the night before, then usually go to Mama’s

Union Lifestyle Dec Jan 2014  

For and about Union County residents; interesting people, places and things to do.

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