By Danielle Henson
“Sometimes my husband says that he wishes I loved him as much as I love the Kentucky State Fair,” said Jeanne Kemper, a familiar name in the culinary division every year at the Kentucky State Fair. Kemper, a Shelby County native, got her start in the competitive culinary world during her childhood as a 4-H member. She entered her first baking class in 1981 and has been going strong ever since. Her love for baking and competing has spanned decades with 53 Cake Sweepstakes blue ribbons at the Kentucky State Fair and a win in the Gold Medal™ Flour Baking Contest last year.
One thing that brings Jeanne back to the fair every year is the people. “I just really love the people here. Every year it’s like a big reunion,” she said with a smile. She has befriended many of the other seasoned competitors over the years, but annually she makes it a family affair.
“My family always knows that the Kentucky State Fair comes before everything else!” she laughed while explaining the process of choosing what to enter each year. “I keep record of what I’ve entered so I don’t enter the same thing. You have to wait 4 years, so I don’t want to repeat my entry again or enter it too soon.” One of her proudest wins was during the Centennial State Fair where she won a blue ribbon in a special baking class highlighting hundred year old recipes from past fairs.
In 2016, Kemper competed in the Gold Medal™ Flour Baking Contest and triumphed with her Full of Spice cookies. The fall inspired cookies topped with yummy cinnamon frosting were truly blue ribbon worthy and a proud moment for Jeanne.
Besides her baking entries, Jeanne has also entered honey and artwork in recent years. She even dabbled in showing horses during her childhood. When it comes to the Kentucky State Fair, Jeanne is a Renaissance woman who’s done it all. “This is going to be my 32nd year at the fair!” she shared excitedly, expressing that she’d love to win her 54th Cake Sweepstakes this time around. When asked what her favorite thing about competing was, she smiled and said “I get a high off of the blue ribbons!” Don’t we all?
1 ½ cups Gold Medal™ all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon cloves
½ teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter-flavored shortening
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup quick-cooking oats
½ cup raisins
3/4 cup chopped pecans, divided
½ stick butter, softened
1 3/4 cups powdered sugar, sifted (8 ounces)
½ teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons milk
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Sift together flour, baking soda, spices and salt. Mix together shortening, sugar, vanilla and honey; mix well. Stir in flour mixture. Mix in oats, raisins and 1/2 cup chopped pecans. Drop by rounded teaspoonful (3/4 ounce each) onto ungreased baking sheet.
- Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until edges begin to brown. Cool 5 minutes. Meanwhile, mix frosting ingredients together until smooth and of spreading consistency. Spread over top of cookies and garnish with chopped pecans.