Pillsbury Bake-Off finalist vying for $1 million prize

Frances Blackwelder of Grand Junction is one of 100 finalists in the Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest. Blackwelder and her Chocolate Caramel-Cinnamon Roll Skewers will be in Orlando, Fla., in March for the announcement of the contest’s million-dollar winner.



How would you feel if you had a 1 in 100 chance of winning a million dollars?

Not bad odds, wouldn’t you say?

Frances Blackwelder of Grand Junction knows how it feels.

Last August, while grocery shopping, she got the magic phone call that informed her she was a “potential finalist” in the 45th Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest for a million dollars.

“Potential finalist” meant paperwork, affidavits, forms to fill out and other details to be checked before she could tell a living soul. Then there was the e-mail informing her she was, indeed, one of 100 finalists who would travel to Orlando, Fla., in March 2012 for the finals.

Lucky? Perhaps. But Blackwelder has been preparing herself for such a moment for a long time.

Frances, who was born in Orlando, moved to Montrose at age 12 and is now a Grand Junction resident for many years, credits her early childhood cooking experiences with her mother for her lifelong love of cooking/baking.

Her mother taught the then 5-year-old Blackwelder and her little sister to cook so that when their mother’s serious illness took her, the girls could help their Dad with meals. Blackwelder has many happy memories of good times cooking with her dad and grandpa and creating delicious recipes.

Cooking and baking has become her “stress reliever” helping her through stressful times over the years as she went through two kidney transplants and the loss of a 20-year career, which she loved, as a draftsman for an engineering firm and now as she gives 100 percent as a deli clerk.

But there’s no stress for her when entering contests.

She began entering and winning local recipe contests about 10 years ago. She’s been a winner in the Palisade’s Peach Recipe Contest, at Fruita Fall Fest and in the Mesa County Fair’s open class, a contest she never misses.

I loved her gingerbread house contest entries during Palisade Olde Fashioned Christmas, which have included a winter lodge, a rocking horse and even an outhouse. They were all amazing.

She’s always willing to give hints and advice to others.

And she has branched out, entering national and regional contests resulting in numerous prizes.

She hit the big time in the Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest last year on her third try. At first she could only say she was a finalist, when and where she would be going, but nothing about her entry. Eventually, she could give the name of her recipe but still nothing else.

After the first of the year, Pillsbury posted on its website the 100 finalists names and their recipes. It is Blackwelder’s Chocolate Caramel-Cinnamon Roll Skewers, one of five recipes she entered, that are taking her to the finals.

“I have enjoyed the whole process, including the professional photo shoot they set up for me to getting many gifts, filling out the paperwork, to even searching out the serving dish in the shape and size required for the contest,” Blackwelder said.

Is she nervous? No. Totally excited? Yes!

There are four categories — Blackwelder’s in the Breakfast & Brunches category — and a winner will be selected from each. The million dollar winner will be selected from among the category winners.

Winning she says “wouldn’t buy me things, it would give me financial security, but I’m already a winner in getting the experience, an all-expense paid trip to Orlando with a stay at the Peabody Orlando Hotel, the joy of cooking with 99 others in the Windermere Center on March 26, where 100 kitchens will be set up, and meeting all those people! This event is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I expect to enjoy every minute,” Blackwelder said.

Go to http://www.pillsbury.com to check out the rules for entering next year. Blackwelder emphasized some details she follows in this and every contest she enters:

■ Study the rules over and over and follow them. Many recipes are disqualified because of lack of attention to rules.

■ Taste, appearance and creativity are key, along with family appeal and ease in preparing, especially for this contest.

■ The use of the sponsor’s products is required, the directions will explain.

■ Ingredients listed in recipes need to be listed in order they are used and so worded in directions below ingredients. If they don’t match up, you’ll be disqualified.

■ Once your recipe is accepted, there can be NO changes or additions, not even a simple garnish added.

■ Make your entry many times until you’re comfortable.

(■ Have Dixie taste ... skipping this rule will NOT disqualify you.)

Congratulations, Frances, on your success, and know that we’re all pulling for you.


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