There’s not much Menomonie baker Gladys Earl can’t do.
In 2015, the woman known for her Misty Mint Bars took first place in Black River Falls’ Bacon Bash’s World Food Championships-qualifying event in the dessert category for her Berry Special Tart. That distinction sent her on her way to compete in the World Food Championships dessert category Nov. 3 through Nov. 10, 2015, in Kissimee, Fla., her first international contest.
“I always strive to have something that tastes as good as it looks,” Earl said. “I like my desserts to look nice and fresh, and work with different flavorings, but the ultimate thing it comes down to is it has to taste good.”
She came in 11 out of 37 in that competition.
Recently, Earl won another competition, this time under the tough judgment of Minnesota State Fair’s 1,000-time Blue Ribbon winner Marjorie Johnson on Twin Cities Live, a television show based in Minneapolis.
Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Earl competed with a Berry Delicious Dessert, a variation of her prize-winning Dazzling Chocolate Berry Pie, which won a pie baking contest in 2013 at Joseph’s Family Restaurant in Stillwater, Minn. She competed against Julie Miller, a Washington County (Minn.) fair blue-ribbon winner and Pat Carlson, a food stylist for Land O’Lakes.
Humble as ever, Earl was quick to say it was simply a matter of Johnson’s preference.
“You’re putting a bar against a cookie and my dessert — it’s like comparing apples to oranges,” Earl said. “It came down to personal preference. And we got a nice variation of desserts.”
Earl is almost always creating something with her Menomonie-based business Gladys’ Dazzling Desserts.
She makes made-to-order recipes for weddings, parties, anniversaries and special occasions, but she’s most known for her Misty Mint Bars, which she said are her most-requested order.
Other items she makes frequently include glazed fruit tartlets, mini bundt cakes, sugar cookies, custom cupcakes, Czech kolaches, homemade pies, among others.
Since entering her first cooking contest in 1989, Earl has created thousands of recipes. She credits her passion for baking to growing up on a farm in Nebraska, where she and her sister started their own bakery in the family barn with their chicken eggs.
After her dad found out what they were doing, they were no longer allowed to use eggs for their creations, but Earl said wildflowers gave her early inspiration for decorative garnishes.
“It comes down to having a passion for what you’re doing,” she said.
She continues her passion by constantly looking through cookbooks for inspiration and keeping up with current cooking trends, and then making them her own.
“I get a lot of ideas from cookbooks and trends, but I always personalize it,” Earl said. “I love to work with different flavors, and I like to come up with recipes that are versatile so I can change them to fit the occasion.”
She’s not pursuing any competition currently, but said she always keeps her eye out for what’s going on. If she feels there’s a contest she can create a quality product for and has time to do so, she’s quick to jump on board no matter how big or small.
“I want each new entry to be better than the last submission,” Earl said. “It is challenging, very enjoyable and gives me an opportunity to be creative.”
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