Pillsbury Bake-Off, flour family share a rich history
Throughout my 25plus years writing about recipes, some of my favorite kitchen stories have come from writing about the annual Pillsbury Bake-Off competition and our local contestants from Northwest Indiana and the Chicago area.
In early 2017, I lamented that after nearly 70 years, it seemed the Pillsbury Bake-Off was taking a hiatus; the previous contest was in 2014. Fortunately, the contest returned in 2018 with a new winner.
The 49th annual Pillsbury Bake-Off is ready to rise to new heights. The winning recipes from the assorted categories will be announced Jan. 8 at www.Pillsbury.com.
When launched in
1949, the Pillsbury BakeOff was hosted by radiotelevision personality Art Linkletter in the ballroom of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City. Today, the Pillsbury brand is owned and operated by parent company General Mills, based in Minneapolis, a city where the Pillsbury name has been hailed as royalty for more than a century.
C.A. Pillsbury and Co. was founded in 1872 by Charles A. Pillsbury and his uncle, John Pillsbury. Charles’ son, John S. Pillsbury, built the South- ways Estate on Brackens Point in Minnetonka, Minn., in 1918, which he enjoyed with wife Eleanor as a summer retreat. By 1930, it became the permanent residence for the Pillsbury family. In August, the entire estate and buildings were demolished to make way for a condo development, erasing a stately landmark of Pillsbury family history.
Originally on the market for $54 million, then reduced to $24 million and eventually sold for just under $8 million, the 13-acre estate had seven structures including the main house, a caretaker’s cottage and greenhouse, garage, pool complex, smoke room and tea house. Inside the 32,461square-foot main house, there were nine bedrooms, 16 bathrooms, formal rooms such as a hearth room, sun room, library, great room, conservatory, billiards room, gym, playroom and large wine cellar. It had been owned by the Pillsbury family for 95 years.
When I interviewed George Pillsbury — the son of John S. Pillsbury and his wife, Eleanor — and George’s wife, Sally, I asked them about the family estate. They always emphasized the importance of philanthropy, reminding they would rather be remembered for their charitable causes instead of a famous brand last name.
They also explained that another of the famous Pillsbury homes in Minneapolis had been repurposed and today remains dedicated to helping the visually impaired.
In 1993, the original downtown Minneapolis mansion of Charles Pillsbury, built in 1912, became the headquarters of BLIND Inc. to use as “a modern training center for the blind without sacrificing the charm and beauty of the original structure.”
Built by Charles A. Pillsbury, the lofty Tudorstyle mansion, which inspired the family’s country estate, was left to his twin sons, Charles S. and John S. Pillsbury. Eventually the home was included on the National Register of Historic Buildings, and under the umbrella of the Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission before being operated by a theater foundation and eventually acquired by BLIND Inc.
The first contestant from Northwest Indiana to compete in a Pillsbury Bake-Off was in 1953, when it was called Pillsbury’s Grand National Recipe Contest. Mrs. Frank R. Ferren, of Hobart, was one of the 100 finalists, trying to bake her way to the top $100,000 prize with her apple butter pumpkin pie, described as using “spicy apple butter to give a new tart-and-mellow taste to this golden-brown pumpkin pie.”
Philip Potempa has published three cookbooks and is the director of marketing at Theatre at the Center. Mail questions to: From the Farm, P.O. Box 68, San Pierre, IN 46374.