The award-winning chocolate cake involves a little orange-flavored cognac, but that's not the secret ingredient.

"It's all about getting it out of the oven at the right time," said Julie Hein, a 46-year-old baker from West Manchester Township.

Her Chocolate Grand Marnier Cake earned top honors at the York Fair in September, and on Saturday she will compete with the recipe at the Pennsylvania Farm Show.

"It's exciting, but stressful," Hein said of competing at the state's display of agriculture.

The farm show starts at 8 a.m. Saturday and runs through 5 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 11, at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex & Expo Center at 2300 N. Cameron St. in Harrisburg.


This year marks Hein's third time competing at the farm show. She placed in the top 12 the first year she went and did not make it to the top last year.

"But to get in the top 12 the first time -- out of 120 contestants -- I was happy with that," she said.

Hein said she likes her odds this year.

"The hint of orange from the Grand Marnier makes it a little different. I think it will stand out," she said.

York Fair: Hein began baking competitively 10 years ago when she entered a York Fair contest with an orange-pineapple torte.

"I like the challenge of coming up with something different that appeals to the judges and is good. I'm ready to go," she said of the farm show.

Friday would be spent gathering ingredients and baking the cake, topping it with fluffy whipped cream and chocolate ganache, Hein said.

"On Saturday, I'll drive it to Harrisburg and be nervous," she said of the competition.

In the past, Hein has entered up to 12 baking contests, including the York Fair and farm show.

Entering two contests this year has kept her calmer and more creative, though she has a nervous excitement about Saturday's competition.

"You just want what you make to be really good," Hein said.

--Reach Candy Woodall at

Make the cake

Try making Chocolate Grand Marnier Cake yourself with Julie Hein's recipe at the Food for Thought blog.