Julie Hein of West Manchester Township reacts to winning the PA Preferred Classic Chocolate Cake contest at the York Fair. She won with her Chocolate Grand
Julie Hein of West Manchester Township reacts to winning the PA Preferred Classic Chocolate Cake contest at the York Fair. She won with her Chocolate Grand Marnier Cake. (Bill Kalina photo)

Julie Hein usually tweaks a recipe from one fair year to the next, making adjustments to bring her closer to a blue ribbon. However, a second place win last year told her not to mess with a good thing.

Her instincts were right, and her Chocolate Grand Marnier Cake turned out to be the winning flavor combination, earning a blue ribbon in the Shurfine and PA Preferred Classic Chocolate Cake contest Thursday night at the York Fair.

Hein, a self-declared cake girl, had her work cut out for her, though. She competed against fifteen other entries and a long list of judging requirements. Connie Shuff and Sandra Mumford of York joined Marcia Weber from the PA Extension to evaluate the cakes.

Julie Hein’s winning Chocolate Grand Marnier Cake.
Julie Hein's winning Chocolate Grand Marnier Cake. (Bill Kalina photo)

The entries needed to use two different PA Preferred products as well as be a frosted, chocolate layer cake. The judges also considered the categories of flavor, texture, inside and outside characteristics and frosting.

Hein had success with a chocolate Chambord cake in the past, and got the idea for the Grand Marnier version from that. However, great flavor parings turned out to be only part of the winning strategy. This year, less seemed to be more.

"I only entered two contests this year," said Hein. "It helped make me calmer." Hein explained her calm nerves allowed her the time and creativity to add the detail in her cake's presentation.

Second place went to Shelley Pokrivka of Seven Valleys for her Chocolate Maple Crunch Cake. Brenda Trowbridge of York placed third with her Chocolate Peanut Butter, a traditional favorite flavor combination.

Winners received gift certificates and cash prizes. For her first place win, Julie Hein will also represent the York Fair in the PA Preferred Classic Chocolate Cake contest at the upcoming Pennsylvania Farm Show.

Chocolate Grand Marnier Cake


2 cups sugar

2/3 cup cocoa

2 cups boiling water

2/3 cup oil

1 tsp. vanilla extract

2 Tbsp. orange liqueur (Grand Marnier)

2 PA Preferred Weis eggs

2 cups flour

2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp baking soda

1/4 cup miniature chocolate chips

Chocolate Ganache

2 cups dark chocolate chips

1 cup whipping cream

2 Tbsp. butter

1/4 cup orange liqueur (Grand Marnier)


2 (3.4 oz.) instant white chocolate pudding mix

1 1/2 cups cold PA Preferred Giant milk

1 (16 oz.) container Cool Whip, thawed

Orange food coloring, optional

For thecake, beat sugar, cocoa, boiling water, oil, vanilla and liqueur in large mixing bowl on low speed for 30 seconds. Add PA Preferred Weis eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt, beat on medium-high for four minutes. Fold in mini chocolate chips. Pour into prepared pans and bake for 12-15 minutes. Cool for ten minutes and remove cakes to wire racks.

For the ganache, combine whipping cream and chocolate chips in medium saucepan. Heat over low until smooth, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in butter and liqueur. Refrigerate one to two hours, until set, stirring occasionally.

For the filling, whisk together pudding mixes and PA Preferred Giant milk for two minutes. Let stand for two minutes and then fold in Cool Whip and optional food coloring, blending well. Chill thoroughly.

To assemble cake, place one cake layer on serving plate and top with a thicker layer of ganache and a thicker layer of filling. Repeat with the next layer. Place the third layer on top. Frost top of cake with remaining ganache and frost sides with remaining frosting/filling (this can be reversed -- frosting on top and ganache on sides.) Garnish as desired. Chill and until serving. Cake needs refrigeration after baking.