Holiday Dessert Bake-off draws 56 entries, lots of tasters |

Holiday Dessert Bake-off draws 56 entries, lots of tasters

Margaret Hair

— As the six judges for the Steamboat Pilot & Today's inaugural Holiday Dessert Bake-off surveyed a selection of 56 cakes, pies, cookies and other sweets Thursday morning, they had a similar reaction.

"I don't know how we're going to taste all of it," said Vicki Connacher, a Dessert Bake-off judge and the chef at Rex's American Grill & Bar.

"Obviously, everyone's in the holiday spirit. It's just fantastic," Connacher said.

Contestants dropped off desserts from 7 to 10 a.m., and judges ranked the entries for presentation and taste later in the morning.

Community members tasted the desserts and voted for their favorites in the afternoon. The event was held in the Pilot & Today's conference room and was open to the public.

There were seven cake entries, 25 types of cookies, 18 miscellaneous desserts including trifle and tiramisu, and six pies.

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Rae Rouse won for best presentation with her "Aunt Grace's Dessert." Narghiza won for best cookie with "Chocolate Dip Cookies." Ha­n­na Kurowski won for best miscellaneous dessert with her "Bavarian Apple Tart." George Morris won for best cake with his "Death By Chocolate." Maura Karow won for best pie with her "Mudda Mint Pie." And Dianne Stoyko won the community choice award with her "Chocolate Bon Bons."

All winners were given a $100 gift card to City Market or Ace at the Curve. Those businesses also were the Dessert Bake-off sponsors.

Judges were Connacher; Lisa Ciraldo-Freese, chef and owner of Chocolate Soup Pastry Café; Melanie Stewart, of Yampa Valley Medical Center; Jon Demel, executive chef for the Sheraton Steamboat Resort; and "Steamboat Today" morning show hosts Andy Rossbach and Harper Louden.

Ciraldo-Freese said she was looking for desserts that kept to the holiday spirit and showed effort in their presentation for her top choices.

"They all look fantastic. I'm amazed at how many there are," Ciraldo-Freese said.

Vince Coleman, a Steamboat resident who cooks at Mambo Italiano, made a double-chocolate cashew tart for the contest.

It's a recipe Coleman developed with bittersweet chocolate to appeal to his taste for desserts that aren't too sweet, he said.

The dessert, which uses chocolate, heavy cream, butter, egg yolks and cashews for its filling, can be made ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator.

Cara Iacovetto dropped off a pumpkin spice bread pudding, a recipe that's passed the test with her family compared to similar takes on the classic dish.

"My family loves bread pudding, so I'm always trying to think of a new and different way to make it," Iacovetto said.

She's also tried eggnog, orange-cranberry and other varieties. Holiday baking is among Iacovetto's favorite traditions — she looks forward to waking up early and sharing her mother's habit of baking cookies together all day with her two young daughters, she said.

A full collection of Holiday Dessert Bake-off recipes, with photos of each dessert chef and their creations, will be available at and beginning this afternoon.

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