Jennifer Miller took home her first blue ribbon at Sunday’s Chocolate Lovers Festival. Sweet as that is, it’s the five total ribbons she won that make Miller a standout at this year’s event. The “winningest” baker also took three second place ribbons and a third place at the festival.
But Miller, who runs a baking and catering business called Bakes out of her Wilmington home, doesn’t have a website or a Facebook page and never markets through social media. So why does she participate in the Chocolate Lovers Festival if she can’t really brag about it? “I really enjoy doing it for fun. I like to challenge myself, so this contest is the perfect event for me.”
When prospective brides or interested customers ask for estimates, Miller, who has won several other awards, will include a short blurb that she is an award-winning baker. “I like to keep the ribbons as a memory of my effort in various contests.”
“The reason I don’t have a website or market through social media is that it wouldn’t really be useful to me,” said Miller. “All my orders are custom. And I will bake or cook just about anything. I just I like to work with people I know and appreciate the referrals I get through word of mouth.”
This was the third time Miller participated in the annual bake-off, which is held inside the gym at Kennett High School, and her best showing thus far.
Miller got hooked on the Kennett Chocolate Lovers Festival three years ago when her friend Catherine Britt asked her to participate. Britt sits on the Board of the United Way of Southern Chester County, which hosts the annual chocolate festival. “I like to have fun with this contest. So I often try to create something I haven’t made before and never do the same recipe twice,” said Miller.
This year Bakes won ribbons for the following recipes:
- Candy – 1st place: Nutfree Dream Bars
- Candy – 2nd place: Peppermint Fatties
- Brownies – 2nd place: Fabulous Flourless Brownies
- Brownies – 3rd place: Blissful Tahini Brownies
- Cupcakes – 2nd place: Malt Shoppe Delights
With 152 entries from bakers in the community across the five categories, the judging took a few hours. The blind judging takes place before the festival opens to the public, and not even the ingredients are shared with the 35 judges. For the second year in a row, the grocery store Giant in Kennett Square won the blue ribbon for best cake. And cakes are Miller’s bread and butter business. She takes it all in stride but is already planning ahead. “Next year I’m coming for Giant Foods! I’m not giving up! I might have to figure out how to make a grocery store cake!”
Miller doesn’t use confectioners sugar (or shortening) in any of her icings. She usually makes a meringue-based Italian buttercream icing with real butter.
United Way of Southern Chester County CEO Carrie Freeman is thrilled Miller prepares various entries across all of the categories. “Jennifer is wonderful to us, and we love her dearly,” she said. “She does fantastic work and deserves all of her ribbons. But I’m of course thrilled for all of my winners. This festival could not have happened without the incredible people who baked for us.” For a complete listing of 2017 Chocolate Lovers Festival participants and winners, contact the United Way of Southern Chester County. Jennifer Miller can be reached at [email protected]
Organizers think Sunday’s rain might have impacted Sunday’s attendance of 800, which was down from last year’s high of 1,000. That said, the United Way of SCC is happy with the bottom line, having raised $16,821 – $500 more than last year.
Many offerings by amateur and high school bakers seemed just as tasty as some of the professional treats. Cupcake, cake, brownie, candy and cookie nibbles were all fresh and delicious and we were glad we brought to-go tins to share with folks at home. Mark you calendar for next year’s festival – always the Sunday before Valentine’s Day.