Cambrian: Opinion

A tie among pies: Cambria tasting contest produces a pair of champions

Nothing says holidays quite like pie, for dessert or as a main course.
Nothing says holidays quite like pie, for dessert or as a main course. Special to The Cambrian

It is always gratifying to build upon success, and have lots of fun at the same time. Case in point: the annual Pie Tasting Contest as part of the Cambria Historical Society’s Harvest Festival weekend of events. We had a full house, so to speak, in the backyard of the historical museum, with a bevy of avid samplers queued up last Saturday, well before we began at 1 p.m. to taste and vote on 12 pies entered by some of Cambria’s finest home bakers.

I must credit our wonderful business partner, Shanny Covey, owner of Robin’s Restaurant, for originating the idea in her garden several years ago. The following year, The Cambrian’s Culinary Corner became her co-sponsor, and we began holding the friendly competition at the museum, except for the year when we enticed people to the farmers market. 

Proceeds benefit the museum and its heirloom garden.

It is a joy to work with such a positive and gracious person, who generously gives of her time and professional expertise while running a successful business. She is so unassuming that people don’t realize who she is, slicing and serving right among our veteran volunteers. Thank you, Shanny!

You’d never know the pastries were produced by nonprofessionals, because they were gorgeous! Thank you, Kathy Noling, Paige Spiller, CeCe Lomeli, Debra Hesch, Debbie Johnson and Guy Newman (yes, a guy). Also unique was Cheryl Papert, who tried a new concept — savory meat pie.

They each baked two of their special treats, so we would have plenty for more than 80 people to sample. Pat Moreno baked two Texas-sized entries and came in a close third, with her Upside Down Pumpkin Pie, the recipe to be printed Nov. 20 in time for Thanksgiving; she serves her specialty to guests every year and at potlucks.

Two entries tied for first place: Kelly Johnson, with her family favorite, Shaker Lemon Pie; and Joyce Backhaus, with Chocolate Pecan Pie (enhanced with a wee dram of bourbon). Because of space constraints, we’ll also include all the details of Kelly’s family favorite next month. 


• 1 9-inch prepared pie crust, unbaked

• 4 large eggs

• 1 cup light corn syrup

• 6 tblsp. melted butter

• 1⁄2 cup granulated sugar

• 1⁄4 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed

• 3 tblsp. bourbon, optional

• 1 tblsp. all-purpose flour

• 1 tblsp. vanilla extract

• 1 cup coarsely chopped pecans

• 1 6-oz. pkg. semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place the pie dough in a 9-inch pie plate (Joyce prefers glass ones), rolling the edge under, and crimping in your favorite pattern. In a large bowl, briskly whisk the eggs, corn syrup and other listed ingredients through vanilla until smooth. You may substitute another 2 tblsp. melted butter for the bourbon, if you like.

Stir in the pecans and chocolate chips; pour into the pie crust. Place on the lowest oven rack, and bake for one hour or until set. (Cover the crust with a strip of foil if browning too quickly.) Allow to completely cool on a rack before serving.  

Consuelo Macedo’s column is special to The Cambrian, and appears each third Thursday. Send recipes and comments to Consuelo at The Cambrian, 2442 Main St., Cambria CA 93428; or email to