“Crockin’ It” 2016

Alabama Living Magazine
Fair Creative Living Center Director Glenda Yarbrough, left, and Alabama Living Editor Lenore Vickrey, far right, congratulate contest winners Ashley Holman, Levi Lyons and Mary Lyons.

Sweet treat takes top honors at “Crock’n It” competition

After her name was announced as the winner of the “Crockin’ It” contest at the Alabama National Fair, Ashley Holman of Montgomery made a quick trot to the stage and was a little teary-eyed when she accepted her ribbon and certificate.

The homemaker won first place for her recipe, Rocky Road Chocolate Cake, which she says combines her favorite Rocky Road ingredients: milk chocolate, marshmallows and nuts.

She’d seen several similar recipes on the Internet that piqued her interest, and she decided to put different elements into a cake and cook it in a slow cooker. It took her two or three tries to get it right, but she was pleased with the outcome, and said the recipe is very easy.

“You use not only instant chocolate pudding in the mix, you put the dry cooking syrup, chocolate pudding on top, and pour some milk on top of it. You don’t stir it in. You just let it go in. The Crock-Pot does all the work. Once it’s done, you let it sit for a few minutes; then you put the marshmallows and pecans and stuff on top. It’s really easy stuff.”

Like most talented home cooks, she started cooking as a youngster, about age 6 or 7, and says her father and her grandmother were her biggest influences.

As an adult, Holman went to culinary school at Trenholm State Community College. She’s a home cook now, but enjoys learning about food and trying different recipes.

But it’s more than just a hobby for her. She’s had some serious health issues, and says cooking for her is “therapy.” She loves the contests each fall at the Fair, when she says she can just be creative with recipes and focus on her food. At the time of the “Crockin’ It” contest, she’d already won fourth place in the Cooking with Chicken contest and third place in the cakes competition.

Alabama Living celebrated a first with this year’s contest: The second and third place dishes were created by two people from the same family. Tallassee’s Mary Lyons and her son Levi, 25, entered separately and won (see recipes on Page 26). Cooking talent obviously runs in the family!

– Allison Griffin

First Place

Crock-Pot Rocky Road Chocolate Cake

Ashley Holman

  • 1 15.25-ounce box chocolate cake mix
  • 1 3.4-ounce package instant chocolate pudding mix
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 8-ounce container sour cream
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3¼ cups milk, divided
  • 1 3.4-ounce package cook and serve chocolate pudding mix
  • 2 cups miniature marshmallows
  • ¾ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • ½ cup chopped pecans

Place dry cake mix, instant pudding mix, eggs, sour cream, melted butter, vanilla extract and 1¼ cups milk in a large mixing bowl. Mix with an electric mixer for 2 minutes. Lightly spray slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray and pour batter in. Sprinkle cook and serve pudding over batter, but do not stir! Pour the remaining 2 cups milk into a saucepan and heat through on medium heat (do not boil), stirring frequently. Gently pour hot milk over pudding mix; do not stir. Cover and cook on low for 2 to 2 ½ hours. Turn off slow cooker and take the lid off; the cake will set up as it stands. Sprinkle marshmallows, chocolate chips and pecans on top and let it stand for approximately 15 minutes, until the marshmallows start to melt. Serve immediately.

Second Place

Crock-Pot Spinach Sausage and Ricotta Shells

Levi Lyons

  • 1½ cups Kelley’s Jalapeno Pepper Smoked Sausage
  • 1 16-ounce package jumbo pasta shells
  • 1 16-ounce package ricotta cheese
  • 1 10-ounce box frozen chopped spinach, cooked and squeezed dry
  • 1 jar pasta sauce
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon Italian seasoning

Cook pasta shells according to package directions. Cook sausage on stovetop. Remove casing and scramble in pieces. Stir together ricotta, spinach, Parmesan cheese, egg, salt, shredded mozzarella and Italian seasoning. Add sausage and olive oil and mix together roughly. Pour ½ cup pasta sauce in bottom of slow cooker. Fill jumbo shells with mixture, and place in the bottom of the slow cooker. Pour pasta sauce over shells and repeat. End with pasta sauce over shells and Parmesan cheese on top.

Third Place

Crock-Pot Tropics Sipper

Mary Lyons

  • 4 cups Milo’s brand lemonade
  • 4 cups pineapple juice
  • 3 whole cinnamon sticks
  • 1 cup Alaga syrup
  • ½ cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 medium orange, sliced thinly
  • Place pineapple juice, lemonade, cinnamon sticks, brown sugar, syrup and orange slices in slow cooker. Cover and cook on high 3 ½ to 4 hours. Serve with cinnamon stick in mug.


Alabama’s Best Cake (adult category)

Alabama Living also sponsors the annual “best cake” (adult) category at the Alabama National Fair. This year’s winner was Stacie Bruney of Eclectic.

Caramel Apple Pecan Layer Cake


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare three 8-inch cake pans with floured cooking spray. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Don’t skimp on the creaming time. Add the sour cream, vanilla and syrup and mix until well combined. Add the egg whites in two batches, mixing well after each addition. Combine the dry ingredients in a separate bowl. In a small measuring cup, combine the apple butter and milk. Add half of the dry ingredients to the batter and mix well. Add the apple butter mixture, mix well, and then add remaining dry ingredients and mix until well combined. Stir in pecans. Divide batter evenly between the pans and bake for 22-24 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out with a few crumbs. Remove from oven and cool 3-5 minutes before removing from pan.

Caramel Frosting:

Spread sugar in a large heavy skillet. Heat very slowly until sugar melts and starts to turn a golden color. Add boiling water SLOWLY, stirring constantly. Continue heating until melted sugar dissolves completely in water. Boil until about ¾ cup remains. Beat butter until smooth, add the egg yolks and blend well. Add syrup alternately with powdered sugar to the butter mixture. Beat until smooth. Place the first layer of cake on cake stand, and top with half of the frosting and spread into an even layer just to the top of the layer. Add the second layer and top with remaining frosting, spreading in an even layer. Top with last cake layer.

Cinnamon Apple and Caramel Topping:

Place apples, brown sugar, cinnamon, butter, nutmeg and lemon juice into a pan, toss together and cook until apples are tender. Pile apples on top of cake. Drizzle caramel sauce around the top edge of cake and over apples, and allow sauce to run down the sides of the cake. Sprinkle with pecans.


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