By Maggie Edwards
Twenty-three Alabama Farmers Federation members put their baking skills to test during the cheesecake themed Heritage Cooking Contest Sept. 7.
“It’s more than cheesecake,” said first-place winner Jeanette Tew. “It’s the support between the ladies — in cheesecake and life. This is a community of ladies who love each other and work together. It’s a labor of love.”
Tew, of Elmore County, said preparing for the contest was the first time she tried baking a cheesecake.
“This contest taught me patience and growth,” Tew said. “My process was trying to find something unique.”
Her Sweet Potato Pecan Baked Cheesecake sang on the judges’ taste buds with a sweet taste of fall.
“My family loves sweet potatoes,” said Tew. “It was a challenge, because every recipe I found was a pumpkin cheesecake. I had to add ingredients and create this recipe to get the right consistency.”
Tew traveled to Montgomery with plans to cheer on the ladies who won.
“My family will probably have a party over this,” Tew said. “In the middle of all my family’s sickness, this is a pleasant thing to happen. It’s the highlight of my life.”
Tew received $150 from the Federation’s Women’s Leadership Division. Barbara Norred of Randolph County earned second place and $100 for her Strawberry Cheesecake, while Montgomery County’s Amy Belcher took home third place and $50 for Biscoff Cookie Cheesecake.
“I want to compliment all the ladies who participated,” Tew said. “This is more than an act of love. We are making a commitment to work with an organization. It’s important to find your niche and get involved where you can.”
During the event, the crowd was inspired by Monique Williams of The Cheesecake Empori-Yum in Montgomery.
“Cheesecake is where my creativity goes,” said Williams, whose business offers over 60 flavors of cheesecake. “There are people who can draw, people who can paint and people who build houses. I can make a cheesecake. I love doing it and knowing it makes people happy.”
Following Williams’ presentation, a host of laughter and chatter filled the Federation home office as contestants and guests sampled bites of cheesecakes. The theme was chosen to honor the state’s rich history of dairy farming.
Federation Women’s Leadership Division Director Kim Earwood congratulated this year’s winners, acknowledging the talent shared among the 23 ladies.
“It takes months to perfect these recipes,” Earwood said. “Our judges had a tough job. All the cheesecakes presented were exceptional. This contest empowers women to go outside their comfort zone, try new things and create meaningful relationships across the state.”