When Prudence Hilburn announced to her family and close friends that she was going to enter the 1963 Pillsbury Bake-Off, they all thought it was the funniest thing they’d ever heard.
It was no secret that Prudence, the mother of four and a full-time accountant, couldn’t cook worth a flip, and her crazy Bake-Off plan became a huge joke. The biggest jokester was her husband, Huey; he teased and poked fun at her for weeks.
But for Huey and the rest of them, amusement turned into shocked disbelief when Prudence’s original Tropical Orange Cake wound up a national Bake-Off finalist. Those who once had laughed spent months scraping egg from their faces.
Prudence barely noticed their contrition, however. She had other things on her mind, like cooking more, making up more recipes and entering more contests. Intent on refining her skills, she commandeered the kitchen and focused on her new-found hobby–a hobby that gradually turned into a professional career.
In the years following her first stunning Bake-Off victory, Prudence won more than 30 state and national cooking contests, including national finalist honors in five more Pillsbury Bake-Offs.
And the contests are only part of Prudence’s success story.
The former accountant from Piedmont, Ala., has studied under culinary masters in New York and France; she’s been a media spokesperson for Pillsbury and Domino Sugar; and she has appeared numerous times on local and national television shows including “CBS This Morning.”
Since 1993, she has published six cookbooks that are filled with her original recipes. She is, as her business card says, a “recipe development specialist.”
A member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals, Prudence currently serves as food writer for Anniston’s and Gadsden’s daily newspapers. She is a syndicated food columnist for the New York Times Regional Newspaper Group. Oh yes, and she teaches cooking classes at Jacksonville State University.
In those cooking classes, she instills in her students what she considers to be the most important of all cooking principles: Taste matters most.
“Make taste your first priority, and then work on making the food look good,” she says. “Too often, people get that backward. Presenting food with eye appeal is important, but when the beautiful food doesn’t taste good, the tastebuds can be in for a flavor shock.”
That’s free advice to you, from a bona fide culinary professional.
And here, especially for “Country Kitchen” readers, are some of Prudence’s favorite originals. Go ahead. Give them a try. You’ll feel like a winner.