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Duluth woman competes to be 'Greatest Baker'

Carol Marsh has been competing in the Minnesota State Fair for a decade, but she recently applied her baking skills to an online contest to become "The Greatest Baker."

A woman in a blue shirt and white apron.
Carol Marsh is a quarter-finalist in "The Greatest Baker" contest.
Contributed / Carol Marsh
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DULUTH — Duluthian Carol Marsh has been baking since she was 8 years old. The first thing she remembers baking was a blueberry pie.

"I'm sure it wasn't very good, but my mom encouraged me," Marsh said. "We went out blueberry picking and I decided to do it and that's what started me off."

A cellphone displays several baked dishes created by Carol Marsh.
Carol Marsh submitted dozens of photos of her baked creations for "The Greatest Baker" competition online.
Teri Cadeau / Duluth News Tribune

A blueberry pie is just one of several baked goods (cakes, cookies, breads, muffins and more) Marsh recently submitted photos of for a baking competition called "The Greatest Baker." Amateur and professional bakers from around the world are competing online in the contest by Bake From Scratch Magazine to find out who has what it takes. The winner will receive $10,000 and be featured in the magazine.

Marsh heard about the contest from a friend back in October and decided to give it a shot. She's now made it into the quarter-final round of online voting.
"It's kind of a different baking competition because it's kind of based on how your food looks," Marsh said. "Though, I suppose, if your food didn't taste good, you'd be hard pressed to get your friends and family members to vote for you."

The competition is also a fundraiser for the Andrew McDonough B+ Foundation, which provides financial and emotional support to families of children with cancer in the U.S. Voters can vote once a day for free or donate money to provide their favorite baker with more votes.

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"That's been the weirdest thing really, for people I don't know to vote for me and have donated for more votes for me. It's very humbling," Marsh said. "My daughter has been my biggest support too. She's been posting about it every day on Facebook, sometimes to my embarrassment."

After she got started baking as a child, Marsh didn't really get back into it until later in her life. After she had kids, she took cake-decorating lessons. But what really drew her back to baking was competition.

"I remembered going to the State Fair as a child and entering to win, not for baking but for sewing," Marsh said. "And I thought it was really fun and wondered if I could compete as an adult and sure enough you can."

Around 2012 was the first time she entered her baked goods at the Minnesota State Fair. She came home with a few different ribbons that first year and has returned every year since.

"Now I have a full wagon I pull behind me when I go to enter," Marsh said. "I stay up late baking the night before so they're all super fresh, then head down super early. I even put a second oven in my house a couple of years ago to make it easier."

While the competition factor provides motivation for Marsh, she said it's definitely not the only reason she bakes.

"I like the challenge and I like the personal satisfaction of seeing if I can do it," Marsh said. "But it's also about making things for people. I bake for my coworkers and for people's birthdays. It's a way of expressing emotions and it's relaxing."

Marsh's advice for beginner bakers? Find a good book and decent equipment.

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"There's a King Arthur's flour cookbook that has lots of details in it," Marsh said. "And do some Googling to find the basic equipment. And maybe partner up with someone who knows how to bake? They can help you, I've definitely helped teach a few people. Sharing is part of the process."

As for Marsh, while she's excited to be moving on in the competition, she's also ready to start focusing on her Christmas baking. Her competition page can be found at greatestbaker.com/2022/carol-marsh.

Related Topics: DULUTHBAKINGFOOD
Teri Cadeau is a general assignment and neighborhood reporter for the Duluth News Tribune. Originally from the Iron Range, Cadeau has worked for several community newspapers in the Duluth area for eight years including: The Duluth Budgeteer News, Western Weekly, Weekly Observer, Lake County News-Chronicle and occasionally, the Cloquet Pine Journal. When not working, she's an avid reader and crafter.
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