NC State Fair: Winning 2023 Recipes

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Friday, October 27, 2023
NC State Fair: 15 cool entries at the 2023 decorated cake competition
The many cakes featured during the competition are on display in the Commercial and Education Buildings on the State fairgrounds.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- The 2023 North Carolina State Fair has come and gone until next year. Here are some of the winning recipes at this year's event:

Mema's Mac & Cheese

Kim Cooper of Carolina Beach earned a blue ribbon and a $500 prize in the Let's Get Cheesy: Mac-n-Cheese Challenge with her family recipe for Mema's Mac & Cheese.


  • 1 Boston butt
  • 1 box large elbow macaroni (16 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 12 ounces evaporated milk
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream or whipping cream
  • 3 cups shredded cheese, 1 cup divided and set aside
  • 12 ounces white American cheese slices cut into smaller pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • paprika
  • crumbled blue cheese (optional)
  • cooked bacon (optional)

Boston butt instructions:

Rub entire Boston butt with oil, salt, and pepper. Place in crock pot.

Cook on low for 8-9 hours until tender.

Remove and shred with a fork and add one bottle of Sweet Baby Ray's Original barbecue sauce.

Crock pot macaroni and cheese instructions:

Boil water with salt and cook macaroni al dente. Cool.

Pour macaroni into crock pot. Add butter and stir until melted.

Add evaporated milk, cream, two cups of cheddar cheese, American cheese, salt, and pepper. Stir.

Cook on low for 1 1/2-2 hours. Gently stir a couple of times while cooking.

In the last 10 minutes, sprinkle on the remaining cheddar and lightly sprinkle paprika. Allow the cheese to melt.

Put mac and cheese on the bottom of the baking dish. Completely cover with BBQ Boston butt. Sprinkle with blue cheese crumbles and cooked bacon if desired.

Strawberry Lemonade-inspired triple layered cake

Habeebah Hasan of Durham placed first and won $500 in the N.C. State Fair Luscious Layer Cake Home Chef Challenge with her strawberry lemonade-inspired triple-layer cake. It was Hasan's first time competing in the cooking challenges at the fair.



  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 5 teaspoons baking powder
  • teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 cup butter
  • 5 teaspoons oil
  • 8 eggs
  • 7 teaspoons vanilla extract


1. Heat oven to 350 degrees

2. Grease cake pans with butter, line the bottom with parchment paper.

3. Combine dry ingredients. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Set aside.

4. Beat eggs for 30 seconds on medium speed, or until fully combined.

5. With the beater still going, pour in the sugar slowly. Turn the speed to high and beat for seven minutes until triples in volume and white.

6. Heat milk and butter in the microwave for 1.5 minutes or until fully melted and hot (this can be done over the stovetop as well, just be sure the milk mixture does not boil.)

7. After the butter and sugar is finished beating, turn the speed to medium and add 1/3 of the flour. After the flour is fully combined add another 1/3. Once fully combined add the remaining flour.

8. Pour hot milk, vanilla, and oil into a bowl. Give it a good mix. Scoop of the egg flour mixture and pour it into the hot milk mixture. Mix well.

9. With the mixer on low, slowly add the milk mixture back into the remaining egg flour mixture. Continue mixing on low until combined. Once fully combined, immediately stop the mixer.

10. Scrape down the sides and pour batter into pans. Consider using a scale to ensure that each cake pan was getting the same amount of batter.

11. Bang each cake pan on the counter three times.

12. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden and the toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

13. Let it cook in the pans for 20 minutes and then gently flip them out of the pans and onto a cooling rack to cool completely.


  • 2 cups butter
  • 7 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 4 tablespoons heavy cream


1. Beat the softened butter on medium speed for a minute or until light and airy.

2. Turn the mixer on low speed, and gradually add the powdered sugar. Wait until the powdered sugar is fully combined with the butter before adding more. Continue until all the powdered sugar is combined.

3. Add the vanilla extract and 4 tablespoons of heavy cream. After combining, turn the mixer on high speed and beat for 6 to 7 minutes.

Strawberry Filling:

  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups frozen strawberries
  • cup sugar


1. Add strawberries, sugar and water into a medium-sized saucepan.

2. Cook on medium heat until thick, about 5 to 10 minutes.

3. Take off the heat and immersion blend until smooth. Put back on the heat and cook for another 5 minutes.

4. Cool before use.

Lemon Curd Filling:

  • 1 cup lemon juice
  • 3 eggs
  • cup sugar
  • 1 cup lemon zest


1. Add all ingredients into a pan. Cut the butter into small chunks.

2. Mix very well.

3. On low heat, stir until butter is melted.

4. Turn the heat up to medium and continue to stir until the mixture becomes thick..

5. Take off heat and let cool.

Candied Lemons (use as garnish):

  • 1 large lemon
  • 3 cups of water
  • 1 cups sugar
  • Water and ice for ice bath


1. Thinly slice lemons.

2. Bring water to boil and add lemons.

3. After 2 minutes remove the lemons and place them into an ice bath.

4. In a saucepan, add the sugar and 3 cups water.

5. Bring to a boil, add lemons

6. Boil for 20 minutes.

7. Remove lemons and place them onto a drying rack.

8. Let dry for 24 hours or until hard.

Curry Chicken Salad

Sarah Hester of Knightdale won the N.C. State Fair's Home Chef Challenge titled the "Summer Salad of the South: Kickin' Chicken Salad Challenge" presented by House of Raeford Farms. It is the first year Hester has competed in the fair's cooking competitions.

The recipe makes 3-4 servings


About 2 lbs. chicken

  • cup mayonnaise
  • cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • teaspoon salt
  • teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1 rib celery, diced
  • medium red onion, diced
  • cup golden raisins


  • In a separate pot, bring chicken breast to a rolling boil until cooked through or to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.
  • While the chicken is cooking, dice the celery and onion.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk mayonnaise, yogurt, vinegar, mustard, salt, pepper and curry powder.
  • Dice onion and celery.
  • Once chicken is cooked, dice or shred to desired texture.
  • In one large bowl, combine cooked chicken, onion, celery and mayonnaise mixture.
  • Let cool and serve.

Best served after refrigeration 4-6 hours or overnight.

Boozie Banana Pudding Cheesecake

Shenita Arvia Pelham of Raleigh earned the top spot and $500 in prize money in the State Fair's "Down Home Dessert: Banana Pudding Challenge" presented by Ambetter Health of North Carolina.

Credit: Adapted from "Banana Pudding Cheesecake," Life, Love, and Sugar

Yield: 6-10 Slices

Prep Time: 1 hour

Cook Time: 2 hours 50 minutes

Total Time: 3 hours 50 minutes



  • 1 cups graham crackers, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 4 tablespoons salted butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon instant banana cream pudding mix, dry
  • teaspoon banana extract


  • 1 cup banana pudding cream Moonshine
  • 24 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3.4 ounces instant banana cream pudding mix, dry
  • cup sour cream
  • cup heavy whipping cream
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup mashed ripe bananas (2-3 bananas)


  • 3.4 ounces instant banana cream pudding mix, dry
  • 1 cups cold 2% milk
  • cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon banana pudding cream Moonshine


  • 1 cups heavy whipping cream, cold
  • 6 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • vanilla wafer cookies, whole (As many as you like)



  • Preheat oven to 325F. Line an 8-inch springform pan with parchment paper in the bottom.
  • Combine the crust ingredients in a small bowl. Press the mixture into the bottom and up the sides of the springform pan.
  • Bake the crust for 10 minutes, then set aside to cool.
  • Cover the outside of the pan with aluminum foil so that water from the water bath cannot get in. Set prepared pan aside.


  • Reduce oven temperature to 300F.
  • In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese, sugar, flour, and pudding mix on low speed until well combined and smooth. Mixture will be sticky. Be sure to use low speed to reduce the amount of air added to the batter, which can cause cracks. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  • Add the sour cream and mix on low speed until well combined.
  • Add the heavy whipping cream and Moonshine on low speed.
  • Add the eggs one at a time, mixing slowly to combine after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed to make sure everything is well combined.
  • Add the mashed banana and vanilla extract and mix on low speed until well combined. Mixture will be a little lumpy.
  • Pour the cheesecake batter into the crust.
  • Place the springform pan inside another larger pan. Fill the outside pan with enough warm water to go about halfway up the sides of the springform pan. The water should not go above the top edge of the aluminum foil on the springform pan.
  • Bake for 1 hour 40 minutes. The center should be set, but still jiggly.
  • Turn off the oven and leave the door closed for 30 minutes. The cheesecake will continue to cook but slowly begin to cool as well.
  • Crack the door of the oven for 30 minutes to allow the cheesecake to continue to cool slowly.
  • Remove the cheesecake from the oven and water bath wrapping and refrigerate until cool and firm, 5-6 hours or overnight.


  • When cooled and ready to serve, remove the cheesecake from the springform pan and place on a serving plate.
  • To make the banana pudding topping, add the instant banana cream pudding mix into a small bowl and whisk in milk, heavy whipping cream, and Moonshine for 2 mins. (Refrigerate for 5 mins)
  • To make the whipped cream, add the heavy whipping cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract to a large mixer bowl and whip on high speed until stiff peaks form.
  • Spread a layer of banana pudding on top of the cheesecake, then pipe a layer of whipped cream swirls on top.
  • Finish off the cheesecake with vanilla wafers on top.
  • Slice, cut, and enjoy!

Cheesecake is best when stored well covered in the fridge for 3-4 days.

ALSO SEE: 2 Wake County bakeries lose Facebook business pages to hackers

Sweet potato beef taco skillet

A Knightdae woman took home first place in the Make-Ahead Lunch Challenge with her sweet potato beef taco skillet.

Makes 2-4 servings


  • 2-4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large sweet potato, cubed
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 14-15 ounce can tomatoes (fire roasted preferred)
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 cup shredded cheese

Optional toppings:

Sour cream, shredded cheese, cilantro, pickled red onions, lime wedges, sliced jalapeno, tortilla chips

Quick-pickled red onions:

  • 1 large red onion, peeled and very thinly sliced
  • 3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1-2 tablespoons honey or sugar

Quick-pickled red onion instructions:

Combine vinegar, water, salt, and sugar in a skillet and heat to a boil.

Place onions in a Mason jar and cover with vinegar mixture.

Let cool, place a lid and top on the jar, and set it in the refrigerator. Best enjoyed after 4-6 hours or overnight.


  • In a large skillet, heat oil, and brown ground beef until cooked through or to an internal temperature of 160 degrees F. If preparing pickled onions, prepare them while the beef is cooking.
  • Once beef is almost cooked through, add in onion and cook until onion is tender, stirring frequently to avoid burning. Add in garlic, seasonings and stir once, until fragrant.
  • Remove beef mixture from pan, drain, reserving 1-2 tablespoons of grease, and set aside. If no grease is able to be reserved, add 1-2 more tablespoons olive oil back to the pan and bring to medium-high heat.
  • Add sweet potatoes and chicken broth to the pan and stir. Cook potatoes until almost fork tender and then add in canned tomatoes to the mixture.
  • Bring to a boil and allow the mixture to bubble for around 5 minutes. Add the ground beef and onion mixture back to the skillet and stir well to combine.
  • Turn off heat and top with shredded cheese and cover 1-2 minutes to allow cheese to melt.

Spicy Green Chili and Sweet Corn Skillet Chicken Pot Pie

Taylor Weber of Raleigh placed first in the Cast Iron Chicken Pot Pie Challenge with her Spicy Green Chili and Sweet Corn Skillet Chicken Pot Pie. This year's event was her first win at the Home Chef Challenge, and she took home $500 as a reward.



  • 6 slices bacon, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and diced
  • 3 jalapeños diced
  • 2 poblano peppers, diced
  • 2 thyme sprigs
  • 4 ears of corn, cut off the cob
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • cup heavy cream, plus more for brushing
  • 2 cups cooked chicken, shredded or diced


Grill or broil jalapeno and poblanos until charred. Chop and reserve. Render bacon over medium heat until crispy. Remove bacon and reserve. Add onion, garlic, carrots, and thyme and sauté over medium heat until carrots start to soften. Add flour and cook while stirring for two minutes. Remove thyme sprigs. Add chicken stock and cream and bring to a boil while stirring. Stir in corn, chicken, reserved bacon, and peppers, and season to taste. Top skillet with biscuits, brush with cream, and bake at 450 degrees for about 20 minutes until bubbly and brown.

Biscuit Topping


  • 2 cups flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • cup shortening
  • cup butter
  • 4 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded
  • 1 bunch scallions, minced
  • 1 egg
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk


Whisk eggs and buttermilk and set aside. In large bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Cut in butter and shortening until large pieces form. Add cheddar and scallions and toss until combined. Fold in buttermilk/egg mixture just until combined. Turn dough onto floured surface and fold several times to create layers and bring the dough together. Cut into shapes and top filling. Brush with cream and top with salt and pepper.

For more top recipes from the NC State Fair visit here.

Featured video is from a previous report