By Connie Leinbach
For the second consecutive year, islander Ruth Toth won the best traditional fig cake Friday in the Fig Cake Bake-Off in Community Square.
Toth’s cake bested eight others for the top honors in the event sponsored by the Ocracoke Civic and Business Association.
Runner-up in the traditional category, an added honor this year, was Margaret Trainer, a part-time islander from Washington, NC.
One of the three judges for the traditional category, Karen Lovejoy said after the tasting competition ended that “figgyness” was the factor they looked for.
“A lot were close, but when you came down to it, it was the taste of figs in the cakes,” she said about the winners.
Both winners said that the strategy to capture that special “figgyness” was they simply added extra figs to their traditional recipes.
The traditional category restricted the ingredients to figs, spices and cake batter.
“I just followed the traditional recipe,” Trainer said. “I just juiced up the preserves and added fresh figs and a buttermilk glaze.”
Trainer also made a cake for the innovative category, which had 14 entries.
The innovative category allowed any kind of baked dessert as long as figs are included, and Saturday’s entries showed an array of tasty treats: scones, tarts, shortbreads, Trainer’s Turkish fig cake soufflé and innovative category winner Allison O’Neal’s fig cream tarts.
“I was surprised I won,” O’Neal said, laughing and noting that she has competed the last three years of the fie-year bake off.
She found the recipe, which she modified, in her grandmother’s 1950s Junior League cookbook. It called for a topping of blueberries, but she substituted Robby O’Neal’s fig preserves, resulting in a winning entry.
“Figinators,” is what O’Neal’s son, Jackson Strange, called the treats that disappeared quickly when the judging was done and the approximately 60 spectators pounced on the fig cake-laden tables.
“It’s a fig-for-all,” said Woody Billings as he grabbed some cake.
Last year’s innovative category winner, Danielle Kalnas of Gibbstown, NJ, was runner-up this year with her six-layer chocolate cake layered with figs, mascarpone cream cheese and spiced with molasses, maple syrup, orange, lemon rind and candied ginger.
Kalnas had an empty plate to take back to her rental house after attendees had sampled the entries.
“It fed a crowd,” Kalnas said after Sundae Horn, OCBA travel and tourism director announced the winners at 6 p.m. “It’s a fun thing,” she said about the competition.
Finley Austin, one of the innovative judges, said there was a considerable amount of difference between tastes and textures in the cakes she judged.
As he left Community Square on his bike after sampling the cake entries, Scott Myers, a visitor from Pittsburgh, Pa., called the event a slice of Americana and praised all of the cakes.
“They’re all winners in my book,” he said.
In addition to Lovejoy, judges for the competition for the traditional cakes were James Barrie Gaskill and Vince O’Neal.
Innovative judges were Finley Austin, Justin LeBlanc, Amy Campbell and Charles Temple
Arden Barnhart and Joyce Spencer helped cut the cakes and served them for judging.
A traditional square dance called by Philip Howard featured music by Molasses Creek.
Fig Festival events continue today (Saturday) starting with vendors at 3 p.m., fig preserve tasting at 4 p.m. and three bands from 6 to 10 p.m.: The Ocracoke Rockers, Lightning Lou and the Blackouts and Raygun Ruby.