The Iowa State Fair is famous for its size, attendance, and of course, food. So famous, in fact, that it has its own musical! Since Allrecipes magazine is headquartered in Des Moines, Iowa, we just couldn't pass up the opportunity to judge a food contest at the 2015 State Fair. And because we got to choose the topic, we went for–what else–doughnuts!

Judges judging the doughnuts
The judges taste each doughnut entry and give their feedback to their assigned writer. From left to right, the judges were Doug Crichton (Managing Editor), Lucy Fitzgerald (Assistant Editor), Cheryl Brown (Editor-In-Chief), and Nichole Aksamit (Senior Food Editor). Photo courtesy of Meredith.

On an unseasonably cold Wednesday morning, our team headed to the Elwell Family Food Center at the fairgrounds, which was already teeming with fairgoers, recipe contest entrants, and folks who just wanted to check out the displays of blue-ribbon cakes, pies, and preserves. (On that cold and rainy day, the Fair still had over 106,000 visitors. Holy Butter Cow!)

A writer records the judge's feedback.
Judging is hard work! Photo courtesy of Meredith.

In 2015, there were over 10,600 total food contest entries spread throughout hundreds of categories at the Iowa State Fair. Other categories included (but definitely were not limited to) casseroles, jellies, chicken wings, salsas, cookies, and dips. Many had punny names, like "The Best of the Wurst."

The crowd looks on as the judges judge the doughnuts.
The crowd looks on as the judges sample each entry. Photo courtesy of Meredith.

We didn't draw the biggest crowd, but we did manage to give away hundred of copies of our June/July/August 2015 issue and a whole bunch of orange Allrecipes tote bags.

Doug and his writer share a laugh.
Managing Editor Doug Crichton and his writer during judging. Photo courtesy of Meredith.

Each of the four judges got to taste each entry, and relay our feedback on taste, texture, and appearance to our writer (fair volunteers who recorded our comments and ratings). Afterwards, the writers tallied up the scores and narrowed it down to the top three doughnuts. The judges then conferred with each other on which one we thought deserved the blue ribbon.

The judges compare the top three entries.
The judges compare the top three entries. Prepare the blue ribbon! Photo courtesy of Meredith.

The Results

Nichole announces the winners.
Senior Food Editor Nichole Aksamit announces the finalists in the Holy Doughnuts contest before a hushed crowd. Photo courtesy of Meredith.

First place went to the Baked Buttermilk Pumpkin Doughnuts, created by Anita Van Gundy of Des Moines. (Look for the recipe in the February/March 2016 issue!)

Blue ribbon winner Anita Van Gundy of Des Moines.
Blue ribbon winner Anita Van Gundy of Des Moines, with her Baked Buttermilk Pumpkin Doughnuts. Photo courtesy of Meredith.

Second place was awarded to the Vanilla-Chai Doughnuts, and third place went to Baked Blueberry Sour Cream Doughnuts (which happened to have been submitted by Anita's own sister!).


After an exhausting day of eating doughnuts, we rewarded ourselves with a trip on the SkyGlide up the Midway for some fair food: cheese curds, bacon corn dogs, pork chops on a stick, deep-fried nacho balls, peppermint ice cream bars, funnel cakes, and fried pickles.

See you next year, Iowa State Fair!

You Might Also Like

Hungry for doughnuts now? Who can blame you? Find dozens and dozens of delicious doughnut recipes, including cake doughnuts, yeast-raised doughnuts, and fritters.

Attention, doughnut lovers! Churros might just be the next hot thing on the doughnut horizon. Here's a recipe for churros if you want to make them at home.