Bandon is the cranberry capital of Oregon, where approximately 80 cranberry growers harvest the majority of Oregon’s cranberry crop each fall. Simply put, this town knows cranberries – and when they name a winner for the annual Cranberry Kitchen competition, you know it’s going to be good.
The competition – formerly known as the “Queen of the Kitchen” competition – has been a staple of the annual Bandon Cranberry Festival since 1948. In its 76-year history, only one man has won (Lawrence Williams, with cranberry and cranberry cake). cream cheese filling and frosting in 2003.) In recent years, the competition has been renamed the Cranberry Kitchen competition; the winner always receives a tiara, a sash and a bouquet of roses.
Jan Hester, who organizes the annual competition, said entrants can make any type of dish as long as it’s homemade and uses cranberries. Previous winning dishes included Cranberry Soup, Cranberry Pizza and Cranberry Wine.
This year there were 43 entries in the Cranberry Kitchen competition, ranging from drinks to main courses to desserts, but one dish came out on top for all three judges. It would be the coffee and cranberry crumble cake created by new participant Katy Vierck Latsko.
Latsko was born and raised in Bandon, where her family runs Vierck Cranberry Farm. Her mother had been asking her to enter the pageant for years, she said.
“I have two young kids, so I feel like I never have time to do it,” Latsko said. “I got up at 6 a.m. and said to myself, ‘I’m going to do something this year.’ And then I couldn’t really decide, so I picked two things and submitted them right before (the deadline).
Latsko modified an existing coffee cake recipe, replacing the blueberry and lemon flavors with cranberry and orange. She also grabbed a batch of white chocolate chip, pistachio and cranberry cookies.
The judges loved both desserts, with her cookies taking third place and the coffee crumble cake taking top honors.
After her victory in the kitchen, Latsko was invited to participate in the Cranberry Festival parade, an event she has fond memories of from her childhood. The Bandon Cranberry Festival takes place the second weekend in September, before the year’s cranberry harvest. Latsko said it was a homecoming of sorts for the whole city.
“It’s like a little party before we start harvesting, and then everyone gets to work,” Latsko said. “It also brings a lot of tourists to the area, which is a good thing for one last hurray for everyone before we slow down for the winter.”
Latsko works for the Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, but still takes time off each fall to help his parents harvest cranberries.
“There are a lot of people who work very hard,” she said of the region’s cranberry growers. “It’s just a big part of Bandon. … As logging and fishing kind of disappeared, this one has persisted, which is cool to see.
Looking to add cranberries to your holiday cooking? Here’s Latsko’s award-winning recipe:
Coffee and Cranberry Crumble Cake
• ½ cup granulated sugar
• ¼ cup all-purpose flour
• 3 tablespoons of melted butter
• 2 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
• ½ teaspoon of salt
• ½ cup softened unsalted butter (1 stick)
• 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
• 2 large eggs
• 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
• ½ cup whole milk
• 1 tablespoon of orange zest
• 2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
• 1 cup powdered sugar
• 1 to 2 tablespoons of freshly squeezed orange juice
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 9-inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray with flour.
2. Prepare the crumb topping by mixing the sugar, flour and butter well in a small bowl with a fork and set aside. The mixture should be sandy and then start to form small lumps.
3. In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.
4. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, vanilla and milk. Add the orange zest. Add the flour mixture and mix until well combined. Stir in the cranberries.
5. Divide the batter evenly into the prepared pan. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs.
6. Bake at 350º for 45 to 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. The center should be 210 degrees F. with an instant-read thermometer.
7. Whisk together the powdered sugar and orange juice to create a thin glaze.
8. Cool the cake for 10 minutes in the mold, then run a knife around the edge and remove the circle. Pour the icing over the cake. Cool completely before serving.