Keizerite takes the cake (contest)

Gerry Frank (second from left) with the winner of his annual cake contest Keizerite Jenn Hearn (second from right).

Jenn Hearn is officially out of excuses. 

She’s denied friends’ and co-workers’ requests for full cakes for years, she only worked in cupcakes, she would tell them. But, in August, Hearn decided to whip up a full cake from some of the recipes she’s used for bite-sized confections. Then she decided to make another to enter in the 60th Annual Gerry Frank Chocolate Layer Cake Contest at the Oregon State Fair. Then she won. 

“I was completely blown away, I had never entered a contest in my life,” Hearn said.

Frank, the longtime owner of Salem’s Gerry Frank’s Konditorei until a recent sale, had nothing but praise for the first-timer, but he admitted surprise that she hadn’t attempted to enter such contests prior to this summer.

Hearn got her start baking cupcakes for co-workers at WVP Health Authority. In addition to providing friends with treats, Hearn said the group also uses it as a way to keep tabs on her health. 

“They know if I show up with cupcakes three days in a row that I haven’t been sleeping,” Hearn said. 

She whipped up her first full-size cake at the beginning of August: a three-layer, dark chocolate cake with a buttercream chocolate filling and ganache topping off the whole thing. 

“I have the base recipes from the cupcakes and I adapted it for a whole cake,” Hearn said. 

Jenn Hearn’s winning cake was a three-layer, dark chocolate cake with a buttercream chocolate filling and ganache topping off the whole thing.

Her son, Jacobe, 12, is the designated flavor refinement expert and he signed off on the creation. Hearn took that into work and earned enough rave reviews to bolster her confidence. 

She decided to enter it into Frank’s long-running contest, which was held on Sept. 1 in Columbia Hall on the State Fairgrounds. 

Frank started the contest, for which he is the sole judge, 60 years ago. Frank became a renown figure in Oregon as chief of staff to late Sen. Mark Hatfield. In retirement, and as part of department store family, he turned his attention to unearthing the special places, restaurants and sites that make Oregon unique. He collects all the information in his guidebook, Gerry Frank’s Oregon, now in its fourth edition. 

When the contest was over, Hearn walked out of Columbia Hall with a $250 Macy’s gift card and a copy of Frank’s book, and no more excuses for avoiding full cakes. 

For now, and the foreseeable future, Hearn said baking will remain a hobby, one of many that involve creating things from scratch, whether it’s baked goods, home décor or music. 

“I don’t know if I want to make it my full-time work because I don’t know if I would enjoy it as much as I do now,” she said.

She hasn’t, however, ruled out future contests.