For the past three years, the fate of the Pillsbury Bake-Off was horrifically uncertain. “We are currently assessing how this 67-year-old contest comes to life in a relevant way for a new generation of home chefs,” a curt statement on the Pillsbury site read just a few months ago.
Thankfully, that's changed. Earlier this week, Pillsbury announced that the contest, following this three-year hiatus, would be returning this fall.
“The Pillsbury Bake-Off is referred to among contestants as the Super Bowl,” our very own Amanda Hesser wrote in The New York Times in 2000. “It is one of the oldest American cooking contests and by far the most prestigious.” She paid a visit to the 99 finalists of the storied contest in San Francisco, where they’d all congregated to win the coveted cash prize of $1 million.
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The prestige is due, in no small part, to that giant wad of capital. But since it launched in 1949, the contest has also created a model for empowering home cooks who may not have found a platform otherwise. The Bake-Off predates any Top Chef or Chopped series; long before these shows turned nobodies into celebrities, the Bake-Off provided an opportunity for home cooks to have their recipes—like the Tunnel of Fudge—etched into history.
I'm afraid Pillsbury hasn't publicized too many details about the upcoming iteration of the contest yet, though the company has stated that it's partnered with the Food Network to “reimagine” the Bake-Off. The landing page for the contest is pretty sparse, and the company is urging would-be entrants to return to the site October 1 when more details about rules and locations are announced. We’ll keep you abreast of any updates as they arrive, but, for now, save the date.
Have any memories of the Pillsbury Bake-Off? A favorite recipe? Let us know in the comments.
Mayukh Sen is a James Beard Award-winning food and culture writer in New York. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the New Yorker, Bon Appetit, and elsewhere. He won a 2018 James Beard Award in Journalism for his profile of Princess Pamela published on Food52.