Some of the world’s best recipes come from the Sweet Potato Cooking Contest held during the annual Sweet Potato Festival each fall in Vardaman.

Folks in Vardaman take their sweet potatoes, both the raising and cooking of them, seriously. The recipe judged best overall by a panel of tasters is awarded the Mayor’s Cup – and first, second and third place winners are selected in several categories.

Extension Home Economist Melissa Clanton sent us the winning recipes – enough to fill the space in two or three columns.


Mayor’s Cup Winner – Ladonna Williams

1/4 cup butter or margarine

1 7-ounce can flaked coconut

1/2 cup chopped pecans

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened

1 and 1/2 cups cooked sweet potato puree

1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk

2 8-ounce cartons whipped topping, thawed

2 vanilla wafer pie shells

1 12-ounce jar caramel ice cream topping

Melt butter in large skillet. Add coconut and pecans; cook until golden brown, stirring frequently. Set mixture aside. Combine cream cheese, sweet potatoes and condensed milk; beat until smooth. Fold in whipped topping. Spread 1/4 of cream cheese mixture in each pie shell. Drizzle 1/4 of caramel topping on each pie and sprinkle with 1/4 of coconut mixture. Repeat layers with remaining ingredients; cover and freeze until firm. Let stand in room temperatue 5 minutes before serving. Makes 2 large pies. (If bought graham craker crusts are used, it makes 3 pies.)


First Place – Pies – Donna Williams

2/3 cup pecans

2/3 cup brown sugar, packed

3 tablespoons butter or margarine

1 unbaked deep-dish pie shell

1 and 1/2 cup cooked, mashed sweet potatoes

2/3 cup granulated sugar

3 egg yolks

1/2 liquid coffee creamer, French Vanilla flavor

1 stick butter or margarine

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup toasted coconut

Lightly toast pecans in brown sugar and butter. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare pie shell. Sprinkle toasted pecans in bottom of pie shell. In medium bowl, combine remaining ingredients (reserving a small amount of coconut to sprinkle on top). Mix well and pour into pie crust over the nuts. Bake for about 45 to 50 minutes. (Meringue topping sprinkled with toasted coconut can be used, if desired. Bake until lightly browned.)


Second Place – Pies – Martha Martin

Pecon shortbread cookie crust (recipe below)

1 cup sugar

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

11 ounces cream cheese, softened

1/8 teaspoon each of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves and mace

1 teaspoon orange extract

3 eggs

2 cups cooked, mashed sweet potatoes

1 tablespoon milk

Prepare crust and set aside. With mixer on low speed, beat sugar, flour, and cream cheese in large bowl until smooth; reserve 1/2 cup. Add remaining ingredients except milk to cream cheese mixture. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl constantly, until smooth. Pour into prepared crust.

Stir milk into reserved cream chese mixture; spoon over sweet potato mixture. Cut through cream cheese and sweet potato mixtures with knife in S-shaped curves in one continuous motion. Turn pie plate 1/4 turn and repeat.

Cover edge of crust with 2 to 3-inch strip of aluminum foil to prevent excessive browning. Remove foil during last 15 minutes of baking. Bake 35 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 30 minutes. Cover loosely; refrigerate at least 4 hours

Pecan Shortbread Cookie Crust

1 and 1/2 cups packed crushed shortbread cookies with pecans (about 16 cookies)

3 tablespoons melted margarine or butter

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Preat oven to 375 degrees. Mix all ingredients in medium bowl. Press firmly on bottom and up side of ungreased pie plate. Bake about 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool.


Third Place – Pies – Jo Lee Clark

3 eggs, separated

1 cup sugar, divided

1 and 1/4 cups cooked, mashed sweet potatoes

1/2 cup milk

1/2 teaspoon each salt, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg

1 envelope apricot gelatin

1/4 cup cold water

1 graham cracker pie crust

To slightly beaten egg yolks, add 1/2 cup sugar, sweet potatoes, milk, salt and spices. Cook in the top of double boiler until thick. Soften gelatin in cold water; add to hot potato mixture. Mix thoroughly, and then cool. When it begins to thicken, fold in stiffly beaten egg whites to which the other 1/2 cup of sugar has been added. Pour into crust and chill overnight.

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