Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Memories of the Corn Carnival (with recipes for Chocolate Cream Cheese Cupcakes and Cornbread Casserole)

Growing up in Minnesota, I used to go with a friend to her grandmother’s house each August for the Cokato Corn Carnival. It was a small-town carnival with rides and games, fried food and frozen treats, and of course, corn. I remember riding the tilt-a-whirl again and again, playing bingo (with dried corn kernels to mark our squares), and eating blue raspberry snow cones. At a certain time of day, a train whistle would blow signaling the corn on the cob was ready, and free for carnival attendees. We’d get in line for an ear of buttery sweet corn to eat right then, and more to bring back to the grandmother’s house for that night’s dinner. The Cokato web site tells me the carnival is still going strong. This August will bring the 60th Cokato Corn Carnival, complete with the coronation of Miss Cokato and a parade. And the corn is still free!

When I think of the Corn Carnival, I also remember the grandmother’s house, sleeping on the porch, picking zucchini in the garden, watching As the World Turns, and eating these fantastic chocolate cupcakes with cream cheese filling. After many years, I recently got a craving for them. The grandmother has died, but I emailed my old friend for the recipe. They somehow aren’t quite what I remembered, but they're still incredibly yummy, and my kids love them!

What made me think of all this? It was actually cornbread casserole – something I tried for the very first time last month. I don’t know how I managed to grow up in Minnesota, where corn is the king of vegetables and the “hot dish” rules the dinner table, and never get introduced to this casserole. No one else at the dinner last month seemed particularly excited about the corn dish, but I thought it was wonderful. Creamy and comforting like macaroni and cheese. Moist and crusty at the same time, like pie.

So today, I have two recipes for you. I’m sure there are dozens of versions of each of these midwest recipes. Here are the ones I’ve tried and enjoyed:

Chocolate Cream Cheese Cupcakes  PRINTABLE RECIPE

8 oz cream cheese - softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg – slightly beaten
1/8 tsp salt
8 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 Tbsp vinegar
1 tsp vanilla
1-1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. Blend cream cheese, 1/3 cup sugar, egg, and 1/8 tsp salt in a small bowl. Stir in chocolate chips and set aside.

3. In a large bowl, mix together water, oil, vinegar, and vanilla.

4. In yet another bowl, sift together flour, 1 cup sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and 1/2 tsp salt.

5. Add the flour mixture to the water and oil mixture, and mix well.

6. Fill paper cupcake cups 1/3 full with chocolate mixture. Then drop a large spoonful of cream cheese mixture on top of each.

7. Bake at 350° for 20 to 25 minutes.

Cornbread Casserole  PRINTABLE RECIPE

15 oz can cream style corn
15 oz can whole kernel corn - drained
8 oz box cornbread/muffin mix (Jiffy is recommended)
2 eggs - beaten
1/2 cup butter - melted
1/2 cup plain yogurt

1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. Combine everything in a bowl and mix well.

3. Pour into a greased 9" x 9" baking dish and bake at 350° for 1 hour.


  1. What a lovely tribute to my grandmother! The Corn Carnival was fun. Maybe you can bring your kids back and we can all attend. I'll give the cornbread casserole a try.

  2. Jen from Portland, OregonMay 20, 2009 at 1:39 PM

    I'd love to bring my kids to the Corn Carnival someday. I'm sure they'd have fun, and it would be great if we could all go together.