McDaniel takes the cake at the South Carolina State Fair

COLUMBIA, SC – At Burnette Shutt & McDaniel, values such as perseverance and problem-solving are business standards.

It now appears that those traits apply to the South Carolina State Fair as well as to the firm’s legal practice.

Kathleen McDaniel brought home a blue ribbon for her caramel cake after this year’s fair, the third time she had entered in that category. The blue ribbon reflected a long-term commitment to perfecting her project.

McDaniel, who grew up baking with her mom and grandmother, began the caramel cake odyssey with a birthday cake that drew enough compliments to convince the attorney to put herself to the test against the state’s best bakers.

Shortly after winning a red ribbon in 2010, McDaniel began a new round of testing. She knew what the problem was. “The cake was too dry,” she said. “It’s surprisingly hard to make a cake that’s as moist as a box mix cake.”

She found the solution in merging a pound cake recipe into the caramel cake ingredients. That’s all she’s going to tell you, though. The pound cake part is from a super-secret family recipe that was slipped to her on the sly by a co-worker. The same goes for the frosting, which she says is a deceptively simple recipe that tastes like a praline.

McDaniel will keep baking. This time, though, she’s creating an even greater challenge for herself by focusing on another Southern classic. “I’m going to try biscuits or cheese straws,” she said.