Meet 2011 White Cake Contest Winner Lynn Brown

Lynn Brown from Centennial, CO, won our <a href="http://www.southernliving.com/food/christmas-desserts-recipes-0041700007... White Cake Contest</a> with her recipe for Chocolate-Gingerbread-Toffee Cake.

Lynn's cake blew us away. "It tastes like all the wonderful flavors that come tumbling from a stocking: milk chocolate Santas, gingerbread men, and buttery toffee candy," said one starry-eyed staffer. So how did Lynn, a self-proclaimed "food nerd," dream up the recipe? "My mother and grandmother made toffee during the holidays, so I continue the tradition, which can be a challenging task at higher altitudes," says the colorado resident, who has also called Indiana, Texas, and Virginia home. chocolate is one of Lynn's favorite flavors, and gingerbread gave the cake a festive kick. So what will she do with her $1,000 winnings? "My daughter, who is in college, is going to prague next year, so I'm thinking about going with her." We can't think of a sweeter idea. Read on to learn about her inspiration for the cake and get the recipe.

Recipe: Chocolate-Gingerbread-Toffee Cake

Q: Where did you grow up? Have you always lived in Colorado?
My dad was in the Air Force, so I moved around a lot...born in Indiana, lived in Texas, Virginia, and I've been in Colorado for 11 years.

Q: Tell us about your family.
I have 2 boys (15 and 18) and a daughter in college (20).

Q: What made you decide on Chocolate-Gingerbread-Toffee for a holiday layer cake?
I knew I wanted chocolate layers, so that was set. Then I thought about past holidays and memories for more inspiration. I also visited some specialty stores to see what the professionals are making these days. Ultimately, I fused an iconic holiday element (gingerbread) with two of my favorite flavors...chocolate and toffee.

Q: Is it sentimental to you? Why?
Yes, my mother and grandma always made toffee during the holidays, so I sprinkled some of their inspiration between the layers. In fact, I try to keep the toffee tradition going every year, which can be a challenging task in the higher altitude, but that makes it even more special for my family. It's a treat for all of us.

Q: How many times did you make this cake before entering the contest? Did you have any tasters?
About three times. I'm such a "food nerd," so I wanted to make sure the cake was perfect. My boys served as my tasters. In fact, we "taste" on a regular basis and talk about food. I think I may have turned them into foodies. My daughter likes to cook too.

Q: Any other attempts before you submitted this particular cake?
No. Once I decided on the chocolate-gingerbread-toffee flavors, there was no turning back.

Q: What's the first thing you did when you found out you were a finalist?
I was at work when I was notified, so naturally my coworkers were the first to find out, and they congratulated me. Then I called my family. Lots of calling and texting going on that day!

Q: How do you plan to spend your prize money?
My daughter, who is in college, is going to Prague next year for continuing studies, so I'm thinking about going with her. The prize money will definitely help with travel expenses.

Q: Other than cake, what's your favorite holiday dessert?
Anything chocolate...bars, brownies, cheesecake. I've recently turned my family onto chocolate crème brûlée.

Q: What's your favorite childhood memory during the holidays?
Cinnamon rolls on a Christmas morning in my cozy PJs.

Q: What's your most memorable holiday disaster?
The cat climbed up the tree on Christmas Eve, and it (the tree) came crashing down! The cat was fine, and we all had a good laugh.

Q: What do you usually leave for Santa on Christmas Eve?
It varies each year, but it's usually something family-inspired....my grandma's sour cream sugar cookies or my mom's peanut butter bark.

Q: Anything else we should know about you?
I currently work in the school system in educational intervention with kids, and I'm finishing my master's degree in education curriculum.