Her championship winning recipe was inspired by her late Mama. 

By Meghan Overdeep
February 26, 2018
amy nelson pillsbury bakeoff champion
Credit: Pillsbury

The grand prize winner of the 48th annual Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest has been announced and we are thrilled to report, though we're not at all surprised, that this year's winning baker is from the South!

Amy Nelson of Zionville, North Carolina took first place in the Cozy Breakfast category with her original recipe for Bejeweled Cranberry-Orange Rolls inspired by (you guessed it) her late Mama's cranberry salad. It also earned her the grand prize: $50,000, a kitchen makeover from GE Appliances and a feature in Food Network Magazine.

"We loved hearing Amy's story of how her recipe was inspired by her mother's famous cranberry salad and how the Bake-Off Contest allowed Amy to bring her own new twist to a long-time family favorite," Joanna Hargus, senior marketing manager for Pillsbury, said in a statement. "We love hearing how Pillsbury helps today's home cooks honor family memories while creating new recipes and traditions."

Working on her contest submission in November, Nelson recalled to Pillsbury how she sat in the den of her family's farmhouse in the mountains of North Carolina, off-and-on for two days. Cooking and writing, she said she cried happy tears as the recipe creation process brought back so many fond memories.

WATCH: Cinnamon Rolls

In her essay, Nelson wrote about how her mother cooked most of her family's meals from scratch at home—much like Nelson herself does today—but Pillsbury Orange Rolls were one of the exceptions.

Pillsbury Cranberry Orange Rolls
Credit: Pillsbury

"When I taste those rolls I just think of my mama. It's so immediate. I taste that orange flavor and it's like my mama is sitting at the table with me," Nelson told Pillsbury. "And then I started thinking about what I could do to those rolls. And the other thing is, what do you think of when you think of mama's cooking? You think of holiday meals."

One of Nelson's mother's most popular holiday recipes is a congealed cranberry salad, featuring gelatin, cranberries, oranges, pineapple, nuts, and more. It's so good, in fact, that Nelson says her husband married her for it. Not surprisingly, Nelson still makes the salad for her family today, and it was that taste profile that inspired her Bejeweled Cranberry-Orange Rolls recipe.

"I knew that would go really well with orange so I started with cranberries and added ginger, ginger ale and crushed pineapple," she explained. "I made a filling with that and put some toasted walnuts in there and rolled them back up and baked them like that. And they turned out really well!"

You can say that again!

For the full recipe and Nelson's winning essay, head over to