Elon alumna wins $1 million in Pillsbury competition

Beth Hirschy Royals ’88, a marketing and sales professional who studied business at Elon, won Pillsbury's 47th Bake-Off® Contest with her original recipe for Peanutty Pie Crust Clusters.

Beth Hirschy Royals ’88 (left) after receiving the grand prize during an episode of ABC's "The Chew."
When Beth Hirschy Royals ’88 applied for the Pillsbury’s 47th Bake-Off® Contest earlier this summer, she did not have high expectations. After all, the mother of two from Richmond, Va., had been there before—twice, to be more precise. Having been a finalist in 2004 and 2006, this was her last chance to win since contest rules prohibit contestants from participating more than three times.

As luck would have it, the third time proved to be the charm for Royals, who on Dec. 3 was announced as the winner of the grand prize—$1 million. “It was exciting to end on that note,” a still shocked Royals says.

It’s rumored that the contest receives 60,000 to 70,000 entries, she adds, so just being selected among the initial 100 competitors who faced off in four categories in November in Nashville, Tenn., was a huge accomplishment in itself. Winning her category—Simply Sweet Treats—exceeded any expectations she had. “The odds were so great and there were so many recipes deserving to win,” she says. “I had so low expectations, it was really a total shock. I was equally as prepared to hear the names of the other contestants” when they announced the winner.

<p>Royals prepares her original recipe, Peanutty Pie Crust Clusters, during the 47th Pillsbury Bake-Off&reg; Contest, held Nov. 3 in Nashville, Tenn. Finalists from around the country competed for a $1 million grand prize, which is awarded to the best original recipe.</p>
For the first time this year, the announcement was made on live TV, during an episode of ABC’s “The Chew.” It was also the first time the public was allowed to vote, so for three weeks, Royals and the other finalists used social media to get as many votes as possible. Royals says she is thankful for the support she received during those weeks from other bakers she has met during the 12 years she has been participating in contests, as well from her community, college friends and church. “It was really nice to see that and for people to enjoy making my recipe.”

To qualify for the contest, a recipe must have no more than seven ingredients (excluding salt, black pepper, water, cooking spray or a dusting of flour to minimize sticking to a pan), take less than 30 minutes to prepare and use at least two products from Pillsbury and/or its partner brands. Royals wanted to include Pillsbury’s pie crust in her recipe, but instead of using it to wrap it around something, she decided to cut it into small pieces and use it as the stuffing instead (think haystacks). The result was her winning Peanutty Pie Crust Clusters recipe.

Royals' million-dollar Peanutty Pie Crust Clusters
As for the prize, Royals, who studied business at Elon, plans to keep her marketing job and use the money for practical things—college tuition for her two sons, Easton, 16, and Brendan, 11, house repairs and helping people in need in her community.

“There will be no wild vacations,” she says laughing, adding that the money itself is not the best that has come out of the whole experience. “It’s really brought me a lot of happiness to hear through emails that people are making my recipe. I never thought I’d come up with something that would bring people together. … That’s a huge prize in itself.”