The Naples Historical Society is sponsoring a chocolate cake contest as part of Naples Vintage Vines and Valentines

NAPLES — Next week, Naples will have a Queen or King of Cocoa, a Duchess or Duke of Dessert and Countess or Count of Confections.

But the chocolate cake makers of today will have much to live up to, thanks to Mrs. Ben Lyon.

The Naples Historical Society, as part of the eighth annual Naples Vintage Vines and Valentines on Feb. 8, is ready to savor its first chocolate cake contest.

Buy a slice or even half of a chocolate cake — it could be layer, birthday, cheese, Bundt, angel food, chiffon, or anything that meets the definition of cake — and help to preserve local history.

Besides bragging rights, winners will be considered royalty among the chocoholics of Naples.

But who, you may ask, is Mrs. Ben Lyon? She may have been the dessert diva of her day, at least in Naples and Ontario County.

Thanks to Kim Torpey, publisher, editor and graphic designer of The Neapolitan Record as well as a board member of the Historical Society, we know more about this Queen Mother of after-dinner delicacies.

According to the Oct. 13, 1886, edition of The Neapolitan Record — no, it’s not a typo, it’s the same year the “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” was published — Mrs. Lyon won first prize in the category of “Best Chocolate Cake” as part of the Fair of the Naples Union Agriculture Society cooking contest.

The multi-talented Mrs. Lyon, who won the grand total of 50 cents for her cake, also took home 75 cents for having the best home-made linen in the Needlework category. And a B.L. Lyon — could it be her? — also won for white cookies and took second place for “tub of butter.”

The following year, The Naples Record reported that she won first place again for chocolate cake and sugar cookies in the Naples Fair. Her layer cake, maple syrup, pumpkin pie and mince pie also were favorites of the judges.

Other contests were reported on during the 1950s.

“We were trying to find local tie-ins for the contest,” Torpey said. “Lo and behold, there were some that happened. That was interesting.”

Naples obviously is known for its grape pie contest. Last fall, nearly 30 entries were judged; the chocolate cake contest is halfway there, so interest is high for this too, Torpey said.

Now, as then, organizers believe the chocolate cake contest is a perfect fit for Naples, which Torpey believes is a growing foodie destination.

“Why not?” Torpey said. “We’re talking about chocolate, on a day when we’re celebrating love in Naples — enough said!”

Besides chocolate cake, the Vintage Vines and Valentines celebration of love includes special treats for visitors, from noon until into the evening of Feb. 8.

For a $10 donation, visitors will receive a commemorative wine glass. Then, fill up on tastings of local wines, craft beer, spirits and cider, along with gourmet chocolates, food pairings, grape juice and maple syrup products, from 1 to 3:30 p.m. at 10 different merchant stations.

And there’s more — s’mores!

For more information on entertainment and other attractions, visit, email or call 585-314-5769 for more information.

Contest details

Chocolate cake contest entries must be submitted and delivered between 9 and 11 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 8, to the Morgan Hose Building, 15 Mill St., Naples, which is home of the Naples Historical Society. No late submissions will be accepted.

Cake slices will be available for the public to purchase from noon to 5 p.m.

Minimum donations are $3 a slice and $10 for half a cake. Coffee or tea is $1. All proceeds benefit the Naples Historical Society and its mission to promote an interest in the history of Naples and the surrounding area by maintaining and displaying historical collections and exhibits, and by providing educational programs.

For complete rules and registration form, visit

Iroquois White Corn in the Big Apple

The Iroquois White Corn Project was mentioned in a two-page spread on pop-up meals and the sharing of cultures in the New York Times Food section.

According to the Times story Wednesday, Chef Mercedes Golip occasionally uses corn from the project in Venezuelan dishes such as arepas.

For those who don’t know, the Iroquois White Corn Project attempts to restore the farming, consumption, and distribution of traditional Iroquois White Corn to Native American communities and to the community at large, according to the Ganondagan State Historic Site in Victor.

Hand-grown, hand-picked and hand-processed, the Iroquois White Corn is traditionally managed and protected to bring nutritious corn products from heirloom seeds dating back at least 1,400 years in Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) communities, according to Ganodagan.

Craft brew on tap

The signs have been out front for some time at Square Knot Brewing in Canandaigua.

Soon enough, craft beer lovers will be able to see what’s going on inside the space formerly occupied by Peacemaker Brewing Co. at 20 Pleasant St.

The brewery is planning a grand opening celebration at 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 22.