Every year, Michele Berg of Coon Rapids enters a pie in Braham Pie Day, in Braham, Minn. For years, her daughter, Natalie, 9, begged to do the same.

“I [kept] on asking her, ‘Can I make a pie? Can I make a pie?’ ” said Natalie, who couldn’t because she didn’t meet the contest’s 8-year-old minimum age requirement.

Last August, Natalie was finally old enough, and she made a pie using her favorite Girl Scout cookie.

“I love Samoas,” she said.

Coincidentally, this spring, the Scouts announced the first National Girl Scout Cookie Recipe Contest, sponsored by “Taste of Home” magazine. Natalie and her mom entered at the last minute, and the recipe earned finalist honors and a trip to New York City to appear on “The Today Show.”

According to Girl Scouts communications associate Marissa Driscoll, there were “tons” of entries for the new contest, double the number in half the time of an average “Taste of Home” contest, she said.

Last summer, when the Bergs started working on the recipe, Michele tried to help Natalie come up with something she could easily make. Together, they created a layer pie, as Natalie could make pudding and use a mixer to make whipped cream. Their “Chocolate Coconut Chantilly Pie” alternates layers of pie crust, chocolate pudding mixed with Samoas, and whipped cream mixed with toasted coconut.

At the Braham pie contest, it auctioned off for $80. “We got our scores back,” said Michele, “and Natalie’s scores were actually higher than the pies that I made.”

Natalie has been in Girl Scouts for four years, and it was during this spring’s cookie sales that the Bergs noticed the call for recipes online.

“When we saw the contest, we just thought, on a whim, we would submit the recipe,” said Michele. They entered “at the last minute, thinking nothing would come of it,” she said.

Then, at the end of March, they got word that they were among 16 national finalists, and, shortly after, “Today” called. Michele said they told her they liked the story about mother and daughter baking together and wanted to fly Michele, Natalie, and Natalie’s 5-year-old sister, Jenna, to New York to be on “Weekend Today.”

It was a secret trip, as they were told to keep mum until the Saturday before their appearance in case it was pushed back because of a breaking news event.

During the short segment, the Bergs and two of the other finalists demonstrated their recipes, and the grand prize winner was announced.

When the honor went to a young Girl Scout from Pennsylvania who made caramel bars, neither Natalie nor her mom was disappointed.

“Getting a trip to New York City and being on ‘The Today Show’ is priceless,” said Michele.

Natalie said she particularly enjoyed watching the show’s staff devour their treats after the segment. Michele elaborated, explaining that after the anchor headed off to do the next bit, crew members grabbed what they could as they ran out to do the next segment.

Michele and her daughters, who had never been to the Big Apple, took full advantage of their less than 30 hours in town, between noon on Saturday and Sunday evening.

In addition to rehearsing for and shooting the show, they saw the Statue of Liberty from Battery Park and visited the Sept. 11 memorial. They rode a Ferris wheel in Times Square, went to Central Park to ride on the carousel and visited the Plaza Hotel, as Michele had prepped her daughters for the trip with a viewing of the movie “Eloise at the Plaza Hotel.” They enjoyed treats like lobster rolls and hot dogs from street vendors.

“Just things you have to do when you’re in New York,” said Michele. “We loved it.”

Natalie, an avid cook who has been to cooking camp and even had a birthday party at a cooking school, already has plans for this summer’s pie contest in Braham, using a different Girl Scout cookie.

“This year,” she said, “I think I’m going to do a pie with our new lemon cookie.”

“I saw that in one of my dreams once,’ ” she said. “When I [woke] up, I’m like, ‘That’s a really good pie.’”

 

Liz Rolfsmeier is a Twin Cities freelance writer.