Carolyn Gurtz doesn't have a fancy kitchen equipped with the latest technology. But the Gaithersburg homemaker has what it takes to win three of this year's Grand Champion ribbons--top awards for pie, yeast bread and un-iced cake--at the 1999 Montgomery County Agricultural Fair.

"I couldn't do without my over-sized Kenmore electric double-oven and 10-year-old Sunbeam mixer," says Gurtz, who calls herself "an old-fashioned cook."

And this isn't the first year that Gurtz, 51, has garnered the coveted royal purple ribbons. Since 1972, the first year she entered, Gurtz has taken home nine Grand Champion ribbons and 85 blue ribbons.

"I just love to bake," she says. Many of her winning recipes, including the following for Spring Apricot Brandy Pound Cake, winner for un-iced cake, were developed and passed along by her mother, Katharine Spring of Kensington.

Judges at the 50th annual Prince William County Agricultural Fair, were not impressed with Hettie B. Graham's chocolate fudge. "It didn't go over too big," says Graham, 64, of Woodbridge. "Maybe I should have used walnuts instead of peanuts."

Still Graham, a self-described "old country girl," didn't leave the fair empty handed. Her Peanut Butter Fudge won a Best of Show ribbon for "Candy." That's not all. Her German Chocolate Cake (recipe below) won Best of Show in the cake category.

What's her secret? Not the recipes for the cake and icing. Both came from a package of Baker's German's Sweet Chocolate. "I think it's because I use Parkay margarine and Martha White flour in my cake," says Graham, who bakes such a cake every year for her husband Jack's birthday. It could be her devotion to baking. Says Graham, "I'm always baking, too often my husband says. He's always teasing me saying that I get the house too hot."

Spring Apricot Brandy Pound Cake

(20 servings)

Here's the Grand Prize winner for an un-iced cake from this year's Montgomery County Agricultural Fair, submitted by Carolyn S. Gurtz of Gaithersburg.

1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature, plus additional for the pan

3 cups sugar

6 eggs

3 cups flour, preferably cake flour, plus additional for the pan

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup sour cream

1/2 cup apricot brandy

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon rum extract

1/2 teaspoon lemon extract

1/2 teaspoon orange extract

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 10-cup bundt pan or lightly grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, salt and baking soda. Set aside.

In another medium bowl, stir together the sour cream, brandy and vanilla, rum, lemon, orange and almond extracts until no lumps remain.

Add the flour mixture to the creamed mixture alternately with the sour-cream mixture in a total of 7 additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and bake in the preheated oven until lightly browned and a cake tester comes out clean, 60 to 70 minutes.

Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool completely. Invert the cake onto a serving platter. Enjoy!

Per serving: 333 calories, 4 gm protein, 47 gm carbohydrates, 13 gm fat, 94 mg cholesterol, 8 gm saturated fat, 96 mg sodium, 1 gm dietary fiber

German Sweet Chocolate Cake

(12 servings)

This very sweet cake garnered Hettie B. Graham the Best of Show prize at the Prince William County Agricultural Fair. The recipe, though, is not her own; it appears on the packaging for Baker's German's Sweet Chocolate.

4 ounces sweet chocolate

1/2 cup water

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 pound (2 sticks) margarine or butter, at room temperature

2 cups sugar

4 eggs, separated

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup buttermilk

Coconut-Pecan Filling and Frosting (see recipe below)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of three 9-inch round cake pans with waxed or parchment paper.

In a heavy saucepan over low heat, cook the chocolate and water, stirring, until the chocolate melts and the mixture is smooth, about 4 minutes. Remove from the heat. (Alternately, if you prefer to use the microwave, combine the chocolate and water in a medium dish, cover with waxed paper and microwave on high until the chocolate is almost melted, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, stirring after 45 seconds. Remove from the microwave and stir until the chocolate is completely melted.)

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed, cream the margarine or butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in the chocolate mixture and vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture to the creamed mixture alternately with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture and beating until smooth after each addition. Set aside.

In another large bowl with an electric mixer on high speed, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter. Pour the batter into the prepared pans.

Bake in the preheated oven until the cake springs back when gently pressed, about 30 minutes. Immediately run a spatula between the cake and the side of the pans. Remove from the oven. Cool in the pan for about 15 minutes. Invert each cake onto a large plate, peel off the waxed or parchment paper and invert the cake again onto a wire rack. Set aside to cool completely.

Carefully transfer 1 cake layer to a serving plate. Spread the top with about 1/4 of the Coconut-Pecan Frosting. Top with a second cake layer and repeat. Top with the remaining cake layer and frost the top and sides with the remaining frosting.

Per serving: 706 calories, 8 gm protein, 82 gm carbohydrates, 41 gm fat, 192 mg cholesterol, 22 gm saturated fat, 246 mg sodium, 3 gm dietary fiber

Coconut-Pecan Filling and Frosting

(Makes about 4 1/2 cups)

12-ounce can evaporated milk

1 1/2 cups sugar

6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) margarine or butter

4 eggs yolks, lightly beaten

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

7 ounces shredded coconut (about 2 2/3 cups)

1 1/2 cups chopped pecans

In a large saucepan over medium heat, stir together the evaporated milk, sugar, margarine or butter, egg yolks and vanilla extract. Cook, stirring constantly, until thick and golden brown, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Immediately stir in the coconut and pecans. Refrigerate until thickened, about 20 minutes.

Per-cup serving: 501 calories, 13 gm protein, 42 gm carbohydrates, 33 gm fat, 117 mg cholesterol, 18 gm saturated fat, 217 mg sodium, 1gm dietary fiber