Love helps win the Commonwealth Club’s first cookie contest

By: Gena Johnson | Warren Weekly | Published December 16, 2023

 The winning recipe for Norton’s bourbon balls includes 10 tablespoons of a Detroit-brand bourbon.

The winning recipe for Norton’s bourbon balls includes 10 tablespoons of a Detroit-brand bourbon.

 Fiona Norton, who was born in England, shows off her crowd-pleasing bourbon balls.

Fiona Norton, who was born in England, shows off her crowd-pleasing bourbon balls.


WARREN — On Dec. 3, about a dozen bakers showed off their best cookie recipes to a team of local media judges and a room filled with cookie lovers that bought and tasted their confections.

“We’re hoping to make it annual. Some people do a cookie walk. We did a cookie contest. And next year we’re hoping to make it better,” said Jared Maynard, the public relations chair for the Commonwealth Club.

Maynard came up with the idea of a cookie contest when a previously scheduled event for the club was unable to take place.

“We had a hole in our schedule. We were going to do a play, and the gentleman that had the play had to have surgery,” Maynard said. “We were running around panicking. We’ve got it (the club) open. What do we do? I said, ‘Let’s have a cookie contest.’”

“The Great British Club Bake Off Christmas Cookie Edition” was born. This is the official name of the contest.

“The response was phenomenal. We had 12 people submit entries. We had about 20 to 25 people here in the room buying and tasting cookies,” said Maynard.

Those in attendance could buy the cookies for $5 a pound. “It was fantastic,” Maynard said.

Each contestant made five dozen cookies. Local journalists Charlie Langton (Fox 2 News) and Susan Smiley (The Macomb Daily) served as judges, along with Mrs. Claus.

Second-place winner Fiona Norton, of Madison Heights, received much attention for her bourbon balls, which included 10 tablespoons of bourbon.

“That is for the whole recipe, not for each ball,” said Norton, who made a 60-ball recipe.

Norton started baking when she was very young with her grandfather and her mother.

“I love the Commonwealth Club. We’ve been members for a couple of years, and it was a good fundraiser. And it’s always a fun time when you go there,” Norton said. “I joined because I am actually from England. So it was nice to be around people from the country I was actually born in.”

The Commonwealth Club opened in Warren in 1962 and is the oldest British Commonwealth club in the country, according to Maynard.

Norton, who has been in the United States for 36 years, said the bourbon balls are a new recipe for her.

“The first time I made them was last year. We had sampled some in Kentucky, and then decided we could find a recipe to make our own,” Norton said. “It is a Maker’s Mark recipe I got off of Pinterest, but I did change the bourbon to Detroit City Distillery Butcher’s Cut Bourbon. I wanted to keep it local.”

Norton had a good idea the bourbon balls would be a winner.

“Every time I make it, everybody loves it. They beg me to make it. So, I figured that we’ll try to see if other people would like it as well. But my friends and co-workers all love them,” Norton said.

She shared her secret to making great bourbon balls.

“I think it’s the love that goes into them more than anything,” Norton said.

“I think it’s because I enjoy making them. I enjoy making cookies and candies for people and seeing their reaction when they taste them and they’re really good and everybody is happy,” she said.

The avid cookie baker also enjoys making Mexican butter cookies, chocolate chip cookies, shortbread and buckeyes, which is another ball cookie with peanut butter and no alcohol.

“I look up new recipes and try them out,” Norton said.

She is looking toward next year, and if time permits, she plans to enter the contest with a new recipe.

First-place winner Marty Hunter, who made Scottish shortbread cookies for the contest, could not be reached by press time.

Merry Christmas! Fiona Norton, of Madison Heights, the second-place winner in the Great British Club Bake Off Christmas Cookie Edition shared her bourbon ball cookie recipe with the Warren Weekly.

Bourbon balls

From start to finish, it takes about 2 hours and 20 minutes. Makes 30 servings.

4 cups powdered sugar

3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

3 tablespoons shortening

1 cup pecans

30 pecans, halves

1/2 cup butter

5 tablespoons bourbon



Gather all ingredients.

Place nuts in a sealable jar. Pour bourbon over nuts; seal and allow to soak for eight hours or overnight.

Mix sugar and butter in a medium bowl; fold in soaked nuts with bourbon. Form mixture into 3/4-inch balls and refrigerate for eight hours or overnight.

Line a baking tray with waxed paper; set aside.

Melt chocolate in the top of a double boiler over just barely simmering water, stirring frequently and scraping down the sides with a rubber spatula to avoid scorching.

Roll balls in melted chocolate to coat; arrange on the prepared tray. Top each ball with a pecan half.

Store in the refrigerator until serving.