We met recipe developer, personal chef, and Franklin County native Wendy Perry at a food judging competition at the North Carolina State Fair two years ago. She won a blue ribbon for her homemade ketchup. We were intrigued — who makes their own ketchup? — and we were impressed by Wendy’s resourcefulness and inventive approach to food. When we decided to create five custom North Carolina cakes for our issue devoted to desserts in North Carolina, we couldn’t imagine anyone more suited to the challenge than Wendy. She enlisted the help of baker and Wilson County resident Teresa Williford, and the two women set to work, imagining what North Carolina would taste like if you could capture it in a cake. During the final tasting, the results blew us — and the entire Our State staff — away. We hope you’ll try our recipes, and let us know what you think by emailing editorial@ourstate.com.

We loved John Murawski’s profile of one of our favorite places, The Regulator Bookshop in Durham. Did you know that, for years, The New York Times has relied on The Regulator’s list of top sellers to help compile its national best-seller list? What Regulator customers buy and read helps define the nation’s cultural, political, and intellectual mood.

Last spring, editor Elizabeth Hudson visited an aerostat facility in Elizabeth City. When TCOM’s safety and training coordinator Steve Chalker opened the doors to the hangar, he said, “Now, don’t fall over. Nothing prepares you for what you’re about to see.” He was right. Fully inflated blimps tethered inside the hangar made an 18-wheeler semi-trailer truck look like a toy. Elizabeth was so impressed with the facility and its history, she sent five-time Pulitzer Prize nominee Earl Swift to experience the place and write about it for our readers. His account, in this month’s Tar Heel History, is a fascinating look at a place most North Carolinians don’t even know exists.

When visitors picnic under the live oak in Wilmington’s Airlie Gardens, they carry on a social legacy a century in the making. In the late 1800s, Sarah and Pembroke Jones, who called their mansion Airlie, lived to entertain. They organized lavish parties and even provided decadent party favors for their guests: gold watches for men and diamond jewelry for women. The whirlwind of parties and extravagence led to the expression, “keeping up with the Joneses.”

Writer Sandy Lang and photographer Peter Frank Edwards set out on the road for a statewide tour of sweet shops for our “Baker’s Dozen” feature. In mid-travel, Sandy reported back to Our State: “Have you ever had lunch at the Rosebriar? Some of the cream pies have two or three inches of meringue on top!” We think Sandy found the assignment worthwhile.

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Since 1933, Our State has shared stories about North Carolina with readers both in state and around the world. We celebrate the people and places that make this state great. From the mountains to the coast, we feature North Carolina travel, history, food, and beautiful scenic photography.