That's right, a late-night post about the Next Great Baker season finale! I think this is the first time in a long while where I was happy about the contestants who made it into the finale of a reality competition series. I would have been happy with either Blue or Black winning, and it was Buddy in whom I was really disappointed. The final cake challenge just didn't "pop" for me! I wasn't impressed with the fact that there was no baking or selling component to the challenge, either. I mean, the Elimination Round yielded more extravagant feats that the final! Anyway, I wish Al and Lia the best of luck, and hope to see them next time I'm in Las Vegas!
Blue: Al & Lia of St. Louise, MO, coworkers at a fondant-free cake shop, where he strictly decorates, and she decorates and bakes. They didn't know how to sculpt faces before this show. He started working in a bakery when he was 16; she's religious, to the extent that she carries prayer cards.
Maroon: Kaiulani & Roxanne of Salt Lake City are niece & aunt perfectionists. Kai and her two kids are currently homeless. Other bakers are referring to them as the Kakedashians. "Our style is extremely artistic."
Black: Manny & Al of Woolwich, NJ, have been working together four years. Al has a family bakery.
For even more on the contestants, check out this, and be sure to scroll down for images of the latest masterpieces from the contestants!
Cake Boss: Next Great Baker "Vegas Showstoppers" (S04E10): Two teams will travel to Las Vegas, so there's an Elimination Challenge to determine who won't be competing. In seven hours, one of the teams will fail to have the "total package," which requires a giant Cupcake judged on flavor and appearance, a three-tiered piped cake, and a centerpiece to be judged on its chocolate, ribbon, sugar, and flower techniques. [I have that cupcake pan! I did a friend's 30th birthday cake a couple years ago and paired a giant cupcake with 30 minis. For what it's worth, I did an amaretto cake with amaretto cream filling, and I made a candy mold of the pan to use as the "cupcake wrapper."]
Blue: They do the cupcake and the piped cake first because they can whip them out, using a vanilla bean cake with strawberry filling. [I would've liked that recipe, actually.] For their centerpiece, they do modeling chocolate roses, which is new territory for them, plus Lia hasn't done sugarwork since culinary school. Their piping is, of course, beautiful, as are their roses. [I agree - so delicate!] The design of their centerpiece is inward, not outward, but with a delicious cupcake flavor to boot, they win.
Black: They're worried about the centerpiece (Manny had training in sugarwork but it's been years since he's consistently done it), so they focus on the molds and get it all done first. [I literally gasped when their pink piece fell off and shattered.] Manny starts the baking and fills the cupcake with chocolate ganache. [heh. I've only ever covered a cake in ganache - what a great idea to put it inside!] They go crazy with the roses and the piping, and end up with very nice sugar roses, though their cake is gaudy. [I agree with the team - it was very 1975!] The cupcake is very Dr. Seuss, but the taste of their cake may be the reason they're off to compete in Vegas!
Maroon: They focus on the cupcake, as "baking is not [their] forte." [um. remember the title of this show, guys?] The cake is firm and tastes dense to them, so they add an extra layer of frosting and pipe a large rose on top. The result is cartoony (positively, though), but it's rubbery. Kai hasn't done a lot of piping, but their tiered cake is lovable and clean. For the centerpiece, they pour teal sugar over a foil board, then cover it in plastic wrap as their base. They believe that they tried things they didn't previously know how to do, which is why they should stay, but it doesn't work out that way. [I was glad Buddy pointed out that they're not the only ones with children. I hate sob stories about how you need to do this for your kids.]
At the Venetian, the other competitors are there, and trash-talking starts. Then, we hear about the final feat: in 12 hours, make a Vegas-themed cake to be on display when the new bakery opens the next day. This means eye-catching is key, and to put on extra pressure, they decorate right in the hotel atrium! [only hearing from the Tan team who they were rooting for was odd.]
Black: They go for the Venetian fountain, but when they miscalculate the size, they lose about an hour of work. However, when the end result isn't straight, they have to further scrap their efforts to put together a tiered "waterfall" cake instead. [I didn't think their fountain was that bad...] They're still able to incorporate some hand-formed statues they already made, but the cake is STILL crooked, and the flowers are a little flat. Though they had a stronger vision, and they proved that "a champion finishes," they're at the end of the road.
Blue: They design a pagoda and go crazy on flowers for a cherry blossom tree. [Al has been quiet forever, but now he's chatty in Vegas?!] It's looking too Japanese, and Buddy suggests they do a topsy-turvy element or something to solidify it as Vegas, but they ignore that idea. [I'm surprised Buddy didn't address this, or at least in the judging that made it to air.] The result isn't the most fitting for an Italian bakery, but they once again prove that their work is solid. They win the job of running the Las Vegas Carlo's Bakery! Their families celebrate with them.