Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Next Great Baker: Cakes for A Christmas Story

by Amy K. Bredemeyer

I want to open with two things. First, I'm sad that Melissa was sent home. I thought that she was a strong leader and she's one of the bakers competing whom I would have personally hired to make a cake for my own event, based on her portfolio. Second, there's some hard feelings amongst the competitors, judging by some twitter exchanges that took place during the show's airing. I won't share that exchange with you all, as those involved may still choose to delete those tweets. But, should it continue, I may consider compiling them in another post.

Now, about the episode... as someone who is NOT a fan of A Christmas Story, I had a bit of a difficult time relating to the nostalgia that some of the contestants felt. Still, it made for an interesting theme for the cakes. I personally would not have chosen a revolving cake as the winner when it could not revolve on its own, but I also would not have chosen the "leg cake," either, had it been presented in its entirety... I like a lot of detail over a few large pieces. Backing up, the baking challenge was fun to watch, as those ingredients were pretty tricky. I'm sure I was not the only one reminded of the similar task last season, further demonstrating how tied this show is to its sponsors. I was most interested in the chocolate cardamom cake, so I'm glad that it was deemed the winner. My biggest gripe about this episode stems from the costumes - Danny (Santa), Anthony and Maurizio (elves), and Chad (in pink bunny pajamas) wearing themed attire really didn't excite me and I thought it was rather distracting for everyone. Now, let's get on with the recap...   

Cake Boss: Next Great Baker "Bunny Suits and BB Guns" (S03E03): The contestants pick gifts from a cart, and the number inside matches them with their teammates. [I like random teams as much as the next person, but I'd rather see chosen teams, based on one reason or another.] 

Baker's Challenge: Each team is assigned three ingredients to use in a dessert. They have two hours to do so, and Buddy and Anthony will judge. The winners will receive gift cards to Hershey's Chocolate World in Times Square.

Team 1 (Chris, Jess, Gretel-Ann): They must use dried figs, Hershey's milk chocolate with almond pieces candy, and cayenne pepper. They make a Chocolate Almond Tort that has a Mexican hot chocolate ganache and chocolate salted caramel bark with fig, dried cranberry, and almond. Gretel-Ann is very proud of what they made, but Buddy thinks that the ingredients are very segregated.

Team 2 (Jen, Letty, Peter): They must use fennel, bacon, and Reese's peanut butter cups. Letty doesn't know what to do with PB & bacon, so she suggests a "pretty bark," but Peter thinks brownies or cake will work better. They go with a trio of desserts that each feature the three ingredients - a layered cake, a fudge, and a bark. [I thought they were going a bit too out-of-the-box. it's almost as if they didn't follow the assignment.] Anthony likes the bark and Buddy likes the tort, but he wishes the bacon was cut smaller. [always the problem with bacon!]

Team 3 (Chad, Melissa, Paul): They must use Reese's Pieces, condensed tomato soup, and pink peppercorns. [tomato soup in a dessert? bleh.] Paul thinks having Chad is great because of his knowledge of pastries, and Buddy is specifically interested in seeing what Chad (who is comfortable improv-ing) will create. Chad, by the way, believes that Melissa is slow but Paul is a workhorse. [interesting observation.] Chad comes up with a Mini Christmas Yule Log of peppercorn sponge/chiffon cake, filled with a spiced chocolate buttercream blended with Reese's pieces, peppercorn, and tomato. It will then have a tomato, caramel, and milk-chocolate glaze. Paul is baffled at Chad's abilities as he makes the filling and rolls up the log. Too bad that, although Anthony thinks it's really good, Buddy finds it a little rubbery, gummy, and that the flavors didn't go together.

Team 4 (Ashley and Garrett): They must use Hershey's kisses, cardamom, and butternut squash. Ashley (who worries about how frantic Garrett can be) is more excited than her partner and comes up with a Chocolate Cardamom cake with butternut spiced filling and cardamom toasted meringue with candied butternut squash. Garrett (who worries about their team lacking a third member) struggles with the ganache, and Ashley has to remind him to wipe the sweat from his brow. [he's a bit intense.] Anthony thinks it's good and Buddy thinks it went together, awarding them first place.]

Elimination Challenge: Buddy talks about one of his favorite Christmas movies, A Christmas Story, where his favorite scene is with the lamp - "fragile... must be Italian!" [Although Buddy calls it "The Christmas Story."] Peter Billingsley is the guest judge, along with SisterLisa. Billingsley is producing the musical for Broadway, and the teams will need to deliver their cakes to the theater. The cake should have the spirit of the show and be four feet tall. The teams have eight hours to complete this challenge, and Garrett and Ashley get to choose a team to have a slight disadvantage. Because Ashley feels that Chad is her major competition, he must wear a bunny suit throughout the challenge.
Jen, Letty, Peter: They decide to do a rotating cake that will show different scenes (backstage props like the leg lamp, a wall of presents, and the dinner that the dogs ruined) and a marquee on top. But, they forget to install a motor until after the cake is stacked and ready to decorate, so Buddy knocks them for that. [I liked the teamwork, like when Jen checks with Peter on some fondant to see if they should rip it to make it look like a opening present.] Jen explains that their vision was to "create a representation of what the sets might look like on the stage for the Broadway musical." SisterLisa says it shows different aspects of the story, and the cake wins, even with a sad-looking turkey.
Chris, Jess, Gretel-Ann: Chris sculpts Ralphie in the costume but struggles with the face. They add a large gun at the top of some presents, though the stability of it worries both girls. [I guess building it around a dowel rod isn't enough?] After delivery, the gun is on the ground and the cake has several other issues, notably making Peter happy, though Melissa had also hoped that cake would fail. Jess explains that they wanted a Broadway feel with dancing lamps, and Gretel-Ann thinks that they had the strongest design concept. Buddy agrees, but SisterLisa says that the gun was overwhelming. [I can agree with that.]

Ashley and Garrett: They plan a stage with a Christmas tree in the back. [I think that the judges hit the nail on the head with the comparison to a kid's science project.] Ashley uses the power tools to create the structure, but when one edge isn't flush, she takes a knife to it, deeply cutting her thumb. [ouch!] In the end, she thinks their cake is pretty unfinished (SisterLisa agrees), but explains their cake as what the audience looks at on the stage. It's nice but doesn't scream "BIG" the way Broadway does.

Chad, Melissa, Paul: Chad sweats as he carves the leg lamp, the center of their cake. Paul (who assumes Ashley will play the pity card with her injury) thinks it's a bit thick, but Chad is more worried about it falling under the weight of the modeling chocolate. Chad thinks Melissa's work is awesome, but she's just slow at creating it. [while that's not a bad thing in some worlds, in others it means everything.] Paul doesn't screw in a PVC pipe, causing some damage to the leg, which only gets worse. They scrap that part of the cake with ten minutes to go, forfeiting the four-foot requirement. Chad explains the props of the theatre and the collapse of the leg lamp, which SisterLisa and Billingsley both would have wanted to see. [those comments caught me by surprise... should they have laid down the busted part just to show the workmanship?] Buddy asks Chad why he's in the bottom often, and Chad says  he's very ambitious and doesn't let down his teams. [hmmm...] Melissa says that Chad didn't let them down and that Paul should go home. Of course, Paul says Melissa was the weak link, as he had to do some fondant for her. She says that she had a weak day but is ready to come back with more... but Buddy points out that Melissa has been weak twice now, so that's it for her. [true. it's hard to say you're having a bad day when it happens more than once.] Melissa says that Paul is a jokester who doesn't take things seriously, and when he returns to the others, Gretel-Ann and Letty are shocked while Ashley, Jess, and Chad look surprised. [no doubt, I'd be just as upset as Paul to see those reactions!]
Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Email This Pin This

1 comment:

Letty said...

Once again, thank you for your stellar review. It's refreshing and amusing to see it from the audiences perspective.

Sweet Regards,