Wednesday, June 25, 2014

RETURNING: Next Great Baker: Ten Teams in the Game

This season, a lot has changed. Not only have the competitors gone from a baker's dozen individuals to ten teams, but two non-Carlo's employees are also judging: Jacques Torres and Bobbie Lloyd. Plus, the winners will get to run the Las Vegas location of Carlo's Bakery, which is a much bigger deal than becoming interns in the Hoboken/Lackawanna location. The size of the competition space is also much larger, but The Baker's Challenge is gone... instead, the bottom teams from The Cake Challenge will have to go through an elimination challenge.
The teams (left to right):
Blue: Al & Lia of St. Louise, MO, coworkers at a fondant-free cake shop. [no fondant experience is not a good thing.]
Maroon: Kaiulani & Roxanne of Salt Lake City are niece & aunt perfectionists. Others are referring to them as the Kakedashians. [meh.]
Black: Manny & Al of Woolwich, NJ, have been working together four years. Al has a family bakery. [good base.]
Brown: Jose and Aimee of Chula Vista, CA are coworkers. [accustomed to working together is a good thing.]
Grey: Ginger & Brandy of Virginia Beach, VA, who are teacher and student. [I see a power struggle here.]
Pink: Danielle & Julie of Johnson City, TN, are a mother-daughter team. Danielle is the oldest of seven kids. Julie bakes for churches, and Danielle has only joined in the past six months. [too amateur.]
Teal: Fred & Barry of Las Vegas - pastry chefs. [that's cool.]
Tan: Don & Meredith, of Long Island, are coworkers, with him designing and her baking. She also was his kids' nanny. [odd relationship.]
Purple: Bethany & Jennifer of Tomball, TX, who have known eachother for almost 20 years. [meh.]
Red: David & Elaine of Kissimmee, FL are husband and wife. She's full-time and would love a storefront. He's an amateur. [he doesn't know what he's doing? why are they on this show?]

Cake Boss: Next Great Baker "Empire State of Mind" (S04E01): To get to know everyone, Buddy has the teams make a dessert in 45 minutes that represents your hometown. In order from worst to best:
David & Elaine make a chocolate cake with citrus shavings, but it doesn't bake fast enough, so they serve accessorized batter. [bleh]
Ginger & Brandy go for a roasted strawberry cupcake in deconstructed form. [interesting choice.] We learn that Ginger likes to be in charge, and that results in too-sweet icing. 
Manny & Al make a traditional sweet dough butter cake, which generally rises overnight, so it fails to meet Buddy's standards.
Fred & Barry do a showy bananas foster. They're told not to have a chunk of chocolate, and the flavor wasn't huge.
Jose & Aimee make a tres leches cake, which is good sponge but it's not drenched.
Kai & Rox do banana cake, which is a traditional pioneer dessert. It has a good flavor.
Bethany & Jennifer do Crazy Cake with a pecan topping. It's moist and rich, but could be more chocolatey.
Don & Meredith do zeppoles filled with ricotta, which are delicious, but a bit well done. [I don't think I've had filled zeppoles before!] 
Al & Lia make gooey butter cake, which is moist and flavorful.
Danielle & Julie make Cinnamon Roll Biscuits - Mountain South cuisine. It's great. [and my husband can't wait for me to make this, LoL.]

Cake Challenge: In four hours, create a cake Inspired by a specific part of NYC. Each team will have four hours to travel to a location, complete an activity, and return, with teams choosing locations based on how well they did in the previous challenge. The teams drive themselves in vans. [I think for some of these, I would have rather gone with public transit!] If they return early, they can start working on their cake, but they will have eight hours the following day as well. [time-wise, there's snow on the ground.] Let's look at how the teams did in three groups: the best cakes, the average cakes, and the worst cake...

The Best Group
Manny & Al have the "Watch your weight at Katz's" challenge, where Frankie has them each eat a two-pound pastrami sandwich. [I've been to Katz's, and their sandwiches are enormous, but I can't imagine trying to eat that much!] They do a meat counter and sandwiches for their cake that is well done and clean, but the overall product was short in height.
Al & Lia choose "No soup for you in Chinatown" where they must go to Joe's Shanghai and meet Grace, who has them make twelve dumplings. [kinda neat.] They get back with about an hour to go and create a cake that features a tenement building, a steamer, a Chinese food to-go box, and dumplings. The board is sloppy, but it gets the theme nicely.
Kai & Rox get to "Rally for Lady Liberty," but are off to a rocky start when they get into an accident on the way that takes about two hours to resolve. [did they not have a penalty for not finishing in four hours?] When they reach Madeline, they take the Staten Island Ferry and get ten Americans to sing the National Anthem with them. [this is a tricky challenge anyway, as that ferry only runs every half hour!] Their cake is an ambitious Hawaiian woman with a tiki torch as the Statue of Liberty. The cake doesn't necessarily speak for itself, though it has great modeling chocolate work. [funny that they incorporate the crashed car into the pedestal.] They win for best cake, and win a trip to New York City. [It would have been funny if locals Manny & Al had won!]

The Middle Group:
Don & Meredith
choose "Play tag in the Bronx" and Marissa has them graffiti a wall. [I'd probably have some fun with that.] They do some airbrushing on their cake design, but they don't finish the back and the overall look is sectional.
Bethany & Jennifer choose "Chill out in Coney Island" and Mauro makes them join the polar bear club - 60 seconds in the ocean. [um, it takes forever to get to Coney Island, so I wouldn't have picked that location!] They have great detail in the look of Coney Island, but you can see the base.
Jose & Aimee "Horse around in Central Park" and ride in a horse-drawn carriage with Mary. [easy task!] Their cake shows a lot of the things in the park, but the back of the cakeboard wasn't covered.
Fred & Barry "Bridge the Gap Brooklyn Style" and WifeLisa has the guys ride a tandem bike across the bridge and back. But, hurts his Achilles tendon and they have to walk the bike across. [ouch!] Their cake is a mess of a suspension bridge, it's sloppy, the proportions are incorrect, and the board is unfinished board. [and yet, it's still not in the bottom...] 

The Bottom Group:
Danielle & Julie choose "Take a break in Washington Square" where SisterLisa asks them to breakdance for a crowd. They're back in just over two hours, so they plan their cake to have an arch and a fountain. Their fondant work is ROUGH, and the weight of the cake is too much for a rotating motor, so they ditch a tier to make it work. Buddy sees a lot of unfinished details, but they're safe from the Elimination Challenge because they won the introductory round. 
Ginger & Brandy "Figure it out at Bryant Park" by figure skating ten laps around the ice skating rink, where Maurizio is. Their cake highlights the cityscape, the big apple, a Tiffany's box, and the ice skating, but it's short, plain, tough to see all of the different sides, and not enough for eight hours of work.
David & Elaine "Jazz it up in Harlem" where Danny has them play the electric guitar with a band. [not hard to do as a gag, but probably pretty embarrassing!] They use a lot of musical details and other NYC favorites like pizza and hot dogs, but the back of the cake is empty, and they're told they played it safe.

Elimination Challenge:
Make an apple dessert in one hour. [neat that the other teams as well as the judges were able to watch via closed circuit.]

David & Elaine
: They try to make their chocolate cake again, and add caramelized apples add some heart & letter cut-outs. [chocolate and apple?] Great presentation, good taste, but not very apple-y.
Ginger & Brandy
: They make an apple cake with whipped ricotta, topped with caramelized apple. The judges are underwhelmed by the flavor, though it was good. They lose and are sent home.
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