Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Next Great Baker: The Same Team Loses Twice

I'm really confused as to why the same four teams competed in two different cake challenges. Was it to get another episode into the season? Was Buddy that hell-bent on making sure Purple had another chance? Did something unseen by the audience take place that meant Purple didn't have a fair shot at the People cake? Regardless, I'm glad they've gone home. I'm a strong supporter of traditional education, so I'd much rather someone who has gone to pastry school or apprenticed for a bakery win this competition than someone whose abilities were learned from YouTube videos. I know that's a controversial position, especially in something creative like cake decorating, and that's why I'm not going to root for Maroon in the finale. In fact, I'm rooting for Black. Al & Manny have demonstrated a wider variety of skills than Al & Lia, even if the latter's work is generally cleaner. I'm sick of looking at wedding-esque cakes for every challenge, and I think the fondant and baking background of the guys is a big advantage for them as well. Now, historically, I was right about Ashley last season, so maybe I'm onto something. (the first two seasons, I really was only rooting against people and didn't particularly care who won out of the other contenders.)

The remaining teams [with my current thoughts]:
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. [I love to look at their work because it's impeccably clean for buttercream. but, it's also monotonous. ] 
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. [They use color well, they have a good grasp on cake construction, but I'm so over listening to them drone on and on about Hawaii. Especially when they live in Utah, which is known for stuff like honey.]
Black: Manny & Al of Woolwich, NJ, have been working together four years. Al has a family bakery. [They're not great at everything, but they work together well, have good concepts, and I'd totally hire them to do a cake for me. also, Al has the best poker face!]
Purple: Bethany & Jennifer of Tomball, TX, who have known each other for almost 20 years. Bethany is self-taught, and neither girl has done a moving cake before. [I think of my sister and I when I see these two - we don't know exactly what we're doing, but if we don't aim too high, we can probably do well. however, we might need to cheat the system and hope others failed so we look good by comparison. you should really hear about the time we used Christmas cookie cutters on brownies...]

and, for even more on the contestants, check out this, and be sure to scroll down for images of the latest masterpieces from the teams!

Cake Boss: Next Great Baker
"Sexiest Cakes Alive" (S04E08): [they're no calling the space they're in an arena??]

Cake Challenge: For People, each team has eight hours to make a motorized cake for the magazine's fortieth birthday. [53M people/week read People??] Michelle, the magazine's senior editor, is a guest judge, and the winning team will be featured, have a recipe published, and also receive a confection machine and decorating kit.

Blue: They decide to do a Royal Family Cake, with Al telling Lia to stick with what they know, so they focus on buttercream piping and molded jewels. [I would have liked to see more on how they got the jewels so shiny I'm guessing they're painted with piping gel?] It's a simple and safe cake that's a bit more wedding than birthday, but they still deliver on every element, winning them the round. Their recipe is for a chocolate cake with peanut butter filling, which the judges find good. [eh. I don't eat peanut butter so I'm not that interested in their recipe.]

Maroon: Their theme is Style Watch, with a spinning wedding dress covered in fondant instead of modeling chocolate to keep the weight down. [not the prettiest hem on the gown.]
The cake turns slowly and evenly, the details on the accessories are nice, but the dress itself is sloppy, and should have been done in chocolate. [I liked the design of the accessory podiums.] They forgot to frost their tasting cake, which would have topped their chocolate-coconut-cinnamon combo with a caramel-coconut flavor.

: They go with a Sexiest Man Alive cake, but it ends up being sexy to the point that it's almost x-rated. [yikes!] Because they're often accused of being sloppy, they re-cover a tier in fondant, try to center their hanging, spinning "40," and struggle to keep their fondant men together. [their lightning-fast blue lettering was awesome, though!] The spinning "40" isn't smooth, and their chocolate chip pound cake with white chocolate mousse filling and chocolate chips is rubbery. [I would have liked to try it, though.]

Purple: Their Red Carpet Cake tells a good story, but doesn't have a moving element, because the girls don't know how to do that. [I bet Al & Lia would have been nice enough to assist if asked...] To fit the theme, their tasting cake was red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting.

Elimination Challenge gives Black and Purple one hour to make an Italian dessert. Nancy Pelosi (Speaker of the House) is there to judge. [how random!]
Black does mini ricotta cheesecakes with a graham cracker crust, but they're overbaked, resulting in a gummy and chewy texture on a beautiful presentation. Buddy also rails them for not doing an Italian crust. [I prefer graham cracker on cheesecake, personally.]
Purple does an Italian cream puff with whipped pudding filling. When their pastry isn't coming together, they start over, but their large piping doesn't give the pastries time to bake, resulting in a bit of a mess. [I liked the note that the girls weren't using a convection oven because they're home bakers.] The consistency of the puff and the plainness of the filling are problematic, sending them home.

Cake Boss: Next Great Baker "Wow Cakes" (S04E09): Purple is brought back for another chance, but they must have a moving element this time. [why even eliminate them before, then??!? why not have a mini-challenge with other sent home teams to determine who should be the wild card??]

Cake Challenge: In ten hours, "wow" the judges with a cake, as well as 100 desserts or pastries. Patrons of the Carlo's Bakery near Times Square will judge, and their favorite will win a trip to Jamaica, plus safety from elimination this round. [I hate that crowd favorites win immunity - I'd much rather they just get a prize or something. have the professionals be the real judges, guys!]

Black: Their Jungle Cake features five large animals on a tree, playing to Al's strength of sculpted cakes and fondant creatures. [I thought the lion was the best of the zebra, elephant, gorilla, and cobra.] It's beautiful to admire, and they win for best cake. Meanwhile, Manny does a five-element chocolate mousse tower. [I would have loved to try that. those types of desserts are usually my weakness!] 

Maroon: An Underwater Cake features Kai's sugar art and a big turtle. The tiers are off-set, so there's a gravity-deying element in there, which must be enough to win the customers' vote, even if only by a single person. Kai is also in charge of their Hawaiian Chocolate Chip cookie (featuring Hawaiian salt and sugar, as well as toasted coconut) that's sugar-free, gluten-free, and organic. It's not a "wow" dessert for the judges. [and I'm surprised the New Yorkers really took to it - play to your audience, guys. oh, and I loved how Black was surprised when Maroon walked into the lounge!]

Blue: As they want to be the ones running the Vegas bakery, they create a Vegas Cake, with details of the card suites and some LEDs thrown in. [um, this is NOT "totally different" than their other cakes!] The details are mind-blowing and it's impeccable, but the wow-factor is lacking. While Al did most of the cake, Lia focused on lemon meringue tarts, which have a nice flavor and good crunch. 

Purple: They plan a floral wedding cake, with small layers to prevent too much weight on the turntable, which they struggle to figure out anyway. Their flowers are very time-consuming, and in the final 25 minutes they're rushing to complete a border and dust the flowers. The cake moves and it's clean, but it's also safe. [and boring, quite frankly.] Their dessert is a Texas Tea Cake, which is a shortbread-sugar cookie with rum-buttercream icing. They're bland and floury, and they're in the bottom due to their simplicity. 
Elimination Challenge: Frost, cover, and decorate (including buttercream roses) a two-tier cake in twenty minutes. This was the same challenge they did in auditions, so improvement needs to be seen. [why did we not get to see their original cakes?] Purple is better at fondant, Blue is better at piping. Both teams (plus the viewing teams) think Blue's cake is better, and aside from the top tier not being centered, Buddy agrees. Purple's color combination and fondant are nice, but there are sloppy elements, so this is the end of the line for them. [again!]
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