Food Network’s Spring Baking Championship has been my obsession since its debut in 2015. Whether it’s kids or adults competing for the grand prize, I’m glued. I love baking shows, but what is a baking show doing on a sports page?
Like any reality competition, there are odds-on favorites and the Spring Baking Championship is no exception. If you’re not familiar with the show, each week the contestants are given a theme and then bake for an advantage in the main heat. Nobody is eliminated in the first round. In the second round, there is a winner — who doesn’t win anything but bragging rights, but they are safe until the following competition — and two in the bottom. One of the bottom two is then eliminated from the show.
Although you might think that one Spring Baking Championship contestant is stronger than all the others in a given week, they may meet a challenge that throws them off. They may forget about something in the oven which crunches their time and ruins their dessert. They may forget an ingredient or a tool may eat up their time. Obstacles can turn the best of bakers into a confused, stressed mess. It already happened in episode 1.
This week’s first challenge is tie-dyed mini cheesecakes.
This season’s contestants are:
Aaron McInnis, a home baker from Newfoundland, Canada. He’s a nutritionist by day, a baker by night. He’s making a mango sunset cheesecake with a speculoos crust.
Cristina Vazquez is a pastry cook from Fair Lawn, New Jersey. She’s making a blueberry cheesecake with a vanilla wafer crust.
Depal Patel is a senior pastry chef from Kansas City, Missouri. She’s a former genetic scientist and is making a rhubarb mascarpone cheesecake.
Caleb Fischer is a chef de cuisine from Auburn, Alabama. He’s making a cherry ricotta cheesecake with an oat cereal crust.
Ruby Bloch is a pastry chef from New Orleans, Louisiana. She’s making a strawberry lime cheesecake with a Macha sable crust.
Nacho Aguirre is a bakery owner from San Antonio, Texas: His wife, Suzanna Aguirre competed on a previous season of Spring Baking Championship. He is making a fig and goat cheese cheesecake and oatmeal crust.
Jessica Duggan is a home baker from Puyallup, Washington. She’s making a spiced plum cheesecake with toasted pecan graham crust and a light citrus whipped cream.
Heather Wong is a pastry check from Los Angeles, California. Heather is making a peach cheesecake with gingersnap crust and, right off the bat, makes her batter but forgets the peaches and spills hot water into her batter. See above about good pastry chefs gone bad.
Michelle Kaiser, a baker owner from Blair, Nebraska. She is making a raspberry cheesecake with white chocolate whipped cream.
Andrew Belen is a pastry chef from Waukegan, Illinois. He is making a frozen white chocolate nectarine cheesecake with a citrus sable crust. He uses edible flowers for the tie-dyed effect.
Two home bakers are competing against professional chefs, but home bakers have won before. Don’t let that deter you.
Jessica panics because of a runny cheesecake. Heather, of course, has cheesecakes that are oozing.
It’s judgment time on Spring Baking Championship. Jessica is beat up a little, but her tastes are fantastic (dang, I wish I could taste these things). Aaron needed more mango flavor, but his texture is great. Ruby’s excess food coloring is a ding, but the judges love her tastes. Nacho doesn’t seem to have a tie-dyed look, but it’s okay. Deepal’s rhubarb cheesecake gets Nancy’s positive comments, but the tie-dyed look isn’t so hot. Andrew’s frozen white chocolate cheesecake doesn’t get any positive reviews about tie-dyed. The flowers aren’t cutting it. Not great reviews, but thankfully it’s not an elimination round. Cristina’s blueberry cheesecake is a tasty mess. Heather, who struggled badly, gets beat up in judging. Michelle’s raspberry cheesecake has no tie-dyed look inside, but Duff said it’s delicious and calls it one of his favorite things ever. Cristina wins the first heat.
In the main heat, they have to make naked ombre cakes, which is a cake that goes from lighter to darker from top to bottom. Cristina gets to choose her own herb — rosemary — and nobody else can use it. They must also make a 3-D chocolate decoration for the top of their cake. In this round, Jessica struggles again when she realizes that she forgot to double her eggs when she doubled her batter. So far, I’d have to say that Jessica is a weaker baker who isn’t great under pressure (yet). Cristina struggled with a loose moouse so her advantage might not matter in this round. At the end of the two hours, Cristina is a mess.
It’s judging time and Deepal gets good reviews from the judges. Aaron’s parsley cake with pepper lemon curd gets raves for decoration and its unique taste. Ruby’s sorrel/purple cake gets questioned as to whether it’s naked or not. Her cake is a bit crunchy from the pomegranate. Michelle’s coriander salsa cake really isn’t ombre on the outside but the coriander flavor doesn’t go over well. Heather’s thyme/purple cake is cute, but the decoration isn’t coming across well. Andrew’s basil and red cake get positive comments for his color, but not his cuts and the judges are missing the taste of the basil. Caleb’s fennel/orange cake is nice, but it’s not naked. The inside colors look better, but they don’t get any fennel taste. Jessica’s mint/cream cake isn’t naked and we’ll see how it goes. The judges love the cake, but not the density, so Jessica admits her mistakes. Cristina’s blue/rosemary cake has a leaning cake but is ombre inside. Unfortunately, the judges say it’s not sweet and needs more rosemary. Nacho isn’t happy about the messiness of the cake but likes the coloring. The cake is delicious and I believe that Nacho is safe.
Three top chefs: Nacho, Deepal and Aaron were the top three with Aaron wins the challenge. Still safe for another week are Jessica, Caleb, Heather, Andrew and Ruby. That leaves Michelle and Cristina. Michelle and Cristina are on the bottom and Michelle gets sent home.
This show is a perfect example of how you can go from the top to the bottom in one episode.
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