Best Baker in America recap: Crème brulee and opera cake hit a high note


With just five bakers remaining, the baking competition gets heated. This Best Baker in America recap focuses on two café classics, crème brulee and opera cake.

For dessert lovers, a few desserts are delicate classics that can always be a favorite. Crème brulee and opera cake are two of those desserts. The crackle of the burnt sugar as your spoon breaks the shell is the sign that the crème brulee bite is going to be spectacular. As for opera cake, the stunning visual of expertly spaced layers can make your mouth water. In this Best Baker in America recap, two café classic desserts bring unexpected results.

Even though the dessert looks simple, the classic crème brulee is more complex that just custard and burnt sugar. Cooked in a delicate water bath, the custard needs a deft hand to create a delicious dessert. From carefully tempering the eggs to infusing flavor, every step in the baking process must be done with care. Without those steps, the burnt sugar topping is just an after-thought.

The bakers seem to be torn in two directions. While innovative flavor combinations are important, the judges don’t always enjoy the break from the traditional. These twists are either huge hits or terrible failures. The skills challenge saw that trend again.

Dwayne went for an inventive flavor combination that paid off. His peach pie/peaches and cream crème brulee was perfection. While I had never heard of using cream cheese in a crème brulee, the texture proved to be quite good. Also, the peach and pie crust added some rustic charm to the elevated dessert. Dwayne was clearly the winner of the skills challenge.
Best Baker in America recap: Crème brulee and opera cake , photo from Food Network

Unfortunately, a few bakers struggled with the crème brulee skills challenge. Adalberto’s crème brulee was both over and undercooked. Even worse, his crème brulee didn’t chill enough. His whipped cream garnish was cream soup. Very sad looking presentation.

Cheryl’s crème brulee was also controversial. The idea of adding tea to the crème brulee sounded divine. But, the judges found the flavor a little bitter and slightly overpowering. Personally, I liked her flavor idea the best. It would have been my choice to eat out of the five bakers.

But, the Best Baker in America recap doesn’t end with the skills challenge. The bakers must perform equally as well or better in the Master challenge. This week’s Master challenge was opera cake. The classic, delicate layered cake is said to symbolize the Paris opera house. The thin, equal layers combined in a single fork-full create the perfect bite. But, nothing is ever completely perfect in Best Baker in America.

Even though creating a stunning opera cake under the competition constraints isn’t ideal, the bakers have another twist. They must incorporate hazelnut flavor into the opera cake. While hazelnuts and chocolate pair well, the flavors must play off each other, not just exist side by side.

Like previous challenges, the judges seem to reward innovation in one baker yet fault the novelty in another. Truthfully, the decision comes down to technique and flavor. Maybe if I had smell-o-vision and taste-o-vision, I would understand why one baker was superior to another.

At the beginning of the season, a few bakers seemed to be on a roll. But, nothing is predictable in a Best Baker in America recap. This week’s outcome was a real shocker, for two reasons.

Best Baker in America recap: Crème brulee and opera cake, photo from Food Network

The most stunning, classic opera cake was Andy’s creation. Finally, the pastry instructor from Plainfield, Illinois knocked it out of the park. I’ve been watching and waiting for Andy to have a moment and the opera cake was his moment. Each layer was delicate perfection.

Plus, his chocolate glaze looked perfectly polished, like chocolate water before someone had disturbed the calm. Then, he had the most amazing sugar circle. The pulled sugar looked as if it was floating on the cake. Andy deserved to win this week and he did walk away with the victory.

For the non-traditional approach to the opera cake, Thiago was the clear leader. Instead of the traditional thin layers, Thiago created a pyramid style cake. While the opera cake had all the traditional components, visually, it wasn’t in a traditional style.

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His explanation for his presentation was plausible and probably helped with the judges. Overall, Thiago impressed with his flavors. Even though the cake was in a pyramid shape, each bite was balanced. Thiago was safe.
Also, Adalberto was in the middle. His opera cake was good, but couldn’t compete with Andy’s perfection and Thaigo’s innovation. Still, he gets to bake another day.

Dwayne and Cheryl were in the bottom. It was surprising that these two bakers were in the bottom. Dwayne had just won the skills challenge with his delicious peach pie/peaches in cream crème brulee. Cheryl had been dominating the competition up to last week. Knowing that one of these two bakers was going home was rather unexpected.

These two bakers were in the bottom for a couple of reasons. First, the cakes weren’t traditional opera cakes. Dwayne’s layers were quite thick, which had it resemble a regular cake. The dessert lacked the delicacy of an opera cake. Although he thought that his modern twist would be inventive, the execution was lacking.

Cheryl’s idea to double stack her cake wasn’t appreciated by the judges. The tall appearance wasn’t innovative enough. Even though her chocolate decoration was beautiful, it didn’t compliment the too tall cake.

Even though appearance is critical, the flavors had to be the deciding factor. The judges faulted her on a rich, robust cake. The cake itself was a little too much. Instead of a delicate bite, her cake was too substantial for this particular challenge. Even though the flavors were good, her cake was too far from the challenge, an opera cake.

Unfortunately, Cheryl was sent home. It makes me disappointed that no women bakers are left in the competition. I’m not faulting the men, nor am I suggesting that a women should get special treatment. But I think that Cheryl, and the previously eliminated Brittani offered a different perspective than the men bakers.

This week’s elimination proved that anyone can have a bad day. Just because a baker was on top in one challenge doesn’t mean that he can’t go home on the next challenge. They are only as good as their last dessert.

Next: Best Baker in America, pastry

Who has the best chance to win Best Baker in America? I think that Thiago is on a streak. Depending on the next set of challenges, he could continue his momentum. Andy and Dwayne have a good shot too. Dwayne has had some good success. Adalberto is the wild card.

Still, Best Baker in America could be won by any of these four remaining bakers. Who do you think will take the $25,000 prize? Check back for next week’s Best Baker in America recap. Or, share your thoughts on the desserts or the bakers below or tag us #FoodSided.