Best Baker in America finale: Chocolate brings sweet success


Decadent, bittersweet and the ultimate dessert, the Best Baker in America finale was all about chocolate. But which baker made the winning chocolate desserts?

Three bakers battled to win the title in the Best Baker in America finale. Andy, the pastry instructor, Thiago, the New York pastry chef, and Dwayne, the Southern baker, all vied for the title. Only won would win the title and the cash prize. Did you predict the winner?

Going into finale, there wasn’t a clear front runner. Even after the skills challenge, the title was still up for grabs. Looking back at the finale, I think that the judges took the competition as a whole into consideration. There seemed to be consideration for unique flavors, innovative techniques and food trends. But, I’m not telling you who won, yet.

Best Baker in America finale, photo from Food Network

The Best Baker in America finale skills challenge had the bakers create the perfect chocolate soufflé. Most people will oohs and ah at the sight of the delicate soufflé rising above a ramekin. But, if a soufflé falls, the collective gasp is palatable. Luckily, no baker had a dreaded fallen soufflé.

The skills challenge had many great tips for the home baker. Creating a soufflé at home isn’t a common task. Each baker had a different approach to creating his soufflé. Andy’s soufflé was a classic version. The perfect, high rise on his soufflé was picture perfect.

Best Baker in America finale, photo from Food Network

Dwayne took a more modern approach to his soufflés. The course sugar in the ramekin made for a heavy coating on the top of the soufflé. The look was unique. His chocolate soufflé was very, very chocolaty.

Best Baker in America finale, photo from Food Network

Thiago took a different approach to the classic soufflé. He incorporated more than just chocolate into the dessert. With raspberries in the bottom and a peanut butter creme anglaise and peanut butter ice cream, the dessert was an elevated nod to childhood. But, Thiago didn’t fill his ramekins enough and his soufflé didn’t have the telltale rise.

Based on a classic standard, Andy won the skills challenge. Although his soufflé could have had more chocolate flavor, the high rise won over the judges. But, could Andy take advantage of his skills challenge win to propel him to victory? Nothing is ever guaranteed in a Food Network show.

The Best Baker in American finale Master Challenge was a monumental task for the three bakers. Each baker had to create a chocolate cake, with three types of chocolate, five chocolate decorations and can feed 100 people. Plus, the bakers had to feature a liquor in the cake. A piece of cake – right? But, these three bakers can make it look that way.

Best Baker in America finale, photo from Food Network

If I had to pick one cake purely on visuals, it is Andy’s cake. His chocolate flowers were gorgeous. I don’t get the chocolate bottle addition (yes, it was cool that he could mold it but, it had nothing to do with his cake). Still, the colors and delicate flowers were most impressive. I would happily put that cake as a table centerpiece or make it the cover on my Instagram account.

Dwayne’s cake was more modern and simple, yet pretty. While I personally think that the drip technique is over, Dwayne’s drip cake was lovely. The stark white contrasted with the dark chocolate. With different textures and beautifully tempered chocolate, the cake was quite attractive.

Best Baker in America finale, photo from Food Network

Thiago’s cake was the most confusing. Although he had the best back story for his cake, Thiago needed to edit his decorations. The New York cityscape was a little too busy. Instead of the skyline showing depth, it just looked cluttered. Plus, the bottom tier, with a brick like appearance, didn’t blend well with the top tier. Overall, it seemed a little too busy.

Best Baker in America finale, photo from Food Network

But, Best Baker in American finale isn’t best cake decorator. The cake flavor needed to be impressive. Thiago is king of flavor. His baking technique is superb. Each layer was packed with various chocolate flavors. Plus, he was able to incorporate liquor into his cake the best. In a blind taste test, Thiago would have been the winner.

One of the biggest criticisms of Andy all season has been his subtle flavors. Again, Andy struggled with the same issue. Unfortunately, the bourbon in his cake was lacking. While parts of his chocolate cake were amazing, the cake paled in comparison to the other bakers.

Dwayne succeeded in finding the right balance of flavor and technique. The judges could taste the bourbon (although a few wanted more). The chocolate, in its various forms, was well done. Looking at the complete package, Dwayne flourished in both taste and decoration.

And finally, the winner of the Best Baker in America finale was Dwayne. Combining both challenges, Dwayne won the title. He had fewer mis-steps than the other two bakers.

Best Baker in America finale, photo from Food Network

I think that Dwayne had a better chance of winning because his dessert flavors played off Southern favorites. Southern food is still trending. Being able to blend the classic, down home comfort with refined techniques, pushed Dwayne to the win.

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If I were choosing a baker to make a special occasion cake, I would choose Andy. I think that his desserts were classic, approachable and widely appealable. His decoration, like the chocolate flowers, was hands-down the best. I wonder if you can still get a seat in one of his classes at JCC?

Lastly, if I’m choosing on flavor alone, I want Thiago desserts. His creations were the modern take on desserts. These desserts would be a delightful pairing after an elevated meal. He is the forward thinker and his desserts represent the future of baking. Don’t be surprised if home bakers start adding some savory ingredients or unusual flavor combinations in their desserts.

As Best Baker in America finale comes to a close, I wonder if this series will continue. Fans love Jason Smith. While this show was his first after the Next Food Network Star win, many fans look forward to his next show. Best Baker in America only gave a glimpse into Smith’s personality. Yes, there were a few catch phrases, but many fans (me included) wanted more.

The best part of Best Baker in America was that it was educational. Food Network has stepped back from the teaching and technique portion of its programming. With this show, people learned a lot. I learned tons about baking tricks this season and I write about food every day.

Next: Iron Chef returns with Iron Chef Showdown

Food Network, if you’re listening, please bring back Best Baker in America. We don’t need another “travel/restaurant” show in the line-up.

Congratulations to Dwayne, the winner of the Best Baker in America finale. With the holiday season approaching, maybe we all can re-watch this season and pick up a few tricks and techniques. Who knows your holiday cookies could be the best ones on the block thanks to Best Baker in America.