Holiday Baking Championship recap: Thanksgiving dessert mash-ups


When classic desserts get a Thanksgiving dessert mash-up, the result is either delicious or disastrous. This Holiday Baking Championship recap might be a lesson learned for the holiday.

As the home baker prepares for the Thanksgiving feast, the kitchen is filled with delicious baking aromas. Many bakers stick with traditional Thanksgiving favorite desserts for the holiday. On this week’s Holiday Baking Championship recap, the Food Network asked bakers to tackle a Thanksgiving dessert mash-up.

The pre-heat in the Holiday Baking Championship recap has the bakers create a dessert based on a mystery canned ingredient. Canned fruit isn’t necessarily the best option when making a dessert. The sugary syrup can be too sweet. Still, when fresh fruit isn’t available, sometimes canned fruit is the only option.

When using canned fruit the key is to find a way to balance the flavors. As long as the canned fruit flavor doesn’t overpower the entire dessert, the bakers can create a successful dessert. Overall, the bakers handled the mystery canned fruit challenge well.

Some canned fruit was easier to work with than other fruits. Canned pumpkin is the easiest way to make a pumpkin dessert. Canned plums would not be the best choice. These bakers are competing for the Holiday Baking Championship and they should be able to tackle this type of curveball.

Holiday Baking Championship recap: Thanksgiving dessert mash-ups , photo from Food Network

The most successful dessert was Amy’s Florida cupcake, with carrot, pineapple and walnut flavors. While the cupcake didn’t look like a winter wonderland escape, it did look like a Florida Christmas. More importantly, the flavor were delicious. Amy won the pre-heat because she did the best job of combining flavor and decoration.

Overall, the bakers did well in the pre-heat challenge. From the sugar plum tart to the tasty, yet not pretty pumpkin chiffon pie, there weren’t too many major mistakes. But, would a good desserts on the pre-heat translate into tasty main heat desserts? It isn’t always the case.

Holiday Baking Championship recap: Thanksgiving dessert mash-ups , photo from Food Network

For the main heat, the bakers had to take on a Thanksgiving dessert mash-up. This task could be quite difficult. Some flavor combinations are meant to be together. Coffee and chocolate or lemon and blueberry are flavor combinations that can play off each other. But, lemon and pumpkin may not be the first Thanksgiving flavor combination that comes to mind.

Holiday Baking Championship recap: Thanksgiving dessert mash-ups , photo from Food Network

Before the main heat challenge began, Amy, as the pre-heat winner, got to switch her dessert mash-up with any other baker. She chose to take Andra’s brownie and pumpkin pie mash-up. Andra got stuck with the blueberry cobbler and chocolate mousse, which was a much harder combination.

More from FoodSided

Of course, the main heat always has a twist. This week’s twist was that the bakers had to incorporate sweet potato into the dessert. This curve ball was a huge obstacle for the bakers. Sweet potato isn’t an easy flavor to both highlight, yet blend into a dessert. The results weren’t necessarily the bakers’ best desserts.

Some of the flavor combinations were a lot of fun. The apple pie and s’mores combination sounded great. Who doesn’t love making s’mores? Personally, I would have loved a shot of bourbon or a bourbon cocktail on the side. Actually, I might have cooked my apples in bourbon. Truthfully, Judge Nancy Fuller might have loved that idea, she loves bourbon and a good cocktail.

The biggest takeaway from this week’s Holiday Baking Championship recap is that the judges aren’t giving the bakers a pass with a mediocre dessert. Taste and presentation must be better every week. Burnt cakes, sloppy plates and ill-conceived desserts aren’t going to win the Holiday Baking Championship title.

Holiday Baking Championship recap: Thanksgiving dessert mash-ups , photo from Food Network

The wining dessert this week was the bread-amisu pudding, a dessert mash-up of bread pudding and tiramisu. The dessert was smart. It had bold flavors, yet both of the mash-up desserts were present. Even the sweet potato worked in this dessert. Truthfully, this dessert mash-up works as a really good dessert on its own. Maybe it could show up at your next holiday dinner.

Since this main heat challenge required creativity, the judges awarded the bakers who pushed the concept. An ill-conceived idea and a messy plate isn’t going to get a baker to the next round. Each week it becomes more apparent which bakers are here to win and others who are just hoping to move onto the net round.

The bottom two bakers were Andra and Aristo. Andra has been in the bottom multiple times. Her desserts aren’t successful. The flavors don’t seem to be on point. More importantly, her presentation is not great.

Holiday Baking Championship recap: Thanksgiving dessert mash-ups , photo from Food Network

Granted, Andra had a hard combination, blueberry crumble and chocolate mousse. Those two desserts don’t really mash-up well, especially for a winter holiday. More importantly, Andra didn’t really transform these desserts. Ice cream and another mousse isn’t Holiday Baking Championship worthy. She could have make a trifle, a frozen pie or a bunch of other ideas.

Aristo’s dessert wasn’t visually appealing. Yes, crème brulee means burnt cream, but no one wants a charred cake. The burnt cake was a poor choice.

The judges were harder on Aristo because he’s an executive chef. He should know how to properly plate a dessert and he probably wouldn’t serve that plate at his restaurant. If he wouldn’t serve it there, he shouldn’t have served it to the judges.

Holiday Baking Championship recap: Thanksgiving dessert mash-ups , photo from Food Network

The biggest problem with Aristo’s dessert was that it had flavor and technical flaws. The cake was too dense. The crème brulee wasn’t clear and sweet potato was hidden. The dessert failed on many levels.

Aristo was sent home this week. Andra was saved for another week, but her time may be coming soon. Andra’s been on the bottom one too many times. She may not be meant for the Holiday Baking Championship.

The biggest takeaway for the home baker is that combining two desserts can happen. Success comes when the two flavors can balance each other. For example, like in the winning dessert, flavors can be transformed into a different type of dessert. The flavors of the tiramisu can work in a bread pudding, trifle and other desserts.

While flavor is always king, the home baker needs to consider a pretty dessert presentation. If a plate looks like a mess, people may not want to eat it. The dessert could be the most delicious bite ever, but a visually unappealing plate could be passed over in a minute. Even a simple presentation is better than a messy one.

Next: Holiday Baking Championship dessert duos

Another Holiday Baking Championship recap has come to a close. Are you inspired to serve a Thanksgiving dessert mash-up to you guests?