Best Baker in America Season 2 premiere: Vanilla cake isn’t boring


Food Network has brought back the ultimate baking show. Last night’s Best Baker in America Season 2 premiere proved that vanilla cake is far from boring.

Be ready to be tempted by sweet treats. The Best Baker in America Season 2 premiere was a pastry fan’s dream. The Food Network brought together some of the nation’s highly acclaimed pastry chefs and bakers. During this season’s challengers, fans will drool over the confectionary delights and be wowed by the creativity.

Just like the first season of Best Baker in America, each show is broken into two challenges, a skills challenge and a master challenge. While the skills challenge doesn’t give a chef an advantage, it can help a chef avoid elimination in the master challenge.

New to Season 2 of Best Baker in America is the show’s host. Scott Conant replaces Adam Rapoport. Luckily, Jason Smith and Marcela Valladolid return to the show. Jason Smith is a fan favorite. From his epic sports coats to his memorable catchphrases (remember –butter my butt and call me a biscuit?), Smith keeps the baking competition engaging.

Host Scott Conant (L) with Judges Marcela Valladolid and Jason Smith as Contestant Becca Craig presents her dish Almond Chocolate Citrus Petit Four with Chocolate Glaze with Citrus Tuille, during judging of the Skills Challenge, Cake, Glorious Cake, Make One Dozen Decorated Petits Fours, as seen on Best Baker in America, Season 2.

In this first episode of Best Baker in America Season 2, the skills challenge had the bakers create a dozen petit four glace. This version of a petit four is an iced, tiny cake that is covered usually in fondant. The key to a delicious petit four is even layers of sponge with a balanced filling. Also, the icing’s sweetness shouldn’t overpower the delicate cake.

The judges were looking for three criteria in the petit four challenge. Each petit four should be proportional, uniform and have beautiful decoration. The majority of chefs presented lovely petit fours. It was quite interesting that no one had a similar petit four. All the flavors, decorations and approaches were quite diverse.

Overall, flavor separated the chefs. Some flavors were more subtle. While no dessert had a huge misstep, one petit four hands down impressed the judges. Actually, this petit four was so gorgeous, it looked as if it came directly from a French pastry shop, not the one hour creation in a Food Network Kitchen.

Adam won the Best Baker in America first skills challenge. Visually, his petit fours were picture perfect. The attention to detail was superb. More importantly, his chocolate petit fours delivered on taste. The bite was a perfect blend of flavors and textures.

Looking at Adam’s chocolate petit four, I would gladly pay $5 or more for one of those tiny little cakes. While some people look for the gigantic, over indulgent sugar bomb, I would happily satisfy my sweet tooth with one of these petit fours. The tiny details, perfect bite is by far my preferred choice.

For the Master Challenge, the chefs had to create a mind bending cake. While this phrase seems strange, the idea was to create a cake that didn’t really look like a cake. Instead of a traditional, round, tiered cake, the chefs needed to let their creativity shine. But, a delicious, technically superb cake couldn’t be overlooked.

Even though the chefs had free reign on their designs, the cakes’ flavor had to be vanilla. What many people think of plain, boring or common, a delicious vanilla cake shouldn’t have any of those adjectives. Although vanilla is often a subtle flavor, these chefs needed to make vanilla bold, pronounced and delicious.

Judges Jason Smith (L), Marcela Valladolid, Gemma Stafford during judging of the Master Challenge, Mind Bending Cakes, as seen on Best Baker in America, Season 2. photo provided by Food Network

Looking at the Master Challenge, many of the cakes were visually stunning. Although only a few were minding bending. Max’s python cake was quite impressive. The cake looked just like a ready to strike snake. Leigh’s stump cake was quite pretty. The little details, like the robin’s nest, made the cake look like a forest scene. Also, Kym’s deep dish pizza was quite impressive. From the pickled jalapenos to the melted cheese, she really pushed the visuals.

As for flavors, the bakers really had to push the vanilla cake flavor. Using vanilla in various forms helped to push vanilla forward. While many home bakers use a bottle of vanilla extract, these chefs used vanillas from different regions, vanilla paste and vanilla beans. The various forms of vanilla made the vanilla flavor pop.

One trick that worked well for several chefs was soaking the cakes. Soaking a cake means that a liquid, often simple syrup, is brushed onto the cake to keep it moist. Sometimes the liquid is infused with flavors or even liquor. For this challenge, several chefs used the soak as a way to boost the vanilla flavor in their cakes.

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Similar to the skills challenge, Adam had a delicious cake with pronounced flavor. Max’s cake impressed with vanilla flavor too. Lastly Becca’s cake showed the subtle yet delicious vanilla flavor.

Overall, the Best Baker in America Season 2 premiere had the chefs performing well. No one had a huge baking fail. Sure, there were a few mis-steps but no one had a complete disaster like in the first episode of Spring Baking Championship.

These chef contestants are really putting their reputations on the line. With all the accolades that they hold, no one wants to ruin their reputations on a Food Network show. This season should be a delicious television.

Of course, one chef does have to win. The top chefs were Becca and Max. Becca’s concrete floral design was pretty, but not quite mind bending. Although her flavors were on point. Max exceled in both the visual and flavor components. Anyone afraid of snakes wouldn’t want to cut into that cake. Max won the first master challenge.

Since one baker does have to leave the competition, the bottom two bakers were obvious. Frania and Lasheeda were up for elimination in the first episode of Best Baker in America. Lasheeda was frazzled for part of the master challenge. She didn’t bake enough cake to complete her design. With that delay, her decorating suffered. Although the monster inspired cake was cute, the design was slightly off. Truthfully, it would have been better to have left one of the fondant arms off the cake. Those mistakes landed her in the bottom.

Frania’s problems were two-fold. Her cake’s design was pretty, but it was a little sloppy. While the sugar butterflies were airy and light, her frosting wasn’t clean. The little design details let her down. More importantly, her vanilla flavor wasn’t as pronounced as the judges wanted. This challenge focused on making a delicious vanilla forward cake. Vanilla flavor let her down.

The first chef leaving Best Baker in America was Frania. She is a highly talented Los Angeles based baker, but someone has to be eliminated in each episode. With such a talented field, the chefs need to be on their best in the kitchen.

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Lastly, did anyone get a good catchphrase from Jason Smith this episode? I didn’t seem to hear one. There were a few one liners, but I think that I missed it. If you heard one, share it in the comments section or share it on social media (#FoodSided).

What will next week’s Best Baker in America episode bring? Tune in to the Food Network on Monday nights at 9 p.m. EST to watch.