Best Baker in America recap: Enchanting wedding cakes


In this week’s Best Baker in America recap, the bakers are thrown into wedding season. Are these wedding cakes enchanting or unsightly?

Wedding cakes are more than just a dessert. In this Best Baker in America recap, this week’s theme is wedding desserts. At many weddings, the cake isn’t the only dessert served. Dessert bars are just as important as the big, picture perfect cake. Can these bakers make sweet wedding inspired memories?

The skills challenge had the bakers creating mini-mousse cakes that are appropriate for a wedding dessert bar. With only 90 minutes, this challenge was quite daunting. Getting a velvety, smooth mousse to set within the timeframe is quite difficult. A few bakers excelled and one baker had a big mistake.

For a delicious mousse cake, the dessert needs to have a light, fluffy sponge. On top of that sponge, the layers of mousse should be even. Ideally, you can put a spoon down through the dessert and taste each layer in a single bite. Given the extremely limited time, the judges weren’t too hard on most of the bakers.

Special Guest Judge Zac Young with Judges Jason Smith and Marcela Valladolid as Contestant Max Santiago presents his dish Champagne Sabayon Mousse and Lavender French Macarons during judging of the Master Challenge, Wedding Tower, during the Wedding Spectacular, as seen on Best Baker in America, Season 2. photo provided by Food Network

The most creative mini-mousse cake was Adam’s horizontal cake. The olive oil cake was topped with a horizontal cylinder of mousse. While his layers weren’t perfect, the presentation was lovely. Jason Smith thought that the berry mouse was too tart. Maybe Smith just prefers sweet, like his Southern sweet tea.

For the home baker, the best tip from the Skills Challenge was Lasheeda melon ball, caramelized bananas. Everyone has a melon baller at home, but probably rarely uses it. The idea of little caramelized banana balls is genius. I can’t wait to use that idea over the summer.

What was shocking about Lasheeda’s mini-mousse cake was that it had too much rum. Even Smith said that the rum was overpowering. Maybe if it was bourbon, he would have liked it more.

The judges chose Max’s guava and cheese mini-mousse cakes as the winning dessert. I think that this dessert won because his coconut cake had some texture with the pieces of coconut. Based on the appearance, some of the guava was running down the side. While his mini-mousse cakes sounded good, I would have chosen a different cake as a winner.

Unfortunately, one baker had a huge mis-step. Jeremy’s mousse didn’t set. Marcela said that his pineapple mousse almost looked that queso on top of the dessert. While Jeremy tried to set the mousse with liquid nitrogen, I don’t think that idea was a good choice. Sure, the liquid nitrogen could have instantly froze the dessert, but it changes the texture. Luckily, no one goes home for a bad showing in the Skills Challenge.

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For the Master Challenge, the bakers had to create a wedding centerpiece, a wedding tower or a modernized take on the classic croquembouche. A croquembouche is a tower of choux pastry balls that is covered in spun sugar. The French name translates to “crunch in the mouth.” This celebratory dessert should have the perfect pastry texture while also being visually stunning.

In this week’s Master Challenge, the bakers had to create a wedding tower featuring choux pastry, another pastry and incorporate champagne as a featured flavor. The hardest part of this challenge would be the champagne flavor. The delicate French sparkling wine can be subtle. The bakers needed to balance the delicate bubbles without losing the champagne flavor.

This challenge was technique forward. While presentation is always important, this particular dessert needs proper baking technique. Between a delightful choux dough to the champagne flavor, a pretty wedding tower can’t be saved with a failed pastry.

Special Guest Judge Zac Young with Judges Jason Smith and Marcela Valladolid as Contestant Max Santiago presents his dish Champagne Sabayon Mousse and Lavender French Macarons during judging of the Master Challenge, Wedding Tower, during the Wedding Spectacular, as seen on Best Baker in America, Season 2. photo provided by Food Network

For this Best Baker in America recap, one baker had a huge advantage in the challenge. Jean Francois could probably make choux dough in his sleep. The highly acclaimed French pastry chef has made thousands and thousands of croquembouche. This challenge was his to lose.

Overall, Jean Francois had a lovely wedding tower. The pastry was perfectly symmetrical, the choux was divine and the macaron was heavenly. While the wedding tower was more traditional, it was quite impressive. Maybe the dessert needed a touch more of champagne, but this dessert was clearly a top choice.

Leigh’s dessert tower was a more modern approach to the traditional croquembouche. Using a cake as the base was smart. Although the judges wanted more champagne flavor in the cake, the dessert was successful. Her choux pastry definitely gave Jean Francois a run for his money.

The winning baker in this week’s Best Baker in America recap was Jean Francois. It will be interesting to see if the renowned baker will start to take over the competition. While his desserts could be a little old school, he has the skill, experience and talent to take the title.

Unfortunately, two bakers were in the bottom and one baker had to go home. Kym had a major technical issue with her wedding tower. Her first set of cream puffs burnt in the oven. She had to start over, which lead to imperfect puffs. Also, because she had to start over, her wedding tower didn’t have any decorations.

It is sad that Kym’s tower suffered from a mistake. Held together by toothpicks, the tower didn’t really fulfill the challenge. Still, the color and flavor profiles sounded really good. These competitions can be hard for any baker. From time constraints to an unfamiliar kitchen, the whole process isn’t a walk in the park.

The other bottom baker was LaSheeda. Her wedding tower was very abstract and not as refined as the judges wanted. The chocolate butterfly decorations were pretty and her madeleine cookies were nice. Unfortunately, her cream puffs lacked enough pastry cream.

Even though it was the second week being in the bottom, LaSheeda survived and Kym was sent home. Even with all the technical issues, I think Kym should have been safe. Cumulatively in the Best Baker in America competition, her desserts were better. Then again, I wasn’t judging.

Looking at this week’s Best Baker in America, it appears that Max, Adam, Jean Francois and Leigh might be the bakers to watch. Max has won two challenges. Adam seems to be a judges’ favorite. Leigh is very creative with her desserts. Jean Francois is a legend. Still, anyone can have a good, or bad, day in the kitchen. Anything can happen.

Next: Best Baker in America: Vanilla cakes aren't boring

What did you think of this week’s Best Baker in America episode? My biggest takeaway was the caramelized banana balls. Look for that idea on my summer dessert table.