Best Baker in America final four take on old school classic desserts


Old school classic desserts are classics for a reason. This week’s Best Baker in America final four bakers must dust off the recipe books.

Best Baker in America is testing the final four bakers and their culinary knowledge. Focusing on old school classic desserts, this week’s challenges focuses on desserts that aren’t common in the local bakery. Can these bakers think back to culinary school and whip up a classic treat to impress the judges?

Looking at the four remaining bakers, this week’s challenges might be easier for two chefs. Both Jean-Francois and Adam have a very strong technical baking background. While Max and LaSheeda both are amazing bakers, these classic desserts might cause a little worry in the kitchen. Still, knowledge and technical ability doesn’t always trump taste.

For the Skills Challenge, the final four bakers had to create a Mont Blanc. Personally, I can’t remember eating a Mont Blanc, let alone making one at home. The elaborate, yet refined dessert, is said to reference a snowy mountain.

Guest Judge Florian Bellanger, judges Jason Smith and Marcela Valladolid and Host Scott Conant during judging of the Master Challenge, Charlotte Royale, Old School Classics, as seen on Best Baker in America, Season 2.

A Mont Blanc contains a tart shell, filled with meringue and topped with a chestnut cream vermicelli. The chestnut cream looks like delicate strands of pasta covering the meringue. The key to this dessert isn’t just the expertly layered chestnut strands, but the layers of taste throughout the dessert.

Recently, this dessert is making a comeback. The newer versions of a Mont Blanc vary from the 1400s recipe. Now, people elevate the flavors and colors to make the traditional dessert more modern.

Looking at the four desserts, the desserts had both traditional and modern interpretations. In all honesty, this challenge was probably Jean-Francois’ to lose. His technique and knowledge is irreproachable. While his dessert was slightly non-traditional, the flavors and presentation was impeccable. His dessert won the skills challenge.

Truthfully, Adam’s Mont Blanc was equally impressive. Presentation wise, Adam seemed to have the superior looking dessert. While the flavor proportions were a little off, this dessert looked like a winner.

More from FoodSided

Before moving onto the Master Challenge, can anyone explain Jason Smith’s comment, “I’m as happy as a horse dancing in a barn.” I didn’t know that horses danced and why does a horse dance in a barn. Then again, maybe I don’t want this phrase explained. Still, it made me laugh pretty hard.

For the Master Challenge, the bakers took on another old school classic dessert, the Charlotte Royale. Sometimes referred to as the brain cake, that description shouldn’t turn anyone away from this classic. The cake’s signature look comes from the perfect pinwheels of a jelly cake. This dessert wouldn’t creep out anyone.

This dessert takes a large amount of technical ability. Home bakers have difficulty doing just a jelly roll cake, let alone a jelly roll cake that has layers of Bavarian crème under the dome. I don’t foresee making this classic dessert for Fourth of July.

Even though this dessert is difficult enough, the bakers had to incorporate peanut butter flavor into the dessert. With that required flavor, each of the Charlotte Royale cakes were peanut butter and jelly flavored. It would have been nice to see some type of variation. Sure, many people feel nostalgic about peanut butter and jelly, but could there have been a different flavor combination.

Host Scott Conant during the Master Challenge, Charlotte Royale, Old School Classics, as seen on Best Baker in America, Season 2.

Again, with this traditional dessert challenge, Jean-Francois and Adam seemed to have a little advantage. Both of these bakers are technique strong. Even though Adam offers a more modern flair to his desserts, both bakers can execute in the kitchen.

For this Master Challenge, it was clear looking at both Jean-Francois and Adam’s desserts that they both would be moving onto the finale. Jean-Francois, even with his missing glaze, had an impressive Charlotte Royale. The pinwheels were even and tight. His filling was delicious and the decorations were stunning.

Adam’s cake was equally as good. His cake had a few more modern twists, especially with the peanut butter wheat crunch element. Adam always seems to be thinking outside of the box on these desserts. Also, his sugar work was lovely.

The bottom two bakers were Max and LaSheeda. LaSheeda took a risk with her Charlotte Royale. Instead of a traditional dome version, she created a log-style cake. While the choice set her apart, it might not have been the wisest option.

LaSheeda also opted to add whiskey to her cake. Previously, she added too much liquor to a few desserts. For this dessert, she got the liquor right. All three judges loved the flavor of her cake and her Bavarian cream was the best of the day.

Max struggled with this challenge. While he excels in flavor, these technically-driven challenges aren’t always his strongest. Max’s dessert had a few flaws. His Bavarian creams were different textures which cause a gap between layers. Also, his bottle layer was way too crunchy.

The baker sent home was Max. After such a strong start at the beginning of the Best Baker in America season, Max seemed to struggle in the past couple of episodes. I think it was just a tough break for a talented baker.

The Best Baker in America finale will feature Adam, LaSheeda and Jean-Francois. Since I watch this Food Network show with my kids, we have a bet on the table. My pick to win this season is Adam. I have nothing against the other bakers. My pick is part hunch and part guess. Adam seems to have the balance of modern interpretation with classic technique.

Next: Can a Food Network Star reimagine theme park food?

With next week’s finale theme being chocolate, it will be a challenge for anyone to beat Jean-Francois. The venerable French pastry chef is a master of chocolate. Maybe Adam or LaSheeda have a trick or two up their sleeve to make a definite statement.

Who do you think will win Best Baker in America Season 2? Share your thoughts below. Check back for next week’s recap and find out if I won or lost my bet.