MasterChef Season 10 episode 14 review: Was it a piece of cake?


In this review of MasterChef, the top twelve face a daunting baking challenge that will grant immunity to one and send another home.

As the contestants enter the MasterChef kitchen, they find a long table laden with cakes of all kinds. There appear to be about twenty different cakes. I spot a checker boarded Battenberg, a Charlotte Russe with its lady finger fence, a green marzipan covered Princess, and many more. In the center of the table, a large white multi-tier cake holds court.

Not surprisingly, the judges announce that it is sweets week. Some cooks like Dorian, Shari and Fred, are excited. Others, like Noah and Jamie, are nervous.

Each cook will select a large golden candle from the white central cake. That candle will determine their turn to select a cake from the table to taste and then replicate.

Gordon warns everyone to choose carefully. “Go for an easy cake, we may not be that impressed. Go for one of the harder cakes, you may bite off more than you can chew.”

Gordon uses the pineapple upside down cake as his example of an unimpressive easy cake, and the opera cake as his example of a crazy but ambitious choice.

Dorian earns first pick and selects a pale pink champagne cake. Sarah picks a purple berry cake, and the rest each take their turn. Noah, the seventh to select, grabs the opera cake so that he can earn the judges’ admiration. Subha, selecting ninth, picks the upside down cake as he is not confident in his baking skills. Wuta, Shari and Renee are last to pick but all seem happy with their selections.

MASTERCHEF: Contestant Noah in the “Let Them Eat Cake” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Wednesday, July 31 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Greg Gayne/ FOX.

Once at their stations, we see Noah staring at his cake. He leans over to eyeball it from the side. He circles it like a cautious cat. Noah tells us, “I’ve never even tasted this dadgum cake before. Oh my God, what did I do?”

Their seventy-five minutes starts and everyone dives into their cake. They all need to taste the components and inspect them so they can attempt to replicate them.

Sarah realizes to her horror that the frosting on her cake is a meringue. Renee, who has selected cheesecake, is also disconcerted. She makes cheesecake at home but hers is dense. The texture of the cake she must replicate is quite different than what she is used to baking.

MASTERCHEF: Contestant Sarah in the “Let Them Eat Cake” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Wednesday, July 31 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Greg Gayne/ FOX.

Fred, who has selected German chocolate cake, is feeling confident. He tells us that they keep calling him the dessert king and he wants to prove he deserves the title.

I don’t remember them ever calling him that, but he did earn his apron on a cake and his food dream is to open a bakery. Fun fact: German chocolate cake is not from Germany. It is so named because the recipe used Baker’s German Sweet Chocolate, named for Samuel German, an American.

MASTERCHEF: Contestant Fred in the “Let Them Eat Cake” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Wednesday, July 31 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Greg Gayne/ FOX.

Dorian is also confident in her baking skills. Gordon stops by to ask her why she has selected the pink champagne cake. Dorian explains, “my mom passed two years ago of breast cancer and pink was always my favorite color but after my mom passed away, it just took on a different meaning for me and my family.” Gordon goes on to ask about her family and we learn she has never been away from her five-year-old daughter before.

My guess is that Dorian is getting a winner’s edit and will go very far in the competition. That’s not to say she isn’t talented; she is. But we have seen an ugly side of her during competition, and they seem to be working hard to show us her softer side. I also find it interesting that Joe tells us, “if Dorian nails this champagne cake, she firmly cements herself as one of the front runners in this competition.” Why this one challenge would do that is unclear, but it does seem clear that the show wants you to think that.

MASTERCHEF: L-R: Contestant Dorian with host/judge Gordon Ramsay in the “Let Them Eat Cake” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Wednesday, July 31 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Greg Gayne/ FOX.

Bri is first to get her cake in the oven, followed by most others. Renee looks at her cake, newly placed in the oven. Her graham cracker crust is uneven and sits way too high for her cheesecake filling. She decides to completely restart the whole cake.

I find this situation with Renee odd. She claims to be a perfectionist but surely she could see before adding cheesecake batter that her crust was uneven and messy. Also, that crust is quite fragile. Could she not have trimmed it after baking? Maybe she was too worried about fracturing the crust or getting crumbs on her cake.

At around the halfway mark for time, almost everyone is able to remove their cake from the oven and take it to the fridge for cooling. Though Bri’s carrot cake was first in the oven, hers is still not baked. Subha also doesn’t have his cake out yet, but his upside down cake won’t need any decoration. Bri’s cake will need frosting.

MASTERCHEF: Contestant Bri in the “Let Them Eat Cake” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Wednesday, July 31 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Greg Gayne/ FOX.

With twenty minutes left, we start to see the wheels come off for some people. Noah is trying to make the ganache for the top of his opera cake and the chocolate seizes, so he has to start again. In the end, he gets it poured over the cake but has to rapidly unmold it before the chocolate sets, marring the look of the cake.

Bri finally gets her cakes out of the oven and rushes them to the fridge but she simply doesn’t have the time to allow them to cool. She tries to frost the hot cakes which of course doesn’t go well. She also doesn’t have enough frosting and no time to make more.

Sarah’s cake calls for meringue frosting (Italian per Gordon and Swiss per Sarah). She ends up making her frosting three times. Meanwhile, Subha is relaxing as, once turned out on a platter, his cake is complete.

First up for judging is Fred. His German chocolate cake is, not surprisingly, good looking and tasting. Frankly, I hoped for more from the proclaimed dessert king, but the judges like it.

Noah now delivers his opera cake. The judges appreciate his courage but also berate his over-ambition, so I don’t know if this was a good choice or not. They deem his cake ugly but he did get all the layers and it tastes like opera cake.

MASTERCHEF: Contestant Nick in the “Let Them Eat Cake” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Wednesday, July 31 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Greg Gayne/ FOX.

Nick selected a Victoria sponge sandwich cake. It features two sponge cakes sandwiched with jam and cream. The judges tell him it looks like a hamburger, and his cream and jam are squishing out of the side of the cake. He has made his own jam, which is delicious, but his cake is oddly crispy. Gordon makes a tap, tap sound with his knife on the side of the cake. So his cake doesn’t look good and the actual sponge is not baked well, putting him in trouble.

Bri tells us she is embarrassed and horrified to present her carrot cake. Because she has run out of icing, she presents something of a naked cake, which is trendy but not the challenge. Her frosting carrots on top look like orange logs. She simply ran out of time because her cake took forever to cook.

Gordon points out that her cake sits far higher than the example. She overfilled her cake tins, which is why her cakes took so long to cook. Worse yet, the tasting does not go well. Aaron bemoans the lack of frosting and Joe tells her the cake is so dense, it is basically pudding. Gordon just calls it weird.

Renee is very proud of her cheesecake and it is very pretty. A pool of red jam covers the center, with the edges decorated with berries. Gordon cuts a slice and then says, “what is that?” He pokes at what is clearly graham cracker crust crumbs in the cake tin, so I’m wondering why he seems confused. Joe comments that it isn’t crust; it’s dust. It turns out those aren’t just crumbs but basically most of her crust, which lacks butter and does not hold together.

Apparently this is an affront to the cake gods. Joe tells her, “I have nothing good to say about this. It’s sweet cream cheese on cookie crumbs as far as I’m concerned.”

Gordon asks why she selected an “easy” dessert, and she replies that she didn’t think it was easy. I agree. Cheesecake can be tricky as it is tough to get a good flavor and texture and to avoid cracks in the cake.

Subha delivers his pineapple upside down cake. Gordon made it clear from the start that he felt this was the easiest choice and he questions Subha. Subha admits he isn’t confident in his baking so he picked the cake he felt he could execute.

The judges find the cake simple, well-executed and delicious, but then they point out that he took no risk. Again I am not sure if this was a good choice or not as he has not impressed the judges with his choice but has made a very good cake that surely can’t send him home.

MASTERCHEF: Contestant Jamie in the “Let Them Eat Cake” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Wednesday, July 31 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Greg Gayne/ FOX.

The camera spends little time on some of the bakers. Jamie’s black forest cake tastes delicious. Shari’s devil’s food cake looks professional and tastes great. Micah’s coconut cake is “not your average cake,” and Wuta’s hummingbird cake is tasty too.

Dorian earns more screen time. Her pink champagne cake is really beautiful and the judges rave over the flavor. It is light and luscious. The judges keep eating her cake even as she walks away, so she is pretty much guaranteed the win.

Sarah, on the other hand, has struggled with her berry layer cake with Swiss meringue frosting. Her frosting has melted and her layers have bled into one another. Luckily, it tastes good and she earns points for attempting a difficult frosting.

MASTERCHEF: Contestant Dorian in the “Let Them Eat Cake” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Wednesday, July 31 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Greg Gayne/ FOX.

The winner of the challenge will earn immunity and will also receive five thousand dollars worth of Breville countertop appliances. It is no surprise when Dorian wins.

Meanwhile, Bri, Nick and Renee find themselves on the bottom. We are reminded that Nick’s cake is messy and overcooked, but his jam is good. Renee’s choice is deemed too easy and her crust is not correctly made. Bri’s cake is dense and pudding-like, she lacks frosting, and her cake looks messy.

Given all these descriptions, it sounds like Bri will go home, but they eliminate Renee. Gordon tells her she “backed off,” I think meaning she just went too easy and that was a deciding factor in her elimination.

I don’t think a cheese cake is easier than carrot or Victoria sandwich cake, but to each their own. I have been annoyed by Renee’s attitude and she hasn’t been doing a consistently great job, but based on today alone, I’m not sure she had the worst bake. At least she got to eat cake today.

On the next episode, the remaining bakers must make macarons for guest judge Candace Nelson of Sprinkles Cupcakes. To me, this is far more challenging than most of the cakes made tonight so we shall see how that goes.

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So do you think Renee had the worst bake or was it just her time to go home?

Would you go for a harder bake, knowing that you may well mess up but hoping the challenge level will earn forgiveness? Or would you go for an easier cake that you can probably nail, but where any mistakes will be glaring?