Holiday Baking Championship review: Thankful for a good roll


In this week’s Holiday Baking Championship, the bakers might have found that Thanksgiving isn’t always the most perfect time of the year. Who was grateful to be on a roll?

While home cooks prepare for the ultimate food holiday, Holiday Baking Championship looked to Thanksgiving as this week’s theme. Although turkey and pumpkin pie weren’t on the menu, these bakers were looking to impress with some flavorful and visual creativity. Which baker was grateful to be on a good roll?

Since the Food Network baking competition is still relatively early, the bakers are still a little unsure of themselves. While they want to make a good impression on the judges, they do not want to reveal all their tricks. Still, a few bakers are starting to separate themselves from the crowd. Which baker surprised everyone this week?

The week’s pre-heat challenge had the bakers create apple cider doughnuts. But, these doughnuts needed to be kicked-up a little. Even with limited time, the bakers needed to showcase a tasty doughnut with a particular theme. Some apple cider doughnuts were better than others.

The most interesting part of this challenge was that the majority of bakers choose to make yeast doughnuts and fry them. Given that the yeast needs time to rise and proof, it definitely was a bigger risk than making a baked, cake doughnut.

While there was a decorating element to each doughnut, the judges weren’t too critical on the decorative aspect. Some doughnuts definitely tasted better than how they looked.

Overall, it was interesting that these doughnuts were rather plain. Even though apple cider needed to be the key flavor, it would have been nice to see something a little different or bolder. Only one doughnut seemed to push the flavor boundaries. Have you had a buckwheat doughnut?

Still, it seemed that this pre-heat challenge awarded the baker who executed the best. Dwight won the pre-heat challenge. Overall, his doughnut delivered on flavor and the judges appreciated his apple picking decoration. But, the home viewer might have scoffed at those decorations. Was that really an apple?

For winning the pre-heat, Dwight got a great advantage in the main heat. Still, he needed to use that advantage wisely, otherwise he could be in danger of going home.

The main heat had the bakers create a Thanksgiving roll cake. While the Yule Log is often a holiday dessert, this roll cake needed to have a Thanksgiving theme. The bigger twist wasn’t the last-minute additional ingredient, rather it was the required inlay design.

This roll cake had to include a design within the sponge itself. Although the visual can be stunning, the concept does take a deft hand. If the baker doesn’t plan well, that pretty, colored design can look like a multi-color disaster.

It was interesting that everyone knew how to create an inlay roll cake. While roll cakes can be common, the design element needs to be practiced to execute well. Wonder if these bakers had been practicing at home?

For his advantage, Dwight was able to use stencils and tools to help with his inlay design. Given his previous problems with piping his name, this advantage was probably very helpful for him.

While there was a big focus on the decorative element, the mid-challenge twist required the bakers to include a particular flavor. From raisins to hazelnuts to dark chocolate, the flavors should work well in any of the bakers’ desserts.

Still, any fan of Holiday Baking Championship should have expected that there was going to be at least a couple roll cake disasters. There is always at least one cake that cracks in these challenges.

A roll cake can crack for several reasons. The cake can be overfilled or the sponge may be too stiff. No matter the reason, a cracked cake better deliver on flavor or that baker will be in danger of going home.

For the most part, the bakers performed well in this challenge. A few items were a little clunky, but overall the Thanksgiving roll cakes were rather impressive. From elevated flavors to pretty designs, it was probably one of the most successful roll cake challenges on Food Network.

Even though Dwight had the decorating advantage, his inlay design was problematic. The bubbles in the batter caused holes. Luckily his tasty flavors saved him, but Nancy wanted more rum in the rum raisin.

It was surprising that Michelle wasn’t in the top two bakers. Her cake was the most visually stunning. Maybe the judges are really focusing on the flavors this season.

This week’s top baker was Jennifer. Although she was afraid that her inlay trees would be too subtle, the choice to outline them was smart. While the decoration was pretty, it was the flavors that earned her the win.

Her cookies and cream roll cake seemed simple, but it was the perfect bite. It had all the flavors that people want but still had a touch of elevated. In many ways, this roll cake could become the new holiday tradition.

While his roll cake didn’t win, Geoffery deserves some definite praise for his dessert. From the impeccable bird’s nest decoration to the nuanced flavors, Geoffery is definitely a top baker. It will be interesting to see if he can earn a top spot in future challenges.

Unfortunately, the two bottom bakers in this week’s Holiday Baking Championship had big issues with their roll cakes. Both Kobe and Janet had cake failure. No story could save the broken disaster on the plate.

Group of judges Nancy Fuller, Duff Goldman and Lorraine Pascale, as seen on Holiday Baking Championship, Season provided by Food Network

Janet had a nice idea for her roll cake. The table design could have been cute, but the thickness of her cake cause it to break. While she should get some points for creativity, she didn’t execute.

Still, the judges appreciated her cake flavors. Unfortunately, the cake was just executed poorly.

Kobe was the other bottom baker. His roll cake looked more like a flat tire. It was definitely a baking fail.

Additionally, he seemed to miss the mark on the inlay design element. The whole cake just appeared brown.

While Kobe tries to push flavors and interesting combinations, those choices don’t always work. Although the home baker should be commended for trying, a more experiences baker might have taken a safer route.

The baker sent home on this episode of Holiday Baking Championship was Kobe. Even though he didn’t make it far into the competition, he showed that home bakers are super creative and talented. He should inspire home bakers to push beyond their comfort zone.

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What did you think of this week’s Holiday Baking Championship episode? Did bakers inspire you to make a roll cake this Thanksgiving?