Holiday Baking Championship review: Glitz going into the finale


With one episode left before the finale, Holiday Baking Championship is getting a glitzy makeover. Will all this glamour set the tone going into the finale?

Holiday food traditions often work their way into Holiday Baking Championship. While these desserts might not be what grandma baked, Food Network fans can see how those flavors that spark holiday memories can get a tweak, update and makeover. Hopefully, all that glitz and glamour isn’t just for show.

For the pre-heat on this week’s Holiday Baking Championship, the four bakers drew inspiration from Hanukkah tradition, the gelt, the gold coins given to children during the holiday celebration. While the traditional chocolate coins are simple, these bakers needed to give them a glitzy makeover.

Each baker received a flavor to incorporate another flavor into a chocolate dessert. From smoked salt to coconut, the flavors were approachable. More importantly, the bakers really seemed to embrace the combination of flavors.

Looking at the four different desserts, the chocolate desserts balanced creative and approachable. Geoffrey’s dessert was a great example. That marshmallow cream pie was definitely a twist on that classic kid treat. Although coconut was forward, the dessert was quite tasty.

Jesse Palmer, Nancy Fuller, Duff Goldman, Lorraine Pascale, as seen on Holiday Baking Championship, Season 6. photo provided by Food Network

From Jennifer’s candied orange flourless torte to Melissa’s smoked salt no bake cheesecake, anyone would be happy to eat one of these desserts over the holidays. They show that chocolate can work with a variety of flavors and textures.

While the gelt (aka the chocolate coin) was part of the challenge, it wasn’t the focus and may not have really weighed on the judges’ decision. But, this chocolate coin can serve as a reminder to home bakers. Chocolate enjoyment can be heightened with some additional flavors and textures.

Still, only one baker can win the pre-heat advantage. Sarah and her ooey, gooey florentine tart was the judges’ favorite. Even though the colors were a little drab, the flavors really came through. It wasn’t too sweet, but it was totally naughty.

For winning the pre-heat, Sarah received a big advantage in the main heat. She was able to choose her flavor and assign the flavors to the other bakers. This advantage could impact the outcome of which bakers make the Holiday Baking Championship finale.

In the main heat, the bakers had to create a cheesecake, with their assigned crust flavor, and add an edible, shiny ice rink in the middle. While décor is a portion of this Food Network baking show, flavor has been the focus of this whole season. Still, these bakers need to show that they can present a complete dessert.

Jesse Palmer with baking topics and art details, as seen on Holiday Baking Championship, Season 6. photo provided by Food Network

Overall, the cheesecakes were quite good. Although the decorations might have been a little wonky, the bakers really pushed the flavor combinations. Even with the mid-challenge twist of incorporating the hot cocoa mix, the bakers pushed themselves to earn a spot in the finale.

It was interesting that more emphasis wasn’t made about the shiny ice rink decoration. Although there was no way that the judges would actually eat that portion, it was a requirement. Given one of the decoration’s criticisms, why was one décor element acceptable as inedible, but others were not.

Sarah did well in this challenge. She seems to excel in the decorating aspect in many of these challenges. While she chose the easiest crust, graham cracker, the turtle cheese cake was good. It might not have been perfect, but it was a top choice. Adding in the pretty decorations, it was clear that she was a top baker.

Melissa really excelled in this challenge. While she has had time management issues, she really pulled it together this week. From the adorable judges’ cookies to the pretty snow, it was a smart choice for this challenge.

More importantly, Melissa nailed the flavors in her cheesecake. She picked wisely with the salted ginger caramel to play off the ginger snap crust. The ginger flavor was bold.

While both Sarah and Melissa earned their spot in the finale, Melissa earned the win. Finally, she put together both flavor and décor in this challenge. That cheesecake definitely deserved the judges’ praises.

Unfortunately, that left Geoffrey and Jennifer in the bottom. Both cheesecakes had issues. From décor to flavors, even the littlest mistake can keep a baker from the finale. Given other seasons, any of these bakers would easily make the finale.

Geoffrey had a couple of uncharacteristic issues with this cheesecake. While the idea of a hot chocolate, banana cheesecake sounded like a child’s dream, the dessert tended to be a little sweet.

Additionally, his decoration was sloppy. The meringue texture was very strange. The fruit gelee was too chewy. It looked more like a melted winter wonderland.

It is interesting that the meringue could be used as just a decoration, like the ice rink. No one ate those elements. Then again, all elements need to be edible.

Jennifer had issues because of the twist. Hot chocolate and key lime are not a traditional pairing. In a weird way, it did sort of work. Still, it was a little wonky. Additionally, her décor had some proportion issues.

The biggest criticism focused on her crust. Granted, Jennifer got the hardest flavor, oat crumb. Still, her crust was soggy.

In the end, one baker had to be sent home. Given that Geoffrey had multiple issues, he was sent home.

While it was hard to see Geoffrey sent home, it did mark a first for Holiday Baking Championship. It is the first time that three women are in the finale.

Which baker will be crowned the Holiday Baking Champion? Plaid cakes are on the menu but only one will be the best.

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Who do you think will earn the Holiday Baking Championship title? Do you have a favorite baker?