Just three bakers have made it to the top of the class of the Spring Baking Championship. Who will be crowned with the grand prize of $25,000 and a feature in Food Network magazine? Just two challenges stand in the way.
As the final three Spring Baking Championship bakers enter the Food Network kitchen, we spy a stage decorated with flags and a podium. On the podium is emblazoned Spring Baking University. Host Clinton Kelly arrives in cap and gown to introduce the season’s last pre-heat.
In the spirit of the many graduations that happen in the Spring, the bakers will need to create two desserts. One must be an “honor roll,” or a rolled dessert of some kind. The other needs to be a dip-loma, or a dessert that comes with a dip. They have two and a half hours to create both desserts and we begin with our last dash of the season.
When Clinton calls for time to begin, they each run up to grab a graduation cap. On the cap is a kind of graduation- college, high school or kindergarten. Tati lunges for kindergarten but Sohrob gets it first. She is a little sour about it and complains about the men being taller and having a longer reach. Why she is concerned, I don’t know because, in the end, I don’t think the desserts have a lot of connection to the supposed theme.
In any case, Tati decides to make a coconut roulade with matcha filling. She explains that she is inspired by the coconut matcha lattes that she drank in high school and college. She decides to make her roulade as realistic as possible. She does this by sketching the logo of the Spring Baking University onto a piece of parchment. She then pipes black cake batter over her design, being careful to pipe it backwards. After freezing that, she pours white cake batter over it and bakes it so the design bakes right into the cake. She has to pipe backwards so that it reads correctly when rolled.
For her dip-loma, she is making alfajor, the same dessert that Val made last week. Though Val did go home on that dessert, it wasn’t for flavor but design. Tati will fill her alfajor with fudgy dark chocolate brigadeiro filling made of condensed milk, butter, and chocolate. She cuts her alfajor cookies into star shapes because graduates should “reach for the stars.” She makes a rice cereal milk for dipping by steeping rice cereal and then straining it.
Tati’s cake is delicate and moist, but this spells trouble for rolling it up. She struggles for a bit as it sticks to the parchment, but with patience she gets it rolled. With just two minutes left, she looks for a piping tip and can’t find what she needs. She ends up piping a bow out of her green matcha filling with the wrong tip, and it looks messy. It also looks a lot like guacamole to me.
Sohrob has her coveted kindergarten theme. He decides to make a roulade filled with strawberry mousseline and fresh strawberries because those were some of his favorite childhood flavors. He decorates his roulade very simply with a yellow fondant bow to represent his elementary school colors. For his dip-loma, he goes for a cookie and dip combo that reminds him of certain cookies that you could dunk in frosting that many of us remember fondly. He makes shortbread cookies that are dipped in a white chocolate and strawberry mixture and sprinkled with freeze dried strawberries. His dipping sauces are cream cheese frosting and strawberry compote.
Arin has gotten the college theme. He decides to make a strawberry macaron with a white chocolate lime dipping sauce. To decorate them, he extrudes white fondant out into spaghetti strands to make a tassel to put on top. As he chats with Clinton, the timer for his macarons goes off and he checks them, decides they need longer, and goes back to chatting. When I don’t see him set a new timer, or even see him take them out of the oven for the rest of the round, I am worried.
For his rolled dessert, Arin is making a chocolate espresso roulade with Chantilly cream and raspberry gelee. The espresso is his nod to the college theme. He rolls his cake and asks Sohrob for an opinion, and Sohrob is happy to point out that his roll has cracks in it. Arin is not worried as he plans to cover the whole thing in a paper-thin sheet of white chocolate. He also plans to add a fondant bow but seems to be making the same sad bow as he did for the flower crown challenge. Clinton helps out by suggesting he pinch the center for more realism.
Time is called and we meet our judges for the last time- Nancy Fuller, Duff Goldman and Lorraine Pascale. Everyone has dressed up a bit for the finale with Nancy in pearls, Duff in a jacket, and Lorraine in a sparkly silver top. Sohrob is up first for judging. Nancy admires the fun look of his cookies and thinks they are reminiscent of crayons. Duff loves the crunch of the cookie and finds the texture perfect for both dipping and snacking. The judges are equally happy with his honor roll which they say is delicious, smooth and silky.
Arin is next up and the judges like the look of his little macaron graduation caps. Duff worries that a delicate macaron won’t dip well but then he takes a bite and we hear a loud crunch. Duff quietly says to himself, “that’s not right.” Indeed, Arin has really overbaked his macarons. The filling of the macarons and the dipping sauce is good but the macarons are a mess. The judges admire his roulade, though the stark white chocolate looks too plain for Lorraine. Duff is impressed that he has managed such a large sheet of such thin chocolate. Nancy feels the raspberry gelee is perfect and his cake has a lovely texture. Duff and Lorraine agree.
Tati is up last and makes a point of complaining about getting high school instead of kindergarten. Duff shrugs it off as competition. Nancy admires the star shape of her cookie but wants more color. Both her cookie and her roulade are basically white. Everyone agrees the cookie is delicious with a melt-in-your-mouth texture and wonderful filling. They also really like her cereal milk.
She then presents her roulade. Duff is impressed with the technique she has used to embed the design in her sponge. However, he is not a fan of her guacamole bow. She offers them slices and after a bite, Duff and Lorraine exchange a look. Clinton asks Lorraine for her opinion and she says she doesn’t want to go and defers to Duff. Duff doesn’t seem to want to go first either, so you know it isn’t good news. At last, Duff admits that the matcha is way too grassy and bitter. Lorraine agrees, and she loves matcha. Nancy flat out tells her to never make this again. To soften the blow, Duff shows her that he hid away one of her cookies in his pocket for his wife, which is adorable.
To announce the winner of the pre-heat and to announce the last main challenge, Clinton comes out in a tuxedo onto a stage decorated with balloons and a disco ball. It’s prom time, and the bakers’ final hurdle is to make a prom cake that evokes the style of a decade- fifties, sixties, or eighties. Sohrob has won the pre-heat, his first time ever winning a pre-heat alone (his previous win was in a team challenge). His advantage is to take or pass the first offered decade.
A young man steps out from behind a metallic fringe curtain. He is wearing a silver tuxedo jacket over a red shirt and has a bolero tie. He also appears to have a purple flat-top hair style. He’s the prom date of the eighties, and Sohrob has the chance to accept him or pass him to someone else. Worried he won’t be able to reflect the eighties in flavor, he passes him on to Arin. The date goes to stand next to Arin and we get some rather authentic awkward prom date moments as they say hi to each other.
The next date to step out will be Sohrob’s- no more passing allowed. Out steps a girl in a pastel pink gown, gloves and t-strap heels. He has gotten the fifties. She goes to stand with him and Tati gets to meet her prom date from the sixties. She is wearing a mint green dress with pink accents.
Everyone will have just ninety seconds to sketch ideas using their date as inspiration. Everyone takes this to mean that they should replicate the clothes of their date in some way. After their sketch time, they have four hours to create their final masterpiece.
Sohrob decides he will make a “milkshake” cake using yellow cake with strawberries, raspberry jam, and a mascarpone, whipped cream and buttercream concoction. The idea is to evoke the flavors of a strawberry milkshake at a fifties diner. To decorate, he ices it in bubblegum pink. He adds a fondant record and a fondant jukebox as well as a few music notes. On the top, he adds flowers for a corsage, a pearl border, a prom queen sash, and two prom king crowns to put a little touch of himself in the cake. Though that sounds like a lot, the cake ends up being rather sparsely decorated.
Arin is totally lost when it comes to the eighties. He is too young to have lived through the decade. He relies heavily on his prom date in the decoration of his lime cake with peach filling and coconut buttercream. His bottom tier is textured and painted in silver luster dust. His top tier is red and then he has applied a black checkboard pattern, inspired by his date’s bolero tie. He also adds fondant “boom boxes” to his bottom tier, though I don’t think they look right, and he adds two large his and his crowns to the top tier.
Tati decides to throw everything she has ever heard about the sixties on her cake. She takes inspiration from a peach melba and makes an almond cake with raspberry jam and fresh peaches. She ices her bottom tier in light green and the top in light pink, to match her date’s dress. She then adds buttercream flowers as well as fondant stars, music notes, strawberries, peace signs, hearts, and tie dyed “groovy” numbers spelling out 1969.
Tati is the only baker that we really see struggling. She goes to level off her cakes only to find that the middle is still raw. She puts them back in the oven as she has no time for anything else. Later, she is happy with her cakes and able to assemble.
At last, it is time for the final judging. Arin is first with his lime cake with vanilla peach filling and coconut buttercream. Duff is surprised to learn that those are boom boxes on the bottom and not Space Invaders. Either way, it still feels eighties to him. He also loves the detail work in the checkerboard pattern and how it so neatly lines up. Nancy feels it is eighties but misses Spring in his silver, black and red cake. He promises her it is inside the cake.
Nancy loves his sponge, as does Duff who likes the caramelized exterior. Duff does not taste lime or coconut, though. Lorraine can’t really taste coconut either and she feels the lime is subtle. Regardless, she has basically eaten her whole slice and calls it a “fantastic peachy lime extravaganza.”
Tati delivers her “everything sixties” cake. What is amazing is that it all works. Duff notes that she has stuff everywhere but there’s a reason for it all. He loves the font she has created for her tie-dyed numbers. Lorraine loves all the details. The judges really like the fresh peach flavor she has but sadly, she did not get her cakes properly cooked. They are gummy.
Sohrob is last to present his fifties milkshake cake. Everyone agrees it does seem very fifties, but Duff laments the amount of empty space on his cake. He could use more decoration. When the judges take their first bite, we get our second Duff and Lorraine silent exchange. Unlike the look they gave each other over Tati’s disastrous matcha cake, this is a look of pure pleasure. Lorraine goes cross-eyed. The judges have nothing but praise. His cake really does taste like a milkshake. The sponge is perfect; the filling is great. Lorraine is nearly speechless as she tells him “wow.”
In the end, though he could have used more decoration, Sohrob’s flawless flavors win the day and the prize! Sohrob has had some really rough weeks, landing on the bottom multiple times, so I would say he was something of an underdog going into this. He must have thought so too because his first response was “shut up!” He goes on to tell us, “I was suckin’ so hard and now I’m not!” The last thing we hear from him is “what the hell?”
Congratulations to Sohrob for climbing up and showcasing what he can really do! As much as I would enjoy trying his milkshake cake, what I really want to sample are Tati’s alfajor with brigadeiro filling. I may need to see about finding some recipes. Happy baking, everyone!
Did you agree with the Spring Baking Championship winner? Which dessert do you think deserved the top of the class honors?