Bakeaway Camp with Martha Stewart: And the champion is

Host Martha Stewart, as seen on Bakeaway Camp, Season 1. photo provided by Food Network
Host Martha Stewart, as seen on Bakeaway Camp, Season 1. photo provided by Food Network /

Three bakers remain standing for the grand prize. Who will be the Bakeaway Camp happy camper?

Bakeaway Camp has thrown a lot at the bakers in terms of weather, and this final day is no different. Standing under a leaky tent in the cold, driving rain is Martha Stewart and host Jesse Palmer. They greet our final three and remind them of the ultimate prize- $25,000 toward a new kitchen. The only thing standing in their way (besides the cold rain) is a single four-hour challenge.

After reminiscing about young summer love, Jesse and Martha introduce the challenge- an outdoor wedding cake gone wild. Not only is it a real push to complete a wedding cake in just four hours, it is even harder in the rain and cold, but toughest of all is impressing Martha. Martha is a wedding cake guru, setting trends and showcasing the best of the best for years. She will not be easy to impress and will be looking for perfection, rain or no.

To help them out a bit, Martha will give one final demonstration for all three bakers. This is Nate’s first and only lesson from Martha, having never won a Camp Counselor Challenge and one-on-one with her. Martha presents them with a few ideas and tips including texturized frosting or ganache, sugared fruits, and naked cakes. Martha recommends naked cakes, not just for being trendy, but in particular for being good for an outdoor wedding. They can hold up better in the elements than a cake covered in buttercream.

After her demo, everyone is set loose to try to get their cakes completed in soaking kitchens, surrounded by wind, rain, and fifty-degree temperatures. Having finally gotten used to blazing heat, the bakers are thrown by the cold weather. Nate struggles to cream butter for his batter as it keeps resolidifying. Later, everyone finds their buttercream and ganache is seizing up in the cold. To make things even more complicated, early in the challenge Jesse adds a twist. They need to include a “wild” flavor. Their options are divided into three types- smoky (like smoked sea salt or double smoked bacon), alcohol (like bourbon, rum or brandy), or spicy (like cayenne or other peppers).

And even that is not enough to throw at them. With just twenty-five minutes left, Jesse adds yet another twist. They have to make an edible tent as a topper for their cake. While juggling all this and the weather, the bakers also contend with visits from judges Carla Hall and Dan Langan as well as Martha Stewart herself. Let’s see how everyone does, shall we?

Nate decides to go classic. He is making a white cake flavored with vanilla and almond extract. He is also planning a berry compote for the middle. Nate might be going traditional but he has some pretty innovative ways to overcome the unique weather challenges. For instance, when his butter becomes too solid while he is trying to cream it for his batter, he puts the whole mixing bowl into a pot of hot water and it works like a charm.

When the first twist is called, Nate is in the middle of cooking his berry compote, so he adds bourbon and a little smoked sea salt and handles the twist with barely a batted eye. He seems to be doing well, but then he realizes there are an awful lot of eggs on his station. With horror, he remembers that he did not put eggs in his cake batter. He grabs his pans out of the oven and makes a new batter, but now he is behind. Nate has struggled with time management and under-baked goods many times in this competition, and it is proving to be an issue once again.

For decoration, Nate has made the unusual decision to crumb coat with an American buttercream and then to frost in an Italian buttercream. He is going for a really smooth finish on his top tier but his buttercream is too cold. Cleverly, he heats up a bench scraper with a torch and uses the warm scraper to achieve a perfectly smooth, air bubble free finish. For his bottom tier, he uses a bark texture mat and then paints gold over that to bring out the pattern. He finishes with a cascade of fresh flowers down one side and a tent made of gum paste.

Catherine decides to take on the naked cake that Martha recommended, but she wants to be even more trendy by also making it a drip cake. Her flavor is lemon elderflower with fresh strawberries and lemon curd. Lemon elderflower was the flavor of the royal wedding cake of Harry and Meghan, so this too is an on-trend idea. When given the twist of a “wild flavor,” she decides to soak her fresh berries in brandy.

Bakeaway Camp with Martha Stewart
Judges Carla Hall and Dan Langan with hosts Martha Stewart and Jesse Palmer, as seen on Bakeaway Camp, Season 1. photo provided by Food Network /

Catherine really wants to pull out all the stops and hopes to use everything she has learned from Martha so far. She uses gelatin in her lemon curd for stability and takes great care with inserting bubble tea straws to keep her tiers straight. She recalls forgetting to dowel her cakes after her lesson with Martha where Martha specifically told her to do so. She remembers her cake tiers sliding away from each other in the heat and wants to make sure that doesn’t happen today.  To make her tent topper, Catherine sticks two graham crackers together and then adds a layer of gum paste over that. She finishes it with a little pink coloring.

To decorate her cake, Catherine adds her white chocolate ganache drips over her naked cake. She has tinted them the faintest color of pink but it looks nearly identical to the color of the cake. She also adds fresh flowers and gold leaf, and then to finish things off, she adds a carved heart to her top tier. Inside the heart are the initials C+M, which could stand for Catherine and her husband Matthew, but she admits the M might stand for Martha.

Bryan, God love him, was the most interesting to watch today, but not for the best reasons. Bryan seems to have taken the “cake gone wild” theme to heart. His cake seems schizophrenic to me. He really wants to make a lemon cake with vanilla swiss buttercream as it is dear to him. This is the cake that he made for his mother’s wedding. It is also a cake he made with his grandmother. He can’t even talk about the cake without tears. To decorate this lemon cake, he has decided to make the whole cake look like a s’more.

This was the moment when things went sideways for me in watching Bryan. I just find it really odd to present a s’more cake that doesn’t taste like a s’more. I am also not sure if lemon goes well with graham cracker, chocolate and marshmallows. Furthermore, how does one make a s’more look upscale and elegant? We may never know.

The drawing describing Bryan’s plan looks as close to elegant as you can get with a s’mores cake. Bryan is planning to tile graham crackers over his bottom tier and the drawing shows perfect rows of mini marshmallows on the top. The drawing also shows drips of chocolate ganache decadently but elegantly cascading over the graham crackers. I find it interesting that, when Carla and Dan visit and hear about his cake, their one comment is to make sure the cake is refined. Bryan assures them it will be. He is adding flowers.

When given the first twist, Bryan grabs brandy. He puts some in his cake batter and also uses some in a soak for his cake. For the second twist, I am pretty sure he copies off of Catherine because, after she borrows graham crackers for her tent from him, he ends up also making a graham cracker tent covered in gum paste and then colored a bit. In his case, he colors the top and opening of the tent with black, which to me comes off as messy and unrefined.

As Bryan begins to decorate, things go downhill. He starts by patting mini marshmallows onto the sides of this top tier. These are not the neat rows I expected from the drawing. The marshmallows are unevenly distributed and just kind of glommed on. He then attaches his graham crackers but his tiling job would not pass muster on any construction site. The crackers are not straight and even. He torches his marshmallows but this causes unfortunately melting. He then attempts to do chocolate ganache drips, but the ganache has seized in the cold and he now has thick, gloppy chocolate spackle in places. In the last moments, he jams flowers, leaves and twigs between his two layers.

After what was probably the quickest four hours of their lives, time is up. Catherine is first to face the judges. Her cake is quite pretty, a nice combo of elegant and woodsy with the little carved heart and sweet tent on top. Carla likes the heart and is really impressed with how straight her cake tiers are. However, she wishes the drip had a stronger color. The pale pink disappears just a few feet away from the cake. Dan is also impressed with her sharp corners and straight layers. Martha feels that her lemon curd is really bright and tart, but that her elderflower cake needs more flavor. Dan appreciates that she has just enough gelatin in her curd to be stable but still melt-in-the-mouth. He loves her brandy-soaked strawberries. Carla does too, and she likes the distribution of the berries in the curd.

Nate is next with his two-tiered traditional white cake. His trick with the warm scraper has paid off. Dan is really amazed at the perfect smoothness of his top tier. Carla loves his flower placement, which cascade down one side like a bride sweeping down a spiral staircase. Martha also loves the asymmetry of the flowers, but she does not like the gold paint on his bark-textured bottom tier. Upon tasting, Martha really enjoys the combination of the berries and the cake. Dan finds the berry compote with bourbon to be like a refreshing summer cocktail, but he thinks the cake is too heavy, bordering on pound cake. I love pound cake, so I don’t see the problem there. Carla awards him her one and only “duuuude” of the day, a very good sign for Nate.

Bryan is last to present. Martha tells him that, from a distance, it looks nice and rustic. If the only nice thing someone can say is that, from far away, squinting, it isn’t bad, then you know things did not go to plan. Dan agrees that the cake needs refinement. Carla, our good cop, tells him it still looks like a special occasion cake. Note she does not say what special occasion that may be.

As Bryan cuts his cake and explains the flavor, he again begins to tear up. This gets to Carla who has to critique through the lump in her throat. Baking clearly means a lot to Bryan, as does his family. Carla tells him the cake is delicious. She was worried about lemon and graham cracker, but she says it works. Dan tells Bryan the cake is tender and bright, and Martha tells him the taste is there. Sadly, the outside of his cake is not up to par, but he has clearly baked a great cake regardless.

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Like all summer activities, Bakeaway Camp must come to an end. And the winner is- Nate! The one person who never won an initial challenge and never got a one-on-one with Martha was still able to pull out all the stops and win the day! Congrats to everyone for surviving camp, learning a lot, and getting some pen pals out of the deal.