Best Baker in America recap: Stack those cakes higher

Judge Jason Smith interacts with Contestant Jaclyn Joseph during the cooking process, as seen on Best Baker in America, Season 4. Photo courtesy Food Network
Judge Jason Smith interacts with Contestant Jaclyn Joseph during the cooking process, as seen on Best Baker in America, Season 4. Photo courtesy Food Network /

While Best Baker in America Season 4 is only on its second episode, the Food Network baking competition is going to new heights. As the bakers take on the Smith Island Cake, some stacks did not receive the highest praises from the judges. Which baker had her dreams cut short?

As the Maryland official state dessert, the Smith Island Cake is legendary. Although the cake is steeped in history, the reality is that this sweet treat takes a skilled baker to master. From the minimum of eight thin layers of cake to the thick fudge giving it structure, the Smith Island Cake is a stunning dessert.

For this challenge, the bakers were asked to create a Smith Island Cake that had a minimum of eight layers. While a cake would get extra credit for extra layers, those pencil thin layers need to adhere to the standards. Thin, even layers are the goal.

In addition, the Smith Island Cake needs to incorporate the flavor of Boardwalk Popcorn. While the bakers can use this flavor however they choose, the flavor better not be hidden behind that luscious fudge.

Which Best Baker in America Smith Island Cake soared to new heights?

In this challenge, it was curious that the bakers took different approaches to creating the thin layers of this dessert. From measuring the exact ounces of batter per pan trying to cut the cakes, the reality is that some methods were more successful than others.

While some bakers decided to go for many layers, it was curious that many cakes had uneven characteristics. Even given the time constraints, it would have seemed that the bakers would have been more cautious given the type of challenge. The judges were going to study each layer not just for flavor and texture but for the thickness.

In some ways, this challenge was about the precision of baking. Just like baking requires exact measurements, the Smith Island Cake is about that thoughtfulness in each step. From the thickness of the cake to the amount of fudge, this challenge was far from winging it.

Looking at the successful cakes, those two Smith Island Cakes delivered on the execution, presentation and flavor. Michele presented an interpretative representation of the classic. With 26 perfectly even layers, his cake was clearly standing tall above the rest.

In addition, the popcorn flavor came through clearly. From the caramel fudge to the delicate almond chiffon cake, this Smith Island Cake stood tall.

The other top dessert was from Jackie. Although her drip cake might have lacked some originality, the stacked high cake delivered on beautiful flavors. From the coffee notes to the popcorn flavor, one bite even moved judge Gesine Prado to tears.

Winning the Smith Island Cake challenge was Michele. While Jackie was a close second, her cake couldn’t quite meet the high standards.

Best Baker in America Season 4 episode 2
Host Carla Hall interacts with Contestant Michel Pompei during the cooking process, as seen on Best Baker in America, Season 4. Photo courtesy Food Network /

Unfortunately, the two bottom bakers were Caityln and Felicia. Both of the bakers had uneven layers. Maybe their faulty technique in creating those layers played into their downfall. From a cake that looked like stacked pancakes to cake layers as “fine as frog hairs,” both desserts had technical issues.

It is interesting that Katrina and her broken icing didn’t fall into the bottom. Even though her flavors were creative, that technical error should not have been overlooked.

For the bake off, Caitlyn and Felicia had to create their interpretation of the Pennsylvania classic, Shoofly Pie. Without just creating that pie, the dessert needed to reflect a tender pie crust, molasses flavor and the crumb topping. More importantly, the dessert needed to showcase creativity.

Looking at the two desserts, the creativity took very different turns. Felicia took more of a de-constructive approach. While a composed bite had all the flavors and textures, it was different. The addition of the jalapeno was a nice nod to her personality, but it was far from traditional.

Since there were some savory notes, the dessert needed more salt. Still, the crumble was good and overall the dessert was successful. But, the experience brought Felicia to tears.

Caitlyn took more traditional approach to the dessert. Although it is commendable that she made individual pies, the pie crust was a little blond. Still, all her flavors delivered well and were balanced. Even with the uncooked crumble, her little shoofly decoration wasn’t scaring the judges away.

In the end, Caitlyn, her pie crust and bold gingerbread flavors kept her safe from elimination. Even with Felicia being a top baker last week, she has left Best Baker in America.

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What are your impressions from Best Baker in America Season 4? Are these bakers pushing the dessert creativity?