When I first started on the Holiday Baking Championship, I entered in hoping and believing I could win. Like a true goal setter, I broke down the goals into manageable steps. My first goal was not to be the first person voted off; my second goal was to make it make it more than half way. After I survived another week, I was so happy and relieved to have achieved my second goal!
Episode #4 was a good week for me. In the preheat challenge we had to take a box cake mix and make anything but a cake. This was a challenge I felt comfortable with. There is a cake called a St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake. It can be made from scratch but is usually made with a box cake mix. It actually has more of a bar-like consistency, and it’s fun to eat because it has a really goopy texture. It is one of the guilty pleasure desserts that you can’t stop eating once you start. In all honesty, this is the only recipe I have ever attempted from a box cake mix. When the challenge was announced, my mind immediately went to this type of bar. I paired the gooey butter cake with ginger, lime, and raspberries to brighten up the rich and dense dessert. Overall the judges were pleased. My biggest critique came from Lorraine, who thought that I shouldn’t have cut the raspberries in half.
In the end, Ian won this challenge and he deserved it. He thought way outside of the box and made a sweet and savory crepe. I thought it was such an original idea and I wanted to try it at home! On top of being a talented chef, Ian is such a gentleman—inside and outside of the kitchen. I wish you could have heard him talk about his family; he puts his wife and kids on a pedestal. He is positive, supportive and never complains.
For the second challenge the contestants needed to “holiday up” a non-holiday dessert. The dessert I pulled was a fruit tart. I decided to make a Chinese 5 spice tart. Chinese 5 spice is made up of cinnamon, cloves, fennel, star anise, peppercorns, and sometimes ginger and nutmeg. I decided to use it purely on a whim. I saw the container and I thought it would be fun to incorporate an unusual spice that has not been used in the competition yet. I knew it was a risk because there are some savory notes in this type of spice.
As I was making the tart shell, I decided to make two shells in case one broke. My tart dough is buttery and flaky, but it is not the sturdiest dough. The long rectangle shape of the tart pan sent red flags out to me because I know that the weight of the shell is not evenly distributed and it could have structural problems. Let me tell you—I was so happy that I listened to my intuition! My first shell cracked in half! When this happened, the cameras started swarming my station to watch and see what would happen with my second tart shell. I was shaking so much but I was so happy they did not show my face on TV while I was transferring the tart because sweat was dripping down my forehead! I was so lucky that only a small piece broke on the side of my second tart shell. If my second tart shell had broken I might have been able to fix it with white chocolate as glue. But it might not have worked and would have certainly taken up a lot of time. Thankfully, the second tart transferred to the plate in one piece.
Once again, the judges liked my tart overall and visually it was really pretty. Lorraine did not not like Chinese 5 spice, so I chalked that up to “Let’s agree to disagree.” I was happy that I picked an unusual flavor, and I liked how it tasted. I love using pepper and savory notes in desserts to add complexity of flavor.
I have to mention that Duff Goldman came out to “help” me serve the tart and he was just wearing a pair of gym shorts! I was so nervous cutting the cake that I didn’t even look at him until he started to walk away! Nothing like business on top and party on the bottom! I wonder what he usually wears under that table?
As in any career, there are many types of pastry chefs that excel in different categories. Just to name a few: we are employed in hotels, restaurants, bakeries, coffee shops, etc. We can specialize in making edible sculptures, classic European desserts, home style plates or cakes. In my business, Meringue Bakery, I excel at making fancy decorated cakes. At this point in the competition, I am getting frustrated because I feel like I have not been able to shine with cakes. The competition is only getting harder and I hope that I can last long enough to at least make one fantastic decorated cake for the world to see!
My next goal only requires me to last through two more elimination challenges. Today, I’m one step closer.