THE GREAT AMERICAN BAKING SHOW

BEWARE, LONG POST AHEAD!
(SPOILERS INSIDE)

So let’s start this big party, shall we? The Great American Baking Show premiered yesterday and I am so excited to finally share with you a little bit about my experience in “the tent.” If you have not watched the show yet and do not want spoilers, save this post to read later.

Like many people who love to bake, I’ve watched all the Great British Bake Off shows available to us in the US, and all the American Baking Shows more than once. Some seasons that are dear to my heart (Chetna, Val, Nancy, Tina, Kim Joy, Amanda, Nadyia, Selasi, I am talking to you!) I’ve watched twice or more, and never got tired of them.  When I first applied to the show in 2018, I was a bit disappointed about my performance in the final audition, so I wanted to try it again. Much to my amazement, not only I got all the way to the final audition phase, but they selected me to be in the show! I remember very well where I was when I got THE phone call. First the adrenaline rush, and later that nagging question inside me “am I really tent-worthy?”

From the phone call to finally going to London, life gets turned upside down, as you get assignments for each episode and the tension keeps building up and up. It is a very unique experience, and pushes your baking skills to the limit. We all have things we are good at, and things we are not, as far as baking is concerned. Come to think of it, as far as ANYTHING is concerned… Getting ready for the show means designing recipes to potentially impress Paul Hollywood and Sherry Yard, even if you feel insecure about laminating dough, or if baking macarons sounds like the last thing you’d like to face in front of the cameras. By the time you step on the plane, you’ve already been through  countless hours of baking, a roller coaster of emotions, from self-doubt to bliss, from fear and panic to BRING IT!  And then you get to meet your fellow bakers, and realize you can finally interact with people who have been through the exact same roller coaster you did. It is a bonding experience that starts from the minute you gather in the hotel lobby. It is one aspect of this adventure I will cherish forever.

But nothing quite prepares you for that first look into the tent. I was in a complete daze,  and remember someone telling us… “Did you know more people went into space than baked in this tent?”.  Not sure what was their intention with that casual remark,  but it made my stomach a tad colder, and the butterflies inside it a lot more noticeable. It was a beautiful sunny day, I felt happy and grateful for being there although it felt so unreal. I was also anxious to get that first bake done. Cake. Yours truly, a former self-professed cake-o-phobe about to step in a famous tent, with dozens of cameras around, two demanding judges and two adorable hosts to bake for. Mind blowing, my friends. Mind blowing.

SIGNATURE BAKE

YUZU-GINGER OLIVE OIL CAKE

I adore yuzu. I could not bake with the real fruit, maybe they could find it in London but there was no way I could practice with it at home, so I opted for the bottled juice. More consistent, anyway. Once you get a certain brand, you know what to expect. I paired the cake with a caramel scented with sobacha tea, taking my assignment into a clear Japanese territory. Japanese patisserie fascinates me because they tend to make things that are not overly sweet, and often bringing unusual ingredients together. A little decoration with caramel and that was my plan for the very first bake under the spotlight. I practiced this cake three times at home and felt reasonably confident about it, my only fear was unmolding it. Bundt pans can be very unforgiving. I can tell you my heart was beating at 120bpm when I flipped that baby out of the pan, and I could feel the adrenaline rushing out of my system once it was all smooth sitting in front of me.  Of course, they had the cameras right there as each baker unmolded their cakes. Would you like some stress with your cake?

My main take home lesson from this bake is that all flavors must come through. The ginger was not prominent enough, so I should have either tried to work a bit more into the cake and glaze or simply left the yuzu alone. I will tweak the recipe again and once I’m absolutely happy with it, I will share with you.

Technical Challenge 

ANGEL FOOD CAKE WITH PASSION FRUIT CURD

My very first technical challenge! I was cautiously optimistic when they announced it, because I’ve made Angel Food in the past and I knew the main details that matter in its preparation. I was a bit more worried about the curd, as it needs to have a smooth texture and proper consistency. The process of making a channel in the cake was a bit nerve-wracking, to be honest with you. I felt I was butchering the poor cake and not quite sure I had enough curd to cover the crime scene. As I placed the cake behind my picture, I remember feeling good about it, but never expected to be first in the first technical.  It was absolutely thrilling!  I will never forget the feeling…

Plus, it made going into the showstopper challenge next day a lot less stressful. Speaking of it…

SHOWSTOPPER CHALLENGE

CHOCOLATE RASPBERRY CELEBRATION GATEAU

My first showstopper challenge! I baked this cake three times during practice, changing little details in the preparation. Chocolate sponge with mascarpone-chantilly-raspberry filling, and chocolate buttercream icing. The thing I was most excited about was the brigadeiro topping, because I wanted to add something Brazilian to my concoction. Much to my surprise, Tanya – who was baking just behind me in the tent – had planned brigadeiros for her decorations too!  Can you imagine?  We immediately called ourselves Brigadeiro Babes, because… how could we not? Knowing she was making a Brazilian delicacy right behind made the whole experience even more special and fun for me.  Her little pine cone decorations over the top of the cake were in fact little almond-covered brigadeiros.  Super clever and cute.

I was also a bit worried about tempering the chocolate in the tent for the decorations. It was the last thing I had to do, and kept me a bit anxious throughout the 3 and a half hours of the assignment. Which go by like 30 regular minutes, I kid you not. It turns out tempering was ok, but not the piping. I did not have the exact piping bag I had at home, and the opening was a bit too big even when I cut it as small as possible. My trees, that were so cute at home, looked a bit like odd fish creatures, as Sherry Yard brought to my attention. She was 100% right, I am sad to admit. But at least the brigadeiro component was good.  With that bake we completed the first round of the Great American Baking Show, and one of us had to say goodbye to the tent.

The baker leaving on that first day was Helen. I should tell you that sitting in those stools waiting for the knife to hit the chopping block is beyond stressful. I knew I was safe that day, but the idea of ANY of the others being eliminated was too hard to face. Watching the shows on TV over the years, I often wondered if the emotion they show is real. The cynic in me would sometimes feel that it was not possible to show so much affection for someone you just met. Well, it is not fake. When you meet those people, you spend A LOT of time together. You talk, you share a lot, often in moments in which you are most vulnerable. When they said Helen’s name, I know the sharp pain I felt inside was the exact same pain felt by the other 9 bakers, and of course even more sharply by Helen herself. No one wants to be eliminated first, and the fact that she was, has ZERO impact on her quality as a baker.  She took it with a smile, very gracefully. With the unique sense of humor she has, and that you can get a taste of by visiting her blog. Her writing is fun, to the point, and charming. Several of us made her brownies. Absolute winner. Give her recipe a try, and thank me later.

We were crushed by Helen leaving the tent, and if I could change one thing in the show, it would be this: no one gets eliminated on the first episode. You get that as a warm-up round. Producers, are you reading me? Anyone? Anyone?

That wraps up Cake Episode.  I will be back in a couple of days with the round up of BREAD, which hopefully you already watched.  It was a nail-biter for yours truly…

ONE YEAR AGO: Broccoli Souffle

TWO YEARS AGO: Panettone Time!

THREE YEARS AGO: How the Mighty Have Fallen

FOUR YEARS AGO: Festive Night at Central

FIVE YEAR AGO: The Perfect Boiled Egg

SIX YEARS AGO: Light Rye Sourdough with Cumin and Orange

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Homemade Calzones

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Plum-Glazed Duck Breasts

NINE YEARS AGO: Holiday Double-Decker

TEN YEARS AGO: New York Deli Rye

46 thoughts on “THE GREAT AMERICAN BAKING SHOW

  1. I’m not a TV person – for the past several years I’ve watched nothing but baseball (GO NATS!). But I made an exception for this show and I’m so glad I did. Can’t wait to hear what the bread show, which I’ve seen, was like.

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  2. Not to jump ahead, but….

    I can’t believe that after all those years of being my apprentice you forgot how to make a cob loaf! Sheesh. Kids. I swear, if you don’t win this thing you are dead to me. DEAD TO ME, YOU HEAR?

    (At least beat that annoying gay kid. “I went to Harvard! I have a chemistry degree! Nyah nyah!” I hope you walked up to him when the cameras were off and said, “Hey punk, you ever heard of the Sorbonne?”

    On the other hand, I guess I’m reasonably proud of you that you’ve made it this far. Well done. Although…did you always have that accent? That was a surprise. You sound like a damn foreigner. Work on that willya?

    xoxoxoxox

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    • Alex is pretty annoyed at the Harvard thing himself – the producers actually kept pushing us to say this and that countless times. I was relieved that they did not include the many bits they made me do about “how this mimics working in a lab”, how science impacts my baking…. but heck, they do what they want with the editing, and we stay in the passenger seat, biting our fingernails…

      I will write about the cob loaf in the next blog post – I truly thought I had nailed it… (sigh)

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah, us media types can be real jerks when it comes to editing final products. Selective quotes can really skew the story line, and characters. I’m glad they cut out the trite “this is just like when I fed my lab rats those bread sticks. They died too!” lines from you.

        Don’t let the Cob Hindenburg Disaster weigh on you. We all have a Waterloo moment in the kitchen. I mean, I remember when I was about 7 I added too much dirt to my mud pies. They were awful! Dry like you wouldn’t believe. I never made that mistake again. You won’t either.

        Can’t wait for your next post to see how you spin this 😉

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    • What is this blog to which you refer?

      I like that ABC, as well as the entire Great Baking Show franchise, don’t shy away from portraying same-sex couples on air. The Hallmark Channel just got threatened with a boycott by the American Family Association and their subsidiary, the “Million Mom Organization” for running a commercial featuring a kiss between two women.

      That the producers want to create a unique identity for each contestant doesn’t really surprise me. Gives viewers without personal connections tot he bakers the opportunity for a rooting interest, which probably encourages them to come back week after week.

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  3. Thank you for sharing your experience. I really enjoyed watching you last night and hope you do well in the future episodes as well. Are you allowed to share the recipes? I was amazed watching the Cob loaf spring back and would love to try making it sometime

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    • The problem with the technical recipes is that they did not share them with us – I told them I would like to feature them in my blog and they said they might share with us after the final episode. I would not hold my breath, though – Paul’s cob loaf recipe is published in several spots in in the internet, but not the one with the herbs, so I guess we have to wait and see if they finally share that with us.

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  4. I’ve only watched the first hour (you did so well!) because I had to go to bed (too late for me) and I also haven’t read this post on your blog yet – will wait until I’ve watched the recorded second hour – but I didn’t want to wait to say that my first impression was how happy you looked every time the camera found you. What was a surprise to me was that you and the other contestants actually travelled all the way to the UK to bake in the BIG TENT! That must have seemed surreal. The Great Canadian Baking Show has a Canadian location/tent so no trips across the pond.

    It was so great to watch and I’m looking forward to more! Congrats again on just getting there. Everything else will be the icing on the cake!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The “Sally” who is my wife and I had a great time watching you last night. You did seem quite happy and positive throughout both episodes, even while receiving some pointed feedback. I noticed the sugar work on the top of your Yuzu-Ginger Olive Oil cake – and was surprised that it wasn’t mentioned on-air. In the first few episodes, there must be relatively little time/baker.

    The editing made Paul seem more sinister than he seems on GBBO. I will say that I missed Noel and Sandi: Anthony and Emma didn’t “do it” for me quite the same way. Maybe I’ll get more used to them during the coming episodes.

    Keep on bakin’ on!

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    • I was very disappointed that they did not show the making of the decorations, because it was kind of cool to see (I made A LOT of them) and there were cameras from all angles – but, it did not make the cut…

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      • By the way, I meant to address this line of your post: First the adrenaline rush, and later that nagging question inside me “am I really tent-worthy?”

        I shouldn’t be surprised that you were subject to some “imposter syndrome” – so many are. It was, of course, totally unwarranted (and if you have any doubt, and without knowing the results of more than the first two episodes, winning the first technical challenge should have made it clear that you *totally* belonged there).

        I remember when I first got to college: everyone I met was valedictorian or salutatorian of their high school class. I had graduated in the top 10% of my class but not the top 5% of my class (6.5th percentile to be a bit more precise) – and wondered, likewise, “what the hell am I doing here?” In the end, I did better than some of those valedictorians and salutatorians – and I graduated with a respectable, but not great, grade-point average. You’ve already achieved at least that much.

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  6. After reading your blog for years this fan was excited to watch you on TV. You are as adorable as your writing style and it was great fun watching you in action. I must admit that I could feel the stress of the tasks at hand and had to remind myself to breathe. Go get’em, Sally! We are cheering you on!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. We recorded the first episode and just finished watching! Marvellous job, Sally. You have mentioned how nervous you were during filming, but came across 100% confident. So looking forward to next week.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Finally got to watch last night and we enjoyed seeing you in action! Cakes looked awesome, you certainly have shown up with your talent and the Sally cake baking phobe is no where to be found!!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I LOVED the first episode! Your bakes were beautiful, and I must say I was pretty excited that you won the technical! Great job Sally! I agree that the first episode should be a free pass with no elimination. They always say that anyone can have a bad day, and if it happens on your first day, that is such a shame!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Pingback: The Great American Baking Show Holiday Edition | Travels with a Culinary Artist

  11. Anos assistindo todas as versoes de “Baking Show” e desejando fortemente que alguma brasileira estivesse presente baking com leite condensando, fazendo brigadeiro e etc! Para minha surpresa (e alegria!), escuto a palavra “brigadeiro” nesse episodio!!!! Que alegria!!!
    Way to go!!! Make us proud!

    P.S: Tambem sou pesquisadora morando nos EUA. Entao estou orgulhosa em dobro!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I love your posts about your experience in the tent and about the contestants! Maybe I’ve missed it, but how does the structure of the show work before we see it? Do you all have weeks and weeks to prepare in England, then the show is filmed in several days or, do you have a week before each show is filmed? If so, am I correct that you were perfecting your bakes after you were (sadly) eliminated because you wanted to continue to work on them after you were (sadly) eliminated ? I am in awe of the level of baking that you show and that everyone showed. Nerves that affect the bakes must be a huge factor in who is eliminated, the humidity in that tent, especially in the rain, the crazily tight times, factors that we home bakers don’t have to contend with.
    Thank you for sharing this experience with us.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I explained it in more detail in today’s post that covers the semi-final, take a look at it, and if you have questions, let me know and I’ll address them for you…. we prepare it all one month before filming AS IF we are going all the way to the final. It is truly intense to say the least.

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