For the past year or so I’ve been part of a closed Facebook group for fans of The Great British Bake Off. It is a very nice online community (almost 20 thousand participants) that at the present time is not accepting new members. Recently Christine, the moderator, asked me to make a video with advice for people interested in submitting an application.  I decided to share it here also, one never knows if some of my readers have been flirting with the idea of baking in the tent. Remember, it all starts with a little thought in the back of your mind… what if? why not?

For the application online, click here

In case you missed my write-ups about all episodes of Season 5…  here they are

Episode 1…

Episode 2…

Episode 3…

Episode 4…

Episode 5… 

Episode 6…




If you have not watched the show,
save this post to read later

It was Pastry time, my friends! At the risk of sounding repetitive, I was very excited about that episode.  Once again I was happy with my signature bake and VERY happy with the Napoleons, which I made for the first time in preparation for the show.

Forgive me for taking a small detour. Over the years, as I watched The Great British Bake Off and later its American sibling show, I would be shocked when some contestants admitted in front of the cameras that they had never made… a souffle, or rough puff pastry… or… whatever it was that a technical forced them to face. And that is a criticism I see often in forums online.  People say “If it was me going into the tent, I would make sure to practice all those basic recipes, one by one.”   

So I am here to tell you why that happens.  First of all, when you submit an application, you know that the chances to actually be chosen are very slim. After my 2nd audition in Los Angeles, I was satisfied with my performance, but still not hopeful at all. I know that every person who applies feels the same, because we talk about it, many of the people I met in LA were trying for the second, third, even fourth time. So what I am trying to convey here, is that only when you are formally accepted, you get the pressure to get ready. However, the roller coaster you step into leaves you no chance of practicing for anything but the assignments for Signature Bake and Showstopper. I had no time, no opportunity, no energy to even THINK about what skills could be missing from my repertoire and asked for in a technical.  I am going to date myself big time, but have you played Tetris? You know how the more you advance the faster those stupid pieces start falling, and you cannot blink or you’ll be history? That’s a good description of what it’s like to get ready for the show. We (speaking exclusively about the Great American version) have to prepare for the whole show while in the US, as if we were all going to advance to the final. We must design and test four recipes per week, covering two episodes. It is intense, to say the least.  If you are not fully satisfied with a recipe from this week’s assignment, no time to tweak it, because the next assignment will arrive before you know it.

So now I get to the title of my post. My personal nightmare. It was the week in which I had to prepare the Citrus Tart, Napoleons & Palmiers, plus Sugar Cookies and a Tower of Macarons (!!!!).  I got the assignment on Wednesday, played a bit with ideas and practiced a tart on Thursday evening. Friday I worked in the morning and took the afternoon off. It was going to be a Napoleonic weekend. I had made puff pastry several times, but never the type needed for that pastry, because you essentially squish the pastry during baking. I made my laminated dough, and as I turned the oven on, absolutely nothing happened. The oven was DEAD. We have a BlueStar oven, and technical service is unavailable in our town. To  make a very long and very stressful story short, Phil managed to get a person to drive all the way from Kansas City on Monday to repair the oven. It took him the whole morning and part of the afternoon. So for a full weekend I had no oven and made zero progress in my preparations for the show. I was a basket case. Basket case: a term in English I find amusing. Except when it applies to my own self.

I did try to use our small Breville oven to practice, but it was just not possible to do a good job, especially considering the number of Napoleons needed and the precise dimensions. Honestly I still don’t know how I managed to finish that assignment before the deadline.

Signature Bake

My tart had orange and lemon flavors together. The picture does not reflect what I hoped to bake in the tent. The final decoration would be a snowflake stencil (which I had ordered by only arrived after my practice runs) the pastry would be rolled thinner, and the layer of filling would be considerably thicker. But the taste was good, in my opinion.

Napoleons and Palmiers

For the showstopper I chose Napoleon in Sicily and Raspberry Candy Palmiers…  The Napoleons were filled with a coffee pastry cream and a layer of orange jelly made with agar-agar. I don’t have a picture of my palmiers, but here is what the Napoleons could look like (again, who knows what the tent could turn those into).

I haven’t made Napoleons again, but want to do so in the near future, because I really liked the way those turned out, the combination of orange and coffee was quite pleasant to me, and to those who tasted it.

Star Baker was awarded to Dana, who produced a beautiful square sour cherry tart, a great performance in the technical, and perfectly laminated dough in her Napoleons and Palmiers!  WAY TO GO, DANA!!!!

And the saddest moment could not be avoided. The baker to say goodbye to the tent was Tanya. Maybe as a viewer you don’t imagine, but when we watch the show of our elimination on TV, that very sadness of the moment comes back. Big, big time.

To be completely honest with you, I was happy to be eliminated before her, because I don’t know how I would have handled seeing her go. I met Tanya in the hotel lobby as we all had to wait several hours for our rooms to become available. We had never interacted during auditions, even though she also applied more than once, so we actually went through the process at the same time in 2018 and 2019. I immediately felt that I could sit down with her for a long coffee break, one that turns into lunch and dinner, you know the kind?  And I knew I was in front of one damn great baker, comfortable with many different areas of patisserie, including the one that inflicted the most fear on me. Yeah, THAT one. I would say that gingerbread sculptures are Tanya’s favorite thing to bake, and she is just awesome. C’mon, she made a GLOBE of gingerbread. Let that sink in for a moment…  In the tent. With cameras rolling and cameramen drooling in case the globe would roll out of the bench (well, just kidding, they were very supportive, just ready to capture drama if available).

I “borrowed” this picture from her blog, globalbakes.com, to show the kind of attention to detail and elegance she brings to her bakes. These “stained glass” pear slices took my breath away. She mentioned she was going to use them in her cheesecake, and how I wanted to see that in person! I saw on TV and I bet you did too. Just amazing, the final bit of painting gold on the edges? Brilliant (pun intended). The show skipped one amazing compliment she got from Sherry Yard, which I learned about later: Tanya, you’ve elevated cheesecake.  (oh, yes, she did!).

Not only I loved being around Tanya in the tent and hotel, but I had the chance of meeting her adorable daughter Haley and enjoying dessert together the three of us at Laduree.  Not sure that would happen without Tanya being eliminated, so it’s one of those bittersweet things that life brings me sometimes.

Before I leave you, let me share a recent post by Tanya, in which she goes after the cookie of her imagination and does not rest until she bakes it. You can learn a lot about baking just with that post alone. She left the tent carrying with her amazing compliments from Paul and Sherry, who clearly saw her elimination for what it was, just a bad baking day. Tanya: a remarkable baker, and a fantastic human being that I am so glad I had the chance to meet.

Go say hi to Tanya and give her a special virtual hug today…

ONE YEAR AGO: Brazilian Chicken and Heart of Palm Pie

TWO YEARS AGO: Roasted Butternut Squash with Walnuts and Tahini Sauce

THREE YEARS AGO: The Complicit Conspiracy of Alcohol

FOUR YEARS AGO: Candy Cane Cookies

FIVE YEARS AGO: Macarons: Much better with a friend

SIX YEARS AGO: Our Mexican Holiday Dinner 

SEVEN YEARS AGO: The Ultimate Cranberry Sauce



TEN YEARS AGO: Beef Wellington on a Special Night


If you have not watch the show yet,
save this post for later…

For those who are not familiar with GABS, Bread is Paul Hollywood’s “thing.” Everybody who’s been on the show over the years is afraid of baking bread for him, for obvious reasons. I am not too worried about bread in general, but bread sculpture is a whole different story. I don’t like it, in fact anything with the term sculpture makes me go into hyperventilation. When I got the assignment for Bread and the showstopper was a sculpture based on the Twelve Days of Christmas I considered buying a one-way ticket to Mongolia. And some ultra-heavy coats. But before that happened in the tent, we had a signature bake and a technical.  Let’s talk about those.



We were supposed to present 12 breadsticks, all uniform in size, with a certain minimal length and we could make them crunchy or soft, it would be up to our personal taste. I opted for crunchy and went with a three-stranded braid, made with three different flavored doughs. Which requires me to share a very important statement with you.

The assignment was to last for 1 hour and 45 minutes. That obviously includes proofing time and baking. What possessed me to go for 12 three-stranded braided bread sticks? Honestly I don’t know. Of course, I practiced at home, I did it twice. I felt that time wise it was a bit tight, but doable. What I did not take in consideration was the Theory of Tent Relativity (TTR),  in which time shrinks at different rates depending on the Daring Factor (DF) of your bake.

I am tweaking this post after having watched the episode, so I know they did not show one particular moment in which Paul and Sherry visited my flour covered station a second time to see how things were going, and those penetrating blue eyes stared into mine and asked “do you think you have enough time to finish them?”  The look on his face left little room for doubt. He thought I was doomed. He then grabbed Sherry’s arm and told her they should leave me alone to work. And that’s when I realized I had no idea of how much time was left, but I knew the finish line was a lot closer than I hoped for. With a shiver up my spine, I tried to keep calm and braid on.

Did I say keep calm? Yeah, right. I braided like the Energizer Bunny would with a brand new battery and a full can of Red Bull. I baked those breadsticks at a higher temperature and took them out of the oven with less than 30 seconds to spare.  I was shaking inside and really upset at myself for designing a bake with such high probability of failure. Live and learn.

Now if you watch the show, you know that the REAL touchdown was scored by Tanya who got “the handshake.”  Actually, our group is doing pretty good! Handshake on the very first episode to Sarita, and again on Bread.  Tanya’s breadsticks were gorgeous, elegantly twisted, with a sprinkle of cilantro all over, and deliciously hot. Yes, we get to taste each other’s bake once it’s all said and done. Rather… done and judged!

In the future I will share a modified version of this recipe in which I dealt with the problem of excessive moisture in the Kalamata olives. Stay tuned, these breadsticks are a bit labor intensive, but I now made them five times and everybody loves them.



Reading the recipe, I remember feeling so good about it, I felt I was going to surf through like a pro (famous last words). It is a simple, straightforward bread, just using what seemed like a huge, almost excessive amount of herbs (it was not, it tasted amazing!). I had no issues with mixing the dough, it proofed nicely, it shaped nicely. Then, in the final last step, slashing the surface in the criss-cross pattern, Sally had a bad, very bad intuition about it. I slashed it in a way that was probably perfect, but then I went back and essentially murdered it. Why did I do that? Because I thought that cob would indicate a flattish shape, pretty much like cobblestones that covered the streets of London in the 1700’s. Brilliant. I thought I was nailing it, when instead I was adding a nice nail to my own coffin. Even when I placed my poor specimen of Cob behind my picture, I was feeling good about it. But when Paul came in and described the perfect Cob as a plump round loaf, I felt a strange coldness inside my soul. Like a Game of Thrones “Winter is Coming” sensation.  So the last in technical was not surprising. But not very easy to take either.

Not everything was bad about the technical, though. How often do you see a 4ft 11 +1/2 inch female beat a former football player in arm wrestling? There you go.

Free entertainment for the viewers, thanks to a very sneaky camera I had no idea was in play. What? You think Mr. Spice let me win? Seriously? Nah… I cannot possibly take another blow to my ego.




I was not looking forward to that challenge at all. Coming last in technical the afternoon before made me very anxious, I knew I had to do a good job, because a bad bread sculpture would easily destroy any good performance brought by my breadsticks. Every person who gets last in technical is immediately at risk of being eliminated, so I went into the tent with a very heavy weight on my shoulders.

At home, I practiced the sculpture three times, which meant over 13 hours devoted just to one assignment of the show. The rings went from full braids to twists, back to double braids, the way to shape them and proof them was also a bit tricky. I wanted them to look as proportional as possible to the tree.

The tree posed problems to bake perfectly. That component I made in fact five times at home, trying to get a good balance of taste and proper texture for it to stand up. Not easy, and don’t think I got there at showtime. And the ring bases in the show could have a lot more fruit, but at least it allowed me to pass safely through another episode.

Sherry liked that the sculpture had movement, as the rings kind of bounced a bit as I walked to the stand. That bit did not make it in the final edition of the show, but it will stay in my mind as a gentle pat in the back.

And with that we come to the person being eliminated second.

My very dear Carlos, fellow South-American, kind, warm-hearted and oh-so-witty! Carlos brightened up our time in the tent and the very long hours off-filming hanging together in what could be called “the green room.” He always came up with ways to pass the time. For instance the first time we were sitting in those stools waiting for the technical judgment in CAKE, we were sitting there for a long time. Staring at our photos standing in front of us over the bench. So Carlos starts making up captions for the photos, trying to decide what each person looked like. It was hilarious and he hit all very very well. Here is mine:  Hollistic Alternative Medicine Therapist!  Me, of all people!  But I gotta admit, he hit it perfectly. Here are the others so you can pay attention next time the show is on…. Helen is running for Office…. Dana is running for City Council… Tanya hosts a Farm to Table Blog…. Marissa is ASB President….  Alex depicts the best Linkedln profile picture… Brother Andrew is a Missionary to indigenous unreached peoples, and Carlos (according to Marissa) is a contributor to High Times Magazine…

So, as you can see, we found plenty of ways to keep ourselves entertained, and Carlos was a huge part of it. He started his food blog recently, where he mixes recipes with pretty deep thoughts about himself and the world. A unique guy that I am so glad I had the chance to meet. I always tell him he could be a fantastic writer for stand-up comedian acts. We, and almost all bakers in the group have kept in touch pretty much daily since we left London, and there is not a day that goes by without Carlos making me laugh with a remark about something, from stuff that happened in the tent to things we are exchanging about our current bakes.  I feel lucky to be part of this small community of baker-addicts.  Yeah, that’s what we are…. Carlos, it was very sad to see you leave the tent… You are my favorite male Peruvian baker on this season! (wink, wink)

ONE YEAR AGO: Apple and Sobacha Caramel Dome Cake

TWO YEARS AGO: Cocktail Spiced Nuts

THREE YEARS AGO: How the Mighty Have Fallen

FOUR YEARS AGO: Festive Night at Central

FIVE YEARS AGO: The Perfect Boiled Egg

SIX YEARS AGO: Light Rye Sourdough with Cumin and Orange

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Homemade Calziones

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Plum-Glazed Duck Breasts

NINE YEARS AGO: Holiday Double-Decker

TEN YEARS AGO: New York Deli Rye















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.



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 


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…



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


Dear friends, I’ve been keeping a secret from you for a long time. But finally I can share some super exciting news… Remember when I was a bit disappointed because I went all the way to the final audition for the Great American Baking Show 2018 and was not selected to go to the show? Well, well, well… persistence paid off. I am here to tell you that I WILL BE A CONTESTANT THIS YEAR!!!!  Can you imagine? I mean, I myself could not quite believe it. For a long time I walked around in a complete daze, unable to tell anyone, unable to have a “normal reaction” to the idea. It’s been an incredible adventure, for sure the biggest adventure of my life, but finally ABC Network announced the contestants, and yours truly is one of the ten who walked into that dreamy tent. Who baked for Paul Hollywood and Sherry Yard. Live. In real time. I know, crazy, right? I am so, so excited to share the news, and hope you will have a chance to watch the show. It airs December 12th!  I guarantee you it will be awesome. Get it on your schedule…

THE GREAT AMERICAN BAKING SHOW – “Cake and Bread Week” – On your marks, get set, bake! Cake and bread are on the menu when 10 aspiring bakers from around the country step into the famous white tent to tackle the challenges of cake and bread in the two-hour season premiere of “The Great American Baking Show: Holiday Edition,” THURSDAY, DEC. 12 (9:00-11:00 p.m. EST), on ABC. (ABC/Mark Bourdillon)



Do you remember the Great British Baking Show? I watched every season. It quickly became my favorite cooking show because contrary to other productions, the overall atmosphere is friendly, and the judges, Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood work together flawlessly to evaluate the contestants, bringing a perfect balance of criticism and praise. The show was so successful that an American version popped up a few years ago (2015), using a very similar format. Season 3 got canceled after just a few episodes but a new season is coming up probably later this  year.

(Word cloud, courtesy of my dear friend Denise – do I have cool friends or what?)

I am not allowed to share any specific details. All I can say is that I got very close from being a contestant in this upcoming Great American Baking Show. I passed all hurdles, except the last one.  It was a stressful process, with quite a bit of anxiety but also a ton of excitement. Probably the most amazing experience I’ve been through.  For a while I was living in a kind of a daze, not quite sure it was all really happening.

I confess that I day-dreamed a lot about meeting Paul Hollywood, Mary Berry (if they would be the hosts), and ‘the tent.” I confess I day-dreamed about getting a handshake on Bread Week (hey, dreams are free, and sometimes wild). I confess that no matter how much I try to tell myself it was a long shot, that the competition was fierce and the contestants I met were better than me, I am disappointed and sad for not being chosen.

I guess what makes me most disappointed is that I feel I did not do my best on some levels. That is what bothers me. And I will have to find ways to deal with it. But it’s all water under the bridge. Life goes on, and my plan is to continue trying to improve my baking skills.  I have a long list of things I want to learn and a long list of skills I want to get better at.  It would have been so nice to be on the show, but unfortunately, not every dream in life comes true.