The Great American Baking Show Recap: Cake and Cookie Week

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THE GREAT AMERICAN BAKING SHOW – “Cookie Week” – On your marks, get set, bake! The most festive and friendliest competition on television is back. In a two-hour season premiere, “The Great American Baking Show” (formerly “The Great Holiday Baking Show”) returns with slices of cake and plates of cookies, THURSDAY, DECEMBER 1 (9:00 p.m.-11:00 p.m. EST), on the ABC Television Network. (ABC/Mark Bourdillion)


The Great American Baking Show had a double batch of episodes for its premiere. Who brought their A game and who fell flat?

The Great American Baking Show may have gotten a name change from last year, but it kept its format. For The Great British Bake Off enthusiasts, you know what to expect: a Signature Challenge, a Technical Challenge, and a Showstopper each week. Of course, it’s holiday-themed here in the States.

Our hosts, Nia Vardalos and Ian Gomez, informed the bakers that their first Signature challenge was a winter-themed Bundt cake with a filling or swirl as well as a glaze or frosting. Mary Berry and Johnny Iuzzini walked around to get an idea of what to expect from everyone.

Naturally, everyone greased those Bundt cake pans as much as possible. Of course, they also tested those cakes often.

Ashlyn’s Signature Bake, Week 1. From The Great American Baking Show. Image is a screengrab via ABC.

Signature Bake Results

  • Stephanie: Pumpkin Ginger Spice Bundt Cake. Pass. Johnny loved the ginger.
  • Ashlyn: Chestnut Bundt Cake. Pass, mostly. Johnny wanted more hemlock syrup.
  • Nancy: Rich Chocolate Raspberry Bundt Cake. Fail. Mary said it had poor texture.
  • Antoinette: Cream Cheese Pumpkin Bundt Cake. Semi-pass, since it’s underbaked at the bottom but had good flavors.
  • Michael: Cherry Bourbon Bundt Cake. Fail. The bourbon flavor was not distributed well.
  • Jennie: Coconut Eggnog Winter Bundt Cake. Pass. Mary said, “Well done!”
  • Amanda: Cardamom and Espresso Swirl Bundt Cake. Pass. The flavors worked well together.
  • Jeremiah: Mandarin and Chocolate Bundt Cake. Pass, but Mary told him to keep his underbaking a secret next time.
  • Prachi: Chocolate Pumpkin Rose Bundt Cake. Pass. She made good decorations.
  • Courtney: Cranberry and Cherry Bundt Cake. Pass. Mary enjoyed the liqueur, as of course she did.

Mary Berry’s Apple Almond Cake. From The Great American Baking Show. Image via ABC.

For the Technical Challenge, Mary assigned them her apple almond cake and told them to read the recipe at least three times. It’s a gluten-free cake with hand-ground almond flour and a powdered sugar snowflake on top.

The almond flour proved an issue. Grinding those toasted almonds down is a delicate procedure after all! Nancy almost forgot to add her apples, too. As she said, it’s just a minor detail though, right? Right. (Yeah, she put those apples in as soon as she realized.)

Technical Challenge Results

  • 10th: Nancy. An uneven bake did her in.
  • 9th: Michael. The cake was a bit wet.
  • 8th: Antoinette. She didn’t have a stencil and underbaked her cake.
  • 7th: Courtney. It was slightly underbaked and didn’t rise well.
  • 6th: Stephanie. She also pulled her cake out too soon.
  • 5th: Ashlyn. She didn’t process her almonds correctly.
  • 4th: Amanda. It needed a few more minutes in the oven.
  • 3rd: Jennie. It had a nice stencil.
  • 2nd: Prachi. She just needed a couple more minutes of baking time.
  • 1st: Jeremiah. Never mind the fact that he flipped his cake. Johnny appropriately bowed to Mary for catching it.

Mary and Johnny named Jeremiah, Stephanie, and Amanda as their frontrunners. Nancy and Antoinette started the Showstopper with the most to prove. For the first Showstopper Challenge, the bakers had to create a multi-tiered holiday or winter cake with five hours to stop the show. Decorations had to be festive, layers had to be even, and it had to taste good, too.

From the Great American Baking Show Week 1. Image is a screengrab via ABC.

Mary insisted that everything had to be made from scratch. Meanwhile, Johnny said he wanted a good flavor as well as good structure too. Things started getting very hot in the tent. As a result,  icing the cakes was full of trials and tribulations. Buttercream was melting, cakes were cracking, and structures were not very sound.

Showstopper Challenge Judging

Mary Berry and Johnny Iuzzini, judging some cakes. From the Great American Baking Show. Image is a screengrab via ABC.

Ashlyn’s Coconut Present Cake. Mary praised the decorations and the moist sponge.

Jennie’s Winter Wonderland Orange Spice Cake. Well, it wasn’t finished, but it showed many skills. Mary liked the spices.

Stephanie’s California Dreamin’ Cake. The layers were beautiful and the flavors good. Also, she did a surfing Santa.

Michael’s Winter Holiday Cake. Johnny was unimpressed with the plain buttercream inside.

Courtney’s Chocolate Garam Masala Cake. It leaned, it was dark, and it did not have nice flavor. That’s not a good showing.

Amanda’s White Christmas Cake. Her vertical layers proved impressive, as was her sponge.

Nancy’s Winter White Peppermint Cake. Johnny liked the softness of its appearance, but Mary wanted a bit more peppermint.

Antoinette’s Winter Spice Cake. Don’t promise a gelatin see-through snowglobe and then not deliver. It was a good spice cake, though.

Prachi’s Eggnog Celebration Cake. Johnny did not like the blue and white decor. However, the inside was good.

Jeremiah’s Azorean Winter Forest Cake. The man went for a fruitcake! A fruitcake in five hours. Mary greeted it with “Why?” when he presented it to her.

Stephanie and Amanda made it to the top, and Courtney and Jeremiah, with Nancy on the bubble, slid to the bottom in the post-presentation confab. Stephanie won the first Star Baker award based on her design. Surfing Santa wins the day. Meanwhile, Nancy went home based on her poor time management and showings in the Technical and Signature bakes.

Next up: Cookie Week, which also aired tonight. Hit the button below for some results.