Last night was the premiere of the Canadian Baking Show! It was an amazing 45-minutes full of flour, sugar, chocolate, and lots of cake — and the best part is they kept the format pretty close to the original British series.
The hosts were a delight. Daniel Levy is a Canadian actor and television personality and Julia Chan is a British actress. They may not have a lot of baking experience themselves, which is one of the biggest criticism of their performance on the show, but what they lack in technique they make up for in optimism, kindness, and a love for tasting icing.
The 10 bakers were put through three different challenges that were meant to show off their personality, technical skills, and creativity. The first challenge was all about cupcakes. They were tasked to make two different kinds of cupcakes, each showing off their distinctive personality. Some bakers put a little bit of a French or Italian twist on their cupcakes, while other’s used elements of their job or family life as inspiration. My personal favourite was the beer-battered cakes with bits of bacon on top, and of course, nanaimo bar cupcakes! So Canadian!
The second challenge was the technical round. Bakers were given a recipe they had never seen before and asked to follow it and fill in the blanks. The cake the judges chose was called a Battenberg cake, which I had never heard of. It’s a checkerboard sponge cake with cherry and pistachio flavours, filed with jam and covered in marzipan. Only a few of the bakers were able to get the look quite right.
The last challenge was the show-stopping chocolate cake. Bakers were told to use two different kinds of chocolate and to be as creative as possible. I was a bit disappointed at how these cakes turned out. Many of them were messy, crooked, and just plain unappealing. Others were very creative. My personal favourite was that of Julian D’Entremont, from Halifax N.S., who created a cake inspired by his profession, contracting. It looked like a cement block, with five layers of cake paired with edible tools!
One of the bakers, James Hoyland of Richmond B.C., actually used a recipe I bake all the time. We call it wacky cake. You essentially mix everything in the pan (although we do use a separate bowl) and use white vinegar, oil, and vanilla as the liquids. It creates a fluffy sponge cake, and is great for cupcakes. However, he mixed it with his hands straight in the pan and used super thick fondant to cover it. From experience, I know the cake can be a bit dense and is better served with a buttercream icing.
At the end of the day, the winner was Terri Thomspon from Sherward Park, Alta. who won over the judges with her garden-inspired chocolate cake. Poor Pierre Morin from Cantley, Que. was the first baker to leave after his ganache separated on his cupcakes and his chocolate mouse collapsed on his cake. Nevertheless, there were smiles and big hugs for everyone!
The show in general was pretty good. There wasn’t as much of that dry British humour that I came to love in the original series, but you can’t win it all. I did feel like the judges could be more active in the show — they are the ones with the baking expertise and most of the time their comments were “it’s dry”, “it’s moist”, or “I can tell it is a cookies and cream cupcake” (probably because it had an actual cookie on top). The judges are renowned pastry chefs Bruno Feldeisen and Rochelle Adonis.
Hopefully, as the episodes continue, the bakers get used to being on camera and their final products become a little less sloppy. I also hope that, as bakers are weeded out of the competition, the judges will have more time to offer real opinions rather than judging the pastry by their appearance and texture alone.
What did you think of the premiere? Let us know in the comments below!