This Stuffing Stuff My thoughts on Episode 3

Interested in recipes from the latest episode of Holiday Baking Championship? Click here or read on to learn more about the episode.

So… I’m coming into week 3 with a spring in my step. Of course it felt awesome to win, but I also felt like I saved face in front of the judges and let the other bakers know that I was a force to be reckoned with.  Standing there in the kitchen, we see a turkey with basters sticking out from behind it.  I’m thinking, “What the heck is this challenge gonna be?”  Perhaps they have caught on that we caught on to their hints.  Well played Food Network.  I’m praying we don’t have to make a dessert with gravy… though, true story, my mother once baked the stuffing for Thanksgiving in a bundt pan and “frosted” it with gravy!  “Stuffing cake”… lets put a pin in that one for a moment shall we!

Bobby tells us our next challenge is making holiday whoopie pies!  Balls!  I’ve only ever made a whoopie pie once in my life.  Its not exactly a recipe I have in my back pocket.  A whoopie pie by definition is a little cake filled with a marshmallow or cream cheese filling.  Thankfully, I have a great chocolate cake recipe and I can make marshmallow in my sleep.  Those little turkey basters each have a random fall theme to act as our inspiration for decorating our whoopie pies.  I select pilgrims.  I immediately think of the signature black band and buckle around a pilgrim hat.  I decide to bake my whoopie pies in a donut mold, and to make little buckle tuiles.  I’ll thinking these little brown “belts” with buckles will be awesome; you’ll know instantly that my inspiration was pilgrim.

I choose to make devils food cake not only because its absolutely delicious and moist, but I think its kind of cheeky to use it on a pilgrim inspiration, since they came to this country seeking religious freedom.  I’ve made this devils food cake a million times and I know that it bakes up really fast.  I have this little voice in my head warning me that the judges might not get my departure from the “traditional shape” of a whoopie pie.  I glance around to see what some of the other bakers have made.  It seems I’m not the only one who has strayed from the traditional shape.  Guess my idea wasn’t as ground breaking as I thought.

On to judging… The judges have quite a debate with each baker over what is and what isn’t a whoopie pie.  It got quite heated.  It didn’t air, but at one point the judges actually said to us, “You’ve seen whoopie pies before, right?”  Of course… I thought we’d be applauded for thinking outside the box.  I’m feeling a bit nervous.  Will they get it?  Lorraine is on board, Nancy is not (shocker!). So it’s all in Duff’s hands, and he’s totally on board… exactly what a whoopie pie should be!!!  (Get the recipe here).  Bobby announces that the top bakers are me and Melody.  She’s a great baker and they loved her traditionally shaped whoopie pie.  In the end, I take the win by a buckle.  Two wins in a row!!!!!  SPATULADROP!

On to our main challenge… remember that pin from earlier in my post… stuffed cakes.  Never heard of one!  We have to stuff our cake with candy, and as my winning advantage I get to pick my candy first.  There are all sorts of jars with everything from salt water taffy (no thank you), candied almonds (death), M&M’s (safe), peppermints (been done), and a bunch of ball shaped candies (could be anything in there from gum to malt).  So I choose Reese’s Pieces.  Those fall colors will look so pretty falling out of the cake.  Another nice thing about this advantage is I have a few more seconds to make a plan.  With the peanut butter candies in hand, I’m thinking about peanut butter and jelly and my nieces and nephews!

I have a plan to make a fall themed cake based on the colors of the Reese’s Pieces.  It will have stenciled leaves on the outside, with rosettes of peanut buttercream topped with raspberries and candied peanuts.  The filling for my cake will be a fresh made raspberry jam and peanut butter mousse.  I should state here that I am allergic to tree nuts only, so peanuts are something I can eat.

Two hours isn’t a lot of time, especially when you have to bake, cool, frost, stack, and fill a cake.  I bake my cakes on a sheet tray, since they will bake faster and I can cut them into round shapes once they cool.  I also decide to build my cake in a ring mold, so essentially it gets frosted as it’s assembled, saving time.  I stencil leaves on a sheet of acetate that will be on the inside of the ring mold with different colored buttercream.  Once the cake is unmolded and the acetate peeled off, I will have a finished and decorated cake… or so I think!  I have used this technique a lot and it works very well… when there’s time for the buttercream to cool and harden.  My cake didn’t have much time.  So, when I pulled off the acetate, the stenciled leaves came off with it.  I now had a cake with a very rough exterior, not a beautifully smooth and decorated one.  I literally had minutes to “decorate” my cake.  I grab the peanuts to cover the sides.  I gather whatever buttercream I have, and pipe whatever shapes I can think of on the top.  I run out of buttercream and have to resort to mousse.  I plop raspberries on the top of the cake.  I use leftover colored buttercream to pipe a boarder on the base, but I run out of yellow so I have to switch to orange.  My cake has two different colors of piping on the base, so I mash handfuls of candies to cover it up.  I dust the berries with powdered sugar as Bobby calls time.  I am totally embarrassed at the disaster.  Its not a decorated cake, its humble pie!

malcolm in the middle embarrassed

In front of the judges, I get a chance to explain what happened, though it didn’t air.  I cry talking about my nieces and nephews and how they don’t care what I make, just that Uncle Steve made them something.  I joke that I should just plop my face into the top.  Duff offers me $5,000 to do it.  I tell him make it $50,000 and he’s got a deal.  No deal.  My cake is like the ugly cousin the family can’t seem to marry off…  rough on the outside, but sweet on the inside.  Thankfully, my cake tastes absolutely delicious, the judges love the peanut butter mousse.  They also praise me for my appropriate filling to cake ratio.  In the end, I’m safe to bake another day.  Tears of joy stream down my face….I can’t hold them back.  I truly have something to be thankful for!!!