Top Moments from Holiday Baking Championship, Season 3

Browse highlights from Season 3 of the show and find out which bakers won challenges and who was sent home.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©© 2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©© 2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©© 2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©© 2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Zac Hahn ©© 2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Zac Hahn ©© 2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Zac Hahn ©© 2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: EDDY CHEN ©© 2014 Felix Williams

Photo By: EDDY CHEN ©© 2014 Felix Williams

Photo By: EDDY CHEN ©© 2014 Felix Williams

Photo By: EDDY CHEN ©© 2014 Felix Williams

Photo By: EDDY CHEN ©© 2014 Felix Williams

©© 2014 Felix Williams

Photo By: EDDY CHEN ©© 2014 Felix Williams

©© 2014 Felix Williams

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©© 2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©© 2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©© 2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©© 2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: EDDY CHEN ©© 2014 Felix Williams

Photo By: EDDY CHEN ©© 2014 Felix Williams

©© 2014 Felix Williams

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©© 2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©© 2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©© 2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©© 2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©© 2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©© 2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©© 2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Finale: Bearing the Challenge

"My nickname in the kitchen is sugar bear," Shawne says excitedly when he finds out he has to cook one sweet and one savory snack for a polar bear, one of Santa's North Pole friends, in the finale Pre Heat. He decides his bear would appreciate a savory macaron with bacon and ganache. "I think this is quite possibly the best macaron I've ever had," says Lorraine. And the judges also love his devil's food logs. Shawne wins his first challenge.

Taking a Gamble

"My penguin told me that he likes breakfast," Cheryl tells Bobby while baking mini quiches, as well as frying up yeasted doughnuts. "They could use another 10 or 15 minutes," says Cheryl after proofing the dough, but she doesn't have that luxury of time. Lorraine thinks the mini quiches are cute but finds the crust too thick. "Good roll of the dice," Duff says of Cheryl's risk in making doughnuts, but he thinks they could be lighter.

The Saltiness Goes Both Ways

"My reindeer's name is Holly Jolly," says Jason, deciding to make snowdrop cookies, as well as cheddar, onion and prosciutto phyllo bells for his new friend. Unfortunately the cheese burns on his bells, so he uses the same cookie cutter to trim off the burnt bits. "I love the plate," says Nancy, finding it festive, but Duff says he thinks the bells are really salty. Jason claims it's because of the English cheddar, which doesn't amuse Brit Lorraine.

Sinister Oversize Snowman

"Why fix something that's not broken?" Shawne asks, deciding to bake the same chocolate cake he won the Pre Heat with for the North Pole cake Main Heat. He decorates his cake with an igloo and snowman both made out of rice cereal treats. Duff points out that the snowman is out of scale. "He kind of looks like a beautiful snowy scarecrow," says Lorraine. But she changes her mind upon tasting it. "You've redeemed yourself with what's going on in that cake," she says.

Perfectionist at Work

Excited for his elves' workshop theme, Jason bakes an Italian cream cake with three types of frosting to capture the snowy look. Despite a failed first batch of cakes, he hunkers down and makes an even better second batch. "The details on this cake have to be spot-on," he says, making it look like elves are busy at work inside the shop. "I'm lost in this winter wonderland," says Lorraine, despite finding the cake dry. But Duff calls it one of the best he's tasted.

Dashing Through the Snow

Working with modeling chocolate, Cheryl creates a sleigh for her theme, but while brushing it with luster dust, she cracks a corner. She's able to fix it by applying heat. After piling up layer upon layer of devil's food cake, she makes a luge down the side. Lorraine and Nancy agree it could look more festive and less like a wedding cake. Duff commends Cheryl for "just the right amount" of peppermint in the frosting.

The New Holiday Baking Champion

"What struck me was his attention to detail," says Lorraine of Jason. "The outside needed a little work, but the inside, yum," says Duff of Shawne's cake. "The top was very festive, but from the top down the holidays were gone," says Nancy of Cheryl's cake. After careful deliberation the judges award Jason the win and $50,000. He leaves as the first-ever home baker to earn the Holiday Baking Champion title. "I am tickled to death," he says, after falling to his knees upon hearing the news.

Episode 6: Trying to Strike a Repeat Sock Success

For Cheryl, making a stocking-shaped treat for this Pre Heat different from last week will be a challenge. "The judges haven't really seen my cakes," she says, deciding to present mini spice cakes. But after running out of cream cheese frosting, she has to quickly make a second batch and rushes her piping. "I'm not expecting this from you," says Nancy, disappointed by the look and taste of the cake.

A Falling Star and a Downhill Finish

"I'm already making a giant cream puff Christmas tree," says Matt sarcastically, "so, yeah, I definitely got time to make a chocolate star on top too." As time ticks away, he's rushing to stack his hazelnut cream-filled puffs into a tree, topping it with his chocolate star just in time. But after time is called, his star falls. Unfortunately the judges find fault with Matt's underbaked pastries and runny filling, and he places in the bottom. He is sent home just short of the finale.

Episode 3: An Undetectable Fix

Coming off a double win, Vincenzo's feeling confident in the Thanksgiving trifle Pre Heat. He whips together a custard for his strawberry shortcake, but then he walks away and comes back to a curdled mess. "I know exactly what to do," he says, mixing it with sweetened condensed milk to create a pudding. The judges don't notice his mistake, and Duff compares the flavors to strawberry ice cream.

Taste of the Islands on Holiday

"I'm not one dimensional; I want to add some flair," says Shawne, who's making a prickly pear and blood orange trifle to reflect his Caribbean roots. And for some holiday flair, he's decorating it with abstract isomalt sugar work. "It looks nothing like the holidays," says Duff after a litany of compliments. "It's not screaming holiday, but it was delicious," Nancy agrees.

Unnecessary Molecular Move

Going the molecular route, Matt cooks strawberries in balsamic vinegar sous vide for his rye chocolate trifle. He plans to make bubble chocolate with the Cryovac, except the machine isn't equipped to pump air. And his backup decorations end up breaking. His excuses during judging fall flat. "If you just pared it down a little bit," Lorraine tells him, "and did something more simple, you'd get it on the dessert."

Hyper-Reactive First Win

"You're ensured you'll get a good ginger flavor," Jason says of his decision to use fresh ginger and ginger syrup in his trifle. The judges find his dessert looks perfect for the holiday, and Lorraine compliments him on the good ginger flavor, which is "difficult to get right," she says. Jason wins his first Pre Heat and an advantage — a 10-minute head start — in the upcoming Main Heat. "I am so tickled," he says. "I could almost strip off naked and run around all over the place."

Differences in Holiday Opinion

"Baking a cupcake may not be that hard, but we have to put a Thanksgiving dinner on top of ours," says Patti, worried about the imposter cupcake Main Heat. She decorates one of hers with a "stuffed turkey" covered in chocolate, but Lorraine calls it messy. Despite finding the cake dense, Nancy loves the mint, but Duff disagrees. And Lorraine complains she didn't get enough filling in her cupcake.

Making Do with an Unwelcome Holiday Twist

"What's more American than pumpkin?" says Amber, planning to use the ingredient in a buttercream for her chocolate cupcakes, but when Bobby reveals a cranberry twist, she has to rethink it. Her orange and cranberry buttercream doesn't taste right, so she makes a new batch, which puts her behind in decorating. Expecting the worst from the judges, she's surprised by their positive critiques.

A Different Kind of Dish for the Holiday

Both Vincenzo and Matt reach into their Italian heritage to make spaghetti cupcakes. "Tell me about meatballs for Thanksgiving," Nancy asks Vincenzo, as he explains his family eats them for every holiday get-together. The judges have great compliments for Vincenzo, but not for Matt, whose funnel cake spaghetti is too greasy. And Nancy and Lorraine find his buttercream too buttery.

Elegant vs. Rustic Design

"I need to prove myself," says Cheryl, who uses fondant to create glazed carrot, bread roll and canned cranberry sauce toppers for her orange blossom cupcakes. "Maybe it was supposed to be more rustic," she worries when she sees everyone else's is simpler, like Jason's, whose designs are very homey. But the judges love both competitors' cupcakes, and they make the top two. "You're so thoughtful," Duff tells Cheryl, who wins the Main Heat. Matt and Patti fall to the bottom, and Patti is sent home.

Episode 2: Baking to Honor Grandma

"I want to win this challenge for her," Vincenzo says of the grandma-inspired Pre Heat, which requires two types of cookies. He's making a chocolate florentine cookie and a butterscotch almond cookie, which he says his grandma used to feed him when he needed shutting up. His cookies get rave reviews; Nancy calls his butterscotch cookie "phenomenal." Vincenzo wins the challenge.

Affection and Discipline in One Bite

"She made me use a wooden spoon, but she also hit me with a wooden spoon," Matt says, remembering his grandma. Running with the sweet and salty theme, he makes a chocolate chip cookie with duck fat and deep-fried pork belly. His second cookie is an oatmeal rum raisin. "It just melts in your mouth," Nancy says of what Matt coins his "slaughterhouse cookie."

Excuses Don't Get By the Judges

Patti decides on pecan tassies and almond linzer cookies, but her dough is too delicate, and the cookies are falling apart. "Grandma never has to bake fast," she says, angry they're not working. She's unfortunately unable to sandwich her linzers, so she presents them as deconstructed, which Duff calls her out on. He also finds the tassies too liquidy. "It's just not your day," Lorraine tells her.

Taste Is Personal

Jason bakes his grandma's oatmeal-raisin sandwich cookies and smashed molasses cookies, which he parbakes, then flattens and returns to the oven. Duff doesn't like Jason's molasses cookie, which Jason claims requires an acquired taste that took him years to appreciate. "I'm not sure I have time to grow to like this cookie," says Nancy, laughing it off. Bobby hints that Jason might not be in the top.

The Old Guard vs. the Whippersnapper

Patti's not worried about the Pre Heat, which requires the bakers to make pies by hand, because she doesn't need a machine. She even makes fun of the others. "Hey, Matt, does it help to hold your head crooked?" she asks when she sees him struggling to whip cream. Unfortunately all that whipping doesn't help his chocolate pudding filling set. "The consistency leaves a little to be desired," says Nancy.

Can't Hide Anything from the Judges

For the challenge, Jason decides to break out his grandma's Depression pie recipe, which he's making as part of the mini pie twist. It's surprisingly made with pinto beans, which he claims taste just like pecans when baked into a filling. "There's a first for everything," Nancy says before tasting Jason's pie. But after trying it, Lorraine says it "tastes exactly like a bean pie."

A Winning Combination

"I think that it works with this filling," Nancy says of Vincenzo's sawdust pie, which looked unpromising at first glance. The judges like his chocolate, pecan, coconut and graham cracker filling. Vincenzo, Cheryl and Amber are in the top three, but Vincenzo earns the win, his second this episode. Unfortunately Shawne and Maddie end up in the bottom for their underbaked pies. Maddie is sent home.

Episode 1: Misreading Instructions

"Because I live in the mountains, mulled cider for us is mulled wine," says Amber, deciding to make a mulled wine spice cake with cinnamon-orange cream and mulled wine sauce for the holiday beverage Pre Heat. Nancy finds the cake too dense and not sweet enough. But Duff points out Amber's biggest mistake. "It doesn't say to me the drink that you got," says Duff. "It's good, but it's just too bad it's not cider," Duff tells her as she walks away, defeated.

Microwave Molecular Miss

"I'm going to do this cake molecular style," says Shawne, who has poked some holes in paper cups and is filling them with his eggnog cappuccino-inspired spiced sponge cake batter before placing them in the microwave. "It looks exactly like a natural sponge," says Nancy, impressed. But Lorraine doesn't get much of the eggnog flavor, which was in Shawne's cremeux. A little bit more eggnog and "the sponge wouldn't have been quite so dry," she adds.

Coffeehouse vs. Farmhouse

"I really want to be able to accentuate the coffeehouse kind of feel," says Matt, inspired by his holiday morning family gatherings to turn his peppermint-mocha beverage into a creme brulee baked in a mug. Unfortunately the dessert isn't setting as fast as Matt would like. "I get the coffee cup," says Nancy, picking up the creme brulee, but she finds "Farmhouse Rules" in the jar of whipped cream. Duff and Lorraine think the texture is impressive. Matt wins the Pre Heat and an advantage.

Some Fortunate Firsts

"I have never made a Bundt cake before," says Maddie, going into the Main Heat challenge. Once Matt chooses his style of pan as his advantage, the other bakers get what remains. The only catch is these Bundt cakes need to be filled, which gives Maddie the biggest concern. Her fear becomes a reality when the cake falls apart as she turns it out onto a cake stand. But she pushes it back into shape and chills it. "It's amazing," says Duff of her texture and filling. Maddie makes the top two.

Nontraditional Twist

"The sauerkraut makes a more moist cake," says Jason, who's following a technique his grandma used during the Great Depression in making his chocolate walnut cake. When Bobby springs a twist on the bakers, to decorate their cakes with cookie leaves, Jason gets resourceful and uses a snowflake cutter to create oak leaves. "I just can't get over sauerkraut," says Duff. But Lorraine finds it moist nonetheless.

The Holidays Elsewhere

"Luckily I have a lot of cake batter left over," says Cheryl, who repurposes it by adding more flour to it, and — voila! — she's got a cookie dough to create her decorative leaves for her West Coast-inspired Meyer lemon and sage pound cake. Nancy feels it looks springy and not holiday enough. Conversely Duff and Lorraine love the "refreshing" flavors, but Lorraine says it is "not the standard holiday-type cake." Cheryl makes the top two and wins her first Main Heat.

Cake-Filling Fiasco

"I squeeze the buttercream into the cake and I can feel the cake actually expanding," says Keli, who's piping her fig jam, cinnamon and rum-infused currants into her Bundt cake. She worries the cake may still be too warm and may cause the filling to melt. "That's exactly what happened," says Keli, when she serves it to the judges. "It looks like there's some wet stuff," says Duff of the interior. Patti and Keli fall to the bottom; Keli is sent home.

More Holiday Baking Championship

Get more from the competition by going behind the scenes of the baking battles, meet the competitors, learn more about the host and judges, and get inspired to bake this holiday season.

Holiday Baking Championship