Top Moments from Spring Baking Championship, Season 3

Relive highlights from the baking challenges and find out which bakers won Main Heats each week — and who was sent home.

Photo By: Emile Wamsteker

Photo By: Emile Wamsteker

Photo By: Emile Wamsteker

Photo By: Emile Wamsteker

Photo By: Emile Wamsteker

Photo By: Emile Wamsteker

Photo By: Emile Wamsteker

Photo By: Patrick Wymore

Photo By: Patrick Wymore

Photo By: Patrick Wymore

Photo By: Patrick Wymore

Photo By: Patrick Wymore

Photo By: Patrick Wymore

Photo By: Patrick Wymore

Photo By: Patrick Wymore

Photo By: Patrick Wymore

Photo By: Patrick Wymore

Photo By: Patrick Wymore

Photo By: Patrick Wymore

Photo By: Patrick Wymore

Photo By: Patrick Wymore

Photo By: Patrick Wymore

Photo By: Patrick Wymore

Photo By: Patrick Wymore

Photo By: Patrick Wymore

Episode 7: Great Minds Bake Alike

Inspired by her family picnics, Daniela right away has ideas for what she'll be making for the Memorial Day Pre Heat, which requires two sweet treats and one savory item. But another baker has the same exact ideas: "So cornbread, cupcakes and a blondie, just like Daniela?" asks Jesse, making sure he heard Jordan correctly. "Now I'm stressing," says Daniella. "Good news, Adam is doing completely different things," says Jesse, trying to alleviate her worry.

Frenchified Holiday

With five minutes left, Adam accidentally drops a pan of mini profiteroles. "I can't salvage anything," he says. Luckily they were the ones he had meant to use as a garnish, so he still has the larger ones. Upon seeing his quiche, profiteroles and macarons, Duff says "I don't think it says Memorial day; everything is French." But the judges have rather positive comments otherwise. "Macarons are notoriously hard to make, you've done it perfectly," Lorraine tells him.

Critique by Comparison

"Very Memorial Day," Duff says of Jordan's treats. "You've got the balance completely right," Lorraine says of Jordan's blondie. But after Daniela presents her treats, Duff appears confused: "I feel like I'm having déjà vu," he says. "Great minds think alike," says Nancy. "But do they bake alike?" asks Jesse. The judges love Daniela's apple pie cupcakes, and Lorraine calls the blondie better than Jordan's. Duff, however, finds corn silks in the cornbread muffins. Jordan wins his first Pre Heat.

As American as Cake Gets

With the advantage, Jordan has exclusive use of decorating tools in the American flag dessert Main Heat. "I'm taking this flag cake pretty literally," he says, decorating it authentically. "I like that level of detail," says Duff, but Lorraine wishes there wasn't so much fondant. But after tasting the pound cake with Swiss buttercream and caramelized bananas, she says, "This is a true pound cake," and Nancy agrees, calling it "the epitome of American cake."

Stripes of a Different Nation

At first Daniela wants to do three different cake flavors, but she decides to scrap the idea to focus on just a vanilla cake with lime curd and cream cheese frosting. "All my components taste good, but they don't go together," she says of her decision. "The order is wrong," Duff points out about Daniela's colors, which he compares to the Russian flag, and he feels the piped rosette frosting hides the dimensions. The judges like the curd but find the cake dense.

Chocolate Trifecta

Adam makes a chocolate cake with three different fillings: dark chocolate ganache, milk chocolate praline and chocolate Bavarian cream. Unfortunately, one of his layers falls apart, but he salvages it by trimming it smaller. Lorraine calls the cake "stunning," and Duff appreciates the sugar work, but the judges wish for more decoration. "It all adds up to just a nice chocolate cake," says Duff after tasting it. The consensus is it needs more syrup to counteract the dryness.

The New Spring Baking Champion

"It was very bready," Nancy says of Daniela's cake during deliberation. "His cake was so technically advanced," Lorraine says of Adam's cake, but "there were a few errors," she adds. "I thought it was the epitome of a Memorial Day celebration," Nancy says of Jordan's cake, but Duff feels it was too literal an expression. Jesse announces Jordan has won the championship and $50,000. "This is definitely for my grandfather. He taught me hard work; that's what I did," he says.

Episode 6: Classic Treat with a Critter Twist

"It's her recipe from when I was six years old," says John, baking his mom's recipe for the whoopie pie critters Pre Heat. "I'm not going outside of the box," he explains. And he purposely holds back on adding too much sugar to the cream cheese filling. "You'd throw some lox in here and I'd be stoked," Duff says of the filling, which he finds very savory. But Nancy appreciates the savoriness.

Less Than Buzzworthy Dessert

"I work at a five-star hotel, so we don't usually sell whoopie pies," says Jordan, making them for the first time. His bake up larger than he hoped, so he uses a cookie cutter to trim them into bumble bee shapes. Both Duff and Lorraine are disappointed by its looks: "It's not a whoopie pie," Duff tells him. But the judge does like the flavor of the honey marshmallow filling.


Baking a Classic by Definition

"What's the secret to your success?" Jesse asks home baker Daniela, who's holding strong in the competition. "Flavor," she says, while making her chocolate whoopie pies with cookies and cream filling. "I'm really trying to find a caterpillar in here," Nancy says upon seeing the treat. But the judges change their tune once they taste it. "Jordan, this is what a whoopie pie is supposed to look like," Lorraine announces. Daniela wins the Pre Heat.

Finding a Purpose for Dripping

"Finally a drip cake," says Daniela, excited about the Main-Heat challenge. She plans on making a lemon cake with a strawberry frosting. Luckily with the advantage, she has help from Season 2 baker Jane in making the twist element, a 3D rainbow. Daniela presents a unique concept, an ice cream cone dripping over the cake. "You made a reason for the drips to exist," says Duff, impressed with Daniela's concept. His only critique is that he wishes the crumb coat wasn't showing.

The One Flaw That Ruins the Cake

"I'm dripping; the cake's dripping," says Adam, running to grab supplies for his passion fruit-soaked cake, which he plans to make with four layers. One layer, however, bakes up raw, so he puts it aside. "I think it's absolutely stunning," Nancy says upon seeing the cake. But upon tasting it, the judges notice something odd. "Adam, raw cake," says Duff, seriously disappointed. "It's only a small portion," says Lorraine, advocating for Adam.

Disappointment at the End of the Rainbow

"You've made the rainbow a central part of your cake," says Lorraine, excited for John's cake design, but she and the other judges point out his drips look more like vertical stripes. Despite the look, Nancy finds the fresh strawberry and mascarpone filling really tasty, but Duff finds the cake dry; Lorraine compares it to toast. "It would have been fine if I had more of that delicious cream," says Duff.

Better on the Inside Than the Outside

"My ganache is a little runny, but I don't have time to start over," Jordan says while decorating his lemon-lime butter cake with drips. "I was a bit confused by the drips," says Lorraine after seeing it. "You've got some coming down and it looks like you've got some coming up as well," she explains, not a fan of the baker's decoration. "Good thing you can bake," Duff says, impressed with the flavor. "This is my favorite sponge of the day," Lorraine says after tasting it.

The Best and the Worst Cakes

"That was so creative," says Nancy of Daniela's cake during the deliberation. Although Lorraine says her drips weren't perfect, Duff points out neither were Jordan's. "I think Adam's cake was one of the best and I also think it was one of the worst," says Duff, disappointed it was underbaked. The judges award to win to Daniela. John goes home for his dry cake. "I'm really glad with how far I came," he says.

Episode 5: Sweet Treats and Greetings for Mom

"I'm not a poem writer," says Jordan after hearing he and his fellow bakers must make fruit tarts and write poetry for their moms in the Pre Heat. "I don't think my brain can operate while baking like that," says Courtney. "I can't even talk," says Daniela, who gets started on her crust. Unfortunately, she forgets to chill it before it goes into the oven and it shrinks. "It's like a fresh fruit tostada," Duff says.

Copious Fruit and a Flaxen Crust

"I'm looking at my crust. It's a little bit blond. Maybe I can tie that into the poem," says Adam, who elicits awes from the judges after he reads his poem. "I'd think it was made for me," says Nancy, primping her hair. "The inspiration behind the design was to present something bountiful," Adam explains of all the fruit piled onto the passion fruit mousse, which Duff calls "psychotic." But Lorraine wishes the crust was browner. Adam wins the Pre Heat, his second in a row.

Standing By Tradition

"I don't necessarily want to change the look of bread pudding," says John, planning to reinvent just the flavors for the modernized vintage desserts Main Heat. "I love mac and cheese," says Duff, after he is presented the dish, likening its appearance to a casserole. "I really don't like bread pudding," says Lorraine, "but not this one," she adds after a pause. But the judges are disappointed John didn't utilize the maraschino cherries for anything more than a garnish.

Going Modern Never Felt So Good

"This is right up my alley," says Jordan, excited to modernize a classic dessert like lemon meringue pie. He makes a lemon mousse, lemon curd and a Swiss meringue, piping the components around his crumble. "I want to know where the person who made this has been hiding," says Lorraine, surprisingly pleased after tasting it. "There was just enough to qualify as being baked," Duff says about the crumble, not letting the baker off so easily.

Chocolate Rehabilitation

"I'm thinking let's deconstruct it and make it a cappuccino," says Courtney of reinventing chocolate cream pie. But while she's making her mousse, the chocolate seizes. With some quick thinking, she's able to bring it back by pureeing the mixture in a food processor with cream. "I feel like I'm a baking EMT," she jokes. "This just looks not that accomplished," says Lorraine of the presentation. And Nancy says the chocolate is "just a little bit too dry."

Stuck in Vintage Mode

"Home baker got it up here," says Daniela, doing a little dance when Jesse reveals the maraschino cherry twist; pineapple upside-down cake traditionally has them anyway. She layers her mini cakes with caramelized pineapple, cream cheese frosting and the cherries in trifle bowls. But Lorraine and Duff feel it could have been presented neater. "I don't care how this looks — it is so good," says Nancy. Duff still questions Daniela's modernization, citing that a trifle is just another vintage dessert.

Rustic Baking vs. Professional Pastry

"It was a little rustic," says Nancy, advocating for Daniela's pineapple upside-down trifle." But Duff says, "There's a difference between rustic and sloppy." The judges agree Jordan's dessert was a success all around but that it didn't have enough crumb. Daniela and Jordan make the top two, with Jordan taking the win. John and Courtney end up in the bottom two. "I just don't think she executed," says Duff of Courtney, who's sent home. "It is the best thing I've ever done," she says of the experience.

Episode 4: Springtime Remodeling Woes

Courtney decides strawberries are the perfect seasonal touch in the Pre Heat challenge, which requires the bakers to give brownies a springtime remodel. However, without enough time for her strawberry-cheesecake brownies to cool, she has to use an ice cream scoop to remove them from the muffin tins. "I feel like an amateur," she says disappointedly. Luckily the judges love the flavor. "It's not a looker, but it tastes great," Lorraine says, summing it up.

Flowering Frustrations

"You need to look like a flower," Daniela yells at her brownies as she's trying to cut them out, but they're too hot to handle. After receiving the brownies, judges Nancy and Lorraine disagree on their springtime look. "Have a look at mine," Lorraine tells Nancy. "There's clearly differences in our plates," Lorraine says, calling Daniela out on her sloppy plating. But thankfully the judges find that it tastes good.

Elegance by Definition

"I'm going to implement a lot of texture into these," Adam says of his skinny brownies, which are thin and crispy. He layers the wedges with chocolate mousse and whipped creme fraiche mousse before topping each with a single mousse-filled raspberry. "What is that?" Jordan asks. The judges are beyond impressed: Nancy finds it magazine cover-worthy, and Lorraine is at a loss for a critique. "I'm trying to fault it and I can't, which is rare," she says.

Napoleonic Challenges

As the winner of the Pre Heat, Adam gets to choose the liqueur flavor he and his fellow bakers must incorporate into their springtime napoleons for the Main Heat. But the bakers have bigger concerns: "There's no one in this competition that's going to make an authentic puff dough in this 90-minute challenge," says John, who, as a professional, says it normally takes him three days. But the bakers will have to try; unfortunately, none of them succeed.

Pastry Puffing Gone Wrong

Having never eaten a napoleon nor baked puff pastry before, Fausto bakes by the seat of his pants. His dough rounds puff up like balloons in the oven. "I definitely reconstructed it," he says, semi-jokingly. "Congratulations, you made pita bread," Duff tells Fausto laughingly after seeing the dish. "It's not puff pastry," Lorraine adds, displeased. "I never want to see puff pastry again," Fausto says afterward.

A Flaky but Not Puffy Pastry

"As a home baker, I'm trying to be as good as a pastry chef," says Daniela, basing her puff pastry on a pie dough recipe. Although her pastry isn't quite right, she's confident about her tropical flavors. The judges love the colors so much so that Lorraine pictures herself lounging on a lawn. Although the pastry is flaky, Lorraine points out that it's more of a short dough. Daniela and Adam, who baked a lemon curd, goat cheese and cherry napoleon, make the top two, but Daniela wins the challenge.

Comparing and Contrasting Imperfect Puffs

"Everything on here is awesome, except this puff pastry is a disaster," Duff tells Jordan of his very underbaked dough. John, who thinks he might be going home for his failed dough, gets almost the exact same comments from the judges. He's safe, but Jordan is in the bottom two with Fausto, who's sent home. "I never dreamed I would make it past Week 1," says Fausto, taking his finale goodbyes.

Episode 3: Off to the Races

"Jordan, are you even allowed to drink yet?" Jesse jokingly asks, after announcing the bakers must make mint julep desserts to celebrate the Kentucky Derby. "This week I'm going to stick to my simple, modern style," says Jordan, making a siphon cake in the microwave. But the judges don't get it. "I'm not sure what happened," says Lorraine. "You've given me, like, three pieces of sponge, a little pile of crumble and some other dubious-looking shiny stuff."

Overboozing the Judges

"I feel really excited coming out of the last main challenge on top," says Courtney, feeling the momentum will propel her in this challenge. She presents to the judges a bourbon-soaked brown butter blondie in a pool of caramel sauce. "It's a little mid-'90s," Duff says of the plating. Upon tasting it, the judges are even more critical. "There's a splash left in the bottle," Lorraine says, finding it oversaturated with alcohol.

Missing the Authentic Flavor

"[I'm] cooking with liquor, which is what I like to do best," Daniela tells Jesse, who asks her how she plans to stay out of the bottom again. Instead of using vanilla extract in her tres leches cake, she uses bourbon, to represent Kentucky. "Where's the bourbon?" Nancy asks, not tasting it at all. But Lorraine, unfortunately, does taste the mint extract Daniela used in the frosting, and the judge is displeased with its artificial flavor.

Playing to Win, Giving In to Defeat

"You're a home baker but not by looking at this plate," Lorraine says approvingly of Fausto's shortbread cookies with chocolate sauce and peach sorbet. He wins the Pre Heat and a five-minute advantage in the Main Heat, where the bakers must make a Derby-inspired garland of three types of cookies. But Fausto overbakes his apple cinnamon cookies. "In my mind, I've already packed my bags to go home," he says.

Buttering Up the Judges

"I've been baking these cookies since [I was] a kid," says John, working on shortbread cookies, pecan thumbprint cookies and chocolate chip cookies. No judge has anything negative to say about his tasty offerings. "You gave me this cookie, which was so buttery," Lorraine says, holding up the shortbread, "and yet this pecan cookie is even more buttery," she adds, impressed.

Not Exactly the Cookie Queen

"I hate cookies, and the only thing I hate more than making cookies is decorating cookies," says Heather, who leaves the pantry with anything and everything she could find to make her cookies look somewhat presentable. "Well, we're springy at a baby shower," says Nancy upon seeing Heather's cookie garland, and Lorraine finds it bare. "I had higher expectations," Nancy tells her fellow judges.

Redemption Tastes Sweet

"I got beat up pretty bad in the Pre Heat," says Jordan, who's working on redemption with his citrus butter cookies, shortbread cookies and chocolate chip cookies. "Don't gang up on him all at once," Jesse tells the judges before Jordan presents. "Where have you been?" Duff asks after tasting all three offerings, which he and the others all love. "Total redemption," Jordan says afterward.

Wiltingly Coming Up Roses

As Jesse announces that the bakers must feature a rose element for their twist, Adam's pleased; he was already planning to make rose water icing for his pistachio sable cookies. "I'm getting flour," says Nancy upon tasting it. Adam's other cookies have better flavor, but they have questionable looks: Duff says the lime meringues look like "weird horns." And Lorraine points out that they're not fully baked.

Front and Back of the Pack

"I got so many thoughts and ideas up here that I couldn't bring out something clear," Fausto says, excusing himself of his failed cookies to the judges. He and Heather end up in the bottom two, whereas John and Jordan make the top two. "It was a photo finish," says Jesse, revealing Jordan "nosed out" John. Heather is sent home. "Tons of inspiration have come from this experience," she says.

Episode 2: Tropical Teamwork and Destination Desserts

"John may be older than me, but I definitely feel comfortable in taking the leadership role," says Courtney after being paired with him in a tropical team dessert Pre Heat. She's not afraid to send him on an ingredient run. "I feel like I'm sending my husband to the store," she says. "Is this Holiday Baking Championship?" Duff asks about the team's banana-coconut cream pie, commenting on how fall it looks. He also finds the dessert tastes flat.

Playing the Blame Game

"Sometimes I don't always play well with others," says Samirah, not too comfortable in teaming up with Heather. "It's so nice to have another person in the kitchen, because now if I screw up I can just blame it on you," Heather tells her, laughing it off. That's exactly what happens when Heather decides to use Samirah's pastry cream recipe, which doesn't set in time. "I just don't think you made it right," says Duff. And Lorraine finds Samirah's bruleed pineapple bitter.

Tropical Dream Work

"Our judges agreed that one team's tropical dessert was truly a taste of paradise," announces Jesse, revealing Adam and Daniela as the Pre Heat winners. Their Key lime tarts and frozen souffles really impressed the judges, and the two teammates worked very well together. The two get first picks of destinations in the Main Heat challenge, which has the bakers making a dozen baked doughnuts decorated three different ways.

Betting on the Outcome

"I got Vegas, baby," Heather shouts in excitement. She decides to make blueberry streusel doughnuts, inspired by her family's yearly blueberry picking tradition. She goes to town in decorating her doughnuts with a gambling theme. Although Nancy thinks she could have done better with her decorating, Duff calls the flavor "jackpot." But he questions how something as homey as blueberries would represent Vegas.

Mountainous Missteps

"I'm going to dress it in some different flavors reflecting morning, afternoon and nighttime at a mountain resort," Samirah says of her plan for chocolate-espresso doughnuts. But while making her brittle, she has no choice but to neglect her doughnuts. "I am saying an internal prayer that they have not completely dried out," she says. Nancy thinks the doughnuts, which look nothing like mountains, could have "had a little more finesse," she says, and she calls the cake "very, very dry."

When the Ride Goes Off the Rails

"I didn't add the baking powder," Daniela announces, already to the point of piping her batter. With no time to start over, she simply stirs in the baking powder. The doughnuts turn out like muffins, and she's to the point of crying when Jesse reveals a twist, a half-dozen doughnut holes. "Like I don't have enough to do," she says, frustrated. She ends up skimping on the amusement park decoration, which Lorraine calls a "disaster." But the judges do find her doughnuts good.

Cruising Toward Victory

"I've been on four cruises," Courtney says, very happy to be working with the vacation theme, and for that feeling of celebration, she's baking confetti doughnuts. But she waits until the last 15 minutes to make her doughnut holes. Deep-frying the batter doesn't work out, so she hustles to bake her remaining batter. "Finally, this is what I think a cake doughnut should be like," says Lorraine. The judges are relieved to have a moist and flavorful baked good.

In the Eyes of the Beholder

"I love your crab. It looks like Duff," says Nancy, complimenting John on bringing his beachcombers' dream theme to life in his fondant "sea buddies," as John refers to them. "The eyes are so much better than that psycho bunny," says Duff, alluding to John's cake from the week before. "It's a little dry," Duff says. But he follows that critique up with a nice compliment: "The flavors in here are really nice."

Top and Bottom Destinations

Courtney and Heather are revealed as the top two bakers in the Main Heat, with Courtney winning her first challenge. In the bottom are Daniela and Samirah, whose doughnuts left a lot to be desired in both decoration and flavor. But it's Samirah who's going home. "Just getting here is a huge accomplishment," says Samirah. "I did the best I possibly could have done."

Episode 1: Easter Egg Shapes and Bunny Bakes

"I just went through my third batch of tuile batter," Fausto says, breaking every single nest because he let them cool too long. He ends up baking phyllo cups as a last resort. But it's not his nest that disappoints the judges. "Where's the egg?" Nancy asks. "I intended for the vanilla cookie to be the egg," says Fausto, but Nancy notes it got soggy in the strawberry consomme.

Ballooning Problems

"My plan for the balloon is to make some open-ended eggs," Heather explains of her idea for the Easter egg and nest Pre Heat dessert. However, they keep popping as she dips each in melted candy melts. "I don't have a plan B," she worries, but she soon realizes putting them in the fridge will keep them from popping. The hard work pays off. "It's pretty impressive," Nancy says. "Awesome idea," Duff adds.

Uncomfortable Nesting

"This is going to be the casing for the actual nest," Mark explains, cutting white modeling chocolate into strips that he will wrap around a slice of orange-buttermilk pound cake. But when Jesse asks for the judges' first impressions of the nests, both Duff and Lorraine answer "pasta." Lorraine further demonstrates her dissatisfaction by using her utensils like a hammer and chisel on the now-hardened modeling chocolate.

Backhanded Compliments

"That made all that balloon work pay off," says Heather when Jesse announces that she's won the Pre Heat and earned an advantage in the Main Heat: to choose her cake flavor for her bunny cake. "I'm going to make a cake that I usually make in eight hours and pack it into three," she says, nervously. Duff finds her cake looks unfinished but says, "I can't figure out how the outside could kind of look so bad and the inside can taste so good."

Looks Can Be Deceiving

"I'm making two 8-inch round cakes, and then I'm making a medium-sized dome, and I'm going to stack them on each other and carve out a bunny," says Jordan, who would normally use a mold, but there's not one available. "I hope it works out," he adds. "I think that your bunny looks like it could bark," says Nancy, but she does like the coconut flakes as fur. His honey and raspberry cake flavor, however, really impresses the judges.

Incomplete Depiction

"I hate bunnies. Bunnies are creepy," says Samirah, not too keen on the challenge. She starts on a vanilla chai spice cake, incorporating spoonfuls of dry spice one at a time to ensure good distribution. "My bunny cake will not have eyes because they're creepy," says Samirah as she completes her decoration. But Duff isn't buying her reasoning. And Nancy doesn't pick up on the spices, except for the cloves.

Two Times the Reward

"I am sweating like I've never sweat before," says Fausto, who now needs to make a dozen bunny cupcakes to meet the twist. Instead of using the same carrot cake batter for his cupcakes, he makes a coconut horchata batter. "This is a beautiful carrot cake," says Lorraine. "The fact that you made two different cakes — you are among the few," adds Nancy before requesting the recipe.

From Wineglass to Cake Plate

"I heard you say the magic word," says Jesse, singing "Chardonnay" as he stops by to see Daniela making her specialty cake. "It's just something back at home, whatever I have in the pantry," she explains of experimenting with liquor when baking at home. "I've never had a Chardonnay cake," says Duff, who, unlike Lorraine, picks up on the flavor. "It finishes like a glass of Chardonnay too."

A Cake by Another Name

"It looks absolutely nothing like a rabbit, whatsoever," says Lorraine upon seeing Adam's citrus cake with pistachio praline and berries. "But you know what? You've made a fantastic mouse," she adds. When it comes to his bunny cupcakes, Nancy says, "It just looks like Groucho Marx." The judges find there are too many flavors and textures. "Fascinating, little weird cake," Duff says, summing it up.

Good and Bad Bunny Cakes

Jesse announces that Jordan and Fausto have claimed the top two spots, but Fausto is the winner of the Main Heat. John and Mark end up in the bottom. John's butter pound cake was unevenly baked and dry for some of the judges. Mark's presentation was lacking, as was his promised pink peppercorn flavor. Mark is sent home. "The challenges were a little bit more difficult than I originally thought," he says.

More Spring Baking Championship

Go behind the scenes of the competition, meet the bakers competing in Season 3, and get recipes and ideas for baking seasonal creations at home.