Amanda's Picks

June 18, 2024 at 4:25 p.m.

By AMANDA GLAM Columnist



Those Who Can’t Bake, Watch People Bake

While your Amanda is a fairly accomplished cook, she is a fairly miserable baker. My life is a series of cakes that don’t rise or go straight from the oven to the trash. Then there are the ones where the layers are held together with toothpicks and prayers. I always have an emergency Pepperidge Farm Chocolate Cake in the freezer and boy, do they come in handy. 

While I am a long-time fan of cooking competitions like Top Chef, Tournament of Champions and Beat Bobby Flay, I only recently began watching baking shows. I think the main reason is, with Top Chef, I can occasionally think, “I could make that.” Not so much with baking shows, where the best I can do is, “I think I can buy that at the bakery.”

That was, until Nailed It came to Netflix. Now in its seventh season, Nailed It is the first baking competition for people who, like me, shouldn’t be allowed near an oven. Three home bakers who made an impression on the show’s producers on social media, have to copy incredibly complicated cakes, for example a pirate ship, haunted house or Art Deco bedroom set. But since they are not professionals, their cakes look nothing like the pro version or really like anything you would find on the planet. 

What do I love about Nailed It? Well, pairing the hysterical comic actor Nicole Byer and serious and sophisticated French pastry chef Jacques Torres, is brilliant. You need a skilled comedian to react to some of these amateur creations which are so bad that yes, I could make them. The “winning” contestant creates a cake that in some universe could be seen as possibly resembling the model. Every episode brings three new contestants, so when you do the math with seven seasons of episodes, that’s a lot of bad baking. Oh, and the winning prize is shot from a money gun. How fun is that?

The opposite of this showcase of aspiring bakers is also on Netflix. On Is It Cake?, serious bakers who spend all their time on Tik Tok, and know their way around a fondant, create cakes that look EXACTLY like real objects. Host and Saturday Night Live cast member Mikey Day then asks a panel of “celebrity” judges to find the cake among the decoy cakes. The contestants win if they fool the judge AND create a tasty cake. These cakes are so amazing, I’ve screamed at the TV, “That is NOT cake.”

You would think that the competition show, Easy-Bake Battle (Netflix), would be about contestants forced to create impressive baked goods in nostalgic Hasbro toy Easy-Bake Ovens. Who doesn’t remember their childhood toy and potential fire hazard that created tiny, dry, chocolate cakes that were not helped by the just-add-water icing? I would watch a show where a bunch of social media wannabes stir batter with tiny spoons and attempt to create something edible. Sadly, host and Queer Eye star Antoni Porowski instead leads savvy home cooks in a series of challenges to make tasty dishes with time-saving hacks. These dishes eventually end up in a giant “easy-bake oven.” I will give the show credit for treating the contestants to brownies baked in a legit Easy-Bake Oven.

Even if you don’t enjoy baking shows, I insist you check out the new series, Next Baking Master: Paris, on the Food Network. First, it’s in Paris, and all the guests are super French. Then there is co-host chef and restaurateur Ludo Lefebvre. Imagine a bearded, dashing, French Ray Romano, yeah that’s this guy. The contestants are all professional American bakers who are a bit catty and cutthroat. I’m not going to even pretend that I could EVER make any of the amazing confections on this show. But what I love about it, besides French Ray Romano, is that each episode is dedicated to a classic baking ingredient, sugar, butter, chocolate etc., so I can actually learn something I will never be able to use.