Next Great Baker: Season 3, Episode 8 “Happy Birthday Kelly (Ripa)”

Next Great Baker: Season 3, Episode 8 “Happy Birthday Kelly (Ripa)”

Tonight passes the halfway mark of  Season 3 of the Next Great Baker. They’re down to five competitors. It’s Episode 8 “Happy Birthday Kelly (Ripa)”!

Spoiler alert: stop reading right now if you don’t want to know the outcome of Episodes 1, Episode 2, Episode 3, Episode 4, Episode 5,  New Year’s Eve Hoboken Style special,  Episode 6, and Episode 7. Tonight, Episode 8, ends with a SHOCKER.

The Baker’s Challenge will be a shot at “exposure,” Buddy says, introducing them to Leslie Robarge, deputy editor of  Redbook  Magazine.  Saying that Redbook looks to support is girlfriends, “and no girlfriend get-together would be complete without two things: sugar and booze.” A massive bar is wheeled out on a tray. The challenge: a cupcake inspired by a cocktail. (It is too bad James Brown was not there to wow them with his mint julep cupcake!) The winner and their cupcake will be featured in an upcoming issue of the magazine.

Paul goes for the raspberry liqueur. Gretel-Ann is inspired by an orange creamsicle. Ashley wants to be “a trendsetter,” so she riffs on a buttery nipple cupcake (butterscotch liqueur, a cream, and vodka; Ashley! No bourbon?!). Jen is a non-drinker and “has no frame of reference.” Her inspiration is from the mudslide. Chad begins with a banana cake, a bananas foster compote inside, dipped in a white chocolate ganache, and finished with rum and a salted caramel buttercream. He proclaimed it as simple as he could make it.

The winner — again! — is Louisville’s Ashley Holt, with a buttery nipple cupcake, topped with a mascarpone cream cheese icing. She gets a feature in Redbook Magazine and a chance to pick her team.

For the elimination challenge: New York Giant and Live with Kelly host, Michael Strahan, walks in with a birthday cake order for Kelly Ripa.We learn she likes dirty martinis, the color of money-green, shoes, and red velvet cake. MVP of the winning team will get a Caribbean cruise.

Team Chad and Gretel Ann immediately commit to an all-white cake (which looks very bridal), topped with a stiletto (a risky gamble after Chad’s disastrous failure trying to sculpt the leg lamp from a Christmas Story, episode 3 — better known as the edema cake). Team Ashley, Jen, and Paul — after an Ashley vs. Paul swearing match over square vs. round — go with a tiered structure that highlights martini cutouts, topped with a sculpted coffee cup, ringed with a donut.

For the twist: Buddy returns to the kitchen and offers Ashley an opportunity to fire a teammate and send them to the opposing team. She correctly strategizes a stay with the status quo. “If I send [Paul] to their team, then it’s just going to be me and Jen and our weakest link has now left…. If we lose, Paul’s going home.” (She is now in a can’t-lose position. If the opposing team loses: a powerful competitor will go home, Chad or Gretel-Ann. If her team loses, she is in a position to send Paul home, as the weak link she doesn’t like anyway. Her work is so strong, it is highly unlikely she would be the one eliminated.)

Kelly loves the martini cake with the realistic touches: her overstuffed purse, a dog dish, her favorite mug. “It really is a symbol of my entire life.” One look at Team Chad/Gretel-Ann’s work, and she says, “My husband and I eloped and we never had a wedding cake…It’s a glamorous cake.” Faint praise.

Team Ashley takes the win, and Jen takes the MVP slot, unanimously, winning the cruise.

The Wedding Cake has to send someone home. The color (or lack of color) killed it. “Who goes home?” Buddy asks, “the guy with more talent, or the one with more passion?” (For all his talent, Chad has been on the bottom team repeatedly, and has tanked several challenges, though few as bad as the edema-cake from the Christmas Story).

“Chad, the road ends here. I think you’re talented, and I know it’s not the end for you.”

“Ridiculous,” Chad mutters under his breath.

Chad Durkin, 29, Philadelphia: into the box truck. Chad’s final words in the box truck: “I know I can out-bake and out-cook most of these people. And I got eliminated just because I was on the bottom a couple times. Not even because I failed at anything. I think my work is much more refined, and much in the caliber that needs to be in this show. And I think a lot of the other people don’t have that caliber. I think Chef made a big mistake sending me home.”

Tune in next week for the Final Four.