It takes more than just baking a picture-perfect cake or a decadent pie to win reality competition Kids Baking Championship. The contestants, aged 10-13, need to have an eye for detail, be creative with their flavours, and cope well under pressure to impress judges and mentors Duff Goldman and Valerie Bertinelli.

Each week, the kids are tasked with thinking outside the box as every challenge, includes a mean twist that always catches them by surprise. For instance, in S2 (2016), the contestants were asked to bake a tie-dye cake resembling ’60s T-shirts. But midway through, the judges arrived rubbing their hands like smirking villains and asked them to also make ice-cream from scratch. But where so many grown-ups might wail like they’d dropped their ice cream cone, the kids reacted differently. “This is why I love kids. Most adults would see the twist as an obstacle, whereas the kids just accept it and then start to think creatively right away,” says Duff.

Watch it on Catch Up

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During S1 in 2015, Duff, who runs bakery Charm City Cakes (as seen in reality series Ace Of Cakes) and also has his own baking television shows Buddy vs Duff (with Cake Boss’s Buddy Valastro) recapped the entire season on Food Network’s website. Not only did his article include easy baking hacks for home cooks, he also gives inside info for aspiring bakers who would like to enter the intense competition.

Here’s what the S5 contestants should know if they want to walk away with the prize of $25,000 and a magazine feature in Food Network Magazine, according to Duff…


Try, try again

Every season features a Dessert Imposter challenge, in which the tweens are asked to prepare sweet desserts that are disguised as popular savoury dishes. For example, they could bake biscuits that look like pasta and to go with it, a raspberry compote that resembles tomato sauce. To up the ante, they must make a side dish to go with the main meal. “Obviously, the desserts have to work visually, but just as important, they have to be delicious,” says Duff.

While S1’s Natalie Venable’s (11) first batch of cupcakes exploded in the oven, she redeemed herself by baking another – and stole the judges hearts with a burger that she made using cupcakes as her bun, brownies as meat patty and a white chocolate glaze as dressing.

A tip from Duff: “Natalie taught us all two very important baking lessons. One, always scrape down the sides of the bowl or your ingredients won’t be mixed well. Some of those cupcakes had too much baking powder, and some had not enough. Two, always make extra!”

Savour(y) the moment

As in S1, the contestants in S2 were tested to bake éclairs with different colours and flavours. It didn’t end there. They were also asked to shape the crème puffs into their favourite animals. The kids were panicking! The task was a walk in the park for winner Rebecca Beale (13), but for others, it went pear-shaped.

A tip from Duff: “Savoury works well with pate a choux [the type of dough to make éclairs] and the things you can do with this dough and cheese are delicious. I think the kids at first were a bit freaked out, but that’s cool. These kids are so good at seeing an obstacle and quickly turning it into an opportunity.”

Bake from the heart (and the art)

The kids were pushed to the limit in an episode in S3 (2017). They were first divided into teams of three and required to make cakes using breakfast ingredients: waffles, pancakes or flapjacks. Duffy, the self-proclaimed king of waffles, couldn’t wait to taste the creations. It was Adrian Berry (12) and Cole Frederickson (12) who won the challenge with their rolled cinnamon waffles, paired with a crunchy cinnamon ice cream.

A tip from Duff: “A great attitude. That’s how a chef should think. You don’t do what you are supposed to. You do what you haven’t seen yet. You don’t just copy but you create.”

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A piece of cake? It’s hard!

Each season of the Baking Championship ends with a cake challenge in which the kids have a few hours to bake and decorate their cakes. In the S4 finale in 2018, the 3 finalists were asked to bake a birthday cake to celebrate the Food Network Magazine’s 10-year anniversary. Linsey Lam’s (13) chocolate cake, covered with marbled fondant and a berry filling was a hit with the judges and she won the competition.

A tip from Duff: “The thing about cakes is that they’re a commitment. There are more things that can go wrong and trip you up. There are more ways to fail with a decorated cake than, say, chocolate chip cookies [because you can’t hide behind silly mistakes]. The stakes here are really high. I’m looking for a cake that is going to wow my customers.”


Kids Baking Championship S5 starts Friday, 19 June on Food Network Channel (DStv 175) at 19:55 or watch on Catch Up

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