10th Dec2021

‘Baking Impossible’ Review (Netflix)

by Rhys Payne

I don’t know if it’s just because my mother is a semi-professional baker but a highlight every year, when my birthday comes around, is that cake I will be having! I have had gravity-defying midget gems cake, a cake dedicated to my idol and queen of morning television Lorraine Kelly and a giant Reese’s peanut butter cup all of which more only looked incredible but also tasted amazing! Due to a combination in the rise of popularity of shows such as Great British Bake Off and the lockdowns situation we as a nation have recently endured, there had been a rise in the number of people who have decided to take up baking as a hobby/business. This in turn means that there is a greater need for baking competition shows as the pool of potential contestants is constantly expanding. Any person who wants to create a baking inspired competition show must find the creation of such as show extremely difficult due to the over-saturation of shows that already exist. It becomes more and more difficult to create a unique baking show that people will want to watch so the focus becomes more on how the show is going to be different to the others rather than the quality of among itself. This is the hole that Netflix’s original baking show Baking Impossible fills!

Rather than the usual style of competition where bakers go on and try to bake a cake decorated like a favourite childhood memory, these bakers are paired up with engineers to create the most fanatical baked creations you have ever seen. The “bakeneers” have to create wonderful tasting cakes that usually have some form of mechanical element (eg they move) and then the cakes experience some form of stress test to see which cake has fulfilled the brief the best. The majority of each episode is spent watching the baked goods complete the tests and so shifts the focus off of the talent of the bakers and more onto how effective the integration of cake and engineering is. Due to our family passion for cake, we used to regularly watch the show Cake Boss on TLC which stared Buddy Velasco and his team as they make the most wonderfully over-the-top cake creations the human race has ever seen! His cakes are lots of actual works of art (and I assume cost a similar price) which are also immaculate to look at. However, the thing we have noticed as a family is that the cakes are always constructed perfectly but sometimes there are very few edible sections. To my family, a cake is to be eaten first and looked at as a second priority so we always makes sure the cake looks good but there is enough substance so that everyone is able to enjoy a piece of it! One of the only qualms that I have with the new Netflix baking show Baking Impossible is that yes these bakes are insane to look at and the fact they move, lights up, swim etc is so amazing but surely the inside of the cake is made up of mostly mechanical components rather than an edible sponge!

The panel that judges each competition has been carefully selected so that each component of “bakenergeering” is being assessed. The head judge Andrew Smyth is someone who has been a forerunner for this hybrid style of baking and so is able to provide advice on both the baking and building of the goods. On one side of Andrew, we have Hakeem Oluseyi who is an Astrophysicist, STEM Educator, Author and Speaker and on the other, we have Joanne Chang is an American chef and restaurant owner. These three experts come together to be able to offer accurate advice on all things bakeneering which makes for the perfect judging panel. This Line up is competed by Magician Justin Willman who hosts the episodes who does use some of his tricks throughout the course of this first season! While talking about all things magical it did seem that due to the baking of the sales being so meticulously planned and designed the transition segments on this show tried to cram in as much extravagance as possible. The announcement of each episodes category and eventually winners was very over-the-top which did at times feel over out of place. The thing that I can’t get my head around at all is the fact that the structure of each episode did not match the structure of each challenge. The episodes would end with the beginning of the next episode’s challenge which I did find somewhat unnecessary and confusing at times.

Overall this is a unique baking show that truly showcases more of the potential that cake as an art medium can possess. However, I do have to note that this is more a show to watch as a novice baker as the complexity of challenges and extravagance of some of the bakes would be incredibly overwhelming for new bakers. Additionally, I have to note that the baking laws in the UK are very different to those in the US as we are not allowed to directly put flowers on a cake or put any form of plumbing on a cake. It is absolutely a show for experienced bakers who specialise in spectacle cakes and want to gain inspiration for their next show-stopping piece.

**** 4/5

Baking Impossible is available to watch on Netflix now.

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