Tag Archives: Carla Hall

Contestants running on the set of Halloween Baking Championship

Halloween Baking Championship Season 7: The Winner is…

It’s been a terrifying trek through this season of Halloween Baking Championship, and host John Henson greets the remaining four denizens of Camp Devil’s Food Lake while malevolently toasting marshmallows  a tip off to the contestants that this episode’s thriller challenge is a S’mores based test. The bottom two  confections will land their creators in a sudden death challenge, and the loser sent off into the night to meet their gruesome ends at the hands of the mysterious camp killer. Here is our recap of the ghoulish season finale and the reveal of who wins this season of Halloween Baking Championship.

Judges Stephanie Boswell, Zac Young and Carla Hall and Judge John Henson, on the set of Halloween Baking Championship.

Fear Itself: The Thriller Challenge

Based on the questionnaire the contestants previously filled out, John has selected their most feared ingredients. A runner up from Halloween Baking Championship from Season 6 and a surprise entry into the competition in episode 2, Renee Loranger knows what her ingredient is before she even opens the box. “It’s sauerkraut,” she bemoans. “C’mon, I can smell it”. Each camper faces their nemesis; for Megan Baker, black garlic adds a wrinkle, while Adina Schaefer is faced with her hated rosemary. Guillermo Salinas, interestingly, has a composed dish rather than ingredient: a weird and wobbly gelatin dessert. 

Renee wisely chooses to focus on the coconut-like texture of the sauerkraut, rinsing it well and adding it to a raspberry brownie with marshmallow, salted caramel and graham cracker crumble. It turns out to be a wise decision, as judge Zac Young loves the chew of the sauerkraut, but Carla Hall would prefer it chopped finer.

Guillermo Salinas on Halloween Baking Championship

As an artist and a pastry chef, Guillermo Salinas is one to watch in this competition. On his Instagram, Guillermo says his goal in life is to make delicious things, but making creative edibles is his true passion. That definitely shines through in some of the plates we’ve seen from him, from gorgeous pastries and elegant cakes, to chocolate creations and airy croissants.

Faced with a cup of jelly, Guillermo makes the fearless decision to dice it and add it to a covered bowl infused with hickory wood smoke for a hot chocolate panna cotta with smoked gelatin, graham cracker and marshmallow. Unlike the other bakers, he opts for store-bought marshmallows, which costs him points with judge Stephanie Boswell, who calls him out for hermetically sealing his dessert with an impenetrable crust. Zac also points out that he could have transformed the ingredient better, by boiling and reducing it.

Contestant Megan Baker, as seen on Halloween Baking Championship, Season 7.

Megan Baker isn’t just ready to whip up those horror movie-inspired treats she’s ready to take them to the next level. As a cake artist, Megan is used to working with everything from buttercream to fondant, telling a story with each delicious offering.

Megan makes the brave but ultimately foolish decision to try for a macaron in a limited time, which does not allow for an overnight set to get the signature chewiness. Her black garlic jam macaron with salted chocolate and toasted marshmallow ends up being overbaked, and Stephanie compares its texture to an amaretti, although she praises the fermentation and acidic quality.

Contestant Adina Schaefer, as seen on Halloween Baking Championship, Season 7.

As a small business owner, Adina Schaefer is used to working under pressure which will definitely give her an advantage in this competition. The cake artist runs her own shop, Sweets By Adina Marie, in California. There, she whips up custom desserts and cakes made from scratch that feature high-quality ingredients. Now, we can’t wait to see how those skills translate on the series.

Despite Adina’s profound dislike of rosemary (“it reminds me of being trapped inside a really cheap, bad Christmas candle,” she says), and burning her caramel twice during her bake, her honey rye graham cracker, toasted marshmallow, rosemary brittle and chocolate crémeux wins her the advantage for the next challenge. “I feel like we’re going to eat anger and disdain,” says Carla, taken aback by Adina’s vehemence.

Death by Pumpkins

The sudden death challenge tasks Guillermo and Megan with recreating John’s worst fear in a fresh, modern and unexpected way. A display of ugly and unsettling rotting pumpkins serves as inspiration for the two contestants, both of whom take on classic handheld desserts. Despite the judges pointing out the bitterness of Guillermo’s burnt pumpkin seed crumble, they find favour with the creativeness of the piped pumpkin-shaped cream puff with cream cheese filling, plated on a garbage can lid. Megan’s chocolate pumpkin whoopee pie with pumpkin cream cheese and candied pecan, although praised for its ethereal mousse consistency from Zac, ultimately sends her packing due to its lack of the grossness the challenge demanded.

And Then There Were Three

The remaining bakers are faced with a fiendish task for the final challenge: a towering tribute to the anonymous camp killer that has been lurking in the background for the season. The tiered or carved cake must contain a topper shaped like a brain, with a gooey filling. The five hour challenge has all the bakers scrambling to make the amount of cake necessary for 24 inches (for reference, says Guillermo, that is the height of his son. “That’s a toddler-sized cake,” he says wearily.) This challenge means that in addition to making three to four batches of cake, running between their stations, the oven and the cooling racks, the bakers have to contend with structural considerations such as the weight of the topper and the need for dowels to steady the cake layers.

As her advantage for winning the thriller challenge, Adina gets to choose between mousse, curd or gelatin as the filling for her cake’s brain decoration. She picks curd, but ultimately regrets the decision, opting to use a lighter filling for her cake topper just in case. Her devil’s food cake with malt whipped cream ganache, cherry curd, cherry jam, pecan streusel and cinnamon buttercream is inspired by John, whom she secretly suspects is the serial killer villain of the show (she adds grey tufts into the frosting to pay tribute to his hair). The piece de la resistance of her ghoulish creation, apart from disturbingly realistic stitched together human skin made out of fondant, is her decision to use agar agar and put jam in front of the brain’s lobe, so that it will weep blood when it sits (a fact that both impresses and horrifies Zac at the judging table). The softness of the curd she uses to fill the cake, however, interferes with the structural integrity and leads Carla to point out that the cake is leaning to the side.

Guillermo decides to revisit his successes of the season, making a multilayer cake decorated with a mummy, zombie, pumpkin and clown all facing off into different directions so that at least one is always staring at the viewer. His orange sponge cake with chocolate ganache, cranberry mousse and amaretto buttercream, complete with crushable white chocolate molding for the brain and cranberry and raspberry interior, incorporates fresh fruit and candied nuts in what Stephanie calls “a cacophony of flavours”.

And The Winner Is…

Although Renee has experience with the final challenge, she feels as nervous as the other competitors. Unlike Adina and Guillermo, Renee uses round cake pans rather than baking sheets to make three tiers and a smaller tier in case her cake is too short. From the start, she’s behind in her bake, rushing to get the cakes in the oven and cooled successfully. When she goes to unfold them, however, they stick to the pan and need to be scraped out (thank goodness for frosting!). Her devil’s food cake with hazelnut buttercream, hazelnut feuilletine crunch and sour cherry crunch falls afoul of other problems, too; her sour cherry jam is initially too sweet and the cake topper white chocolate shell cracks, leading her to quickly make a rather flat-looking molded substitution (“it’s not the biggest brain, but it’s a brain,” she sighs). 

Renee Loranger making a cake on Season 7 of Halloween Baking Championship

Renee wowed the judges with her design of the screaming victim on the middle layer of her cake, and the design mastery at work. “It reads like a graphic novel,” says Stephanie, admiring her adherence to the story through fondant and chocolate, as well as shiny sour cherry blood oozing from gashes carved into the cake. Ultimately, Renee takes home the $25,000 prize and a handmade wooden medal from John, proving that her return to the championship was a killer decision.

Watch Halloween Baking Championship and stream your favourite Food Network Canada shows through STACKTV with Amazon Prime Video Channels, or with the new Global TV app, live and on-demand when you sign-in with your cable subscription.

Slice of tsunami cake being taken out with a knife in the cake

Carla Hall’s Bloody Good Tsunami Cake is a Must-Make Halloween Dessert

Halloween Baking Championship judge Carla Hall knows a thing or two about scary cakes. And her pull-me-up cake recipe, AKA a cake that uses a see-through plastic sheet that you pull up to reveal an explosion of liquid icing or melting chocolate oozing down the cake, looks as scary as it sounds. Did we mention it was even more delicious? Carla recommends putting a plastic toy hatchet, meat cleaver or a dagger into the top of a cake of your choice (her recipe for a delicious red velvet cake is below), but she says buying a store-bought cake is OK too.

Tsunami Cake being cut into

Related: 16 Scary-Good Halloween Cakes and Cupcakes

Carla Hall’s Bloody Good Tsunami Cake

Prep Time: 1 hours
Cook Time: 2 hours (includes cooling and chilling)
Total Time: 3 hours
Servings: 8-10 

Ingredients

Roasted Beet Purée:
2 large beets
¼ tsp kosher salt
1 Tbsp olive oil

Red Velvet Cake:
2½  cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the cake pans
1½  cups granulated sugar
2 Tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp kosher salt
¾ cup buttermilk
½  cup vegetable oil
2 Tbsp red food coloring
1 tsp white vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature

Cream Cheese Frosting:
1 lb (454 g) cream cheese, at room temperature
1 stick (8 Tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups white chocolate chips, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups powdered sugar

Bloody Good Tsunami Topping:
1½  cups milk
1⅓ cups heavy cream
¼ cup cornstarch
Pinch kosher salt
1¾ cups sweetened condensed milk
Red food coloring, as needed
Red sprinkles, for topping
Red sparkling sugar, for topping 

Related: 15 Creepy (and Cute) Halloween Party Food Ideas

Slice of Tsunami Cake on a plate with finger prints on it

Directions

Special equipment: two 8-inch (20 cm) round cake pans; an 8-inch (20 cm) cake round; a rotating cake stand; a plastic toy hatchet, meat cleaver or dagger; a large sheet of clear acetate, at least 2 inches wider and 5 inches taller than the assembled cake.

1. For the roasted beet purée: Preheat the oven to 425ºF.

 2. Place the beets in a piece of foil and season with the salt. Top with the olive oil and a splash of water, close up the foil and roast until a knife or skewer comes out with ease when inserted into the beets, 25 to 30 minutes. Set aside to cool just enough to handle.

3. Peel the beets, transfer to a blender with any remaining juices and purée, adding up to ¼ cup water if needed to get it to puree.

4. For the red velvet cake: Reduce the oven temperature to 350ºF. Butter and flour two 8-inch (20 cm) round cake pans.

5. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flour, granulated sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Mix on low for 30 seconds with the paddle attachment.

6. In a separate bowl, whisk to combine ½  cup of the roasted beet purée, the buttermilk, oil, food coloring, vinegar, vanilla and eggs. In 2 parts, pour into the mixer. Mix on medium speed until combined. Do not overmix. Pour the batter into the prepared pans.

7. Bake on the center rack until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes, then turn out on a wire rack. Let the cakes cool completely before frosting.

8. For the cream cheese frosting: Meanwhile, beat the cream cheese and butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer until combined. Add the chocolate and vanilla extract, then continue to mix until incorporated. Next, slowly add the powdered sugar, beating until the frosting is light and fluffy. Transfer to a piping bag or Zip Top bag and snip off the end.

9. Pipe a tablespoon of frosting onto a rotating cake stand and place an 8-inch cake round on top, pressing gently to adhere. Place the first cake on the cake round and trim the dome to make flat if needed. Cut the cake in half horizontally to make 2 layers. Frost the top of the first layer, then place the second half on top and frost. Repeat with the remaining cake, cutting in half and stacking between layers of frosting. There should be 4 layers. Finally, frost the sides, finishing with the top.

10. For the bloody good tsunami topping: Whisk the milk, heavy cream, cornstarch and salt in a medium saucepan until smooth. Heat over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture just begins to thicken, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and immediately whisk in the condensed milk and red food coloring (as many drops to get the color you prefer). Place a layer of plastic wrap over the top of the mixture to prevent a skin from forming, then allow to cool completely before using.

11. To assemble the bloody good tsunami cake: cut a sheet of clear acetate that can wrap completely around the base of the cake, adding an extra 2 inches so that it can be secured with tape on the side and also making sure that the acetate is taller than the top of the cake by at least 5 inches. Wrap the acetate around the cake and tape it to form a long tube  – it should not be so tight as to squeeze against the outer layer of the cake, but still have no gaps at the top of the cake so that the topping will not seep over the edges. Gently spoon the bloody good tsunami topping over the top of the cake, then spoon an even layer of red sprinkles and sparkling sugar, about ¼ inch thick, over the topping. Plunge a plastic toy hatchet, meat cleaver or dagger into the center of the top of the cake – it should be very decorative and realistic looking for the best effect!

12. To reveal the tsunami, grasp the top of the acetate and gently pull up to loosen from the base of the cake, then continue pulling up over the top of the cake in one single motion to allow the topping to cascade over the side of the cake.

Related: Apple Poke Cake

Watch the Video:

Watch Halloween Baking Championship and stream all your favourite Food Network Canada shows through STACKTV with Amazon Prime Video Channels, or with the new Global TV app, live and on-demand when you sign-in with your cable subscription.

Recipe courtesy of Carla Hall.

Carla Hall is laughing and has a big smile on the set of Halloween Baking Championship

Carla Hall Shares Her Favourite Moments From This Season (Plus, the Trend She Predicts for 2022)

She’s neither a fan of slasher movies nor psychological thrillers. But on this season of Halloween Baking Championship, Carla Hall says expect to see plenty of scary challenges incorporating those themes. That’s because this season, the show is playing homage to 1980’s slashers movies  both ionic, obscure and just downright freaky.

Carla Hall on the set of Halloween Baking Championship

Carla is joined yet again by her co-judges, Pastry Chefs Stephanie Boswell and Zack Young, as well as host John Henson to help choose this season’s winner. Carla says the group’s common shared interests, such as acting and overall rapport is a huge part of why she thinks Halloween Baking Championship has been such a fan favourite all these years and why it continues to be one of the most entertaining shows.

Related: Halloween Baking Championship: Meet the Season 7 Bakers

“ I think the bakers are great, but [the cast] there is a sense of family with John and my fellow judges,” Carla says. “We just don’t keep ourselves strapped with boundaries. We really play and we get into the characters that we dress up as. And no other show has the costumes. I think the costumes every year just level up.”

Judges look at a pie on this season of Halloween Baking Championship

Carla Hall’s Highlights From Halloween Baking Championship

Speaking of levelling up, Carla says fans can expect to see bakers create some of the scariest cakes to date with the set and costumes coming in a close second! “This year, the network allowed us to get really scary [meaning] we can have skin hanging off of our faces,” said Carla.

“The fact that the setting of the show is at Camp Devil’s Food Lake, so [think] legs, scariness, spookiness, things jumping out at you you can plan on all of that. I might not be able to tell you when it’s going to happen, but just know it’s going to happen.”

Finished pie on a cake stand on display in the Halloween Baking Championship studio

What else? Maybe not as frightening, only “ugly delicious” as Carla calls them, but “you’re going to see a lot of great crusts this season.” And who doesn’t like a good crust? Carla says she’s first in line for a delicious slab of pie.

“If I had to choose between cake or pie, I would choose pie because I love fruit and I love the flakiness. I love the differences in texture with pie. I love a flaky buttery crust.”

Tips for Going Beyond Cake Decorations

Decorating a cake so it wows the judges on the show takes technical skills, artistic abilities and a load of experience, says Hall.  But her advice for home bakers aspiring to be on the show or who want to be the star in their own kitchens at home?  Take risks and go beyond focusing on just the decorations.

Related: Gorgeous Edible Cake Decorations To Elevate Any Dessert

“It’s not just about decorating, but really [bakers have to] make sure that the textures of your baked goods are great,” she says. “Understand how butter works: Do you want to use room temperature or softened butter? I mean, those are very different things. Start slowly, then go to [the] decorating and then just make sure that it’s something that you enjoy.”

Carla Hall looking at a pie on the set of Halloween Baking Championship

As for that one winning element that edges out the competition? Dare to be different.

I think white sugar is overused and I think I would like to see the bakers explore different sweeteners because it gives more interest to the baked goods. I’m thinking there’s always some kind of raspberry with chocolate. I would like to see them break out and use something that’s not so predictable.”

Related: Apple Spider Web Pops

Carla Hall’s Trend Predictions for 2022: Savoury Sweets and Spices

Using savoury spices in baked goods is something Carla says bakers on the show typically shy away from using – but not this season.

“When I think of spices, I think of cumin, cayenne and black pepper, [and] we actually forced them [the bakers] to use them. You’re going to see cinnamon, you’re going to see nutmeg, you’re going to see allspice. Those are the very traditional spices, you see those. What we challenge them to do, though, is to go beyond their comfort level and use some of these other spices.”

Wes Dills' cake, as seen on Halloween Baking Championship, Season 7.

As for cake trends, Carla is glad to say goodbye to piñata cake, tsunami or pull-it-up cakes and drip cakes, and say hello to using savoury vegetables in cakes instead.

“What I think could be a trend or maybe I want this to be a trend is vegetables sweetened and turned into something else,” Carla told us. Using parsnips, or something like that in a cake, instead of carrot cake, [perhaps] celery root, the texture with celery root could be really nice. People are starting to use beets in a red velvet cake instead of the red dye because it’s natural, but the texture of beets also gives us that moist crumb.”

Related: Make-Ahead Gory White Chocolate Truffles for Your Next Halloween Bash

Carla Hall’s Favourite Recipes and Baking Traditions

Holidays like Halloween and Thanksgiving are a great time to get everyone in the family involved in creating a meal and making long-lasting traditions, says Hall. Admittedly, the former Top Chef contestant says she didn’t start baking until she was well into her twenties, but she always loved to eat especially her grandmother’s cornbread

I remember just like watching her waiting for that cornbread to be done..you would have that cast iron skillet, you put the oil in the skillet and then you pour the batter into the skillet, and I remember, the sizzle that the batter would make. And then all of the batter would be rolling up the sides of that cast iron skillet and that she would put it in the oven. And I knew in 20-minutes we’d be eating.”

She says in those early days it wasn’t about learning how to make the cornbread however, but rather for her, it was about recreating the memories surrounding the moments before she ate the cornbread that in part, inspired her baking career today. 

Watch Halloween Baking Championship Mondays at 9 PM ET/PT. Watch and stream Live and On Demand on the new Global TV App, and on STACKTV. Food Network Canada is also available through all major TV service providers.