Next Great Baker: Season 3, Episode 4. Cake Roast.

Next Great Baker: Season 3, Episode 4. Cake Roast.

Life Size Cake of Carol Leifer

Episode 4 began with most of the bakers expressing disappointment that Paul Conti had continued to fight another day, and the mystery: Where’s Garrett? Spoiler alert: stop reading right now if you don’t want to know the outcome of Episodes 1, Episode 2, or Episode 3. Louisville’s Ashley Holt describes him as “obnoxious…just plain annoying to be around.”

OK…. Now that we’re alone:

Both are just red herrings.

Paul isn’t going anywhere tonight, and Garrett is just offscreen having an anxiety attack. Cake Boss Buddy Velastro makes a concerned call to Garrett’s mother on-camera, and she doesn’t seem surprised that he’s a little high-strung, but nothing gets resolved this episode. (There is a much, much darker subtext that viewers are probably afraid of whenever a Next Great Baker contestant goes missing, but that’s a different discussion.)

As always, the Baker’s Challenge begins with a Product Placement: this week, the 100 year anniversary of Oreo Cookies. (“The first Oreo cookies were sold in Hoboken, New Jersey!”) The challenge: take 100 Oreo cookies in 90 minutes and use them all up making as many different desserts as possible.

Ashley is teamed with Peter, Gretel-Ann, the aforementioned Paul, and fellow golden child Chad. She starts with an “Oreo Cookie cookie…a traditional chocolate chip cookie” with a few ingredients changed. She then goes with an Oreo tart and an Oreo bourbon ball.

Peter introduces his backstory by saying, at 21, he doesn’t have a backstory. He’s just there with his dreams, and in a sharp dig at fellow contestants, “I don’t have kids…I own my own failing bakery…I have dreams. That’s what’s at stake for me.”

Over on the opposing team, Letty, again with the bark? (Anybody can make bark.) Jen makes the “cup of dirt” (mousse topped with ground Oreos, as commonly found at kids’ birthday parties). Buddy unexpectedly raves, “I like it. Not too rich. And I like the way that you pulverized Oreos; it’s almost like a powder. And it feels good on your palate.” He also says, “I’m enjoying the bark.” (?!) The only thing he really doesn’t like in this round is Chris Luna’s butterscotch Oreo truffle.

The MVP winner (with a year’s supply of Oreos) is… Louisville’s Ashley Holt. Cut to Jess jazz-hands-ing, “Surprise,” and Gretel-Ann sniping, “Ashley is a strong competitor, but there’s just something inside me that tells me she’s going to drop the ball.”

Life Size Cake of Carol Leifer

Next up: the Elimination Challenge – each team will sculpt a cake of a life-size comedienne, the towering Judy Gold or Carole Leifer (known as the more-or-less inspiration for Elaine on Seinfeld, and for coming out in her 40s).

Advantage Ashley: she chooses the more diminutive Leifer for her team. They take pics and measure for life-size accuracy purposes. Ashley says, “we were violating her, and thankfully she was being such a good sport.” Leifer deadpans, “the next step is stirrups.” The bakers get ten straight all-nighter hours to sculpt and deliver the cakes to the Friars’ Club where they’ll be roasted by the cake subjects.

Ashley begins by carving Leifer’s head out of what appears to be Rice Krispie treats. “I want to do the face. The face definitely is a dealbreaker. If the face sucks, she’s probably not going to like the rest of the cake.”

(The elephant in the room that nobody ever mentions on this show? Who could want to eat these “cakes” after watching the assembly and manhandling they go through? This is not Top Chef. Nothing in the elimination challenges looks tasty.)

Next: Jess gets accidentally beaned in the face with a pipe, promptly responding (obviously having watched many a reality-food competition), “can I please stay and work on my cake?” (Only sissies agree to ambulances.)

As the cakes are wrapped up, Ashley and Chad skirmish over a “don’t touch me” incident, and then the action moves to the Friars’ Club.

“Good Sport” doesn’t even begin to cover it. As Leifer told the crowd, “if you’re looking to raise your self-esteem, I would not get a life size cake made…”

But Team Carol takes the win, and Louisville’s Ashley Holt goes home with another victory in her pocket.

Poor Jess and her jazz hands must hit the road in the box truck.

Tune in next week, for another round of: Where’s Garrett?

(And for the fans who are asking: James Brown’s surgery is scheduled for 2013. His statement to TLC viewers is: “Thank you to everyone for the outpouring of support. Together with my family, I have been focused on my health and am working with my doctors to prepare for surgery to remove the tumor, which will happen early next year. Thought it’s been a difficult time, I feel fortunate to have the encouragement of the fans, Buddy, and the entire NEXT GREAT BAKER team helping me through this journey.” We’ll be posting a followup interview with Mr. Brown soon.)