Best Baking Competition Shows, Ranked| The Mary Sue

Everyone loves a good baking/cooking competition show. They are a bit of light-hearted drama, generally feature some educational baking tips, and never fail to astound with the kind of creations their contestants come up with. Whether you are a baking enthusiast or not, baking competitions offer timeless fun for almost any audience. Meanwhile, each show offers its own unique premise that gives it a competitive edge over other shows.

What is best about these baking competitions is that they are bit more realistic and more palatable than other reality shows. There’s not very much room for producers to manipulate the scene or script it. Nor is there a whole lot of opportunity for over-the-top melodrama. Instead, it largely just allows normal people the chance to share their talents with the rest of the world. Not only that, but shows like the Great British Bake Off have been proven to increase interest in home baking. Whether you’re a baker yourself or not, you can’t help but be inspired by the passion and dedication these contestants show. Here are the best baking competition shows, ranked from worst to best.

10. Worst Bakers in America

Worst Bakers in America
(Food Network)

Worst Bakers in America first premiered in 2016 and is a spin-off of Worst Cooks in America. The series follows 8-12 contestants each season who have very poor baking skills. The contestants are paired with celebrated bakers who have a limited time to mentor their rookies into cooking experts. The amateurs, essentially, embark on a baking bootcamp and, after six-weeks, must demonstrate what they’ve learned.

Worst Bakers in America is an entertaining show in that it specifically selects amateur bakers with the worst cooking skills. However, the show definitely lacks originality in that it is pretty much identical to Worst Cooks in America, merely featuring bakers instead. While funny at times, some of the bakers do seem to be exaggerating their shortcomings and others get a little too mouthy with their mentors. It’s a bit entertaining, but lacks originality and isn’t as good as the original show.

9. Cake Wars

Cake Wars
(Food Network)

Cake Wars premiered in 2015 and ran for 5 seasons until 2017. The series features 4 different contestants, in each episode, who compete against each other to create a cake worthy of being featured in huge celebratory events. These events could be celebrating anything from the release of Kung Fu Panda, to the opening of a DC headquarters, to a special LEGO store event. Obviously, only one of the four cakes will be chosen and the one that is, wins $10,000.

This show is certainly fun and entertaining to watch. You will be in awe of the cakes, especially with some of them inspired by your favorite TV shows, movies, and franchises. However, Cake Wars also lacks originality. It is almost identical in format to Cupcake Wars which preceded it and Chopped, which preceded Cupcake Wars. With a similar format, title, and host, the only real difference is that it focuses on cakes versus cupcakes. If it had been first in line, it would be a pretty good show, but seeing the shows before it makes it feel overdone.

8. Kids Baking Championships

Kids Baking Championship
(Food Network)

Kids Baking Championship premiered in 2015 and is a competitive baking TV show where the contestants are all children. Each season features 8-12 contestants aged 9-13 years of age. Every episode, the kids are given a unique challenge and compete against each other to present the best dish to hosts, Valerie Bertinelli and Duff Goldman. One contestant is eliminated per episode, with the winner receiving $25,000 and a feature in Food Network Magazine.

Naturally, Kids Baking Championship wins the prize for the most adorable show on this list. We have a bunch of kids, some of whom are too short to reach the ingredients on the top shelf, donning aprons and hats and somehow out-baking the majority of adults. Also, Val and Duff are amazing with the kids. They help the children out, make them laugh, and step in if the situation is getting too stressful. For the most part, it is a wholesome series. However, at times our entertainment comes at the expense of a child suffering a burn, bursting into tears, or breaking down from stress, and it just doesn’t seem quite worth it.

7. The Great British Bake Off

great british bake off baking show
(Love Production)

The Great British Bake Off is a British reality baking competition that premiered in August 2010. This series follows a similar pattern to many baking competitions. Each season features a group of 12 bakers who compete against each other to impress a panel of judges with their final dish. One contestant is eliminated per episode, until a winner is chosen from the finalists. Interestingly, there is no prize money for winning the series. The winner essentially wins respect and prestige in the baking world.

The Great British Bake Off is a very intriguing series and definitely fosters interest in baking. Additionally, many of the winners have gone on to do great things—open restaurants, write cookbooks, and some have even gone on to write food columns for magazines. However, the show does also boast more controversies than most baking shows. These controversies are pretty wild and include unethical product promoting, accusations of favoritism, instances of bakers sabotaging each other, and a judge accidentally leaking the winner beforehand.

6. Sugar Rush

Sugar Rush poster
(Netflix)

Sugar Rush premiered on Netflix in 2018. Professional bakers compete in teams of two and each episode features four teams. In each episode, they must race against the clock to create desserts in three different rounds. Round 1 requires them to make cupcakes, round 2 is confections, and round 3 is a cake. The creations are judged by Candace Nelson and Adriano Zumbo, as well as a different celebrity guest judge each episode. Sugar Rush‘s winning team takes home $10,000.

This series is a very fun and very nerve-wracking baking show. It’s always in the last few minutes of the round that the biggest blunders or disasters occur. Meanwhile, the show remains interesting with the addition of a fun celebrity guest each season. Still, the show does struggle a bit with originality, taking a number of elements from baking shows like Chopped and Masterchef.

5. Cupcake Wars

Cupcake Wars
(Food Network)

Cupcake Wars first premiered in 2009 and concluded in 2018 after 11 seasons. The show is modeled off of the same competition format as Chopped. Each episode starts out with four contestants and has three rounds, with one elimination per round. The winner of Cupcake Wars gets $10,000 and the opportunity to be featured in a special event. In the first round, the contestants must create cupcakes related to a theme, using unusual ingredients. In the second round, the contestants create three different cupcakes of their choice and present them in a way that relates to the theme. Lastly, in round 3, the contestants must create 1,000 cupcakes featuring improved versions of the cupcakes from previous rounds, organized on an elaborate display.

Cupcake Wars is definitely a fun show to watch. After all, the fact that these contestants can bake 1,000 cupcakes in just 2-hours is incredible. Their displays are absolutely massive and relate to interesting themes like Seaworld, golf, or film. Meanwhile, the 1,000 cupcakes are usually donated, so no food goes to waste. The only problem is that the competition format is a little too close to Chopped‘s format. Otherwise, it’s a very entertaining and intriguing show to watch.

4. Nailed It!

netflix's nailed it
(Netflix)

Nailed It! premiered on Netflix in 2018 and jumps on the trend of people trying, and failing, to create elaborate cakes they found on the internet. Three contestants, with poor baking skills, compete against each episode for a $10,000 prize. In the first round, contestants pick between three existing treats to attempt to recreate. Round 2, however, is where things get really fun, when contestants are tasked with recreating a complicated cake from scratch.

This show is brilliant and cleverly capitalizes on the hilarious Pinterest fails trend. Now, though, we get to see the actual, painful process of these attempts, instead of just the end result. Quite often, the end results turn out to be little more than scary-looking blobs. There are far more fails than nails in this show. In fact, with the number and extent of failures, you sometimes get the feeling that the contestants are failing badly on purpose. After all, the show kind of sets them up for failure as the time restraints and challenges are almost impossible for an amateur baker. Hence, the show is a bit unrealistic, but that doesn’t take away too much of the fun.

3. Zumbo’s Just Desserts

Zumbo's Just Desserts
(Netflix)

Zumbo’s Just Desserts is an Australian baking competition show that premiered in 2016. 10-12 contestants are selected each season to compete for a grand prize of $100,000. Each episode consists of two rounds, the first in which the contestants create a dessert based on a theme and set of rules. The two worst performers in round one, get put into round two—the elimination round. In this round, the two bakers attempt to recreate one of Adriano Zumbo’s original desserts.

This show is extremely entertaining and offers some of the most unique themes of any show. From horror-themed to desserts, to treats with a secret inside them, to desserts that capture a moment in time—the themes are always unusual and intriguing. And the unique themes, of course, then allow the contestants to create breathtakingly creative and beautiful creations.

2. Crime Scene Kitchen

Crime Scene Kitchen
(Fox)

Crime Scene Kitchen is a baking competition that premiered on Fox on May 26, 2021. The bakers compete in teams of two and, in each episode, are introduced to a new crime scene. The “crime” that has been committed, is that someone has stolen a tasty treat. All that is left of the dessert are crumbs, flour trails, and a few similar clues. The teams must work backward, examining the crime scene to guess what the dessert was that was stolen and then they must recreate it to the best of their abilities.

This show brings together an unlikely, but amazing, combination of mystery and baking. The bakers have the added challenge of not knowing 100% what the dessert is they are creating. Instead, they have to compile clues, taste crumbs, and do a whole lot of deducting before they even know what they’re making. It’s seriously challenging, but also seriously intriguing. You will be impressed, amazed, and will be analyzing clues right along with the contestants.

1. Baking Impossible

Baking Impossible
(Netflix)

Baking Impossible premiered on Netflix in October of 2021. This unique baking competition seeks out both bakers and engineers. The contestants compete in pairs, with one contestant specializing in baking and one specializing in engineering. These teams are then pitted against each other to create tasty desserts that can also withstand engineering stress tests. The winning pair takes home $100,000.

This series is by far one of the most unique and captivating baking shows. The challenges truly do seems impossible, but, shockingly, many of the contestants pull it off, though it does typically take as long as 18 hours. Challenges range from creating a cake-based boat that can actually float, creating an edible mini golf course that you can actually play golf in, or creating an edible costume that a human can wear for the length of the runway. Instead of a 30-minute rush, bakers get 18 hours to showcase the full extent of their creativity, skill, and intelligence. This results in creations that are out of this world and prove that there’s no such thing as ‘impossible.’

(featured image: Love Production)

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