Gingerbread Globe

The Great American Baking Show Episode 3 – Spice Week Reaction


This post contains Episode 3 Spice Week spoilers so if you have not watched it, stop reading now and come back after you finish watching it!***

Great American Baking Show Spice Week
Spice Week on The Great American Baking Show: Holiday Edition, THURSDAY, DEC. 19 on ABC. (ABC/Mark Bourdillon) Tanya working on her Gingerbread Globe Scene.

Spice Week is in the books and I made it through! I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the challenges during Spice Week and I think it showed! The critiques weren’t perfect, but if they were, I probably would’ve questioned them. Although I gave it my all, I think that there is ALWAYS room for improvement and that the best way to learn is from our mistakes.

Learning and expanding as a baker is the main reason that I wanted so badly to be a part of The Great American Baking Show. I was concerned at first that it would be impossible to learn from the judges’ comments in one episode and carry that into the next challenges. But the more open you are to the comments, the more you will learn.

Of course, no one likes everything. You will never make everyone happy with every bake. Some people like more citrus, some like less. Some people like more sweetness, some like less. But you do what you can do and just keep baking.

I think the best piece of advice that I got was from Sherry and I thought that it had nothing to do with baking. She told me multiple times, ‘just be you’. ‘Be yourself and the rest will fall into place.’

Wow, OK…couldn’t you just tell me how much longer to bake my cinnamon rolls to make them perfect? Or the correct amount of lemon to put in my bread?

And what does ‘being me’ have to do with my bakes?

Well, Sherry knew. And I think Paul did too, even though he was more guarded with his comments that weren’t directly related to baking.

During the Cinnamon Bun challenge, while Sherry was waiting to talk to someone across the aisle on camera, she was watching me. I was happily working away, without a care in the world. I felt so comfortable that you wouldn’t know that I was in the Tent, in a baking competition. You wouldn’t know that I was going to be judged by two of my idols. And, if I’m honest, I forgot too.

Sherry said, “Tanya found her swagger!” and then she smiled at me. That’s when I realized what she meant by ‘be you’.

During that challenge, I wasn’t baking for the judges. I was baking for the sheer joy of it. I made the cinnamon buns on the show with exactly the same recipe and technique that I use at home. The flavors are tailored to me and my family. The Breadsticks, when I got a handshake from Paul, was the same. The flavors were ME in a thin strip of bread.

And the Showstopper during Spice Week? My favorite challenge of the entire show. Gingerbread is my ‘thing’. I love it. My creations are rarely perfect. My globe had a lot of room for improvement. But I loved making it.

Signature – Cinnamon Buns

This challenge sounds easy. And, for me, it was one of the simpler ones. But one thing I know is that the simpler the challenge, the tougher the judges will be. Every single detail has to be perfect.

I used my usual recipe except for a small change to the icing. I didn’t change anything else. There were certain things that I paid close attention to, though. In order to have the most even rolls possible, I did measure when I cut them.

Infusing the tea into the icing was actually my husband’s idea. We drink a Market Spice tea almost every day at home and it is infused with cinnamon and orange so I knew that he was on to something.

The comments were good and I was happy. The only negative comment was that my rolls were too ‘blond’. I believe that is due to the pan that I used. At home, I use a glass pan or sometimes a light-colored metal pan but I used a dark metal pan in the Tent. Normally, you would think that the rolls would brown faster in a dark pan but since that was the only change from numerous practice bakes, that is the only reason I can find for it! Any more baking and they would have been overbaked!

Technical – Linzer Cookies

What can I say? FIRST IN TECHNICAL! I was over the moon that this challenge went as well as it did. I had never made true Linzer’s before. I have made jam-filled cookies but Sherry was looking for some very distinct characteristics.

It would have been great if those characteristics were listed on the recipe sheet but they aren’t about to make it that easy!

The best part of my technique may have been an accident, though. I did toast the hazelnuts after blitzing them in the food processor and, being a bit impatient, I started mixing everything before the hazelnuts were cool. I didn’t want to add the hot hazelnuts to the dough right away so I decided to throw the spices into the hot hazelnuts. I normally toast my spices when I make spice cake and other spice-infused bakes. This blooms the spices and brings out the flavor.

Although I have used the technique and employed it here, it was more out of impatience than anything else. But it worked in my favor!

The rest of the challenge seems easy now, looking back. This was the first time that we had to make jam and I overheard a few people cooking their jam to the wrong temperature. My first instinct was to tell them the right temp!! But we are forbidden from talking about anything other than encouragement during Technical Challenges so I couldn’t help.

In the end, my cookies impressed Paul and Sherry. That felt better than I could ever tell you!

Showstopper – Gingerbread Scene

My favorite challenge of the competition. My piping was messy. Some of my gingerbread was not rolled thin enough. It didn’t win me Star Baker, even with the difficulty of doing a sphere.

Gingerbread Globe
Gingerbread was my favorite challenge in the Tent!
“The Great American Baking Show: Holiday Edition,” THURSDAY, DEC. 19 (9:00-11:00 p.m. EST), on ABC. (ABC/Mark Bourdillon)

But I love my Gingerbread Globe Scene and I would do it again. Actually, I may do it again at home, just for the fun of it.

I collect globes, I love to travel and the challenge of doing a sphere seemed like it would win me some points. Alex and I got the same feedback on this challenge – some of the gingerbread was rolled too thick so it wasn’t crispy. But the judges liked Alex’s cinnamon rolls better with his up-front orange flavor and that handshake gave him a second Star Baker title.

Maybe next time.

Just keep baking…

Gingerbread globe
“The Great American Baking Show: Holiday Edition,” THURSDAY, DEC. 19 (9:00-11:00 p.m. EST), on ABC. (ABC/Mark Bourdillon) TANYA

A sad good-bye

The end of Spice Week brought on something that I never expected to see. When I first arrived in London, I judged the competition. Everyone does it. I tried to decide who would be the bakers that were still standing at the end.

I picked Sally to be in the finale.

She is so knowledgable about all things baking and cooking. She is fun to be around, smiles through adversity, and has such an amazing spirit.

I want to be Sally when I grow up.

But, actually, Sally is shorter than me. That doesn’t happen often so, of course, I reveled in it.

We all had a running joke when we were all together. #wheressally

When we went shopping, when we gathered for a group picture, when we were eating lunch…someone would always say ‘Where’s Sally? Oh, there she is!” At first, it was an honest question, then it became a joke. Now it’s a hashtag that belongs on a t-shirt!

I enjoyed baking with Sally so much. And now I enjoy talking with her every single day. She is quick-witted, funny, intelligent and oh so beautiful!

You can keep up with Sally on her blog at


The Magnificent Sally (ABC/Mark Bourdillon)


  1. Tanya – a warm hello from Australia ! I am not a baker but Sally’s has been a firm favourite to visit for many years and I also think she is my favourite baker and cook – and a hell of a lovely lady to boot ! Glad you met and appreciated one the other . . . and glad I now have found your blog also . . . one very inventive gingerbread showstopper for you . . . shall be following . . .

    • Thank you so much for reading! Sally is a very special lady and I’m so glad to have met and worked with her. She was my favorite baker!! The gingerbread sculpture was my favorite challenge! Stay tuned for another special on in the next couple of days!

  2. 1st in Technical!!!! Keep it up girl!

  3. Hard to find what to say… I am so touched!

    well, I knew you were in your element in Spice week, it was so obvious! You have NO IDEA how I felt when I realized you were making a GLOBE out of gingerbread… I mean, you can give me my whole life and put a gun to my head. There will be NO GLOBE. Well, maybe a shattered one? I seem to have that effect on gingerbread….

    I just hope that all the memories of those days won’t fade too much with time – but we have the blogs to refresh it all, and when I feel sad, I will stop by here….

Leave a Reply