Jen Kwapinski, proprietor of the San Jose bakery Jen’s Cakes, has moved on to the final four on “Next Great Baker.” She “is feeling really great about who is left,” which includes Paul Conti from Long Beach Island, NJ, Gretel-Ann Fischer from Colchester, VT, and Ashley Holt from Louisville, KY.
Kwapinski struggled through the Baker’s Challenge for the episode, as the task called for competitors to create cocktail-inspired cupcakes, and Kwapinski has never consumed alcohol because of religious reasons. This caused her mudslide cupcake to be heavy on the Kahlua, as she could only taste it after it was baked. She attempted to balance the flavor with frosting, but host Buddy Valastro found the icing to be too sweet. Holt’s “buttery nipple cupcake” won the round, with ingredients including butterscotch liqueur, raspberry liqueur, and mascarpone. Holt’s dessert will be featured in an upcoming issue of “Redbook,” as deputy editor Leslie Robarge was also a judge for this competition.
Things turned around for Kwapinski in the “Elimination Challenge” round, however, as she and teammates Conti and Holt exceled in creating a birthday cake for morning host Kelly Ripa. Kwapinski embraced this task, “excited because I love Kelly Ripa, I think she's hilarious.” The team’s cake featured round tiers highlighting things Ripa loves, like her dog, roses, and martinis. Throughout the seven hours that the team worked on the cake, there were several issues with Conti and Holt butting heads on ideas, but Kwapinski served as logical one who held everything together. In fact, she noted that her teammates being "so explosive over the shape of a cake is crazy to me," and later explained that “both of them like to make comments that just egg the other person on.” Her mediation skills paid off, however, as after their cake was declared the winner, Kwapinski was named Most Valuable Baker, earning her a seven-day cruise on Celebrity.
Kwapinski previously won a trip to Italy on “Next Great Baker.” As the season begins winding down, she noted that “it's anyone's game, but I plan on taking it. It's my game now.”