Mississippi baker advances, her cake named ‘top contender’ by judge on Spring Baking Championship

Published 10:57 am Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Mississippi baker Molly Manning Robertson had Food Network judges diving into delicious flavors during the first episode of this year’s Spring Baking Championship.

Robertson and 11 other bakers are competing for the television food competition’s $25,000 prize, a feature in Food Network Magazine and the title of Spring Baking Champion.

The first episode of Season 9 premiered on Monday evening. Each episode will include a preliminary heat and main heat. At the end of the main heat, one baker may be eliminated from the competition. Episodes first air on Monday evenings.

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For Monday’s preliminary challenge, host Jesse Palmer asked the bakers to make an elevated version of the dessert that got them into baking and to decorate it with an assigned flower.

Robertson, a home baker from Natchez, had judges Kardea Brown, Duff Goldman and Nancy Fuller wading into her Butter Swim Biscuit with Cherry Jam and Hibiscus Coulis.

“Let’s go swimming,” Palmer said as the judges dove into the dessert inspired by biscuits made by Robertson’s grandmother, Hildred Manning.

When it comes to Robertson’s baking enthusiasm, “It began with her,” she said of her grandmother. “She was a dessert queen. She did pies, cakes, and everything.”

However, Robertson didn’t consider making a career out of baking until around her senior year of high school. She now bakes cakes, cupcakes, and cookies for weddings and other celebrations out of her home. Never before has Robertson ever been on national television for baking or any other task, she said. “I actually had someone reach out to me via Instagram for a different show, and we finally landed on this one,” she said. “I was going to be on the Halloween baking championship, but my date got pushed, so now I’m competing for the Spring Baking Championship.”

The judges remarked on the dessert’s flavors and the biscuit’s texture in Robertson’ first offering.

“The biscuit is really nice. It is tender, with the perfect amount of salt in there,” Goldman said. “Cherry jam is really good, too, and the hibiscus brings it all together.”

In the main challenge, bakers were asked to make a two-tiered cake that evokes what they love to do with someone they love in the spring. Each baker had an assigned berry flavor.

Robertson created a cake that featured her and her husband’s three dogs. The almond cardamon cake with lingonberry buttercream received rave reviews from Brown, who said the cake was “definitely a top contender.”

“I want to eat the whole thing. Oh my gosh,” Brown said. “It’s so beautiful because of the simplicity of it. The flavors are so simple, but they are so straightforward.”

Fuller agreed.

“The almond and the cardamon, what a beautiful blend of flavors,” Fuller said.

At the end of the main heat, Robertson was one of the 11 bakers who advanced to the second round of the competition, which will first air on March 13. Keem Jackson a pastry chef from Baltimore, Maryland, was eliminated from the competition.

The remaining contestants are:

  • Robertson, from Natchez
  • April Franqueza, Pastry Chef from Sapphire, North Carolina
  • Jessica Quiet, French Pastry Chef from Stowe, Vermont
  • Christian Velez, Culinary Arts Teacher from Hollywood, Florida
  • Jai Xiong, Culinary Instructor from Savage, Minnesota
  • Manja Blackwood, Executive sous chef from Tucson, Arizona
  • Luke Deardurff, Executive Pastry chef from Bronx, New York
  • Josh Cain, Chocolatier from Orlando, Florida
  • Victoria Casinelli, Pastry chef from Shelton, Connecticut
  • Clement Le Deore, Home Baker from San Diego, California
  • Michelle Henry, Bakery Owner from McAllen, Texas