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'Best Baker in America' Winner Eric Keppler Talks TV Curveballs and Making America's Birthday Cake

By Carolyne Zinko | November 17, 2019 | Food & Drink People Ingredient

Pastry chef Eric Keppler at the Four Seasons Hotel at Silicon Valley tends to keep a low profile, but became a household name after winning the third season of the Food Network’s popular Best Baker in America TV series with a Fourth of July firecracker cake. Here’s a look at his experience. 2050 University Ave., East Palo Alto

Eric Keppler’s finale-winning firecracker cake was baked, cooled and decorated within the six-hour time limit.

Why do the show?
My background is supertraditional. You stay in the kitchen and let your food do the talking. With younger generations, that’s not the way the world works. I thought it would be good to push myself out of my box.

Where was it filmed?
In Los Angeles, seven episodes, nine of us. We had an elimination challenge, like a reinterpretation of a princess cake; and a master challenge, like reinventing a royal baby shower cake.

Did you know what was coming from one day to the next?
No. The first thing that pops into your brain is what you go with, unless something goes wrong. Then you have to pivot. That’s how it relates to the hotel for me. You get a lot of last-minute requests, curveballs that will come out of nowhere.

Like what?
Some are dietary, some are extravagant. We have clients who come from all over the world who want unusual requests in the middle of the night. I can’t say any more. I don’t want to mess up my NDA.

Describe the finale challenge.
We were tasked with creating a birthday cake for America, a minimum three-tiered cake with two flavors of macarons, chocolate and sugar decorations in six hours. Being from a central Pennsylvania small town, I went super-Americana with a red, white and blue theme. It was my grandmother’s chocolate cake recipe, and I had to incorporate a salty snack inside. I put a milk chocolate mousse with a salty pretzel crumble between the layers of chocolate cake. The whole thing was frosted in sour cream ganache sprayed with white velvet spray and red, white and blue chocolate decorations to represent exploding fireworks.

Your guilty pleasure?
Classic old-fashioned pies, my favorite being an apricot or cherry pie.

What’s coming up on the fall dessert menu?
Flavors with apple, caramel and nuts and coffee.

Photography by: Courtesy of Food Network