Baked goods just may be one of the trickiest guilty pleasures, as they’re as delicious as they are bad for you. That’s one of the many reasons why the renaissance of baking focused television has been such a blessing. Now, you can enjoy watching delicious treats being made from the comfort of your own couch, all without having to worry about counting calories. Of course, you don’t get to enjoy the taste of any of the snacks, but… well, it’s the thought that counts.
Baking competitions also serve as wish fulfillment experiences for aspiring bakers everywhere – whether they’re a future Martha Stewart in the making, or they’d be better off never going anywhere near a kitchen in their entire life. Channels like the Food Network, the Cooking Channel, the BBC, PBS, and even Netflix are all rapidly producing shows about amateur and expert bakers alike competing against each other to be the best of the best.
So whether you’re a seasoned professional baker, a junk food junkie with a craving, or something else entirely, there’s definitely a baking competition show out there that’s just right for you. We take a look of the 10 most addictive of them in recent years.
10 Cupcake Wars
Sometimes, the best things come in small packages – like in the case of everyone’s favorite pint-sized treats, cupcakes. Since 2009, the hit series Cupcake Wars has followed bakers and inexperienced celebrities alike as they compete in rounds to create delicious, topically themed cupcakes and enormous cupcake displays. The cupcakes could be for anything as disparate as an aquarium launch party, to the premiere of a new season of a television show, to the anniversary celebration of a beloved animated character.
The artistry that goes into perfecting dozens – and, at times, hundreds – of these tasty little treats is truly impressive. With winning judges like Candace Nelson and Florian Bellanger, and an adorkable new host in Mean Girls star Jonathan Bennett, Cupcake Wars makes for a truly fun binge watching indulgence.
9 Sugar Rush
While most of the series on this list find competitors participating in the competition on their own, or as a primary baker with a sidekick, Netflix’s 2018 series Sugar Rush totally changes things up and features bakers competing in teams of two for a grand prize of $10,000.
The series is known for its use of larger than life baking techniques and finished products. In round one, competitors produce cupcakes. Round two finds contestants making confectionery treats. And, of course, round three requires them to produce a full-size cake in keeping with the episode’s theme. Hosted by up and coming game show host Hunter March, Sugar Rush may be a short binge at only eight episodes, but what it lacks in length it more than makes up for in energy.
8 Sweet Genius
Airing from 2011 to 2013 on Food Network, the cult hit baking competition series Sweet Genius is perhaps one of the most intense series on this list. With dramatic voiceovers counting down the time remaining and robotic like instructions and cool metallic settings, Sweet Genius puts an almost steampunk like twist on the warm and friendly baking competition series that we’re all familiar with.
But what truly sets this series apart from all the others is its host, the world-renowned expert pastry chef Ron Ben-Israel. If you’ve seen Ben-Israel in any of his other many television appearances, you know how affable and downright adorable he can be at times, so it’s truly gripping and even jarring to see him take on such a strict, somber tone as he judges the challenging contestants.
7 Christmas Cookie Challenge
Nothing says baked goods like the holidays. Many of the series on this list are seasonally themed and, therefore, only air during certain portions of the year. But that doesn’t make them any less enjoyable – or their baked goods any less appealing. One of the best entries in this subgenre is the Food Network holiday series Christmas Cookie Challenge, which has aired since the holiday season of 2017.
Former NFL player and Food Network favorite Eddie Jackson serves as the host of the rapidly paced competition, which finds five bakers appearing in each episode and competing in mini rounds as they strive to make the best Christmas cookie based treats. A rotating panel of judges, including Ree Drummond and Jordan Pilarski, round the cast out.
6 Spring Baking Championship
Springtime represents a time filled with rebirth and renewal, and also offers the opportunity for plenty of bright colors, cute animals, Easter-themed treats, and much more. Leave it to Food Network, then, to fill a gap that we didn’t even know existed with its introduction of Spring Baking Championship in the spring of 2015.
Currently hosted by its most successful and effortlessly charming host yet, reality TV veteran Clinton Kelly, the series also features Food Network mainstays Nancy Fuller, Duff Goldman, and Lorraine Pascale as its talented panel of judges. Eager contestants engage in two rounds of competition per week – a pre-heat that finds them working on smaller desserts in order to gain an advantage in the second round, and the main event itself. This series is worth checking out for Duff’s hilarious facial expressions as he eats each round of baked goods alone.
5 Kids Baking Championship
When you get kids involved in any kind of competition, hilarity and adorableness will inevitably ensue – as will some unexpectedly emotional moments that might even bring on the tears. Since 2015, Kids Baking Championship has aired on Food Network, with a total of six seasons released so far as of April 2019.
Hosted and judged by the winning duo of actress and celebrity chef Valerie Bertinelli and Food Network icon baker Duff Goldman, Kids Baking Championship is feel good – and taste good – television at its finest. There is very little drama or harsh competition during the show, unlike many other baking series, as the kids genuinely help each other out. And if feelings are hurt or any baking related injuries occur, Valerie is always there to offer a hug and words of comfort.
4 Holiday Baking Championship
Yet another holiday-themed baking series that is far and away one of the most enjoyable baking series on television is the long-running Food Network series Holiday Baking Championship. Once again featuring the reliable judging team of Nancy Fuller, Duff Goldman, and Lorraine Pascale, the series premiered in the winter of 2014 and served as the total launching point for all of Food Network’s Baking Championship series.
Holiday-themed baked goods are often some of the most visually stunning – and often some of the most adorable, too, with cute woodland creatures and elves and reindeer thrown into the mix. Former NFL player and The Bachelor star Jesse Palmer adds an adorably geeky touch to the series as its current host, which finds some of Food Network’s most talented competitors year after year.
3 Cake Wars
Since premiering in 2015, the Food Network series Cake Wars has consistently proven itself to be one of the most adorable, funniest baking competition series on all of television. Hosted by the almost absurdly charming Jonathan Bennett, the series follows four amateur or professional bakers as they face off in order to create the best tasting and best-looking cakes, for events ranging from an anniversary celebration of Dr. Seuss to the premiere of a new Disney gaming system, to a celebration of all things Peanuts.
The cakes they make are usually larger than life, requiring multiple team members to assist them in their efforts to ensure its safe delivery to the judging stand – which makes for some of the series’ most dramatic moments. Familiar face Ron Ben-Israel stands out as the series’ most valuable and most beloved judge, as he’s never too afraid of joining in on the fun – even if it means donning a bizarre little costume prop.
2 The Great British Bake Off
Perhaps one of the most wildly successful and popular baking competition series to ever air on television is the British import, The Great British Bake Off, also known as The Great British Baking Show. The Great British Bake Off, known affectionately to fans as GBBO, first premiered in the year 2010 with a truly winning cast of characters.
Hosted by veteran British television personalities Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins, the series followed aspiring bakers as they faced off round after round in high stakes competitions. The discerning and often hilarious judges – for most of the series – were expert bakers Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood. During the seventh season, controversy erupted when it was revealed that neither Mel, Sue, nor Mary would be returning for the eighth season. But the good news is that there are still seven entire seasons of amazing baking entertainment to binge.
1 Nailed It
Some people should really just never, ever bake. Ever. But thanks to shows like Netflix’s hit series Nailed It!, we get to watch some of the worst bakers in America show themselves to be as truly untalented as they claim they are. The series is about as zany as a baking competition can get, with three self-proclaimed terrible bakers competing in two rounds to replicate professionally crafted baked works of art, ranging from cake pops to multi-layer cakes to intricately iced cookies.
Adding to the madcap fun of the series is the winning rapport between the series’ larger than life host, Nicole Byer, and her trusty judge sidekick, chef Jacques Torres. A rotating cast of guest judges – with standouts including comedian Jason Mantzoukas, baking legend Sylvia Weinstock, and pastry chef Ron Ben-Israel – keeps things fresh and even funnier. And did we mention a special episode finds Queer Eye‘s Fab Five getting in on the fun, too?
NEXT: 10 Best Cooking Shows To Stream On Netflix