It’s the middle of December and the holiday crunch is upon us. If you’re someone with an infinite well of energy and cheer with a fully decorated abode, meal plan for the big feast, and an array of baking options scheduled up through New Year’s Day, just know that I’m blinking at you slowly like you’re an alien. But more power to you.
I, on the other hand, have a backlog of end of the year work, partial decorations up, and my big dessert plans to date involve me passed out on the couch by 9pm watching an array of holiday baking shows featuring far more ambitious people than I. And in watching these series, I’ve come to separate them into two categories: the shows that basically keep me pinned to the cushions wishing someone would FedEx me the results, and the rare few that actually make me so inspired that I want to be part of their insanity. Which actually translates to me looking up a recipe that might match what these Type A bakers have concocted in the name of wintry happiness.
And so my gift to you is to share my currently streamable findings so you can schedule the rest of your holiday viewing, according to your motivation to either Bake or Eat:
Holiday Baking Championship (Food/Discovery+)
Hosted by the perfectly coiffed and cheerful Jesse Palmer and judged by the panel of Nancy Fuller, Duff Goldman, and Carla Hall, Holiday Baking Championship assembles a kitchen of professional and home baker contestants and then gives them themed weekly challenges to execute to avoid elimination. It’s one of my favorites because I learn terms like “gelee” and “pate a choux”—both of which I will never make—and then judge other people making them from afar, like an armchair quarterback. I am truly wowed by the bakers every week and the judges are delightful. So much so that I can see myself knocking back a warm toddy with Nancy at the Judge’s table rather than attempting the weekly feats of culinary excellence.
The Great American Baking Show: Celebrity Holiday (The Roku Channel)
Any show that makes celebrities contestants means the bar is lowered to a place where my skills might match. But then this mini-season has Prue Leith and Paul Hollywood judging, and who the heck needs that Hollywood frown harshing your hopes? As a counterpoint, the producers were smart to add the cuddly Ellie Kemper and Zach Cherry as co-hosts and cheerleaders.
Baking It (Peacock)
Baking It has me torn. Season 2 is hosted by Maya Rudolph and Amy Poehler, which means I really just want to sit down with them over a hot cup of cocoa and woo them to be my best friends. But on the other hand, the series has average people making holiday foods, and I feel like I could actually compete with their crowd. Even if I was terrible, Maya and Amy would still make me feel good.
Dr. Seuss Baking Challenge (Prime Video)
This is an odd one, not gonna lie. If you adore Dr. Seuss and want to eat things inspired from his stories, that seems kinda niche. But clearly this group of pastry artists and bakers are into it, so good for them. Dr. Seuss Baking Challenge has a lot of whimsy going for it, and artisanship which I can respect. Would I want to replicate it? No. And as long as Green Eggs and Ham don’t taste like I imagine them to, I’ll take sampling their efforts as my cue.
Christmas Cookie Challenge (Food/Discovery+)
Hosted by Ree Drummond and Eddie Jackson, Christmas Cookie Challenge gets my anxiety up because everyone on this show is working themselves into a pique. Contestants are flooding and piping with flop sweat and shaking hands over sugar cookies? Plus, Ree and Eddie are some tough judges. They’re eyeing those shaky lines and burnt edges like Boot Camp instructors, so just throw me any messy cookies meant for the sin bin and I will happily fawn over them.
Holiday Baking Championship: Gingerbread Showdown (Food/Discovery+)
If you don’t know which sugar adhesive works best for building gingerbread walls, you need not apply to this show. Which includes me. My gingerbread expertise goes as far as debating the merits of soft versus crunchy. But host Carla Hall and judges Kalen Allen and Stephanie Boswell keep the intense competition between these gingerbread maker experts tempered with their extremely fun vibe that makes this one a joy to watch.
Tara Bennett is a Los Angeles-based writer covering film, television and pop culture for publications such as SFX Magazine, Total Film, SYFY Wire and more. She’s also written books on Sons of Anarchy, Outlander, Fringe, The Story of Marvel Studios and the upcoming Avatar: The Way of Water. You can follow her on Twitter @TaraDBennett or Instagram @TaraDBen
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