Ready, Set, Bake! Alum Competes on ‘Great American Baking Show’
London. The iconic white tent. Paul and Prue. The nuances of British butter.
Karis Stucker ’18 is getting ready to relive what she describes as an out-of-body experience, only this time she’ll be watching herself on TV from the comfort of her own living room. Last summer, Stucker made the journey across the pond with eight other talented American amateur bakers to test her mettle, and meringue, on Great American Baking Show.
A companion to the wildly popular Great British Baking Show, the Yankee version was filmed in London over four weeks and airs May 5 on the Roku Channel.
Stucker, a self-taught baker and cake artist, grew more dedicated to her past-time in 2019. She refined her baking and cake decorating techniques by watching the Great British Baking Show, YouTube videos and Instagram Reels–watch, experiment, repeat.
Stucker sold her first cake out of her home kitchen that year. That order took her until 3 a.m. to complete, but she came away from the experience inspired–and with a goal to sell 10 cakes in a year. She did it, and then decided to launch a home baking business, which has since evolved into the blog Karisbakes.com.
When a friend contacted Stucker about the call for American contestants, she couldn’t resist. An application, a couple of interviews, and a casting audition later she was on her way to London to face judges Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith in the big white tent.
Stucker’s careful to keep the spoilers to herself–we’ll just have to watch the show to find out how she did, and whether she got one of those coveted Paul Hollywood handshakes.
Stucker finds baking therapeutic and wanted to share a little bliss with students who are about to tackle finals. Check out Davidson College Instagram Reels for a special message and Cinnamon Roll Cookie recipe from Stucker.
The full recipe is available on her blog. Follow Stucker on instagram @karisscorner.
Baking is art and science. What do you enjoy most about it, and what do you find challenging? (And did you have to learn metric measurements for UK ingredients?)
What I enjoy most about baking is how therapeutic it is. Mixing ingredients together, artfully decorating the bakes, it all brings me an inner calm that is hard to describe. I also love working with my hands. Baking is such a sensory experience–you knead the dough, smell the dessert as it bakes in the oven to golden perfection, I even listen to my cakes to check for doneness!
What’s challenging is when something doesn’t go to plan, which can happen in a split second, or when I don’t clean as I go and realize the apocalypse hit my kitchen when I finish baking. To bake in the tent we did have to convert everything to metric measurements, but ask any baker, metric yields much more accurate results. So while it was a bit challenging, it was worth it!
Do you have a favorite previous baker from either the GBBS or GABS? Who and why?
Crystelle Pereira was such an inspiration to me that, at the end of her season, I actually looked into how I could apply for the British version of the show. Unfortunately that search ended when I confirmed that one had to be a UK resident to apply, but I was so inspired by her talent and humility. I found her to possess a gentle confidence in herself, she was never cocky but also knew she could complete the tasks set before her.
Peter from Series 11 always talked about listening to his cakes to check for doneness–I’ve done that ever since I watched his season.
What’s the schedule like when you are filming? Did you have the opportunity to practice?
When we were in London we filmed on a two days on, two days off schedule. On our off days we did get to practice our bakes and make any necessary changes to our recipes. But every recipe was written by us, designs created by us, etc. The team in London was incredible and helped us find anything from baking supplies to obscure ingredients.
Was there a moment when something went wrong, and how did you handle it?
Oh boy, without giving any spoilers I can definitely say that there were moments for each of us when something didn’t go according to plan. I can genuinely say that I maintained a mindset of gratitude to be selected for the show so that if ever something did go wrong, I wouldn’t be too hard on myself about it but rather received any critiques with openness and a desire to learn.
What is your favorite thing to bake and why?
I started my baking career with cakes, so they will always have a special place in my heart, but lately I’ve been getting into pastry and loving it. The more years that pass by the more I want to explore with some of the more difficult, sciency, technical bakes.
What was your major at Davidson, and is there a professor who inspired you?
At Davidson I majored in Hispanic Studies. I had the opportunity to do a three week summer program at Davidson the summer before my senior year of high school where students from across the country take a handful of Davidson courses to get a feel for the school. That summer my professor was Profesora Magdalena Maiz-Peña. I adored her, and still do. She inspired me daily and I would spend lots of time in her office talking about life, mainly.
Do you feel like you take anything you learned while in college into this realm of your life?
While at Davidson I learned how to be a critical thinker. I began to dare to ask harder questions. This has carried itself over into my post-college life in every way imaginable. I am who I am today because I decided to think more deeply and engage with the world around me, not accepting things as they are but always pushing for more. I can’t fully explain how much that has shaped me, but I credit the start of that Karis to Davidson College.