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Nailed It! Is Netflix's cooking show the perfect anti-Bake Off palate cleanser?

The Guardian logo The Guardian 13/03/2018 David Renshaw

© Netflix

Nailed It! is the new Netflix show in which three amateur bakers compete to recreate professional bakes for $10,000 prize money. The twist is that these amateurs are all somewhat lacking in the kitchen department. Think of Nailed It! as Can’t Bake-Off, Won’t Bake-Off and you’re almost there. 

© Netflix

The US show is inspired by the online trend of cake fails – i.e. those pictures of sad looking sponges or a Buzz Lightyear birthday cake that looks like Picasso picked up the piping tube. It’s hosted by comic Nicole Byer who bellows loudly at the home bakers as they attempt to recreate “epic magical desserts” in front of judge and chocolatier Jacques Torres. Each episode they are joined by a guest judge. Silvia Weinstock, designer of Kim and Kanye’s wedding cake, appears in the first episode. Together the panel watch on as three hapless contestants pick up rolling pins and begin to look quizzically at types of dough before placing their “avant-garde” creations on to baking trays. It’s chaos from the off. In one episode a contestant sets fire to a microwave.

© Netflix

Each of the six half-hour episodes is set in Nailed It!’s cartoon-like set, the sort familiar to anyone who has ever seen the very similar Cake Wars. More discerning viewers may be reminded of Clash Of The Cupcakes, the spoof gameshow Aziz Ansari’s character hosts on Master of None. Contestants include blogger Heather who says “baking makes me feel like more of a mom” as she pulls out a tray of deformed cookies from the oven and the camera pans to her kids’ distressed faces. Later in the series there’s Toni, who owns her own food joint. “My dream is to own a great bakery, my nightmare is the actual baking,” she says worryingly.

© Netflix

In the first episode of Nailed It! the group is tasked with making vodka-soaked cake pops. A weird quirk of the show, you soon notice, is that not many of the professional cakes they’re recreating actually look very nice. Here, for example, they have to make a cake shaped like a finger, complete with a nail. Another is an anatomically correct mouth. Who eats a cake with a tongue, no matter how much vodka it is soaked in? “This looks like it was ripped from a human body” host Byer says as she holds up a red cakey stick. 

To keep things interesting Nailed It! also throws in plenty of gimmicks to the mix. For example, the winner of round one wears a golden bakers cap for the second round. There’s also Nicole Nags, where one contestant can command Byer to distract their rivals for three mins with inane and annoying conversation.

© Netflix

There is little learning to be had on Nailed It! You’re not really going to pick up tips on how to make a perfect fondant and your sugar work definitely won’t improve either. Nobody here goes on a journey and (thankfully) nobody recalls a vague childhood memory in order to add a little pathos into their bake. Recipes for each round do flash up but the speed at which the disappear suggest that Nailed It! is not for the seasoned baker. This is simply a giddy and infectious fever dream in which a lack of talent is a prerequisite for entering. Soon bored by the repetitive format, I brightened things up for myself by imagining Paul Hollywood watching Nailed It! His goatee bristling as another underbaked, oversized donut is daubed in neon blue icing sugar. He’d speed off on his motorbike in five minutes flat. 

© Netflix

Nailed It! is a fun ride that leaves its most bizarre moment for last. After a cavalcade of three tier cakes sliding like the tower of pisa, gynecological-looking icing sugar flowers, and deformed donuts comes something a little more… presidential. If you thought Trump in a tennis outfit was a horrifying image, perhaps avoid episode six of this show when contestants are tasked with baking giant edible busts of the leader of the free world. “What makes this cake is the face,” says judge Torres, ignoring the thin wisps of blonde icing sugar making up the most famous hairdo in politics. It’s a spectacular way to go out and sums up Nailed It! perfectly: always bizarre and unexpected, a fun palette cleanser amid an array of otherwise serious food programming.

Nailed It! is available on Netflix

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