Photos courtesy of CBC

Bakers, time’s up!

That’s a phrase familiar to fourth-year Industrial Design student Aimee DeCruyenaere, who made it through to the finals of The Great Canadian Baking Show, which aired Sunday evening on CBC TV and CBC Gem.

DeCruyenaere was one of 10 amateur bakers from across the country to appear in the fifth season of the televised competition, and the youngest as well.

Aimee DeCruyenaere

Aimee DeCruyenaere

She previously applied to the show twice before and says her abundant baking during quarantine likely gave her the edge to be successful in 2021.

The show’s judges tapped her aptitude early in the competition and DeCruyenaere excelled through cookie, cake, bread week and more, receiving accolades along the way for her flavourful, whimsical and well-constructed creations, earning the title of “star baker” three times.

“I definitely got to dip my toes in and make things I wouldn’t have tried otherwise,” DeCruyenaere says about the variety of challenges she encountered.

“The sheer amount of practising and the diversity of the bakes have made me a more well-rounded baker.”

One of DeCruyenaere’s favourite challenges came during the show’s caramel week, when she was tasked with turning out hazelnut praline doughnuts, which she says she’ll be adding to her repertoire.

“They’re a bit of effort to make at home, because the process can be so messy, but it’s so worth it,” she says. “They’re super good and I told my friends I would be making them again, so I’d better keep that promise!”

DeCruyenaere and judges from The Great Canadian Baking Show

DeCruyenaere with the show’s judges

While juggling classes and the competition wasn’t a factor during the show’s summer filming, DeCruyenaere does say her education factored into her bakes in more ways than one.

“My coursework definitely gave me a creative edge because I knew what kind of tools to use to get the effect I wanted,” she says. “In fact, I applied the entire design process to my bakes in terms of sketching them out first, doing a lot of iterations, testing and revising, and just my whole approach generally.”

Now looking ahead to her graduation in the spring, DeCruyenaere is setting her sights on a career she hopes will link her passions for baking and design.

“I’m not sure what opportunities may present themselves, but I am interested in getting into the food space, maybe designing for kitchens or baking equipment,” she says.

“I have always had a dream to have a baking and design cookbook, so we’ll see how far I can take that, too.”

One of DeCruyenaere's showstopping creastions

One of DeCruyenaere’s showstopping creations

With the finale now behind her, DeCruyenaere says one of her biggest takeaways from the experience is the friendships she developed with the other bakers, many of whom she still talks to regularly.

“I watched past seasons and saw how close the bakers were, but I never believed it could be true. We have so much in common and it feels like I have known them all my whole life.”

In addition to the people she met, DeCruyenaere says she hopes to remember her time on the show with fondness and an appreciation for how much it changed her.

“It was such a unique experience and I’m proud of myself for stepping out of my comfort zone and going for it. I hope it will inspire me to keep pushing ahead for what I want in life.”

In the meantime, DeCruyenaere is enjoying a break from what she describes as “baking boot camp” to focus on other things, such as her pending graduation.

Aimee DeCruyenaere

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Monday, December 6, 2021 in
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