For Edmonton baker Nataliia Shevchenko, victory was as sweet as her personal specialty, honey cake.
Shevchenko has been crowned the winner of Season 3 of The Great Canadian Baking Show, a series which brings together amateur bakers from across the country to compete in a series of themed culinary challenges.
“The key was believing in myself,” Shevchenko said. “I wanted to go there but I wasn’t sure I would be able to do a good job.
“I can’t believe it still. I can’t believe it.”
Based on the beloved British format, the CBC series is known for its unusually friendly approach to competition and Season 3 was no exception.
“I just feel like everybody was a winner there,” Shevchenko said in an interview Friday with CBC Radio’s Edmonton AM.
“We were all friends and we all deserved to be winners. Even with all that stress, we had a lot of fun. All the competitors and the judges, they are such kind people.”
Shevchenko, who works as an administrative assistant in downtown Edmonton, was officially revealed as the champion Wednesday night when the finale aired on the CBC network.
Shevchenko had to keep a lid on her win for five months. The final episode was shot in Toronto in June.
“We had to keep it a secret for so long,” she said. “It was very hard for me and for my husband especially. I had to keep it a secret from my coworkers and they were asking every day.”
Shevchenko, 33, has only been in Canada for a short time. She moved to Canada three years ago after falling in love with her husband online.
‘Just a crazy baker’
Growing up in Ukraine, baking was a staple in Shevchenko’s household. She learned how to make traditional Ukrainian recipes from her mother as a young child.
She specializes in bread and technically-sophisticated cakes inspired by her Eastern European roots.
During her final round in the baking tent, she won over the judges with a towering gold cake, called the ‘motherland monument,’ layered with prune sauce and cognac.
She’s back at work in the office but has plans to launch a baking show on YouTube in partnership with fellow Edmonton contender Chris Koo, who left the baking tent in the season semi-final.
“I work as an administrative assistant every day full time but every time I come home from work I want to bake something,” she said. “I love it.
“I’m just a crazy baker.”