The Great Canadian Baking Show

From pliers to blow dryers: The unconventional tools Canada's top home bakers use to create amazing desserts

The competitors in Season 5 of The Great Canadian Baking Show share their secret weapons for chopping chocolate, fashioning cookie cutters and more.

Baking Show competitors share their secret weapons for chopping chocolate, making cookie cutters and more

Left: Caron Lau uses chopsticks during Cake Week. Right: Vincent Chan relies on his trusty kitchen blowtorch to mend his caramel creation. (Geoff George / The Great Canadian Baking Show)

Baking is all about creativity, precision and skill, and that comes through as much in the tools and techniques used as it does in the taste. If I'm honest, my pizza cutter gets more use on pastry dough and fondant than it does on an actual pizza. I've gone to art supply stores to equip my kitchen with paintbrushes and palettes. And who among us wouldn't use unwaxed dental floss to create even cake layers?

This season's batch of Great Canadian Baking Show bakers didn't get where they are by thinking inside the box! So, we asked them to share their secret baking weapons with us. Whether it's finding an unconventional use for a kitchen utensil or searching the hardware store for a tool to handle the most delicate of confections, their ingenuity will inspire amateurs and pros alike.

Take note, dear bakers. There are some great tips below.

Answers have been edited for length and clarity.

Aimee DeCruyenaere
My unconventional baking tool is cardboard (like a cereal box). I cut it into my desired shape and use it as a template — [I] press it into a mould for cookie and pie doughs.

Alina Fintineanu
My favourite unusual kitchen tool is my box of disposable, extra-small black gloves. One of the perks of working in dentistry is that I get access to great gloves, and I love using them to prevent my fingertips from being stained various colours [when I use food colouring]. I also use them to handle chocolate to prevent imprints of my fingertips on the smooth surface. They make me look at least 10 per cent cooler!

Amanda Muirhead
Mine would be nitrile gardening gloves. They are thin enough that I still have good dexterity, but they save my fingers from getting burned. I find them especially helpful when rolling a hot roulade or flipping over a hot fortune cookie. 

Caron Lau
My favourite is the bench scraper as it's versatile and arthritis-friendly for my inner occupational therapist! I almost always use it once per bake, whether it's to portion bread doughs, smooth cake edges, or clean my baking area. As a bonus, it helps to protect your joints. Instead of overtaxing your wrist while chopping chocolate, for example, using a bench scraper enables you to use your shoulder and whole body weight while cutting. Much more ergonomic, and your wrist will thank you later!

Dougal Nolan
One of my favourite tools to use in the kitchen, outside of its intended purpose, is a tall plastic cup that typically comes with an immersion blender. They are large enough [to hold oversized piping bags so you can] fill them without making a mess! Then you can store several filled piping bags and other tools inside as you're decorating. I grab one of these every time I'm baking to help keep me organized. 

Kunal Ranchod
I've never owned a real cake stand. Whenever I need one, I MacGyver a cake stand using a fancy plate and an upside down bowl or cup. I love it 'cause I can mix and match the various pairings, they take up way less space than a real cake stand in my cupboards, and it's way easier to fit a cake on a plate into my fridge or freezer than a cake on a cake stand.

Marian Castelino
Chopsticks! Not only do I use [them] for frying and mixing, but I use them to check if a cake is done, to mould fondant, to make spun-sugar spirals, to wrap candied peel, to poke holes into food and for pasta shapes! Every day I find new ways to use them.

Stephen Nhan
A roll of aluminum flashing and aluminum tape. What is aluminum flashing? It is essentially superthin aluminum sheet metal. This unconventional equipment is paired with my secret weapon: my brother. Where I am very hands-on in the kitchen, my brother is very hands-on in the garage. Whenever I need a specific shape for a cookie cutter or a cake ring, we will fashion one up from the roll of aluminum flashing and [hold] it together with aluminum tape. Boom! Custom cookie cutter. I love improvising and finding workarounds to solve the issue at hand.

Steven Levitt
The only non-kitchen item I can think of is a pair of needle-nose pliers I bought specifically for baking. They allow me to add delicate decoration and really finesse an internal cake-support system. It does it all.

Vincent Chan
I don't generally use anything very unusual. That said, here are a couple of items.

  • Blow dryer: I use that for softening buttercream in the mixer as well as blowing shapes for sugar or isomalt work.
  • Blow torch: Again, for softening buttercream and toasting meringue.
  • Metal hair pick: I use this for drizzling caramel for making sugar webbing.
  • Scrub brush: I use this for creating a moss or grass texture in fondant. You can see what I mean here, in photo 10. 

Stream Season 5 of The Great Canadian Baking Show now on CBC Gem.

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