The next round voting deadline is Thursday, Nov. 12. Rebecca van der Zalm needs to remain in the top five in her group to move forward in the competition.
Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Rebecca van der Zalm is putting her baking talents up against global competition in hopes of being named The Greatest Baker.
She says she’s already received “so much support” from the community, which she hopes will push her further through the voting process.
“I just kind of kept it on the down low and I didn't tell anyone, until the day of voting opened, that I was part of this competition. And then it just kind of blew up,” she says.
The Greatest Baker is a worldwide competition that allows novice and expert bakers to compete for a chance to be featured in Bake From Scratch magazine, to receive a trip to Pennsylvania to spend a day in the life with sponsor Stuffed Puffs CEO Michael Tierney and go home with a year’s supply of marshmallows – and a $10,000 cash prize.
Voting is done online through https://greatestbaker.com/2020/rebecca-van-der-zalm. People can vote once per day or can purchase a “hero vote,” which gives one vote per dollar donated to the No Kid Hungry Foundation. The first round of voting ends on Nov. 5.
For 26-year-old van der Zalm, the cash prize would allow her to realize her dream of opening a storefront bakery for her home baking business, Baking by Becs. She does all her baking in a kitchen in St. Catharines that's certified and inspected by public health, but she would love to expand to her own location.
“I would definitely use that money to open a storefront for myself and to really expand my business,” she says.
Van der Zalm developed a love of baking at an early age and grew up baking at home with her mother, Cathy. Her passion for baking persisted throughout high school, where she completed her co-op placement at a St. Catharines bakery called the Frosted Cupcake. She was later hired on and worked there for several years.
She says she owes her cupcake talents to experience working with the Frosted Cupcake, but she developed a love for cake decoration and creation on her own.
“When it came to cakes I never did them there, so I self-taught myself through YouTube videos and things like that,” she says.
Van der Zalm is a full-time compounding pharmacy assistant at Simpson’s Pharmacy, as well as a volunteer firefighter with the NOTL Fire Department. She says she continues to keep her baking business going by taking orders in her spare time.
“I just kind of take a look at my calendar for the month and say, 'Yes I'll take cake orders' or 'No, I won't,' and I'll go from there,” she says.
Maintaining as much balance as she can is important, she says, as she tries to spend time with her family, which includes seven brothers and sisters. Admittedly, she says she has less time for a social life between work, family, firefighting and her business. But she’s passionate about what she does.
Her advice? “Make an agenda stick to it. Don't overbook yourself. I'm kind of bad for that. I have a really hard time saying no to people. So, I just have to kind of create an agenda or create a plan and stick to it and not waver from that,” she says.
Her baking specialty? Right now, she says she loves making drip cakes.
“That's my top-selling cake. And then I do icing and either a milk chocolate or a semi-sweet chocolate or a white chocolate drip down the side. So, I melt chocolate for the drip,” she says. “They always look so cool and so delicious when they're done. I just don't want anyone to cut them.”
Van der Zalm is currently in the top 10 in Greatest Baker voting. If she can maintain that status, she will advance to the next round, she says.