Meet Baker Kristine de la Cruz, Competing in Spring Baking Championship

Get to know Kristine de la Cruz, one of the eight bakers competing in Spring Baking Championship on Food Network.

Photo by: Emile Wamsteker ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Emile Wamsteker, 2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Eight bakers have entered the Spring Baking Championship for a chance to win the title and earn $50,000 in prize money. Each one brings a unique talent to the competition. Some are professional pastry chefs, while others are culinary arts instructors, competitive bakers or self-trained bakers. This new series gives them the opportunity to show their skills on national television.

Before tuning in for the premiere on Sunday, April 26 at 9|8c, get to know the bakers. Every day leading up to the first episode we'll be revealing a Q&A with one of the eight.

Kristine de la Cruz (Los Angeles) is the owner of Crème Caramel LA, a Los Angeles-based dessert shop specializing in traditional recipes with a Filipino twist. This self-taught baker took her passion for baking and built a business around her favorite Filipino dessert, leche flan. She wants to spread the word on Filipino eats.

What's your first memory involving baking?

Working that Easy-Bake Oven! If I recall correctly, it was one of the gifts that was stashed away in the closet to be opened at a later date. Except I tore into that thing and made what only can be described as a light bulb-heated hockey puck. Delicious!

What's the first thing you learned to bake really well? Do you still make it today?

Banana bread. My mother makes the best banana bread, and I grabbed her recipe and ran (away) with it. Unfortunately, I haven't made it in a while. [Runs to the grocery store.]

What would you say is your signature baked item, one that everyone knows you for?

My ube (purple yam) upside-down pie. It's an ube custard base, topped off with a bruleed graham cracker Greek yogurt crust. It's purpley good.

If you could bake only one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Sourdough bread rolls. Holy crap, I can eat those for every meal. Hot and with melty butter. Good Lord, that is good eating.

What's your favorite ingredient or item to use in your baking?

Butter. Everything’s good/better/best with butter.

What's your favorite holiday to bake for? What do you typically make?

My birthday! It's the only day that I can bake a cake and not feel awful for wanting to eat it all by myself. Plus springtime = my birthday, so seasonal fruits and bright colors come into play.

Who is (or was) your baking mentor? What's the No. 1 thing that person taught you?

My mother is my baking mentor. She's taught me patience. If I have patience to do everything correctly the first time, I will ensure a good bake. (That and not to eat too much of the uncooked cake batter.)

When it comes to baking, how would you describe your style, your mentality?

I have an "art director on a budget" mentality when it comes to baking. I can be pretty creative when it comes to combinations of ingredients that are left in the pantry. If I can envision it, I can eat it!

If you could bake a cake for anyone (alive or dead), who would it be and what would you make?

I would bake a cake for my grandfathers. They both passed before I was born, and I'd like to think they would eat something I've made for them.

What's the biggest baking fail you've ever had that you're willing to admit to? Were you able to rescue it, or did you have to start from scratch?

I think my fail in general is that I have big dreams and aspirations in my baking and cooking, but little planning. Let's just say that I like to own what I end up with and have been lucky thus far.

In your opinion, what's the No. 1 mistake that most home bakers make?

Using incorrect pan size for cakes. If a recipe calls for a certain pan size and you use a smaller or bigger one, you have to do the calculations to ensure a good bake. It's as easy as taking the area of the pan in the recipe and the pan you want to use and taking the percentage of the difference for the ingredients in your recipe. (This only works if you are taking weighted measures.)

What are some words of advice you'd give to beginner bakers to improve on their baking?

Bake from the heart. If you love what you're baking, it'll show through and make it even tastier.

Baking Quickfire (name your favorite for each)
Cake/cupcake: Yellow cake with chocolate frosting
Pie/tart: Ube macapuno pie
Cookie: Sugar cookie with royal icing
Quick bread: Cheesy bacon-y biscuits
Yeast bread: Sourdough bread rolls!
Pastry: Cream puffs. Glorious, creamy puffs.
Muffin: Tops. I just like the tops.

Savory baked item: Quiche with a puff pastry crust. (Oh and what? We make those in our shop.)

Keep coming back to FN Dish for more on the bakers, and visit the Spring Baking Championship page for more on the new series, including behind-the-scenes galleries, episode recaps, video highlights and baking tips.

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