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Maple syrup and bacon doughnut sampled by Priestley for Tim Hortons contest

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"The Big Canadian Red" donut is shown as part of the Tim Hortons Duelling Doughnuts competition in Toronto on Wednesday Aug. 13, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sadiya Ansari

OAKVILLE, Ont. - "90210" star Jason Priestley and singer Jann Arden put their tastebuds to the test Wednesday as judges of Tim Hortons Duelling Doughnuts competition.

The pair — along with celebrity baker Anna Olson and TV personality Ben Mulroney — sampled eight confections cooked up by contest finalists.

Priestley's favourite pitch came from Judd Mah for his breakfast-themed doughnut complete with maple syrup and bacon, "The Lumberjack."

"He did this whole presentation with a big fake beard on and had all his co-workers from Edmonton dress up as lumberjacks," said Priestley, laughing.

Mulroney was partial to Nikola Kostic's pitch, a red velvet concoction called "The Big Canadian Red" in tribute to his adopted country. "I was really impressed with how heartfelt it was," said Mulroney.

As a pastry chef, Olson sought originality. "I was looking for a sense of commitment to the creative process," said the cookbook author, who's had hosting stints on the Food Network Canada series "Bake with Anna Olson," "Sugar" and "Fresh with Anna Olson."

And she wasn't disappointed.

The creations — chosen from 76,000 entries — drew inspiration from lemon cheesecake to ice-cream sundaes.

Finalists were equally creative in how they pitched their product.

"I thought I was a judge on 'Canada's Got Talent' — there was singing, there was dancing and physical showmanship," said Arden.

Fitness trainer Isabelle Scantland Lebel did handstands to draw attention to her pistachio and white chocolate entry while grandmother Nancy Angus made a music video for her own version of "Party in the USA" to promote her brownie-inspired dessert.

Wednesday was the first time contestants had seen their sweet treats brought to life by Tim Hortons chefs. Their entries had evolved by using a template provided online by the company.

Four finalists will be announced Monday. The winner, who will be named later this year, will be awarded $10,000 and experience the pride of seeing their doughnuts sold at Tim Hortons.

Priestley made doughnut headlines last year after an appearance on TV's "How I Met Your Mother." In a fake documentary, the Los Angeles-based actor claimed he had invented "The Priestley," a strawberry-vanilla doughnut with a chocolate Timbit nestled inside.

Tim Hortons then created a batch of the fictional pastry, and the contest followed soon after.

This year, Tim Hortons chefs designed a personalized doughnut for each of the judges, including a new version of "The Priestley."

"It's good but I'm kind of a classic guy. I think I want to stick with the original Priestley," said Priestley.

The eight finalists are:

— Isabelle Scantland Lebel of Gatineau, Que., The Pistachio & White Chocolate

— Judd Mah of Edmonton, The Lumberjack

— Nikola Kostic of Toronto, The Big Canadian Red

— Lauren Armstrong of Toronto, The Lemmy Tell Ya About Cheesecake

— Jennifer Brown of Glencoe, Ont., The Love Reese's To Pieces

— Danny Hawtin of Waterdown, Ont., The Cookie Jar

— Nancy Angus of Oro-Medonte, Ont., The Skor Brownie Points

— Jennifer Veenvliet of Barrie, Ont., The Ice Cream Sundae

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