WAVELAND — She had a second chance to win the Food Network’s “Halloween Baking Championship” after finishing as runner-up last year, and Renee Loranger of Waveland went for it.
In the finals, Oct. 25 on the Food Network television channel, she stacked layers of devil’s food cake 24 inches high as required by the challenge. She coated it with hazelnut buttercream frosting and made it into a scream cake complete with a terrified woman, a brain, a hatchet with a serrated edge, dripping blood and spooky woods to tell a scary Halloween story.
“It reads like a graphic novel,” said Stephanie Boswell, one of the judges. “I know exactly what’s going on and I can flip through pages of this cake.”
Loranger wasn’t originally in this season’s competition. She was one of two chefs added to the show in the second episode, and in the episodes to follow, she consistently created imaginative — and tasty — Halloween creations.
“I feel just very lucky and blessed to have been given a second chance,” she said on camera while putting together her last cake in the championship.
When she was announced the winner of the $25,000 prize, Loranger covered her face and cried.
“I won,” she said through tears. “Couldn’t be more proud of myself. I know my family’s going to be so proud.”
Opening bakery on the Mississippi coast
So was she planning to go to Disney World to celebrate, as so many big winners do?
Loranger said during the taping of the finale that if she won the $25,000 prize, she would put all the money toward opening her own business.
She did just that after she was revealed as the winner of the Food Network’s Halloween Championship.
“It’s always been a life-long dream to open my own bakery and after losing my job because of COVID — it’s perfect timing,” she said.
In the time between the filming and airing of the finale, Loranger secretly went to work on her dream and did so on a budget. She built her own shelving and found a cooler in New Orleans for just $100.
She opened the doors to Sugar Pop, her full service bakery with custom cakes inside the Ground Zero Museum in Waveland.
The case is filled with pastries, cookies, cupcakes, parfaits, eclairs and more and she already was busy as people came in early Tuesday morning to congratulate her on her win and get to taste her championship creations in generous portions.
“I feel just very lucky and blessed to have been given a second chance,” she said during the show.
How she got there
Loranger didn’t go to culinary school.
“I am completely self-taught and on-the-job trained,” she said. “I am continuously teaching myself new things and new techniques.”
She was hired in 2000 to create the bakery program at Casino Magic in Bay St. Louis.
“I started the program from scratch and designed all the desserts for the property,” she said. “After Hurricane Katrina, the bakery was gone, so I went back as a restaurant manager.”
She continued as the property became Hollywood Casino, and she was promoted to executive pastry chef in 2012. She worked there until she was let go when the coronavirus closed all the Coast casinos in the spring of 2020.
Loranger kept baking her cakes and posting photos and promoting herself on social media.
“I’m so glad I didn’t give up on myself,” she said.