‘A dream come true’ Mississauga baker wins $10K in Christmas cookie competition
Mississauga baker Stephanie Urlando competed in a Christmas cookie competition on the Food Network. (Photo submitted by Stephanie Urlando)
Published Monday, December 4, 2023 4:51PM EST
Stephanie Urlando knows cookies. From a very young age, she’s been baking them, testing recipes and perfecting the craft. As a kid, she would watch bakers compete on the Food Network – and now, she’s one of them. And, she won.
“I’m actually a self-taught baker,” Urlando said in an interview with CTV News Toronto. “Baking is kind of in my family […] I kind of grew up around lots of baking and that’s kind of, I guess, our love language. Feeding our family and making treats for loved ones.”
Her career as a baker began as a home business before launching a storefront in Streetsville in March, 2020. Opening only 10 days before COVID-19 restrictions caused almost everything to shut down, Urlando was “quite nervous” that they might, frankly, lose the bakery.
“But we hung in there and we are still open today.”
In late-May, 2023, the Food Network reached out to Urlando over Instagram about their Christmas Cookie Challenge. Afterwards, she went through the application process and was selected to be on the show, which was filmed in California in June.
She says that when she got the chance to be on the show, she was excited.
“It was an incredible process,” she said. “It was just so much fun to film, and you know, I was just excited to be a part of it.”
There were three levels in the challenge, all having to do with the major motion film Elf, which is marking its 20th anniversary this year.
In the first challenge she had to create two “fantastical” places that Buddy the Elf travels on his way to find his father in New York.
Urlando created two cookies for this. One where Buddy was going through a peppermint pixie patch, and the other where he finds a complicated castle, picking cotton candy off of the Capitol along the way.
And those cookies did quite well – Urlando won that round, giving her an advantage going into round two.
She got a personal shopper – dressed like an elf, of course -- to grab her ingredients.
“Having that advantage in round two definitely helped me feel a little more organized in round two,” she said.
In the second round, she baked and built a pop-up book made out of cookies. The 3-D structure included her favorite scene in the movie, which was Buddy and Jovie’s date.
The pop-up cookie book won Urlando the top spot as baker in the competition, along with $10,000.
“It’s truly a dream come true,” she said. “It’s so exciting.”