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Baking with heart

Food Network champion Renee Loranger realizes dream of opening own business

After reaching the finals in the Food Network’s Halloween Baking Championship last year, Renee Loranger knew she could get at least that far again. 

In 2020, the Waveland resident finished in the top three, and she returned to the show, which aired Sept. 13 to Oct. 25, to face eight other contestants. The last challenge was to create a 24-inch tiered cake based on the “camp killer” theme, and Loranger created a devil’s food confection with sour cherry filling, hazelnut buttercream and hazelnut fuillutine crunch. 

Contestants raced against the clock to finish their masterpieces, and Loranger never entered any challenge overly confident. 

“Anything can happen,” she says, “and it just takes one mistake to send you home.”

But Loranger withstood the pressure, and the season finale saw her shed happy tears as she won a $25,000 prize and the title of Halloween Baking Champion. 

“To get picked the first time was amazing, but to get to come back was beyond” she says. “My first thought when I won was that my family and friends would be so proud of me and that my town that was so supportive the first time around would be so excited.”

The California native always wanted to be an actress, but to pay the bills, she took a job in baking and loved how creative it could be. She learned on the job and decided to stick with it, teaching herself and acquiring skills by trial and error. 

“I bake things I would want to eat,” Loranger says. “If I don’t think it tastes good, I won’t serve it. I bake with my heart.” 

She admits to being insecure at times because she wasn’t classically trained. However, feedback she received on the show last year has helped Loranger overcome any negative thinking. 

“(Judge) Zac Young said I was an excellent pastry chef, and I should not doubt myself,” she says. “It stuck with me and gave me more confidence.” 

For 20 years, Loranger worked for a casino, and in 2012, she was promoted to executive pastry chef. When the pandemic hit and business slowed, she was let go from her job — but the setback allowed her to pursue her dream of opening her own bakery. 

“I decided that it was a sign of something bigger that was meant to be and that it was time to take a plunge because I had nothing to lose,” she says. “I didn’t give up, and I kept moving forward every day, reaching for my goals.” 

Due to that persistence, Loranger is now the proud owner of Sugar Pop Baking Co. in Waveland, which opened on Oct. 26 inside the Ground Zero Museum. The shop specializes in custom-order cakes and wedding cakes but offers pastries, cupcakes, breakfast pastries and more. 

“I would love for this little business on Coleman to bring back Coleman Avenue,” she says. “I would love to do more competitions on Food Network, and, if I’m really dreaming big, to have my own show or host a show. And I would love to see many Sugar Pops across the country!” 

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