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Johnson County baker will compete on TV Christmas cookie challenge. Will she win?

Sara Siegele of Fountain City Sweets usually bakes her royal icing cookies out of her home kitchen in Olathe.

One exception: her upcoming appearance on the Food Network baking competitionChristmas Cookie Challenge,” where five cookie connoisseurs bake off with Ree Drummond (the Pioneer Woman) as one of their judges.

“It was pretty surreal, to be honest,” Siegele said. “The whole time I was looking, like, ‘Is this real life? I just can’t believe I’m here.’”

Siegele and her competitors will frost and mix on the season seven finale, which will air at 8 p.m. Dec. 21 on the Food Network. Episodes are also available on Amazon Prime, Hulu, Discovery Plus, HBO Max and other streaming platforms.

After two rounds of baking, judges will determine whether the cookies are good enough to earn the $10,000 prize and the golden ornament award.

Each of the season’s eight episodes features different bakers, with one winner each episode. The first episode debuted Nov. 2, with new episodes dropping each Thursday.

Sara Siegele founded Fountain City Sweets in 2020. Soon she’ll appear in a competition baking show.
Sara Siegele founded Fountain City Sweets in 2020. Soon she’ll appear in a competition baking show.

The show was filmed over the summer, but Siegele wouldn’t say whether she took home any cash. Viewers will have to find out when the rest of the world does.

In the first round, the bakers have an hour to create one cookie for each judge.

The second sees a tougher challenge: a three-dimensional display. The specifics of the challenges vary from episode to episode.

“You don’t know what you’re doing until you get there, so you kind of have to prepare for any scenario,” Siegele said.

In 2017, Siegele left her career as an occupational therapist to become a stay-at-home mom to her oldest. She began dabbling in baking and founded Fountain City Sweets in 2020, selling custom cookies available for order online at fountaincitysweets.com, typically for events like weddings and baby showers.

“I was just looking for a creative outlet, and then cookies kind of presented themselves to me,” Siegele said. “I can’t imagine doing anything else now.”

In February, the show contacted Siegele about auditioning. She was hesitant, but her husband convinced her to give it a try.

That launched a months-long undertaking of interviewing and baking treats over video calls for the show’s culinary team. A few weeks before the show started filming, Siegele was told she had made the final cut.

“It was a pretty rigorous process,” she said.

And a long time to keep quiet, too. She’s only recently been allowed to speak about her appearance. When Siegele flew out to California to film, she told her 3- and 6-year-old children — usually little “helpers” in her kitchen — that she was leaving for a “secret cookie challenge.”

“Surprisingly they haven’t told anyone,” she said. “I want to do something to make them proud of me.”

Slightly nervous to compete under the camera lights in a studio just outside Hollywood, Siegele said filming was “stressful but crazy fun.”

Her favorite part of the experience, however, was connecting with the other bakers on set. Casting directors gathered cookie-lovers from across the country

“They’re all so talented,” Siegele said. “I will call them forever friends.”