Silva shines on “The Great Holiday Baking Show”

By Jason A. Smith
Times Correspondent

Nicole Silva of Hampton’s love of baking started when she was a child, making cookies with her grandmother.

Hampton resident Nicole Silva recently competed on a television baking show. Special photo

“I enjoy making cookies most of all, but I love baking anything,” she said. “I love trying new recipes and creating new recipes.”

Silva, 38, never expected that it would take her to different parts of the world, but that’s exactly what happened. She was recently a finalist on “The Great Holiday Baking Show” on ABC.

Silva is a mother of three, a kindergarten teacher at Cross-Pointe Christian Academy in Williamson, Ga., and a Girl Scout leader for a pair of troops in Henry County. She specializes in creating colorful treats for children, and gluten-free alternative recipes to classic bakes.

Silva said she first learned about the show when ABC was conducting a search on the Internet for contestants.

“One of my good friends forwarded the post to me that they were looking for bakers,” Nicole went on to say. “I thought ‘Why not? What do I have to lose?’ I honestly never thought I’d get chosen.”

Tryouts for the competition were held in several cities across the country, in preparation for filming in the United Kingdom. Silva didn’t expect that her baking abilities would stack up so well against those of contestants from New York and Hollywood.

In fact, Silva was selected from hundreds of applicants for a formal audition in New York.

“The audition process was dreadful,” she said. “I think I was so out of my element, being in a big city and being around so many people I didn’t know.”

Silva didn’t just make it past the audition stage. She made it through all four episodes of the series, landing in the finals as one of the top three contestants.

Silva notes that one of her holiday concoctions that grabbed the attention of her fellow contestants was a delicacy known as a Breakfast Baking Cookie.

“My inspiration for the Breakfast Baking Cookie was a French Toast Casserole,” she said. “We make it every Christmas morning.”

Being a finalist gave her the opportunity to challenge herself even further.

“For the finale the top tier of my cake was a Nativity scene,” she said. “That’s not something I would have tried if not for the show. It turned out great. I was surprised that it worked. The inside turned out better than it did when I practiced it at my house.”

Silva said she is proud of herself for her success in the competition, and grateful for the friendships she made along the way.

“I really stretched myself as far as what I was used to making,” she said. “I stepped out of my comfort zone, and was surprised at the stuff I could come up with. I would definitely do something like that again. It was such a good competition.”

“The Great Holiday Baking Show” is currently available for viewing on Hulu. For more information about the series, visit /the-great-holiday-baking-show. For recipes and more from Silva, visit

French Toast Casserole
Nicole Silva

1 lb. bacon
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 loaf of bread (about 20 slices or less if thicker bread is used)
1 1/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 - tsp nutmeg
5 - eggs
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. vanilla bean paste (optional but I recommend it)

Start by cooking the bacon. I like to cook my bacon on a cooling rack that is inside a larger pan in the oven for 30 min at 350. For this recipe I cook it about 20 min until just cooked but not quite crispy. It can also be cooked on the stove-top. No matter what method you use to cook the bacon, cook until just done as it will be cooked again the next day.

While the bacon is cooling, mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl (brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg). In another bowl mix the eggs, milk, cream, paste and extract together. Melt the butter in the microwave and pour it in a 9 x 13 pan. Cut each piece of bread into strips. Layer bottom of pan with a third the bread pieces. Sprinkle 1/3 of the brown sugar mix over the bread. Layer the second third of bread and top with 1/3 of brown sugar mix. Add the last layer of bread and pour the egg mixture over the bread slices. Make sure you cover all the pieces of bread. Chop the bacon and add about 1/2 cup of chopped cooked bacon (or more if you are a bacon lover) to the top of the bread. Sprinkle remaining brown sugar on top. Cover the dish and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, remove from the refrigerator and bake (still covered in foil) in a preheated oven at 350 for 30 minutes. Then uncover and bake 15 more minutes until brown and set. Take out and enjoy with powdered sugar or syrup (my family likes both).